Putting Aside Guilt

Takygulpa Rinpoche sat on his little stool on his front porch. He was making a kite for a boy who had recently lost his father. He often fashioned such things for children just as his father had done for him and his sister.

Augustus sat nearby watching admiringly as the old Master deftly fashioned a tail for the little kite. But Augustus was thinking of deeper things.

“Master,” he enquired, “Why is it that you tell me I should avoid the feeling of guilt?”

Without looking up, the sage replied, “Guilt is a negative emotion that does no good to anyone. We should not burden ourselves with such baggage when it does not result in positive outcomes in the world.”

“But,” protested Augustus, “How can somebody put aside guilt if they know they have done wrong?”

“How does guilt help? Surely your object is to improve – not to feel bad. To be at our best we need to rid ourselves of all negative emotion. Here let me tell you a little story.”

It is said that two monks from the Zen tradition, Tanzan and Ekido, were travelling to a neighbouring monastery. Tanzan was big muscular congenial fellow. His companion was short and thin and of a quite austere disposition.

It had rained quite heavily about noon and the two had been drenched. But now, late afternoon, the skies were blue and the sun shone again. They approached a stream which, although normally just a trickle, now ran quite fast because of the earlier downpour. As they drew near they saw a young woman, splendidly dressed and a carrying a basket, pacing up and down by the water’s side.

Tanzan immediately went up to the young woman and enquired, ‘What seems to be the trouble miss?’

‘Oh, sir, my home is on the other side of this stream. We are celebrating my brother’s wedding this evening. I was sent to purchase some provisions for this evening’s celebration. When I traversed the crossing earlier, the water was merely a trickle and now it is running quite strongly. What’s more I have on my best dress to wear to the celebration and am reluctant to get it wet.’

‘Never fear,’ said the big man. ‘I will help you.’

Tanzan went back to Ekido and said, ‘Would you mind my things?’

So saying he laid his staff and the bag he was carrying at Ekido’s feet.

‘What are you doing?’ cried Ekido. ‘We monks have been told not to go near females, and especially not young and attractive ones. It is a dangerous practice.’

As he went back to the young woman Tanzan called back to Ekido, ‘But my vows also require me to show loving-kindness.’

When he arrived at the water’s edge, to the girl’s dismay he lifted her and her basket high, strode confidently across the stream and deposited her on the other side. She thanked him profusely and ran off back to her household.

Sometime later as the two monks walked in the evening light towards the monastery Ekido finally spoke. For the last hour he had walked in silence. He could contain himself no longer. ‘You shouldn’t have done that. We are forbidden to converse with women, let alone touch them, as you did. You have no discipline.’

Tanzan laughed. ‘I am not against discipline, but discipline should not be slavery. It seemed a better course to help the young woman.’

But Ekido could not put it out of his mind, and he continued to badger Tanzan about his action.

Finally Tanzan said, ‘Ekido, I left the girl there by the side of the stream. Are you still carrying her?’

“And so,” concluded Takygulpa Rinpoche, “Ekido, like so many, carried unhelpful psychological baggage that impeded his judgment and prevented him from promoting loving-kindness. Guilt, judgment, envy, and all such negative emotions prevent us from being helpful and useful in our day to day activities.

Augustus nodded his understanding. The old man fastened the exquisitely fashioned kite tail to the body of the kite.


One Reply to “Putting Aside Guilt”

  1. Thanks Ted. I’m not sure how you do it but it is uncanny how often your Blog seems to be written just for me and at a time when I most need it.

    Wise words, and much appreciated.

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