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Detachment and the Story of Two Monks and a Woman

Detachment and the Two Monks

Here is a story about two monks and a woman and how a certain degree of detachment can help you stay calm and focused.

What do you do when you go through an unpleasant experience or when someone tells you something you do not like hearing?

  • Do you keep thinking about the event or the words said?
  • Do you go on playing the same scene in your mind over and again?

One of the stories in the book “101 Zen Stories” speaks about this matter. It is a story about two monks and a woman.

Two monks were walking from one village to another.

On their way, they arrived at a large puddle full of mud, which they had to cross. A young woman was standing at the brink of the puddle, not knowing what to do.

“Do you want to cross the puddle?” One of the monks asked her.

“Yes, I do,” the young woman answered, “but I don’t want to get my shoes and dress dirty.”

“Come,” said one of the monks, “I will carry you to the other side.” He took her on his back and carried her to the other side of the puddle.

After crossing the puddle, the two monks continued walking silently for hours until they reached their destination.

The other monk could not keep silent any longer and exclaimed:” How could you carry that woman on your back? We are monks and are not allowed to touch women.”

The monk who carried the woman across the puddle on his back smiled and said: “I have left the woman on the other side of the puddle, but it seems you are still carrying her on your back!”

The Importance of Detachment

What have you learned from the two monks’ parable?

This story speaks about the importance of detachment.

One monk did what he did with detachment. After carrying the woman to the other side, he did not spend even one moment thinking about this matter, and kept his mind calm and focused on the road.

The other monk thought that it was wrong to touch the woman and kept thinking about the incident all the way instead of keeping his mind quiet.

The first monk did a good deed and did not continue thinking about it. The second monk wasted much time and energy thinking about what the first monk did.

One monk displayed detachment and, therefore, remained calm and happy. The second monk could not let go of the incident and kept recreating it in his mind.

The monk who carried the young woman on his back did not let the incident affect his thoughts and feelings. He did a good deed, let go of it, and moved on. This should be our attitude toward the situations we encounter in everyday life.

  • Do Not keep thinking about the past.
  • Do not keep analyzing your actions and behavior over and again.
  • Free yourself from the past and move on. There is no need to carry a heavy burden on your back.

Detachment Helps You Let Go of Negative Thoughts

Examine your life, and try to figure out how many times you have dwelled and fretted about what someone said or did. Think about the times you felt hurt or spoiled relations because you took things too personally.

Thinking over and again about the past, repeating unpleasant and negative thoughts in your mind, and letting anger and unhappiness occupy your life is like carrying a heavy load on your back.

It is important to let go of these thoughts and learn to display a certain measure of detachment toward them.

With a certain degree of emotional detachment, you will be able to clear the mind of unnecessary and disturbing thoughts and bring into your life a sense of freedom and happiness.

Pay attention to your inner conversations and to the thoughts that you keep repeating in your mind, and you will discover how much time and energy you waste thinking over and again about past events, or about what people said or did.

Learn from the past and then stop dwelling on it. Learn to focus on the present moment instead of the past. You cannot change the past, but you can make the present moment happier and more enjoyable.

Focusing on the present moment, enjoying it, and doing your best ensures the creation of a better future.

You can learn to free your mind from the past and unnecessary negative thoughts. This is possible with the help of detachment, controlling your attention, and focusing on the present moment. Acting this way would remove any heavy load from your back and bring peace, happiness, joy, and a sense of freedom into your life.