Two Monks and a Woman – A Zen Story not a Bar Joke

One day, two monks set out on a journey to a temple in a distant village. Along the way, they came to a shallow and fast moving river where a young woman waited, full of despair for fear of falling in.

The monks looked at each other because the rules of their order forbid them from touching a woman.

The older monk bent forward, put the woman on his back, and crossed the water. When he reached the far side, he set her down gently, and resumed his journey.

 

Two monks at the river

Two monks at the river

 

The young monk scrambled out of the water, splashing in his hurry to catch up with his elder. The two walked quietly together for several hours.

The troubled monk couldn’t remain silent any longer, “Master, I don’t understand.”

“Yes,” the elder answered.

“As monks we are forbidden to look at a woman, much less touch her. How could you put her on your back?”

The elder monk stopped and turned towards him, “I set her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

 

During a year of homeschool, I dictated Muth’s ‘Zen short’ to my daughter. He called it “A Heavy Load.”  Dictation, like the parable, seems to have lost its place in pedagogy today and that is unfortunate.  The practice is excellent for several reasons.

 

Zen Shorts, Jon J. Muth

Zen Shorts, Jon J. Muth link to Goodreads

 

First, I read a passage aloud once and only once, so the student must improve her listening skills and ability to recall. Second, she must write it out by hand and handwriting, as studies now prove (see link on Handwriting), helps the brain and reinforces learning. Third, the student learns mechanics, usage, spelling, and vocabulary.  She must determine when a sentence is complete, ensure subject verb agreement, use correct punctuation, and spell correctly.

A couple other things happened. She read the story back to me and later that day and later that week, she could tell the story from memory and in detail.  When the quality of the passage is good or excellent, the student develops fluency and a deeper understanding of excellent writing.  If the passage happens to instruct with a  lesson, it provides moral study.

I wish I read this parable earlier in my life, so it’s fortunate I could do so with my daughter. Hopefully the story will help her during difficult times. It’s not easy to set down our burdens, but perhaps, like the young monk, awareness of the things we carry is a good place to begin.

Oct 22, 2014

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

Simba the Designer Dog? The Perfect Combination of 5 Breeds

3 Min read Dog DNA Wordplay with breeds AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes Simba in June at 7 months, post "Breed Reveal" Bel-Ger-Sam-Box-Sky. Belgersamboxsky. Bel-Ger-Box-Sky. Belgerboxsky. Shep-Sam-Box-Sky. Shep-Box-Sky. Herd-Box-Sky. Box-Herd-Sky. BoxShepSky...

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes My book group chose to read love stories. We read seven or eight books, a mix of modern and classic. The night was perfect, the trees lush and full; my skin felt alive...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine, poplar and birch in the TreeHouse where I do most of my writing. MacBook with this letter on a portable table. I sit in a Herman Miller office chair, an essential for the...

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Keep the Faith for Which They Died”

4 Min read 3 Poems by John McCrae, a Poet Warrior Poetry for Emergencies Memorial Day The "MURPH Challenge" or Workout of the Day AVAILABLE IN PODCAST On SPOTIFY Click links above to listen to the poems This Memorial Day I read other poems written by the Canadian...

The Last Recital

2 Min read Piano music, composers Writer's Toolbox: the series and the infinitive phrase AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Silvermine School of Music, former Carriage House (built 1903) I shall not forget the old carriage house, the hayloft used for bedrooms, the balcony...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.