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Carrying the Lady

A retelling of a Buddhist parable

Two monks were on the road from their monastery to town. At a certain place a river crossed the road, and a recent storm had washed away the bridge. As the monks approached the river they saw a lady in a long gown standing on the bank. "I must get to my sister's wedding," she said, "but if I step into the river I'll ruin this gown. Can you help me, please?"

The younger monk declined, for theirs was a strict sect that forbade its members from having any physical contact with the opposite sex.

But without a word the older monk lifted the lady onto his back, waded across the river, and set her down on the other bank. The woman hugged him, thanked him, and hurried on her way. Then the two monks continued on theirs.

The younger monk was horrified and outraged. He stewed in silence for more than an hour, until he could hold his anger no more. He said to the older monk, "How could you do such a thing!? You know that we are not to touch a woman. Yet you carried her on your back! You let her hug you! How could you do such a thing??"

The older monk looked the young monk in the eye. "I set the lady down at the river bank," he said. "Why do you still carry her?"


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