Once upon a time a senior 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 at the damaged bridge and couldn’t cross the river. The senior monk offered to carry the pretty lady across the river on his back. The lady accepted. The novice monk was shocked by the move of the senior monk.
“How can senior disciple brother carry a lady when we are supposed to avoid all intimacy with females?” thought the novice monk. 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 with her.
All along the way for several miles, the novice monk was very unhappy with the act of the senior monk. He was making up all kinds of accusations about the senior monk in his head. This got him madder and madder. But he still kept quiet. And the senior monk had no inclination to explain his conduct.
Finally, at a rest point many hours later, the novice monk could not stand it any further, he burst out angrily at the senior monk.
“How can you claim yourself to be 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 senior monk looked surprised and said, “I had put down the pretty lady at the river bank many hours ago, how come you are still carrying her along?”
This very old Chinese zen story reflects the thinking of many people today. We encounter many unpleasant things in our lives and we also commit some errors in judgement or blunders or the so called sins, they irritate us, they make us angry and they make us feel guilty as well. Sometimes, they cause us a lot of hurt, sometimes they cause us to be bitter or jealous and sometimes we tend to carry the guilt. But like the novice monk, we are not willing to let them go away. We keep on carrying the baggage of the “pretty lady” with us.
The Arab mystic, Abu Hassan Bushanga says, “The act of sinning is not so harmful as the desire and the thought of it. It is one thing for the body to indulge in sin or forbidden pleasures for a moment and quite another for the mind and heart to chew on it endlessly.
“Each time I chew on the sins of others, I suspect the chewing gives me greater pleasure than the sinning gives the sinner.”
We keep on carrying the baggage of the “pretty lady” with us. We let them keep on coming back to hurt us, make us angry, make us bitter, make us feel guilty and cause us a lot of agony. Why? Simply because we are not willing to put down or let go of the baggage of the “pretty lady”.
It can’t be emphasized more that all hurt, anger, bitterness, jealousy and guilt are negative and evil emotion and should be avoided like the very devil. When we are hurt, angry or bitter we radiate negative energy. It affects our physical and psychological health. When we are guilty, it is not our sins we hate, but ourselves. This is one emotion, which can be draining and depressing and can rob us, to a great extent, of our mental peace and energy.
We should let go of the “pretty lady” immediately after “crossing the river” – immediately after the unpleasant event is over or an error has been committed and the lesson learnt. Most of us tend to remember the event and forget the lesson and are therefore condemned to repeat errors in judgement again and again. Forget the event, but remember the lesson. This will immediately remove all our agonies. There is no need to be further hurt by the unpleasant event after it is over or keep carrying the guilt after an error has been committed. Anyway, we cannot change a single moment of our past, then why brood over it wasting our precious time and energy?