Are you still carrying her?

September 28, 2007

Tanzan and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. “Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself.

“We monks don’t do near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

From 101 Zen Stories

I have a great affection for the work of Thomas Merton, a gifted writer who lead a life of general dissipation before finding himself in a Cistercian monastery as Frater Louis. His many attempts to leave the writer-self behind failed, and he ulimately became of the most important Catholic writers of the 20th century. He wrote prolifically on contemplative prayer, and spent a great deal of time building bridges to the religions of the East. One of his books, New Seeds of Contemplation, is a favorite of mine. I try to return to it often.

Merton has been on my mind a bit lately. I recently shared with a suffering friend of ours one of his most famous bits of writing, a short piece that came to be called the Merton Prayer. He wrote it during one of his sojourns in the hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I’ve reproduced it here.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


I suppose I should wind this up with a tying-together of the Zen story above and Thomas Merton. I’m not sure that I can, so I’ll let them stand as they are.


One Response to “Are you still carrying her?”

  1. gregfish Says:

    Fantastic Merton quote! Thanks so much for sharing. It fits right in with my studies this week. Blessings!

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