Friday, July 18, 2008

Touching a Woman

Joan Halifax and the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)

Two monks, one old one young, were happily walking along when they came to a river. They saw a beautiful young woman standing at the edge of the bank. She told the monks that she was afraid to cross the river because she might slip and be carried off downstream. She asked for help in crossing over.

The monks were celibate, having taken vows never to so much as touch a woman. The old monk, however, sensing the extreme anxiety of the young woman, lifted her across his back and carried her to the other side. The young monk was shocked and scandalized. She thanked him and went on her way.

The monks continued their journey. But the younger monk was disturbed at having witnessed his older and presumably wiser companion break their vow so thoughtlessly. After three hours of walking and pondering, he could finally take it no more. Unable to contain himself he burst out, "Tell me, venerable sir, what did it feel like to break your vow which you'd held for so many years? What did it feel like to allow sensuality to tempt you from the path? And what did it feel like to have that woman's smooth warm thighs wrapped around your waist, her breasts pressed against your back, her arms dangling around your neck, and her soft cheek almost brushing against your own? Tell me, venerable sir, exactly what is it like to carry such a beautiful young woman?"

The older monk remained silent for several steps then calmly replied, "Friend, it is you who should tell me what it's like to carry a beautiful woman. You have more experience. You see, I put her down three hours ago at the riverbank. You, on the other hand, are still carrying her."

Joan Halifax (born 1942) is a Zen Buddhist priest who received inka from Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, and was given the Lamp Transmission as a Dharmacharya (Dharma teacher) by Thich Nhat Hanh. She has been practicing Zen Buddhism since 1965. She was ordained by the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and became a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. Joan is head abbess and founder of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM. The Upaya Zen Center is non-sectarian and has guest speakers from many traditions. She helped to found the Zen Peacemaker Order, and has held various teaching positions in institutions as prestigious as Harvard University.
Tenzin Gyatso (born 1935) is the 14th and current Dalai Lama. He is often referred to simply as "the Dalai Lama." He is a practicing member of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) and is influential as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as the world's most famous Buddhist monk, and as the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in Dharamsala, India.

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