Sometimes when our egos are assailed we take on impossible burdens. Minor slights become great grievances and the least insult assumes the status of a great injustice. Many examples flow through my mind as I write these words.
Perhaps I should relate to you the story of a man who once worked for me. There had been a change in the superannuation arrangements. A personnel officer from the company had come to explain the options to employees. The group that this man associated with was very suspicious of the organization and believed somehow they were being misled. Whilst the personnel officer was even-handed in his presentation they believed he was trying to pressure them to change their existing arrangements. In their paranoia they were convinced that the new arrangements were inimical to their needs and opted to remain with the status quo.
Unfortunately as the years progressed the alternative option became more attractive and those remaining with the status quo were disadvantaged. The person referred to became paranoid about these outcomes insisting that he had been misled. His personal well-being was diminished as a result and he became obsessive about the issue.
It was impossible to talk to him without his bringing up the issue and complaining about how he had been misled. I had been present when the options had been presented and I am sure they were presented fairly, without bias.
I could relate to you many such circumstances when people felt there was an injustice and could not let it go even though their response, however seemingly well justified, detracted from their own sense of well-being. We need to be able to put aside such baggage.
It is said that two monks from the Zen tradition, Tanzan and Ekido, were travelling to a neighbouring monastery. It was late in the day and although for most of the day they had walked through torrential rain as the afternoon faded into evening the skies cleared.
Each of the two monks was quite different to the other. Ekido was an austere man who maintained strict obedience to the dictates of his tradition. Tanzan was an affable fellow with an enquiring mind and was known to push at the boundaries of his belief system.
Tanzan was a tall, well-muscled man but Ekido was short and wiry.
Because Tanzan was such a congenial companion, Ekido found himself chattering away to his companion even though he was by nature reticent and withdrawn.
In the early evening they came to a small stream. The stream had been swollen by the rainfall they had encountered earlier in the day. There was a narrow causeway across the stream which enabled travellers to cross over without the indignity of even getting their feet wet. But now the stream muddied and brown from the inundation ran strongly over the top of the causeway.
As the two approached the causeway they could see there was a young woman carrying a basket standing there obviously agitated. She was splendidly dressed in a pink silk kimono tied with a purple satin sash.
Without hesitation, and to the dismay of Ekido, Tanzan went up to the woman and said, “What seems to be the matter, miss?”
“Oh, sir, I am in a terrible dilemma. My family live on the other side of this stream. We have a special gathering of the family tonight to celebrate the upcoming marriage of my brother. I was sent to get some special ingredients for the feast which I have here,” she said pointing to the basket. “I crossed over here only two hours ago and the stream was narrow and gentle as it usually is. But in that time it has swollen enormously. My mother will be waiting anxiously for me. But I can’t cross without ruining my best dress. What can I do?”
Tanzan put down the staff and bag he was carrying.
“Mind these for me friend,” he said to Ekido.
“Why, what are you going to do?” the other asked.
Tanzan didn’t answer but went up to the young lady, and to her surprise bent down and picked her up in his strong arms.
“Come on miss, we’ll make the crossing together.”
He waded across the causeway and even though the brown water came half way up his thighs was able to keep the woman high enough to not get her kimono wet. He then gently deposited her on the path on the other side.
Her thanks were profuse but he just shrugged and said, “It is enough to know you can now enjoy your feast and show off your fine clothes.”
He turned and waded back across to Ekido. Ekido glowered at Tanzan but said nothing. The two then forded the stream and walked off to their destination. Ekido did not speak to Tanzan again whilst they walked. Tanzan appeared not to notice but sang a few songs in his deep rich voice and whistled some tunes.
After an hour or so they they reached the monastery. Once they had been shown to their lodgings Ekido could no longer restrain himself.
“We monks have been told not to go near females, and especially not young and attractive ones. It is a dangerous practice.”
Tanzan smiled at his companion.
“Ekido, I left the girl there by the side of the stream. Are you still carrying her?”
So many of us are like Ekido carrying needless baggage that we should have put down long ago.