The Old Monk & the Beautiful Girl

An old monk who was renowned for his chastity and wisdom, and was much sought after by would-be disciples, was travelling from one temple to another with the only student he accepted. The journey was a long one, taking them across valleys and rivers, and up mountains. It wasn't an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination. It was made more difficult by the fact that it was the rainy season, and their clothing got soaked and muddy as they sloshed down muddy pathways. After several days they came to a small village and begged for some food. After eating what was given to them they set out again. They came upon a wide creek that was filled with rushing water racing toward the river several miles away. A beautiful young woman stood at the creek crying. The old monk looked around carefully, noticing that the bridge had been washed out. "Why are you crying, dear girl? You can return home and wait for the water to subside, can't you?" The girl wiped her tear filled eyes and replied. "No, Master. I'm not from this village. I travelled here to get medicine for my mother who is very ill. And now, I may not get back in time to save her life. She is very sick." She turned back to the creek and dropped her head, sobbing. The old monk nodded and spoke. "Climb on my back, girl. I'll get you across the creek." The young girl climbed onto his back and they set out to cross the creek. The waters rushed through the old monks legs with such force that it took all his strength to keep from falling. At last, he reached the other side and put the beautiful girl down. She thanked the old monk profusely and then ran as quickly as she could in the direction of her village. The monk's disciple had remained silent throughout this. And as they continued their journey he barely uttered a word, even when the old monk spoke to him. Finally, after walking several more miles and noticing his disciple's silence, the monk asked, "What is bothering you, boy? Why are you so quiet?" The disciple couldn't hold it back any longer. "I'm glad you asked", he said with a tone of aggravation. "You're supposed to be a monk! You're known throughout Japan for your chastity and wisdom, and yet you picked a beautiful young woman up and carried her! That's against everything we stand for! We're forbidden to touch women." The old monk looked his student in the eyes, and softly said, "Indeed, I picked up a beautiful woman to help her get life saving medicine to her mother. But there is a significant difference between you and I, boy." The disciple was puzzled. "And what is that difference, Master?" The old monk smiled and said, "I put her down miles ago, and you're still carrying her."

It is a sad fact of life that we often cling to old pain, old betrayals-all the pains of our past life. We hold grudges and resentment against former friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and of course, enemies. Like the disciple in our story, we choose to hold onto those negative feelings, allowing them to fester inside, and often allowing them to distort our view of other people to the point that we have a very difficult time engaging in healthy relationships, just as he began to do with his Master. What is the result of this? We become increasingly isolated, angry and hard to be around. In short, we hurt ourselves. There is no such thing as loving ourselves without first letting go of those resentments of the past. I'm not telling you this is an easy thing to do. It isn't. No matter how easy it might be for some to say "Love yourself", most don't know what love is or how it is expressed, so there is no question of loving themselves. And often we have bad definitions of these things, which lead to even more illusions. Love isn't accepting yourself just as you are, since you're not the optimal person you desire to be, otherwise you wouldn't be seeking spiritual answers to your mental and material miseries. Love is honest; brutally honest. And it begins with you; your faulty ideas, bad presuppositions, your hang-ups, your resentments, your anger, your sense of victimhood. Love is a characteristic of the warrior alone, not the willing victim who continues to live in a misery of his own making. Love is action; a sword that cuts through the emotional baggage of your past, revealing the core of the Self hidden inside! You can wield that sword and leave behind the ghosts of the past that keep you from happy, peaceful life, or you can be like the disciple in the story, and keep carrying that girl for miles and miles. The choice is yours. 


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