The Zen master Hotei was passing through a village. On his shoulders, he carried a large bag as always. It was full of toys, playthings and sweets for children.
At the village square, some people hailed him: “We have heard you are a Zen master. Why do you go about wasting your time giving goodies to children?” Hotei merely smiled in reply.
The villagers then asked: “If you are really a Zen master, show us what Zen is.”
Hotei immediately dropped his bag, then looked at them inscrutably.
“We fail to understand what you meant by doing that,” said the mystified villagers.
“It is simple. You just drop the burden, that is all.”
“Okay, what next?”
Putting his bag again on his shoulders, Hotei resumed walking.
This puzzled the villagers even more. So he stopped to explain.
“I first dropped my burden. Next, I picked it up. But this time, I know the burden I carry is not mine. It has become just goodies for children which they will enjoy.”
And then there is the Zen story of two monks on a journey who came to a stream. There had been a heavy downpour and the stream was turbulent. A pretty young damsel was standing on the bank, wondering how to cross it.
At her request, the elder monk picked her up, carried her across the water and put her down on the other side. The monks then continued on their way.
That evening at the mostery, the younger monk came up to the elder one and asked: “How could you carry the maiden like that? You know we can’t touch women, it’s against our way of life!”
Smiling, the senior monk replied: “I left her at the stream’s edge a long way back. But I see you are still carrying her burden!”
Verily, the ture of the burden depends on its carrier.