Once upon a time, a zen master and his protégé travelled cross-country together on a pilgrimage.
On the first day, they arrived at a river bank and saw a beautiful woman who was unable to cross the river.
After observing her difficulties, the zen master approached the woman and volunteered to carry her across the river on his back. The protégé looked on with great consternation.
As sunset approached, the two men arrived at a forest clearing and decided to set up camp there for the night.
After dinner, the zen master quickly fell asleep. The protégé, on the other hand, was restless and unable to calm his mind.
Finally, he decided to wake up the zen master in order to castigate him for what took place earlier that day.
“Master, as monks, are we not forbidden from coming into contact with women? I am very distressed and angry with your conduct today!” exclaimed the protégé.
The zen master looked into his student’s eyes and then smiled.
“Oh, I see what has been bothering you,” said the zen master.
“Dear friend, I left the woman behind, by the river bank. Why are you still carrying her around?”
— Adapted from a Buddhist parable.
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