A Zen Story About Letting Go

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"

This is one of my favorite Zen Stories because the lesson is so important. Through our thoughts we carry tremendous burdens that we could let go of at any time. However too often we carry these heavy thoughts because for some reason we can’t let them go. It is like we grow attached to the feelings generated by these thoughts or maybe it is because we can continue to hold onto the blaming we can do from them.

What thoughts and the accompanying feelings do you need to let go of in your life? Are you holding onto the negativity so you can blame others? What is the benefit to holding onto the past events or situations? You might say there is no benefit to retaining these negative experiences. If not why don’t you let them go? The answer has to be that in some way these negatives have been serving you or you would have let them go like the monk Tanzan did with the young woman.

Let me state this in another way. If you have past negative thoughts and emotions you are carrying around like the monk Ekido did all the way to the monastery then you must get some benefit from doing so. Here are some possible benefits: if makes you feel better than the other(s) involved; you like to suffer (that would be sad); you have a hard time forgiving because you prefer to be angry; you like to blame others and situations; your low sense of self is more comfortable with negativity; or other not so healthy reasons.

Maybe it is time to take inventory of the unfinished business that you are carrying around with you? Can you imagine how much freer you would feel to not carry the burdens of the past any longer? Be like the monk and set your burdens down right away, release what you need to released, let go and move on. The benefits of letting go and moving on way outweigh what you get from holding onto the past.

Have a good day and set yourself free to be present.