A Giant Act of Love

Reflections on the First PreceptDavid Barnhill

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“SO YOU'RE THE INFAMOUS David Barnhill," he said, acknowledging my peculiar reputation. We were standing outside the dharma hall of Zen Mountain Center near Los Angeles. It was an odd way to begin a sesshin, a week-long meditation retreat.

The comment seemed stranger still because within a few hours I would be inside the incense-filled hall undergoing jukai, "receiving the precepts" from the Japanese Zen abbot Maezumi Roshi and thus becoming an official lay Buddhist. It was, after all, the first of those precepts—"Do not kill"—that was the occasion for my dubious renown.

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