Detachment á la Beck


I have read about halfway through Father Beck's marvelous book and find a scattering of thirty or so tags--things I want to remember, things I want to share. By sharing, I remember better, but choosing among all the wonderful points is so difficult. In the chapter on detachment alone there must be ten or eleven vital points, but one of the most pointed in made in the story below:

from Soul Provider
Fr. Edward L. Beck

There is a classic Zen story about two celibate monks who are on pilgrimage together. As they approach a raging river, they see a beautiful, distressed young woman standing on the bank afraid to make the crossing. The yonger monk picks the woman up, put her on his shoulders, and wades into the river as the older monk looks on, horrified but saying nothing. When the three reach the other side, the monk puts the grateful woman down safely, and the two monks continue on their journey in silence. Hours go by without the two speaking. The older monk is obviously angry and upset. He finally looks at the younger monk and says, "How could you have done that?" "Done what?" says the younger monk, surprised. "How could you have carried that woman? You know we are to have nothing to do with women and yet you intimately carried her on your shoulders." "My dear brother," replies the younger monk, "I set that woman down on the shore of the river hours ago. Why are you still carrying her."

Of course, this passage speaks to more than mere detachment. It speaks to our habit of nurturing anger over perceived slights, over differences of opinion on religion that make no difference, on matters such as liturgical preference or any number of opinions held either rightly or wrongly by either side of a dispute on religious matters. One could say with almost equal equanimity to either side of the dispute on, say, women's ordination--"The church set that issue down on the banks of the river years ago, why are you still carrying it?" Because, most naturally, we cling to those things for which we feel we have the proper scope of righteous anger--just as does this monk.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 6, 2007 7:02 AM.

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