By Nhat Quan
None of you living in this world are completely pure. Buddha often taught:
- When you still going descends and ascends to the three realms, rolling in the six paths, no species will be completely pure, and no race will be free from all sins.
Today in daily life, each action, and movement often violate the precepts. Each piece of rice and sip of water is always not in accordance with the principle of etiquette. Every day has committed countless sins, let alone in a lifetime, over many lifetimes, sin arising is certainly indescribable. Therefore, it is not without reason that the Buddha taught that this world is a world of the five defilements, and urged you to cultivate to escape soon because the three realms are like a burning house.
Indeed, this world has been called the mundane world, how can it be pure? People used to say:
- The globe is round, and the tube is long
Then you are in the dust and you must be dusty. The dust of life has long covered your body, your head, your liver, and your lungs. It makes you blind, unable to see the main road. It makes you dull, not seeing the true heart. If you want to live forever in the dust, want to bathe in sin, say nothing. But when you want to be clean and relaxed, want to take away your sins for a light and relaxed heart, then of course you have to find a way to get rid of all the dust and remove all the sins. In Buddhism, the method of letting go of sins is called repentance. To repent, it is always necessary to meet two factors: Knowing your mistakes and correcting them.
In society, there are two noblest people in life. One is a person who has never sinned, the other is a person who has sinned but knows how to repent and not do it again. In fact, in the first class only among the Saints, and you are an ordinary person, it is very common to make mistakes, but are you aware of your mistakes? Have the courage to face it to make amends? That is the most important basic.
If you want to be free from sin, want to be freed from birth and death, and love the truth, let's learn and practice the Buddhist penitents carefully. The first is to improve the personal life, then the life of sentient beings is less suffering and happier. Due to the correction of errors, the first sin will be cleared, the new sin will not arise. So in the Bible, it says:
- If you repent, your sins will be eliminated, blessings will be born, and good roots will increase, not because Buddhas or Bodhisattvas will erase your sins.
So what is Repentance?
The Sanskrit word Sanskrit is Ksamayati, which means to repent or regret the error and seek forgiveness.
Repentance means repenting of past errors, and feeling a great sense of shame and remorse for the transgressions we made in the past (repent misdeeds and mental hindrance or karmic obstacles). Reform means turning away from future errors, resolving to improve oneself, and never making those mistakes again. If you know the old mistake is wrong, now you apologize, but still do it later, it is not the true meaning of repentance in Buddhism.
The Buddha taught that sins are created by your mind, and no one has the right to reward or punish you. Those who sow bad seeds will eat bad fruit, and those who plant good seeds will enjoy good fruit. Sins that have been created from the heart must also be repented from the heart. The words are clear, reasonable, and consistent with the experiment. So if you want to be free of sin, you must follow the true repentance methods of Buddhism and practice. In Buddhism, there are four dharmas of repentance, some of which are physical and some of which are psychological:
a- The form of repentance: This repentance belongs to the form, which means that you have to set up an ashram and invite the monks with a pure mind to prove it, so it is called the form of repentance. When you enter the ashram, you must honestly confess your sins and vow not to do them again in the future. Such a sincere repentance, when your precepts are purified, that is, your sins are gone.
b- Contemplation of repentance: This method belongs to visualization and is more difficult than the previous one. Buddha formulated this method for those who practice at a high level, either where there are no monks, or there are but they are not pure. To practice this method, you must go to the statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, sincerely bow, present the sins committed, and make a vow to repent, not to repeat them. Do this from 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 49 days, and forever until you see a good sign: It's like seeing a halo, a precious lotus flower, seeing a Buddha, a bodhisattva coming to pat your head, or apparitions, or another good image, then your repentance is successful.
c- Worship and repentance: This method of repentance also belongs to phenomena, compiled by the Master Bat Dong of the Song Dynasty in China. He withdrew 53 Buddha titles in the Fifty-Three Buddhas Sutra, that is, from Buddha Universal Light to Buddha Nhat Nhat Phap Trang Man Vuong. And withdraw 35 Buddha titles in the Sutra of Medicine King, Medicine Upper, with the Dharma body of Amitabha Buddha. Then add in the verse Samantabhadra Great Vow which becomes this penitential rite. A total of 108 prostrations indicate the elimination of 108 defilements. This penitential rite, if anyone sincerely pays respects, will eliminate the afflictions and sins created, in the present life as well as in many past lives. Vairocana Buddha said:
- If sentient beings hear the name of these 53 Buddhas, they will not fall into the three evil paths for hundreds of thousands of kalpas.
