Crossing a Stream

Tanzan and his disciple were travelling to the next village. They came to a stream, swollen by recent rain. At the edge of the stream stood a well-dressed, beautiful young woman unable to cross because the small foot bridge had been washed away. Seeing her problem, Tanzan offered to help, and lifting the young woman in his arms, he crossed the stream with her and set her down. Then he and his disciple continued their journey. All afternoon the young disciple pondered his teacher's action, for surely, in addition to the five precepts, monks are warned to never to approach women, much less take them in their arms! That evening at supper he could contain himself no longer. "Why did you take that woman in your arms?" he asked his teacher. Tanzan replied, "I left the girl back on the other side of that stream. Are you still carrying her?"

Attachment is clinging to things or ideas and becoming enslaved by them. Zen teaches non-attachment. Tanzan lifted the young woman in his arms simply to help her get across the water; there was no attachment. But the young disciple was attached to the woman even though he did not touch her.


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