do no harm.
this phrase can sum up the first of Five Precepts in Buddhism that lay Buddhists follow. though, the precept consists of a prohibition on killing, it is often generally interpreted as a prohibition on harming.
most of us aren’t running around killing others. most of us understand the harm that causes, but if we allow our awareness to open, we may see that there are many types of death, and this precept invites us to investigate the more subtle ways we harm and destroy with our thoughts, words, actions, with our consumption, our indifference, our non-caring.
the Precepts aren’t commandments in our traditional understanding of that word. they are more like guidelines for living a life that is beneficial and non-harming. Buddhism is concerned with recognition of suffering and then acting in ways to reduce or end suffering. the Five Precepts beginning with the First Precept, are basically saying, “Don’t do this and you’ll reduce suffering.”
this view of non-harming includes all life – including ourselves. we can look into our lives and ask ourselves if we are acting in ways that bring harm to ourselves or others, how can we change this to bring benefit?
i see the Precepts as an invitation to practice having an open heart and embodying love for myself and for others. and the key word is practice. we aren’t looking for perfection – to be perfect or without fault, or being right or wrong, we are looking to reduce our participation in harm and suffering, we are looking to engage our loving, empathetic hearts, to live with compassion in this world.
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