Carrying the Past (A New Earth)

Decided to keep reading and am now in chapter 5 (out of 10) of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and just read this Zen koan or story of two Zen monks (which I most recently read in 2007 in a tricycle Daily Dharma email), Tanzan and Ekido:

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. “Are you still carrying her?”

Tolle uses this Zen koan to illustrate the “inability or rather unwillingness of the human mind to let go of the past.” Tolle has coined a term “the pain-body” to describe the “accumulation of old emotional pain” each person “carries in his or her energy field.” Hmm….

I like Zen koans and after I first learned about them in John Tarrant‘s chapter “Koan Practice: The Great Way is Not Difficult If You Just Don’t Pick and Choose” in The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 (originally published as an article in Shambhala Sun in November 2004), I’ve been meaning to read Tarrant‘s book Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy. Tarrant used this Zen koan in the article I mentioned:

Zhaozhou often quoted this saying by Sengcan:
The great way is not difficult
if you just don’t pick and choose.

I will have to move Bring Me the Rhinoceros up my list of books to read. And I just heard John Tarrant is giving a class on this book in May at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA! I’ll have to look into attending!

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One response to “Carrying the Past (A New Earth)

  1. Pingback: A New Earth: awakening to your life’s purpose by Eckhart Tolle « Adventures in Reading

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