Loving Oneness Now


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The following traditional tale is one which I read long ago but I am not sure if it was Zen or Taoist. Anyway, we will assume it was Zen.



Two Zen monks were returning to their monastery after a long journey, the purpose of which was instructional. The young monk was a novice to whom the older monk was imparting the Buddha's teachings at every practical opportunity.

They came to a wide stream that was in flood from recent rains. The water had risen up over the stepping stones making it difficult to cross without getting wet. While this was not a problem for the monks, it was a serious situation for the attractive young lady who was standing on the bank with a huge shopping basket by her side.

"I have been to market in town," she explained, "but, earlier in the morning, the stream was not this high when I came from my home on the other side. Can you help me across the stepping stones as I am very scared and I may lose my basket if I fall."

"Of course we will be very happy to help you," replied the older monk. He took her basket, handed it to the young monk, and asked him to carry it across the swollen stream to the other bank.

Without more ado, the powerfully built older monk swept the attractive young woman up into his arms and told her to put her arms around his neck and hang on tightly. The trio then proceeded uneventfully across the swirling water to the other side, where the older monk set the woman down on the dry bank with a smile. She took her basket from the young monk and, after thanking both of them gracefully, she went off on another route to her home. The two monks continued on the main path that led to the monastery.

After a few minutes the older monk noticed that the younger novice had a grim, unhappy look on his face.

"You look perturbed, young fellow, so may I ask the reason for your agitation?"

The young man glared at him and grumbled, "When you picked up that young woman and she clung to you, you broke your vows of celibacy and of having no physical contact with the opposite sex. I am now totally disillusioned by your wrong-minded action."

The venerable monk smiled and replied, "I merely helped a fellow human being who was having a practical difficulty. After I carried her across the stream I put her down on the bank and then we parted. However, I can clearly see that you are still carrying her."


As egos, we become preoccupied with our inner concerns and short-sighted, ingrained beliefs, and so our minds get continuously agitated for extensive periods of time -- long after the events which caused them have disappeared into the past. Most of us still carry the conflicts of childhood in our minds, even though we are far older now than our parents were when the original incidents happened. We need to be like the wise monk and leave these emotionally loaded incidents behind us on the bank of the stream of childhood because the past has gone. NOW is the only time there is, and those who are on their path of spiritual unfoldment realize that the repetitious re-living of presently non-existent past events is the ultimate waste of living fully NOW.


Loving Oneness Now -- Copyright 2007 Alexander Bannatyne, PhD

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