Kōan 41: Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling 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 go 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. “Why are you still carrying her?”


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I feel like this is one of the more well-known parables that shows up in pop-culture and college philosophy classes. Tanzan gives a perfect example of freeing his mind and enlightenment, and I was actually surprised by Ekido’s slip up.

This is also probably the only koan I’ve covered so far that features the two of them.

But I don’t really remember.

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