The Two Monks

From Buddhist tradition.

The Two Monks

There was once a pair of travelling monks—one senior and one junior. One day, the two monks met a young lady on the side of a small stream and saw that she was having trouble getting across.

Now, traditionally, monks and nuns weren't supposed to come in contact with members of the other sex. So the younger monk was shocked when the older monk offered to carry the lady across.

The monks and the lady successfully crossed the creek. The lady thanked the old monk and everyone continued on their respective journeys. This incident by the creek, however, troubled the junior monk for days.

“Sir, why did you touch the lady? You know we're not supposed to.” The younger monk, unable to contain himself after a week, finally asked his senior colleague accusingly.

“What?” The older monk was confused.

“The young lady by the river,” explained the young monk. “We monks are not allowed to touch women. Yet, you did!”

“Oh!” The old monk said when he finally remembered the incident. “I put her down by the river. Clearly, you're still carrying her!”


There's a story about a Roman Stoic named Cato the Younger who was once struck by a man. When the man later apologized, Cato acted as though he didn't even remember the incident. As author Ryan Holiday explains, Cato wasn't just practicing forgiveness, he was practicing a kind of forgetfulness—one that helps him to better enjoy life in the present.

“Forgive and forget.” This notion of letting go is ubiquitous among ancient philosophical traditions from East to West. In the words of the Buddha, “holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting another person to die.” At the end of the day, not letting go only hurts you and you alone.