There Is A Lesson Here

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Chastity is taken to extremes among Buddhist monks in Burma and Thailand, specifically in that monks (male) are not supposed to interact with women in any physical way (because women are uncleanthere are basically signs outside temples that translate to “if you are a woman, keep your bloody snatch away from here”), and so even a handshake is considered taboo.  Monks will remove themselves from the path of a woman who is approaching them and step into the street to avoid running into one on a sidewalk. Eye contact is discouraged.  This is not chivalry; it is chastity, and – as in the majority of religions across the globe – this ‘women are tainted’ attitude is perpetuated culturally.

We can get into the misogyny of religiosity and cultural perpetuation of inequality another time, but for now, consider that background information, and consider the following parable in the light of all dogmatically-held views (i.e., “You’re not really __________ unless you __________.  -OR-  “You have to __________ to do __________ The Right Way).  And we all have them (think:  sex, kink, marriage, child-rearing, anything medical, relationships, writing, managing, etc), and/or have given/received chastisement as the result of them, whether we want to admit it or not.

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(paraphrased from the original translation)

Two monks were traveling together.  They walked through a forest and came upon a woman who was standing by a stream.  The woman was afraid to cross, and begged the monks to help her.

The first monk, afraid to touch the woman because she would make him unclean, clung to his chastity vow and avoided the woman entirely.  He did not go near her, and would not even look at her.  He waded across the stream and went on his way.

The second monk, who had taken the same vows as the first, approached the woman without hesitation.  Seeing her distress, he picked her up and carried her in his arms across the water.  After setting her safely on the opposite bank, he hurried on to join his companion.

The two monks walked together through the forest for several hours longer, not speaking.  Eventually the first monk turned on the second in indignation, demanding to know, “How could you do such a thing?  It is unclean!  We are not to even look at a woman, let alone touch one!  How could you have carried her in your arms like that?  It is against our precepts!”

The second monk looked the first in the eye, shrugged, and replied:  “I carried that woman for twenty paces.  You have been carrying her for ten miles.”

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I read that story (within a story) in a book I finished recently, and I suspect I will carry it with me for far longer than ten miles.


0 thoughts on “There Is A Lesson Here

  1. basdenleco

    There are layers with in the story depending upon how philosophical or enquiring one is.
    Something that has stuck from Sunday School some decades ago is:
    “He who is without sin can cast the first stone”
    As one developed from a child that statement can be applied in many arenas, environments and perceptions about life.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I nearly titled this post The Things They Carried, after Tim O’Brien’s amazing story, because this parable says so much about what we carry with us – what we cling to dogmatically, what we pick up along the way, and what we can’t let go – that I couldn’t help but think of those soldiers and their talismans. Having a parent with PTSD magnified that vision as I was interpreting what I was reading.

      And the Sunday school lesson, yes. Another instance where it was a woman ~ unclean ~ who played the pivotal role.

      Remove the board from your own eye before you point out the speck of sawdust in another’s, yes?

  2. williamsjoel22

    T wouldn’t make a very good Buddhist Monk … I would of carried the woman across the stream and still be thinking about her 🙂