The Parable of Two Monks & A Woman

The Parable of Two Monks & A Woman

The Parable of Two Monks & A Woman

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to share the parable of two monks and a woman and it’s illustration about responsibility.

First a quick update:

“Trump’s 8 American Winning Values”
People outside the US are perplexed by the fact that a reality TV star could become the Republican Presidential Nominee. The answer isn’t anger at congress; it’s 8 unique American values; Read my insights here 

“Cheating – How Successful Women Emasculate Men
The male fragile ego.
Why are men emasculated by successful women and how does that lead to cheating? Watch the video!

Now, let’s talk about the parable of two monks and a woman.

Responsibility is the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.

And there is so much in your life that is within you power.

“Every therapeutic cure, and still more, any awkward attempt to show the patient the truth, tears him from the cradle of his freedom from responsibility and must therefore reckon with the most vehement resistance.”
– Alfred Adler, Austrian Psychotherapist

Dr. Adler summed up in one sentence the greatest challenge and obstacle to all healing and therapy and to personal emotional freedom – accepting responsibility for oneself, for the way a person chooses to live and for the emotions he/she chooses to harbor, cultivate and express.

Most of us fall back into the victim mode – he/she did something bad to me. Yes, he/she did that bad thing and the amount of times he/she did that and the way you choose now to respond is your responsibility; it’s up to you to decide how you will respond to the challenges.

There is a powerful Buddhist parable about 2 monks and 1 woman:

Two monks (one old and one young) were travelling from one monastery to another. They were celibate monks, not even allowed to direct their gaze at women. After a long walk, they came to a river, which they had to cross. The river was flooded and there was no way that they would get across without getting wet. One lady was also at the banks of river, wanting to cross; she was weeping because she was afraid to cross on her own.

The Monks decided to cross the river by walking through the relatively shallow part of the river. Since the lady also needed to get to the other bank, the older monk, without much ado, carried her on his shoulders, and soon they reached the other bank, where he set her down. The lady went her way and the two monks continued their walk in silence. The other monk was really upset, finding the other monk’s act disturbing. As per their injunctions, they were not allowed to look at the woman, let alone touch a woman, and yet the other monk carried her on his shoulders and all the way across the river!

After a few hours the confused monk couldn’t stand the thought of what had happened which kept filling his mind, and so he began to berate the other monk, “We are not allowed to look at other women, not touch them, but you carried that woman.”

‘Which woman?’ replied the older monk.

“The woman you carried on your shoulders across the river!”

The other monk paused and with a smile on his lips he said, ‘I put her down when I crossed the river, are you still carrying her?’ (There are many variations of this parable and from various religions and faiths and )

This story illustrates the way we choose to hold onto the past and continue to carry our baggage (negative emotions, pain, judgment, hurt, criticism, blame, self-pity, etc.) when it is no longer necessary; the parable illustrates that we are responsible for the choices we make. The older monk made the choice to go against his vows in order to help a woman; he then chose to let go of any self-blame or self-doubt. The younger monk chose to hold onto judgment, anger, blame, bitterness and criticism for many hours; he didn’t realize until told that he, too, is responsible for his choices and he, too, could choose to let go of what happened, let go of the past and live in the present moment.

“The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior.”  – M. Scott Peck

The story also further reinforces the point that we are also responsible for our actions which impact others. Recall, ‘responsibility is the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.’ The monks had the power and opportunity to help someone, to help this woman cross the river. Their choices would impact another person – in this scenario, their actions would either help the woman cross the river or leave her stranded or, worse, she might have tried to cross on her own and could have drowned. The younger monk chose to hold onto fixed ideas and limitations and refused to respond to what was needed in the moment i.e. to help the woman regardless of vows; the need to help another person supersedes vows. The parable also raises the subject of ethics – which is better and which is right: keep one’s religious vows to not touch a woman or break the vow and rescue a woman who really needs help?

The moral of the story, simply summed up, is that you are responsible for your actions which can help others and you are responsible for how you choose to react to things that happen to you & the choices you make; you can obsess and hold onto the past or you can use wisdom to choose peace and empowerment in every moment.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”  – George Bernard Shaw

What are you holding onto?
What choices did you make that contributed to this outcome?
Whom are you blaming for the choices you made?
Whom are you blaming for the way you feel right now?
Do you realize that today you are free and independent to choose the way you will respond to yesterday?
Who would you be without this story of victimhood?
Why are you afraid to let go of the past and the judgment?
By crying victim what responsibility are you actually running from?
What do you need to accept in order to be free?
What action do you need to take to get what you really want?

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

Advice: stop obsessing; just leave it behind; leave him/her at the river!

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” – Jim Rohn

You can add to the conversation below.

If you need assistance to overcome an issue, strengthen your relationship, build self-esteem or free yourself from a past event, book a one-on-one session with me.

You can post your comment on this newsletter below:

If this newsletter was forwarded to you and would like to receive all of my newsletters please enter your email address on the home page at

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

Facebook Comments