An edited selection from:
First Pure Precept: Non-Harming
in the book Everything is the Way: Ordinary Mind Zen,
Shambhala Publications, 2012.

One of my teachers, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, was Abbot of Ryutakuji, a monastery in Japan. Nevertheless, he still did sesshin with Harada Roshi, clarifying his practice. In fact, he was criticized by some people: "Why are you going for sesshin to another Roshi? You are Abbot, you have monks." Nevertheless, he would go, as well as do private retreats as a hermit. Always polishing, clarifying his practice.

During or after one of these sesshin, he 'had' a 'great' enlightenment. Several months after that, he told his monks the following, which I will paraphrase.

Soen Roshi often went to Tokyo and elsewhere to lead zazen meetings. On the train, there was an elderly woman who, whenever she saw him, would come over and talk about all sorts of things. She would chatter on endlessly, tell him about her family, all the gossip, and so on. He didn't particularly look forward to this. He would sit there, be very nice and polite about it, but, to put words in his mouth, 'Ah well, I'll put up with her.' You all know about this sort of thing. I am sure there are people you meet who go on and on about whatever. Though one may say 'emptiness of all forms, oneness of multitude of dharmas,' this remains conceptual, even if you try to 'act' it out – it is not actualized as your life. And though you are polite and even friendly, there is a trace of annoyance. After this enlightenment experience, Soen Roshi said he noticed that when he encountered the old woman, he was delighted to see her. When she started talking, there was not even a trace of annoyance. In fact, just the opposite: he felt enormous love for her just as she was.

Circumstances and conditions did not change; she did not change, and he did not do anything different, and yet, just of itself, something was completely transformed. Being just this moment compassion. This is non-harming – nothing in the universe that is not our self. There is nothing that can harm us, there is nothing

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