One day two medieval monks set out from their monastery to buy monthly provisions from the nearby village. They set out early in the morning, just as the sun was rising, as it was a good two hour journey down from their monastery, in the mountains, to the village below.
The elder of the two monks had been one of the wandering monks for much of his life and he liked to take his time. He really enjoyed the wonderful scenery, the fresh-air and the various sounds of nature. He was a happy monk. The young novice monk, although impatient, was also learning to enjoy this time outside of the abbey with his older friend. They walked along at the same pace as their two donkeys. And so, what would be considered a half-day expedition always turned into a full-day’s adventure for the two monks.
Along the path they had to cross a small river. This delighted the wandering monk, who took off his sandals and hitched up his monks robe, so he could better splash his feet in the cool water. The young monk, not wishing to look as undignified as his companion, climbed up onto the back of one of their donkeys, and watched with a bemused smile at his splashing, laughing friend.
They arrived in the village just as the market was opening. They bought some fresh cheese and a loaf of bread, enough to satisfy any hungry monk. The elder of the two medieval monks also bought a small skin of wine. And so they sat down to this simple meal before beginning the task of shopping for the needs of the monastery.
By mid-afternoon the two monks had acquired everything they needed including, some trout for their special monk fish recipe. What’s more the older monk had found out all the news of the village and the other villages nearby. The old monk was still speaking with the cobbler of the village, whilst having his sandals mended, when the young monk came in, rather hot and bothered, to point out the fact that there were dark storm clouds building and that it had already begun to rain. The cobbler finished his work quickly and the old wandering monk patiently continued to listen despite the young monks protest. It was a very interesting story about the blacksmith’s wife.
Just as the two monks were setting out for home, the storm broke. The rain came down in heavy sheets. This irritated the young monk no end as his monks clothing was getting drenched. The older monk was humming a monk theme song with a small smile on his face. He knew how much the land needed rain, he had heard the stories of drought in the land, and this rain was just what the land needed.
By the time they arrived at the small river it had grown substantially. It had swollen now, and the torrent was up to waist height. It would be easy enough to cross, as they had their trusty donkeys to assist them. However the young monk would be forced to wade across this time. The donkeys were fully laden with provisions and there was no room for the young monk to sit.
As they approached the river they noticed a young woman standing on the bank. She too needed to cross, but she was heavily laden with bags. The current would be too strong for her to cross, as she was slight in stature. She saw the two medieval monks coming and asked them if they would assist her to cross the river.
The young monk was about to say something, when the older monk stepped forward and agreed to carry the girl across the river. He took her bags from her and tied them to one of the donkeys. Then he handed the reins to the younger monk, lifted the girl up on his back and waded across the river. The younger monk after some hesitation, followed with the donkey. On the other side, the old monk gently lowered the woman off his back, and told her she could walk with them. Her cottage was only a few minutes from the monastery.
The young monk walked along in stern silence, while the older monk and the woman spoke of this and that. The rains had begun to subside, and made beautiful light pattering sounds in the trees. Eventually they reached the woman’s cottage, and they helped her unload her bags. The young monk took special care not to touch the woman. And when she invited them in for tea the younger monk declined, pointing out they had to be back in time for evening prayers. And so they bid her farewell.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, save for the fact that the younger monk seemed to become increasingly angry about something. The older monk noticed this and chose to ignore it. You see, these two medieval monks belonged to a particular Fraternity of Enlightened Monks that forbade any orthodox monk from touching a woman. The young monk had just seen his friend and mentor touch a woman. He could not resolve this within himself.
They returned to the monastery and unpacked in silence. The two monks did not see each other for a while, as both were busy with their different tasks and meditations. However, about two hours after their trip, the younger monk could not avoid the issue that was burning in his mind. How could his friend touch a woman like one of the perverted monks, with no concern for the rules of the monastery? And so, he went up to the older monk’s cell.
The elder monk was sitting in deep meditation, so the young novice monk decided to sit and wait until his friend was done. It took him great self-restraint not to shake his brother out of his introspection. But after a few minutes had passed the old meditating monk opened his eyes. He looked at his younger friend and said: “I see you have finally come to speak to me of the earlier events.”
The young monks protest faltered, he was surprised that his friend knew why he had come. He replied: ”Yes… yes, brother, what I want to know is, how could you touch that woman? You know that it is forbidden in the rules of our Fraternity of Enlightened Monks. Yet, you still picked her up and carried her across the river. I should tell the abbot and have you thrown out of the monastery. But you are my friend and I would like to know what happened there at the river.”
The old monk looked at the younger with a smile. He empathized with his friend’s moral predicament: “Brother, I put that woman down on the other side of the river.”
“Why are you still carrying her?”
the Adventure Learning Wondering Monks
A question to ponder:
Do the best you can to approach this question with your intuition, not your intellect. Look over you life and perceive a time when you have been the young monk. When have you carried something that is only important in your mind? How did you let it go? Discover the secret within yourself to letting go like the old monk. The secret is there. you just have to let it uncover itself.