1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

My favourite Zen story December 18, 2009

Zen is one of the few spiritual practices that teaches thoughtless awareness. Nevertheless, it is often hard for me to comprehend. Probably because the approach – how to come to thoughtless awareness – is still mental (the way I come to it is more physical).
Zen stories are popular and I like some of them a lot. Here is the winner of  my personal Oscar. In a simple yet outstanding way it describes how our brain works.
Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman.

Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across.

One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders,

transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied.

Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women,

but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”

“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are

still carrying her.”


(image by me)


16 Responses to “My favourite Zen story”

  1. symilano Says:

    Aha. fantastic! i knew this story. toughtless awareness doesn’t mean non-action, that’s the point hm?

  2. swaps Says:

    Is it not amazing, how well these stories communicate even the most difficult ideas. Such wisdom!!

  3. steve Says:


  4. dougrogers Says:

    For some reason this story rang a different bell this time. Somehow I thought that it is a parallel to, and an illumination of the story of the raft.

  5. Dmitri Says:

    i wont to share some exepiriance regarding keeping silent… I’m often keep silent when in the company of people…in my collage let’s say. even during the classe’s, i rarly think speach is nedded… but alwyes a thought is hunting me ,that people think that im not social or that i dont fit, altho i feel very conncted and part of it all..do u have such experiances??????

    • ravindran g .bangalore Says:

      i do experience even at this age. i disconnect my self to many a events and discussion during meetings when u comphrend with u r perception u r intervention/views/opinions is of no avail; thogh closed mouth may not catch no flies. but we may wait for sensible audience and enlightened mass to listen.

  6. I think thoughtless awareness is misleading as a term to describe Zen practice. Better to call it mindful awareness or bare awareness. Too many people work too hard to stop the thoughts when simply being aware of them will allow them to stop in there own time.

  7. Ronnie Says:

    Hello.. I’m really not even sure how to begin writing this.. I really appriciate you taking the time to read it. I have actually developed a strange condition..

    I stumbled across an old blog post of yours about “self-realization” at https://1000petals.wordpress.com/2007/07/22/why-do-my-eyes-shine/ I think there might be some link(s) to it somewhere.

    While I admit, I had tried a meditation type exercise I believe a few days before of (strangely) breathing backwards (sucking in belly when inhaling, pushing out when exhaling, also known as “Taoist Breathing”) I was also careful to get a breath occasionally as well, as I was slightly concerned about doing an exercise like that.. at one point I even begin to feel “high”.. I thought it strange and quit and gave it up.. There’s also was the claim that it had helped people to think much better, which although I didn’t really buy into, I tried it anyway. I latter read this is also supposedly how witch-doctor people go into a “trance”. My doctor actually encouraged me to look into breathing better is part of the reason I looked into that particular thing and did it (on my own). It might not have that wise really, the more I thought about it latter.
    I felt fine since then, I thought I would mention that because it could also be related.

    I happend to stumble upon your blog and tried the exercise mentioned there. The strange thing was when I did it I felt almost a snap in my spine and my eye twitched. That night I had trouble sleeping and The next day I quit it all completely and went back to computer programming and other things. I had almost forgotten about it when I had a really wierd feeling in my head, as though liquid were moving around and my spine was numb near my head.

    I thought it was just my imagination or something at first. It was like that “breeze” was in my skull moving around. Since then I’ve had strange things happen. Twitches in my belly or pops in my ear right before the liquid feeling in my head, body twitches, wierd senses of heat. Most commonly though pressure to the center of my head and a “breeze” in different places. I think the twitches match a claim of a “snake” from kundalini yoga which I never would have believed anything like it, but I really know very little about yoga.

    I now suspect a spinal fluid leak as it seems to go away when I lay down, or maybe something more serious medically, but really have no idea. I hope I don’t come across as some kind of lunatic, but I really have been having wierd neurological stuff happening to me sense I tried that exercise. There are apparently claims of experiences similar to mine online, (skim through links on this page for example: http://www.yogadangers.com/NewAge.htm ) though I really don’t know what to believe. If it was related to the first meditation exercise I did, then it’s rather awkward it took several days for anything wierd to happen to me.

    I’ve put off going to the doctor for the past several weeks, though it never went away. I’m actually going to go this coming Monday. I should have went sooner. I guess I just didn’t know what was going on and felt like I was losing my mind. I also know self-diagnosis is a bad idea.

    My question is simply though: have you heard of anything so strange happening to anyone as a result of the “self-realization”? It’s as though the breeze went up from my spine into my skull and something snapped..

    I would really appreciate a reply (preferably soon). Thanks.

    • symilano Says:

      Hi Ronnie! i think u are a great seeker! The feelings on the neck and head its normal for those who are very sensitive, don’t be feared. BUT, you are too much in the mental! you have to give a break to your mind. As you must have read somewhere, you have to make an Empty space in you to receive the Truth, the true knowledge.

  8. serena Says:

    How sweet, it’s also my favourite zen story. 🙂
    A nice lesson to live in the present and nothing else.


  9. Föhre Says:

    Hm, sehr wahr, diese Geschichte, das kenn ich leider sehr gut von mir selbst, dieses “Dinge aus Zweifel/Angst/Unsicherheit nicht tun und dann für lange Zeit irgendwie mitschleppen”.

    Ist das ein Foto vom Wasserpark?

  10. ravindran g .bangalore Says:

    thought less awareness means living for the moment. by wink of an eye we miss seeing the world all action/response/reaction are momentry and has relevance to that situation,connection to that moment.not to be seen in isolation. everything is related to the situation not in isolation.

  11. Ravindran Says:

    we often carry our past. never learn to live in the present.

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