Two Zen monks, Ekido and Tanzan, were on the way to the monastery. The day before it had rained and the tracks were muddy. When they passed near a small village, they met a young woman wearing a gorgeous golden kimono.
The young woman tried to cross a puddle of water, but she was paralyzed by the thought that wetting his kimono could ruin it, and his mother would reproach her very hard.
Without hesitation, the young Tanzan approached to help her. He loaded her on his back and brought her to the other side of the puddle. Subsequently, the two monks continued on their way.
When they reached the monastery, Ekido, who had been anxious for the duration of the journey, criticized his companion:
– Why did you load that girl? You know that our votes forbid us to do these things!
Tanzan did not look disturbed, looked at his travel companion and answered with a smile:
– I brought that girl on my back only for a few minutes a few hours ago, while you still take her on yours now.”
This Zen Parable invites us to reflect on the constraints and limitations that we ourselves construct with our beliefs and stereotypes and how we use them to criticize others.
It also leads us to ask how many times we react based on the story we have built in our minds, and not just objectively analyzing the facts. It is a particularly dangerous behavior that can make us drown in the storm we created in a glass of water.
3 life lessons that can change your way of dealing with life
1. Problems must be faced when they appear and then let go
It is said that a disciple asked a great Zen master what is the secret to attaining inner peace. The Zen master simply said: “When I eat, I eat, when I sleep, I sleep”.
Our problem is that we avoid the difficulties when they appear, usually because they scare us too much, and when they finally disappear, we keep thinking about them. So a small problem takes on catastrophic proportions and keeps our minds constantly busy with negative thoughts that only make us sick.
Learning to be fully present and adopting a more pragmatic attitude will prevent great suffering, frustration and discomfort. This means that we should try to solve the problems when they appear and relegate them to the past when they are no longer part of our lives. We must remember that everything we feed in our minds for us is real. But the concerns do not eliminate the pain of tomorrow, they just take away the strength of today.
2. Everyone gives what he has inside
Most of the people we interact with, including ourselves, do not react to facts, but to their expectations and stereotypes. Like monk Ekido, these people draw conclusions based on a party perspective and then rely on it to criticize others.
When a person uses data isolated from reality and inserts them into the story he is building in his mind, he runs the risk of acting irrationally. In these cases we can be accused of things that we did not do, because that person assumes that our intentions are the same than his.
If that person tends to act wickedly, he will assume that we also act wickedly because he activates a defense mechanism called “projection” through which he projects on others his own characteristics that refuses to recognize. Therefore it is said that everyone gives what is inside of him.
Talking with these people is very difficult because virtually everything we say will be used against us. It is better to do like monk Tanzan and, without attacking them, make them see that their views are a projection of their way of seeing the world, which does not correspond to reality. That little change of attitude will save us many headaches in interpersonal relationships.
3. Your beliefs do not make of you a better person, your actions do
The monk Tanzan offers us a sublime teaching that the world neglects: our beliefs are not what makes us good or bad, but our actions. This means that we are no better persons just being Catholics, Buddhists, Adventists, Taoists, or Rationalist Atheists, are our actions that count and leave a mark in the world.
Intellectual and moral superiority does not change the world, on the contrary, creates a worse world where some feel the right to judge and criticize everything that does not meet their parameters. What change the world are gratitude, empathy, and disinterested help.
This idea also sends us another powerful, extremely liberating message: do not let any conviction limit your “self”, your desire to discover, to interact with others, or do things that make you feel alive.
A rigid belief system that puts people at ease, whatever it is, is never positive. Beliefs must exist to fill our lives and transform us into better people, not to limit our freedom and create barriers to others.