Non-harming 4

I undertake the training precept to abstain from taking life

My current thinking about and experience of this precept has brought me to an insight into all of the five precepts. As I work to expand my understanding that every creature is driven by the will to live, my compassion automatically rises. It occurs to me that all five of the training precepts involve some movement away from selfishness, from seeing the world as me and mine, and towards seeing how we are all the same in being worthy of acceptance, respect, consideration, and compassion.

How tricky it is to make this shift, even temporarily. In working with the precepts, we learn to guard our speech and actions, to remember – again and again – that we are affecting others. This cracks the shell of our insularity.

Quite recently I’ve been teaching meditation (in a fashion) in a local prison. It’s been interesting and educational, and I’m planning to continue it. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is how quickly I come to feel protectiveness and even fondness for the prisoners, all of them equally. Their vulnerability and confusion moves me. Of course, this is a selected group of men; each of them put his hand up for a meditation course. However, every man is suffering in his own unique ways, and this gets my compassion motor going. The strength of my own response surprises me.

So I’ve been provided with a taste of the sweet joy of compassion. Some lifelong defensive shield is being worn away, or maybe it’s just a side-effect of getting older. Either way, I like it.

Next up, refraining from taking what is not given.

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