February 6, 2020
The First Precept: Reverence for Life
“ Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I undertake to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking and in my way of life.”
Life is precious. It is everywhere, inside us and all around us; it has so many forms.
The First Precept is born from the awareness that lives everywhere are being destroyed. We see suffering caused by the destruction of life, and we undertake to cultivate compassion and use it as a source of energy for the protection of people, animals, plants and minerals. The First Precept is a precept of compassion, karuna— the ability to remove suffering and transform it. When we see suffering, compassion is born in us.
It is important for us to stay in touch with the suffering of the world. We need to nourish that awareness through many means—sounds, images, direct contact, visits and so on—in order to keep compassion alive in us. But we must be careful not to take in too much. Any remedy must be taken in the proper dosage. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget, so compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy for our actions. According to Buddhism, compassion is the only source of energy that is useful and safe. With compassion, your energy is born from insight; it is not blind energy.
We humans are made entirely of non-human elements, such as plants, minerals, earth, clouds and sunshine. For our practice to be deep and true, we must include the ecosystem. If the environment is destroyed, humans will be destroyed, too. Protecting human life is not possible without protecting the lives of animals, plants and minerals.
Thich Nhat Hahn Zen Buddhist Monk