She wouldn't harm a fly

As she returns to lay life, a Buddhist nun finds the first precept the hardest to keep.

Faith Adiele

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When I moved into the forest in northern Thailand, shaving my head and eyebrows, donning white robes, and ordaining as maechi [a woman who takes on a homeless monastic life in pursuit of realization], I agreed to live by ten precepts. When I leave the wat [temple], I will become a devout laywoman, meaning that I will exchange my maechi vows for the five basic precepts to which Buddhist citizens are supposed to adhere: to refrain from killing; stealing; sexual offense; lying and harmful speech; and consuming intoxicants. Even as I take the five Householder Precepts, new stubble chafing my neck, I will recognize the lie. The vows are simply a gesture, a transitional measure to reduce my anxiety at leaving ordained life. I know that for me there is no Middle Path. I am either ordained or not. A Buddhist in Asia or not. Of the spirit or of the body.

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