One butcher came to Nan-in. He was a butcher and Nan-in was a Buddhist monk who believed in non-violence. His whole profession was of violence. The whole day he was killing animals. But when the butcher came to Nan-in, he asked him, ”What am I to do? My profession is one of violence. So am I to leave my profession first and is it that only then I can be a new man, or is there some other way?”
Nan-in said, ”We are not concerned with what you do. We are concerned with what you are. So you go on doing whatsoever you are doing, but be more alert. While killing, remain alert, meditative, and go on doing whatsoever you are doing. We are not concerned.”
Nan-in’s followers became disturbed – because here was a person who was a follower of Buddha, a believer in non-violence, allowing a butcher to continue. One disciple said, ”This is not good. And we never expected that a person like you would allow a butcher to remain a butcher. And when he was asking, you should have told him to drop this. He himself was ready.”
Nan-in is reported to have said, ”You can change the butcher’s profession easily; he was himself ready. But in that way you cannot change his quality of consciousness. He will remain a butcher.”
He may become a saint, but the quality of the mind will remain that of a butcher. That will be a deception for others and for himself also. Go and look at your so-called saints. Many of them remain butchers. The quality, the attitude, the violence, their very look towards you, is condemning, violent. You are a sinner and they are saints. When they see you, the very look is such that you are condemned, you are thrown into hell.
Nan-in said, ”So it is not good to change his outer life; it is better to bring a new quality to his mind. And it is good to let him remain a butcher, because he is disturbed by his butchery and violence. If he becomes a saint he will remain a butcher, but then he will not be disturbed. His ego will be strengthened. So this is good. He is disturbed that violence is there, and he has become at least this much aware – that this is not good. He is ready to change, but just readiness to change will not help. A new quality of the mind has to be developed. Let him meditate.”
After one year had passed, the man came. He had become a different man. He was still a killer, but the man had changed although the doing remained the same. He came to Nan-in again and he said, ”Now I am a different man. I meditated and meditated and meditated, and my whole life has become a meditation because you told me to meditate in whatsoever I am doing. I am butchering animals, but the whole day I am meditating. Now what do you tell me to do?”
So Nan-in said, ”Now do not come to me. Allow your awareness to make a path for you. You need not come to me.”
So the butcher said, ”Now, only if you say remain in the profession will I pretend to be there. But as far as I am concerned, I am no more there. So if you allow me, I am not going back. But if you say to go, then it is okay. I will go and pretend, and I will continue.”
This is how, when your quality changes – your quality of consciousness – you become a different person altogether.