There was a boy, the youngest of three siblings, who befriended a panda bear.
Not just any panda bear, a talking, zen-type of panda bear. One day, the boy visited the panda and brought with him nearly every toy he owned. He complained that his brother was too bossy – that he had told him he was bringing too much stuff, so the boy had brought everything.
“I’m mad at Michael.” he told his panda friend.
He humphed and crossed his arms.
He scowled as the panda floated on his back in the pool.
He complained about his brother and fantasized about how he would punish him if he were there. He would jump on him like this – as he bounced on the panda’s belly. The panda listened. . . and daydreamed.
They frolicked, but the boy grumbled all day too.
“Karl,” said the bear to the boy, “You spent the whole day being angry with Michael. Did you notice how much fun we had?”
The bear, Stillwater, then told him this story:
A Heavy Load
Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.
The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. he older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.
As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
“Do you think you have carried it long enough?” asked Stillwater.
“Yes,” said Karl.
“Good,” said Stillwater.
— Story and illustrations from Zen Shorts, by Jon J. Muth
What have we carried too long friends? What is there in our lives or hearts that needs to be put down? Let’s not carry these ugly things any more – big lifetime hurts or small everyday annoyances. Let’s just put them down so we can see the good stuff and enjoy floating in pools and bouncing on panda bellies. . . .
Picture credit in order of appearance: TeachingChildrenPhilosophy.org,