  Shakyamuni Buddha said:
- Once upon a time, during the reign of Buddha Dieu Quang, I went to practice in order to attain the end of the Dharma. Because of predestined circumstances, I heard the name of these 53 Buddhas and sincerely bowed to avoid suffering in the path of birth and death for many kalpas. The remaining 35 titles of Buddha, from Buddha Shakyamuni to Buddha Buu Lien Hoa Thien Tru Ta La Tho Vuong, in the Buu Tich Sutra, says:
- If all sentient beings, either committed the five transgressions or ten evils, could not repent for eons, only professing the name of these 35 Buddhas and bowing down to them, how many sins would be eliminated?
The titles of the Buddhas have such inconceivable merit, that's why the Dharma Master Bat Dong composed them for a penitential ritual. The Dharma of prostration and repentance is now practiced by most temples.
d- Contemplating the self-repentance of the mind: This method belongs to the essential element of repentance, very high and difficult, and only the superior can practice it. This method of contemplation includes:
- Contemplating the mind does not arise: As the Diamond Sutra says: The past mind is not possible, the present mind does not exist, nor does the future mind.
Contemplating in the three periods (past, present, and future) without mind then deluded thoughts come from nowhere. If false thoughts are not there, then sins are also not. Kinh says:
- Sins that arise from the mind, they also die from the mind. If this mind does not arise, then sin will not exist, that is true repentance.
- Contemplation of dharmas that do not arise: That is to observe the true appearance of dharmas that do not arise. The word "real" means that the sign is not born, does not die, is not real, is not false, from ancient times to the present day. It has always been like that, not changed by time or space, from time immemorial, so it is called reality.
It is also known as suchness or true mind. When the reality is received, the false appearances are gone. At that time, those false sins no longer exist. In the Universal Worthy Sutra, it is written:
- If you want to repent, you must contemplate the true nature of the dharmas, then sin will be completely destroyed.
If you can repent like this, if you can do such prostrations, then you will definitely eliminate sins and create blessings. You cannot doubt that. The Forty-two Chapter Sutra teaches that:
- Giving to an evil person is not as good as giving to a good person. Giving to good people is not equal to giving to people who keep the precepts. Giving to those who keep the precepts is not equal to making offerings to the Srota-apanna, even to the Buddhas. Making offerings to the Buddhas will have great merit.
As mentioned above, bowing sincerely is also an offering, not necessarily a material offering. As in the following passage:
- While the World-Honored One was staying at Rajagaha, he entered the great compassion samadhi where the Buddhas reside, and then he emerged from concentration and contemplated the world. He saw right in that city in the area of the people of Chandala, an old woman about to die, and bad karma that led to hell appeared to her.
With great compassion, the Buddha wanted to make her create good karma leading to heaven, he thought:
- I will take her to heaven.
Therefore, he immediately went to Rajagaha with a large assembly of bhikkhus to beg for food.
At that time the old woman Chandala, walking out of the city with her cane, saw the Blessed One approaching, and when she faced him, she stopped. The Buddha also stopped and stood right in front of her as if to prevent her from going forward.
After that, Venerable Maha-Moggallana knew the mind of the Master and also knew that the old woman's life was about to end. He then urged her to pay respects to the Blessed One...
When she listened to the Venerable's words, filled with emotion, she generated faith in the Guru and immediately bowed down to the Buddha with the five parts of her body close to the ground. And, exulting in the presence of the Buddha, she stood still with one mind, with her head bowed. The Buddha said:
- This is enough for her to go to heaven.
Then the Buddha, together with a large assembly of monks, entered the city for alms. Immediately after that, a cow ran away with the calf, rushed towards the old woman, took her horns, and rammed the old woman to death on the spot.
Then she was reborn in the Thirty-third heaven. She was accompanied by an entourage of one hundred thousand fairies.
(Khuddaka Nikāya, Volume II, Chapter II - Cittalatā)
The poor old woman did not have anything to offer to the Guru. Before that, she did not know the Three Jewels and did not have faith. Only after hearing the urging of Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana, did she begin to pay respects to the Buddha. The Buddha said:
- This is enough for her to go to heaven,
In the show, the Buddha knew this clearly as a natural result. And it is true that the old woman after her death was reborn in the heaven of the Thirty-three, that is, Traiyastrimsa-deva. By prostrating, the old woman's sins were eliminated, blessings were born, and when she changed from a state that was about to fall into hell, she could be reincarnated as a goddess in Traiyastrimsa-deva.
This fact is also completely consistent with the teachings of the Buddha in many other sutras. You should know that all basic sins and bad karma are created by the mind, and good karma and good roots also arise from the mind. Practicing purifying the mind is the basic practice for all good karma, so you can't belittle sincere repentance.
The law of cause and effect operates with complex, mutually affecting causes and conditions, not simply as a problem of addition and subtraction between the values of good and evil. The Buddha taught that only the Buddha could fully comprehend the karma of all sentient beings. That is, there are countless factors that go into play, not just as simple as what you see.
