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Story about two monks and a woman at a river.


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#1 Paul C

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Posted 13 March 2015 - 11:44 PM

There is a common story about 2 monks who are traveling along a river and come to a point where there is a distraught woman on the opposite bank of the river who wants to get across.  One of the monks, without hesitation, wades across and carries the woman over.  In gratitude, she departs and the two monks continue their journey.  After some time, the monk who did not wade across the river bursts out with bewilderment at what had happened, asking he other how he could have done that when they had vowed (or been taught) to never touch a woman.  The monk who helped the woman wisely says something like "Brother, I left that woman far behind.  It is you who are still carrying her." ("in your thoughts," presumably).

 

It is a interesting story with a nice lesson cautioning against fretting about the past and perhaps against allowing strict moral legalism to prevent someone from aiding another. 

 

It is also interesting in that the exact same story is told within both Christian and Buddhist circles.  Many years ago I heard the story in a talk given by a Theravada Buddhist monk, who cited it as being a ancient Buddhist story, and just today I heard it again told on an Orthodox Christian podcast where the podcaster attributed it to the Desert Fathers.  In a quick internet search, the vast majority of references are on Buddhist sites.

 

Does anybody know the source of this story, whether Christian or Buddhist?



#2 Niko Barounis

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 02:27 AM

I heard it when i was a buddhist. First time i hear it as an Orthodox story!



#3 Olga

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 03:37 AM

Irrespective of the actual origins of the story, it's an illustration of Titus 1:15: To the pure, all things are pure .... Some teachings and principles, like the Golden Rule, are indeed universal, not restricted to any single religion or culture.



#4 Ryan

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 12:52 PM

Another Buddhist story that made it into Orthodox lore is the one about the monks on an island who cross themselves the wrong way. When a bishop visits them and corrects them, they walk across the water to ask him to show them again. (In the Buddhist version, it is a visiting lama teaching the hermits the right way to pronounce "Om mani padme hum").



#5 Niko Barounis

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 04:39 PM

I find these things discuraging. i mean, they steal/borow each others stories and repeat them as there own. Looks like they are deceaving us! I realy dont ike this.



#6 Kosta

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 07:35 PM

There is no monastic vow to never touch a person of the opposite sex in Orthodoxy, which is the first thing that stood out to me. Cool story but in Christianity it would have more to do with the good samaritan.

Mixing stories happen, you have the protestant animal lovers who attribute to St Basil the Great some reference to animals playing a role in salvation or something to that effect.

#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 07:40 PM

Things like these happen when you deal with cultures that span over centuries.

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 07:46 PM

I find these things discuraging. i mean, they steal/borow each others stories and repeat them as there own. Looks like they are deceaving us! I realy dont ike this.

 

I tend to agree. There must be sufficient true stories in Orthodoxy.



#9 Ryan

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 11:57 PM

Things like these happen when you deal with cultures that span over centuries.

 

Agreed. Insularity and indifference to other cultures is not an Orthodox tradition.



#10 Ryan

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 12:01 AM

I find these things discuraging. i mean, they steal/borow each others stories and repeat them as there own. Looks like they are deceaving us! I realy dont ike this.

 

The point of the story is not to say, "This is a factual account", but to simply convey a certain wise attitude that need not be peculiar to any one religion. I don't really see why it's discouraging or deceptive. Bees gather nectar where they find it.



#11 Kosta

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 02:01 AM

The only problem is the historical error trying to incorporate this as an Orthodox christian story. Orthodox monasticm has never had any vow which requires abstention from all and any kind of contact with another person.

#12 Niko Barounis

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 03:30 AM

The point of the story is not to say, "This is a factual account", but to simply convey a certain wise attitude that need not be peculiar to any one religion. I don't really see why it's discouraging or deceptive. Bees gather nectar where they find it.

Yes i agree but thats not the case. To me it appears to be, that this story wqs copied and told as if it actually happend in orthodox history, i could be wrong? but if im right then...where does it end...we/Orthodoxy can say anything they want to get  a point across? I know Orthodoxy has a prob with budhisim ( i belive they feal threatend by it) but in a case like this they should have said. "there is a old budhist story abt a monk who.....".



#13 Paul C

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 05:37 AM

I am going to attempt to contact the podcaster and ask her where she read the story.  Perhaps she was merely mistaken.  The only Christian mention I can find of it is on a Roman Catholic spirituality website.



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 08:52 AM

Insularity and indifference to other cultures is not an Orthodox tradition.

 

This is true, of course - we are supposed to evangelize the world. But that should not extend to taking tales from other cultures and non-Christian religions and pretending that they have Orthodox provenance. Do we have examples of such a thing in our patristic, monastic and liturgical deposit? Now, a parable is another thing altogether.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 15 March 2015 - 08:52 AM.


#15 Ryan

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 11:37 AM

The only problem is the historical error trying to incorporate this as an Orthodox christian story. Orthodox monasticm has never had any vow which requires abstention from all and any kind of contact with another person.


It may not be a formal vow but certainly among some of the fathers (eg St Isaac of Syria) there is a strong admonition for monks to avoid contact with women at all costs. Also, wading through rivers is a big no-no.

#16 Ryan

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 11:38 AM

This is true, of course - we are supposed to evangelize the world. But that should not extend to taking tales from other cultures and non-Christian religions and pretending that they have Orthodox provenance. Do we have examples of such a thing in our patristic, monastic and liturgical deposit? Now, a parable is another thing altogether.


Yes. The life of Sts. Barlaam and Josaphat.

#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 02:32 PM

I see there was a thread about this: http://www.monachos....m-and-josaphat/



#18 Lakis Papas

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 04:47 PM

Great cultures are based on Myths. Modern man fails to understand this. We think that bible is based on "reality".

But ask a modern man to write a book about his father and he will write a book full of myths. We realize reality through a filter that makes our truth to be based on our conceptions rather than actual facts.

Then, reality is shocking untrustworthy and myths are the foundations of culture.

#19 Kosta

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 07:15 PM

Why would wading through water be a no no? An hieromonk would have to baptise in a river, the candidate can be man or woman.

We already have Jesus speaking to the samaritan woman at a time hebrew men were forbidden to speak with samaritans. No need to borrow buddhist monastic customs. This can lead to wrongful assumptions when students of history try to piece together early christian practises.

Edited by Kosta, 15 March 2015 - 07:21 PM.


#20 Ryan

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 08:28 PM

Why would wading through water be a no no? An hieromonk would have to baptise in a river, the candidate can be man or woman.
We already have Jesus speaking to the samaritan woman at a time hebrew men were forbidden to speak with samaritans. No need to borrow buddhist monastic customs. This can lead to wrongful assumptions when students of history try to piece together early christian practises.


St. Isaac was not borrowing a Buddhist precept when he advised monks to avoid contact with women. Wading in water is to be avoided as much as possible for monks because of the sensuous feelng of running water over one's limbs. Thus St. Nikodemus also advises against bathing too often. Of course exceptions can be made depending on circumstances.




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