Story: Walking Zen

A long ago time ago in the hills of Quong Zu province, there once lived a revered old monk who was a master of Zen Buddhism.

One day he decided that he would make a pilgrimage to a neighboring monastery, and not wishing to make the journey alone, he decided to take along one of his young disciples.

They started their journey early the next morning and in the true spirit of Zen each walked along engrossed in his own thoughts, and so they journeyed for many hours without speaking. By midday they had come to a small stream, here they noticed a young girl dressed in fine silk obviously contemplating how best to cross the stream without getting her precious clothes wet.

Immediately the old monk walked over to the young girl and in one smooth motion, he picked her up in his arms and walked out into the stream, then after carrying her safely to the other side, he gently put her down and walked on without having said a single word.

His disciple having watched this whole incident was in a state of complete shock, for he knew it was strictly forbidden for a monk to come into physical contact with another person. Quickly, he too crossed the stream, and then ran to catch up with his master, together they once again walked on in silence. Finally at sunset they made camp and settled down for the night.

The next morning after prayers and meditation the old monk and his disciple once again continued their journey in silence.

After many miles and no longer able to contain his curiosity, the disciple called to his master and said, “Master may I ask you a question? ”

“Of course you may” his master replied, “knowledge comes to those who seek it”.

Respectfully his disciple said, “Yesterday I saw you break one of our most sacred vows when you picked up that young girl and carried her across the stream, how could you do such a thing?”

His master replied, “That is true, and you are right it is something I should not have done, but you are as guilty as I am.”

“How so” asked his disciple, “for it was you who carried her across the stream not I?”

“I know” replied his master, “but at least on the other side I put her down. You, however, are obviously still carrying her.”