Two monks one elderly the other a fresher were trudging through the forest, back towards their monastery. They had to cross a small river, which was at that time in spate. The water was not deep but the current looked dangerously swift. Monks know the value of patience. They would wait it out, until it was safe to cross the river.
On the same river bank stood a young woman looking tired, hungry and very anxious. With hesitation she approached the monks and said, "I have been here all day. I am desperate to get to my home on the other side. My young children will be waiting for me for they will be very hungry. Sirs please help me to get across, I implore you."
The new joiners to any group are too eager to be accepted and therefore always more earnest in obeying orders. The more zealous people become, the less they see, think and feel.
Being an ascetic the younger monk took his vows very seriously. He refused to even make eye contact and simply turned his back on the woman. He dismissively gestured to her to be gone.
The elder monk was both wise and spiritual. He too had taken many vows, but he felt it no sin to listen to and sympathise with the woman. With spiritual awakening, compassion blooms. The monk empathised with the mother and her anxiety, her longing to reach out to her children. He felt duty bound to be of service and to assist the young woman in distress.
The elderly monk set about putting together a makeshift raft, and when completed he waded into the river with the raft. He gestured to her to sit on it and she hesitatingly climbed on board and held on to the raft for dear life. The angry young monk grudgingly followed the older monk into the river.
Pushing the raft forward with one hand the elder monk began to slowly wade across the river. When they had almost crossed the the river, the raft was hit by debris and overturned, tossing the woman into the muddy water. As the young monk watched with shock, the elder monk plunged quickly into the water grabbed the woman and carried her towards dry land and safety.
The woman regained her breath and composure, then with folded hands and tears in her eyes, she bowed to the monk and touched his feet. After a few long moments she stood up and ran, on her way, to her children. The two monks also resumed their journey, but the younger monk was now livid.
The young monk continued sulking even after arriving at their destination. After a long while, the elder asked the young monk, "Brother what is it that troubles you?"
The younger retorted, "You know what troubles me. You have broken your vows. You not only looked at but touched the woman, and even carried her across the river."
The elder monk with a smile replied, "Yes, I carried her. I believed it was a greater duty than obedience to my vows, to assist that woman, who so desperately needed help. However, I left her at the river's edge, but it seems to me my brother, that you are still carrying her.
Let her go
What is it that we can learn from this story?
We all encounter problems, experience many incidents in our lives. Once experienced, it is matter of history. The past cannot be changed, all we can do is to learn from it. Then why is it that we cling to the past and our suffering?
Rules are guidelines that help groups, organisations and society to function smoothly. They are crafted at a particular time under certain circumstances for a particular need. With differing situations, and the passage of time, rules too must be interpreted and implemented wisely and if necessary changes.
Individuals who challenge an institution require great courage of conviction and character to change what is irrelevant and often outdated. Few amongst us possess this great quality.
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh