Part 6: The Parable of The Monks, The Maiden
and The Letting Go
Have you heard the one about the Two Monks and
I heard the parable about 17 years ago. And
something changed in me. I now tell it whenever I see a loved one, friend or colleague bitter about a
So we at One Million Steps want to share something that we
hope you can take with you every day.
The Parable of the Two Monks and the Maiden.
For me, there have been a few pin drop, light
bulb moments in my life that made me re-evaluate the way I was living. The Parable of the Two Monks was
one of those moments.
These pin drop moments have become a
subconscious code that I try to engage life with. It is not planned as such. You could almost say its
habit. But not quite. More akin to a softly guiding hand.
The parable is a great illustration of John
Kabat-Zinn’s “Letting Go” or “Letting Be” and a
deep understanding of “There is no Enlightenment outside
of daily life” from Thich Nhat Hanh
I am not saying I do not fight back or push this
guiding hand away when I am in despair or frustrated or anxious.
But these subconscious codes allow me, when I
calm back down, to quickly fall back onto them, reflect, learn and move forward.
There are some variations to this Parable, and
it does seem to cross different faiths, mostly Buddhist.
I have chosen the version I originally heard;
which is more relevant to our modern world (rather than the traditional telling)
The Parable of the Two Monks and The Maiden
Two Monks come across a Maiden by a fast flowing and flooded
She shouts “Oi! I need to get across, it’s the village fair. I
am late and I don’t want to mess my fine dress — You are monks, get me across”
The younger monk is shocked by the Maiden’s attitude. But he is
even more shocked when the older monk walks over and speaks to the Maiden. He watches as she climbs onto
the older monk’s back and he enters the river.
The older monk slips and struggles against the furious river,
his head barely above the water. All the while, the Maiden shouts in anger as her dress gets wet, and
she slaps the Monk to urge him to move faster.
The Monk gets the Maiden across the river, checks she is ok,
and she rushes off with barely a thank you. He swims back across the river and slumps exhausted on the
And they continue the journey to their monastery.
The younger monk’s mind is bubbling with anger. But he controls
his tongue and they walk on.
Later that night, at the monastery, the younger monk cannot
sleep and is no longer able to control himself.
He wakes the older monk and says, “I cannot believe that
Maiden! Completely ungrateful! Shockingly rude! You almost drowned and she did not even say thank you. I
was furious, I still am.”
The older monk turns to the younger monk, and with almost no
expression at all says:
“Wow, I put the Maiden down hours ago. But you, you are still
We go through life. And possible
choices and actions are made available to us at every moment.
To help the rude maiden or not? That is the
choice of the monk. It is his journey.
The rudeness of the maiden. That is her choice
to make. It is her journey.
But for the monk, the maiden and ourselves, we
are responsible for how we choose to react to the
things that happen to us.
The maiden chose rudeness when the monk was
The monk chose to let go of what does not serve him anymore.
Because to carry the Maiden with him, would be
to miss out on the beauty and learning that moving forward and awareness brings every day.
Every time you find yourself feeling bitter,
just remember this parable. If you are in that group of office gossip, and there is chatter about
bitterness, bring up the parable.
Because the key to this thinking is this: We
took an action, or a choice was made or we accepted a situation IN THAT MOMENT. It’s now gone.
We either learn from that moment or we waste the next moment in bitterness. It takes bravery and courage
to learn from a moment. But these are the small steps we take towards our own change.
Bring kindness. Spread Joy. Make Smiles. Share
Peace. Acknowledge Gratitude.
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