Two Monks and a Young Woman

I was speaking with a client the other day and I brought up the Zen Story of Two Monks and a Young Woman:

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

~ Zen Stories

The beautiful parable of the two monks is a powerful reminder of the importance of true gratitude and selflessness. This story, often attributed to a Zen master speaks to us of the importance of true appreciation. The senior monk teaches us that it is possible to do something that seems wrong—in his case, to touch a woman—if the motivation behind it is the recognition of a greater good. Despite his worries of breaking his vow, and any physical or mental constraints, he is guided by his appreciation for life and willingness to do what is right, despite the rigid laws of his faith

The younger monk’s reaction to the senior monk’s actions also provides great insight into the nature of gratitude. After experiencing the older monk’s selflessness and appreciation for the woman’s situation, the younger monk soon realizes the weight of his grievance. Despite the senior monk helping the woman across the river and being fully cognizant of the consequences he may suffer, the younger monk continues to carry his anger and resentment. This powerful lesson demonstrates how even when good intentions come from another person, it is often easy to take away from their actions something negative.

Gratitude serves us in extraordinary ways. It helps us view situations, ourselves, and others, with greater understanding, clarity, and appreciation. Life is often difficult by the many obstacles we encounter, so remembering to express thanks for even the smallest things can lead us to a greater understanding of how our actions and choices shape our lives.

The parable of the two monks teaches us that while rigid rules and injunctions do have a place in our lives, we must not forget the power of gratitude and appreciation in navigating our daily lives. Practicing gratitude is a way of truly understanding and honoring ourselves and the countless people who cross our paths, for each journey is unique, and our appreciation can often uncover life’s hidden treasures.


  1. Jaime on July 9, 2023 at 11:00 pm

    Greetings Paul, thank you for the friendly reminder on how to use gratitude in any situation, especially when things seem rigid. There always seems to be a lesson of love hidden in there somewhere. Much gratitude for sharing. Sending lots of love. Jaime

    • Paul on July 10, 2023 at 8:48 am

      Hello Jaime! Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughtful comment on our blog. It’s wonderful to hear that our reminder about using gratitude resonated with you, particularly in situations that may seem rigid. You’re absolutely right that there is often a lesson of love hidden within those moments. We’re grateful for your support and for being a part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge community. Sending lots of love right back to you!

  2. Florence Callender on July 10, 2023 at 12:30 am

    In a world filled with rules and injunctions, the parable of the two monks reminds me of the importance of balancing them with gratitude and appreciation. Having grown up in a strict home, this story encourages me to go beyond rigid structures and honor the unique journeys of others. I strive to employ the power of gratitude daily, so I can build meaningful connections, find joy in the present moment, and contribute positively to the world around me. Thanks for sharing this parable.

    • Paul on July 10, 2023 at 8:48 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and personal connection to the parable of the two monks on our blog! It’s touching to hear how this story resonates with you, especially considering your upbringing in a strict home. Balancing rules and injunctions with gratitude and appreciation is indeed a powerful approach to life. Your commitment to employing the power of gratitude daily, building meaningful connections, and finding joy in the present moment is truly inspiring. We appreciate your kind words and thank you for being a part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge!

  3. Jeanine Byers on July 10, 2023 at 1:53 am

    Thanks for the reminder! I am going to pause right now to connect with gratitude for my day.

    • Paul on July 10, 2023 at 8:47 am

      You’re most welcome! Taking a moment to pause and connect with gratitude is such a wonderful practice. It helps us appreciate the little things and find beauty in our everyday lives. We’re glad our post served as a reminder for you to do just that. May your day be filled with even more reasons to be grateful. Keep up the amazing work and thank you for being a part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge!

  4. Dominique on July 10, 2023 at 10:57 am

    This is a great post to start off Monday and the week with. A good reminder to get focused for the week. Thank you for sharing!

    • Paul on July 11, 2023 at 5:49 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m thrilled to hear that our post has served as a great way to kick off your week and get focused. It’s always important to start the week with intention and purpose. We’re grateful that our reminder resonated with you and offered some guidance for the days ahead. Wishing you a productive and successful week full of wonderful moments.

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