Carrying the problems of others

“There were two Buddhist monks going through a forest. When they reached the bank of a river, they encountered a young woman who tried to cross it but was afraid of being dragged by the current. Then one of the monks offered to help her. He asked her to climb up onto his back and cross the river. Arriving on the other shore, he let go of the young woman and the monks silently followed their way.


After more than two hours, the other monk couldn’t stand it and exalted criticized the partner:


– I can’t believe you were able to do that. You know we can’t have physical contact with women… unbelievable!


The accused monk, very calmly and with a smile on his lips answered:


– You’re right. I carried that young woman across the river, but you kept carrying her over two hours.”



Often we carry problems that are not ours, especially of those who are close to us. Sometimes we feel compelled to do so. It is important to keep in mind that this doesn’t solve anything. If we get involved to the point where it becomes our problem, we may not have the right judgment to help. And instead of being one person with a problem, they become two with the same problem. In many situations, the best way to help isn’t to solve the problem of the other, nor to bear all the consequences of the situation.


Understanding, being available for help and support are praiseworthy and extremely important attitudes for our well-being and those around us. This is called empathy.


To feel and understand each other’s pain is empathy – not to assume and bear their pain. The more emphatic we become the greater and better will be our perception of what is going on, making it easier to help. There are cases where the best help is simply to say “no”. If we are always solving the problems of others, we don’t let them learn. A simple example that illustrates this well is the parents who are running to raise the child who fell on the ground, crying and waiting to be lifted. Such a child will never learn to stand up. It will always be waiting for someone to rise her/him.

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