Also in the Khuddaka Nikaya, a beggar girl begged for some leftovers including a piece of burnt rice. She offered this piece of burnt rice to Maha-Kasyapa, and that very night she died, being reborn in the Nirmanarati realm. If you do a simple subtraction, that piece of burnt rice can't subtract a lot of bad karma, so how can you create blessings and be reborn in heaven?
Therefore, you can know that whether a crime is serious or light, a blessing is great or small, not only by the appearance you see on the outside but also by whether your mind is good or bad, whether your heart is sincere or not. If you believe and understand that, then worship and repentance will have great benefits, no doubt.
However, if you do prostrations to the Buddhas with confusion, doubt, and uncertainty in the results of your prostrations, then even hundreds of thousands of prostrations will not do you any good. Because bowing like that means there is no sincerity in the heart. Without a sincere heart, it is not possible to help purify the mind, it is not possible to have sensitivity to the other powers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva says:
- If the sins of sentient beings have a form, all space will not contain it all.
Indeed, the sins of sentient beings have been piled up for thousands of eons and passed down through time, by heredity, customs, habits, etc. For example, greed, you are a newborn, no one teaches for you, and yet you know! No one told you to be angry, but when you meet something against your will, you scowl and then yell. Those bad qualities are once with the body and very deep, and hard to get rid of. In the Sutras, they call them natural cleaving, also known as long-standing seeds. These bad seeds also cause other sins to arise, which in the Suttas are called discriminating defilements or beginningless seeds. Distinguishing defilements can be easily eliminated, but Natural cleaving is very difficult to eliminate. They are like owl grass, its roots go deep and crawl very far. If the gardener despises it, it will not be easy to destroy it.
So you should not repent while the mind is not reverent! On the contrary, you must do so:
a) Those bad qualities gradually weaken, due to the strength of sincerity and determination;
b- Then cut off bad qualities and prevent them from being reborn.
This is the appropriate method of repentance to develop virtue, to eliminate old sins. Because in each of you's heart is not full of evil. If a bad character has existed since time immemorial, then a good character has existed since time immemorial. Each of you has Buddha nature, which is the seed of all good deeds, which has been buried under many layers of desire and delusion. Now that you want to eliminate desire, you must create conditions for Buddha nature to sprout leaves, flower, and bear Bodhi fruit. The conditions for the growth of the Bodhi sprout are good deeds such as Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity, Generosity, Precepts, Forbearance, Effort, etc. If you develop those good qualities, of course, bad qualities have no ground to grow.
In the scriptures it is taught:
- The person who has made mistakes and knows how to repent, that person is the light that illuminates the world, the moon out of the clouds.
This is an essential part of the penitential method, because only when you are aware of your mistakes will you be able to correct them to stop them. On the contrary, if you are ignorant and obstinate, then you will innocently continue to commit crimes. For people who have made mistakes but do not repent to quickly put an end to that sinful mind, sins will accumulate more and more in the body, just like water flowing into the sea gradually becomes deeper.
It is from such profound meanings, and with such great effects, that the word repentance is considered a proper noun, a term used in Buddhism, and is one of the most important and indispensable practice methods.
Therefore, the method of practicing repentance is very necessary and very important, helping your mind to be purified and eliminate karma, then good signs also arise from there.
  You must be determined to repent so that the bad qualities will gradually decrease and then gradually come to an end. When the bad character has ceased, you must vow to do many good deeds in order to grow good seeds and eliminate old sins. Apply the beautiful virtues such as Love, compassion, joy, equanimity, generosity, and patience in life.
Then you will know how to rejoice in the joys of others; know how to love and forgive those who have committed mistakes. If you want to eliminate those evils, you must create conditions for the seed of Buddha-nature to rise and blossom and bear Bodhi fruit.
In short, there are people in life who commit serious sins that are almost incurable. They always live with fear, anxiety, and almost complete loneliness because no one dares to contact them, talk, etc. However, everything in life is relative, nothing is fixed. Above all, it is still your own effort, you must always diligently correct mistakes, not rely on, or negatively let go with the flow of karma. The method of repentance in Buddhism does not mean baptism like other religions do, but it means admitting mistakes and correcting them. The meaningful chanting method helps people to know what is good and what is unwholesome, and prostrations show your sincere, repentant attitude:
- Thanks to the method of repentance, people have the opportunity to change their hearts to become better.
- Thanks to the method of repentance, it is possible to make people live more peaceful and happy lives.
So you are the one who wants to get rid of all sins, free from birth and death, samsara? Are you a lover of truth? If you are someone who wants to have a good life, and a good body, and think about the joys and sufferings of others, then try diligently and actively practice true repentance in Buddhism. In order to first improve your own life, then bring happiness and eliminate suffering to everyone. So, join me in praying for everyone:
- Working together to develop sincerity
Together cultivate the virtue of resoluteness to eliminate bad character
Together, eliminate sins and generate blessings
Go straight to the place of liberation and happiness
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