Tanzan and Ekido, two monks on a pilgrimage, were traveling together when they came to the ford of a river. It was there where they met a lovely young girl dressed in silk kimono with a sash and all manners of finery. However, she appeared not to know how she could proceed towards the opposite bank since the water level in the river was high and she obviously was not too keen to soil or wet her clothes.
Without much ado, Tanzan then proceeded to take her on his back, carried her safely across the river and put her down on dry ground on the opposite bank. Thereafter, the monks continued on their way.
Tanzan and Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. It was then when Ekido could no longer restrain himself and said “Surely, it is not right for us to touch that girl by the river bank; for it is against the commandments for monks to have close contact with women. How could you of all people violate such a cardinal rule for monks?”
Tanzan remained silent for a moment, but he finally remarked, “I have already set her down by the river bank hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
P.S. The above story is derived from a classic kōan. A kōan is a fundamental part of the history and lore of Zen Buddhism. It typically consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition.
One of the most difficult thing which we face constantly in life is to let go of something from the past. When someone does us wrong and seeks forgiveness in the process, we may already choose not to grant that someone forgiveness. Even if we do forgive that someone, we may inadvertently still choose to continue carrying the memory of that wrong. It is especially so if we are that someone who has committed the wrong against somebody else. I am sure we do not want to continue carrying memories of the wrong and its associated guilt, but unfortunately, we often do. In fact, it often seems to be infinitely more difficult for us to forgive ourselves than to forgive someone else. So, when are we ever going to lay down the memories of our past transgressions and move on in life?