Learn to Let Go and Move on in Life…


Once, an elder monk and a novice monk were traveling together. They came to the bank of a river and found the bridge was damaged. They had to wade across the river.

There was a pretty lady who was stuck on the damaged bridge and couldn’t cross the river.

The senior monk offered to carry her across the river on his back to which the lady accepted.

The young monk was shocked by the move of the elder monk and was thinking, “How can the elder brother carry a lady when we are supposed to avoid all intimacy with females?” But he kept quiet. 

The senior monk carried the lady across the river and the novice monk followed unhappily. When they crossed the river, the senior monk let the lady down and they parted ways.

All along the way for several miles, the young monk was very unhappy with the act of the elder monk. He was making up all kinds of accusations about the elder monk in his head. This got him madder and madder. But he still kept quiet. And the elder monk had no inclination to explain his act. 

Finally, at a rest point many hours later, the young monk could not stand it any further, he burst out angrily at the senior monk.

“How can you claim yourself a devout monk, when you seize the first opportunity to touch a female, especially when she is very pretty? All your teachings to me make you a big hypocrite.” 

The elder monk looked surprised and said, “I had put down the lady at the river bank many hours ago, how come you are still carrying her along?”


This very old Zen story reflects the thinking of many people today. We encounter many unpleasant things in our lives, they irritate us and make us angry. We also encounter unexpected situations that test our moral compass and challenge our spiritual growth. But like the young novice monk, we are not willing to let them go. There is no point in remaining hurt by the unpleasant event after it is over. This story also gives us lessons about compassion, detachment, and the art of letting go and moving on.

It also gives us a deeper understanding of compassion. The novice failed to comprehend the elder’s compassionate act. His act was a reflection of his ability to discern the needs of the present moment and respond with unconditional kindness.

The elder’s remark urges us to examine the burdens we carry in our hearts and the weight we give to external circumstances. It reminds us that the act of carrying is not merely physical, but also emotional and spiritual.

We all face situations where our preconceived notions, fears, or judgments keep us tethered to the past, inhibiting our ability to embrace the present moment fully. The younger monk’s attachment to the incident clouded his perception, obstructing the clarity and insight needed for true spiritual growth.

This story encourages us to examine the attachments we hold onto tightly, whether they be judgments, grudges, or limiting beliefs. We need to unburden ourselves from the weight of unnecessary attachments and find liberation in the act of letting go. 

We cannot change a single moment of our past.

When an event is past, do not nurse its memory. Cremate it and forget it. Otherwise, it will decompose in the mind and stink.

We can clutch the past so tightly to our chest that it leaves our arms too full to embrace the present.

“The mind should be freed from the past, which exists, but as memory, and the future, which exists, but as worry, a mixture of fear and hope. Only the present is.”

Let us release the burdens we carry in our hearts, freeing ourselves from attachments that hinder our growth. Let us cultivate a compassion that extends beyond appearances and embraces the interconnectedness of all beings. Let us not hang on to the dead past, for in the act of letting go, we discover the true essence of our Real Selves.

Learn to let go and move on in life.

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