Carrying a Woman

This is an old Indian story and perhaps well know. But I have never failed to be inspired by this short story. And everytime I read it I have a different realization of the inherent truth that I uncover layer by layer.

The story goes like this…..

Two Buddhist monks are returning to their monastery; they come to a ford. The current is very powerful, it is a hilly place. A young, beautiful girl is waiting there, waiting for somebody to help her to cross. She is afraid to enter alone.

One monk, who is the oldest walks ahead of others. So the young girl meets the older monk first. The young girl asks him, “Would you help me; just hold my hand? I am afraid, the current is so strong and perhaps it may be deep.”

The old man closes his eyes–that’s what Buddha had said to the monks, that if you see a woman, particularly if she is beautiful, close your eyes. So he closes his eyes and enters the ford without answering the woman.

Then the second, younger monk comes. The girl is afraid, but there is nothing else to do–the sun is setting, soon it will be night. So she asks the young monk, “Will you please hold my hand? The ford seems to be deep and the current strong… and I am afraid.”

The monk says, “It is deep, I know, and just holding hands won’t do; you sit on my shoulders and I will carry you to the other side.”

When they reach the monastery the older monk says to the young one, “You, fellow, you have committed a sin and I am going to report that not only you touched a woman, not only you talked with her, you carried her on your shoulders! You should be expelled from the community; you are not worthy of being a monk.”

The young man simply laughs and says, “It seems although I have dropped that girl three miles back, you are still carrying her on your shoulders. Three miles have passed, and you are still bothered by it?”

Now, what is happening to this old monk? The girl was beautiful; he has missed a chance. He is angry, he is jealous. He is full of sexuality; he is really in a mess. The younger one is completely clean. He took the girl across and left her on the other shore, and that’s that, the thing is finished.

Never fight with greed, ego, anger, jealousy, hatred –you cannot kill them, you cannot crush them, you cannot fight with them. All that you can do is just be aware of them–and the moment you are aware, they are gone. In the light, the darkness simply disappears.


a) Older monk walks ahead of the rest of the group. Note — all games of the ego. If you are older, you have to walk ahead; younger monks have to walk a little behind the older one. Who is helping this ego to develop? Society of course with its social norms.

b) Old monk closes his eyes…Note: I am surprised here: The monk has already seen her, then he closes his eyes; otherwise how can he determine she is a woman, and beautiful? You are already affected, and now you close your eyes! What is the purpose? Can’t he do something in a detached manner?


1. Society thrusts upon us and helps us develop our egos. We wrongly think that we have egos. Society is responsible for it. And to some extent is it useful. Without it we simply can’t function in a society. But the problem is being too satisfied with them. The egos then prevents us from rediscovering our true or real self.

2. Such egos that develop over the years is the cause of many of our miseries and troubles we face in life. However egos can’t be uprooted or repressed easily. The good thing is that there is no need for that too.

3. Only by being aware of their purpose, limitations and effects they are well kept in check. This then allows us to do our work with complete detachment from the ego. The Karmic cycle is broken.

4. The biggest lesson here is: One can never fight greed, ego, anger, jealousy, hatred –one cannot kill them, one cannot crush them, one cannot fight them. That is delusion. All that one might possibly do is to be just aware of them — and the moment one is aware, they are gone. In the light, the darkness simply disappears. That is what true leaders are made of.


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