Zen Story: Still Carrying Her

This Zen story is not simply about compassion, but perhaps also about attachment and knowing when to break the rules. Perhaps it even has a lesson for poets.


Once upon a time, two Buddhist monks came to a riverbank. They saw a lovely girl who was unable to cross the river. One of the monks shouted to her, “Come on, little girl.” Then he lifted her in his arms and carried her to the other side of the river. The other monk said nothing, but was puzzled and unhappy. In the evening, he could no longer restrain himself. He asked his companion, “We monks should not go near females. Why did you do so?” His companion laughed and said, “I left the girl at the riverbank. Why are you still carrying her?”