The Story of Two Monks – What Does it Mean to You ?

monkAssome of you may know, I regularly practice vinyasa flow yoga tohelp keep my back flexible as well as promote overall wellness.  At the end of one of my recent classes, my instructor read us a short story to meditate on during shavasana.

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.

The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Although I later learned this is a classic story from the Tao, it was new to me and I found it deeply interesting on a few different levels  After class a small group of us spoke about how it meant letting go of the past and either accepting situations for what they are or coming to a peaceful resolution.

Although I agreed with this translation of the story, I found as the week continued to march on, the story took on new meaning for me.  In terms of goals and decision making the story of the monks reminded me to focus on the bigger picture.  While the younger monk thinking all the reasons why he shouldn’t help the woman in distress, the elder monk realized this was an opportunity to work towards the purpose he has devoted his life to, the betterment of man.  Although I’m not a monk and have never aspired to be one, I assume the main objective of a monk is to reach enlightenment and commune with nature on a high level of consciousness. I’ve been reading, or more accurately listening, to Grant Cardon’s “10x Rule” lately and found his overall message is not unlike this interpretation of the monks’ story.  Although his unapologetic style meant to rile up the listener with a dose of equal parts inspiration and moxie is a far cry from the peaceful monks tone, both teachings remind us to focus on whats important in life.  Don’t waste your time and energy on coming up with reasons why something won’t work and focus on how you can make it work.

This past week also started and ran a fundraiser to benefit a friend who lost her home to a fire.  I’ve always had an altruistic nature and have been a member of several different charitable and community organizations in the past.  I set a goal of raising $1,000 and proudly touted my goal and my plan online.  I was initially surprised and almost dismayed when some people I had counted on helping out flat out declined to participate. I had to pause and tell myself I’m doing this not for my own benefit but to help out someone in need.  Perhaps these people who didn’t want to help were assisting in other ways and if not, it wasn’t a reflection on me or my friend it was a reflection on that person.  Needles to say, I re-focused on the task at hand and continued to plow ahead.  I didn’t hit my $1,000 goal but at the end I had raised money from sales and donations, which I originally hadn’t considered I would receive at all.  When I collect the donations and deliver them to my friend later this week, her happiness will have made the journey worth it.

Let’s look at this from the other monk’s perspective, one can always learn something new by looking at the other perspective.  In this case, the younger monk was confined by the regulations of his order.  I’m sure we’ve all felt confined by regulations and guidelines at one time or another. That being said, the monk in this situation should have focused more on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do.  Perhaps he could have procured a boat or canoe to help the woman sail across the water.  Maybe he could have found a way around it by wrapping her in cloth so there was’t any skin to skin contact.  Either way this is a case of ambition, if the younger monk really wanted to help the woman he would have found a way.  The fact he didn’t help the woman doesn’t make him a terrible person; sometimes good people fail to act in good ways, but in his mind he knows he did wrong.  If not he wouldn’t be preoccupied with “would have” or “should have.”  He expected the other monk to ignore the woman as he chose to, the fact the elder monk acted differently bothered the younger monk, not because he failed to act but because he felt the actions of his associate made him appear like less of a person.

In summary, here’s what I took from the story of two monks:

  1. If you have a goal that is important to you, you’ll find a way to reach it or to stay true to your path to reaching it.
  2. Over-thinking, under-thinking,and not taking action doesn’t help anyone. and finally…
  3. When faced with adversity, don’t focus on why not, instead ask yourself how.

What are your thought about the story of the two monks?  What is your interpretation and how does it apply to a challenge you’ve faced or something you want to accomplish? I want to know – comment below and let’s chat.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Phil is also all about that bass. 

 

 

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