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Volume 6 no 2

The Voice of Bliss

The Repent Method is an important method of cultivation in Buddhism. Repentance lessens the effects of our negative karma. The Buddha advises people to repent for all their unwholesome actions, speech and thoughts. The following articles explain the Repent Method of cultivation and why repenting for the negative karma committed in this life is as important as repenting for those committed in our many past lives, and regardless of whether or not we know what those negative karma are...
Repentance is a demonstration of wisdom
Repentance is a demonstration of wisdom
To repent means to confess to our wrong doings committed by way of our body, speech and mind, and not to repeat such negative actions from this day on. If we say that we are repentant about what we have done, said or thought, and yet repeat those actions, then that is not repentance.

When we repent, it has to be done sincerely. It is not done by a simple recital of the Repentant Verse:

All the evil karma that I have committed in the past,

Arising from my aeons of greed, anger and ignorance,

Committed by my body, speech and mind,
Now I repent before the Buddha.

More importantly we must have a remorseful mind, a sense of shame and sincerely repent.

The Humanity Vehicle Buddhism advocates the Repent Method as an important method of cultivation. In this world it is only the clever people who know and admit their mistakes, but only the wise who know and repent their wrong doings.

The Repent Method that the Humanity Vehicle Buddhism advocates is that the moment people realise that they have committed a wrongdoing, they should repent spontaneously. It is not necessary that people repent only before the image of the Buddha, for it is not always convenient or possible to find one when a person realises his wrong doings and wishes to repent. While sitting here, you can also repent as long as you feel the Buddha in you. When people repent sincerely or even to the extent of bursting into tears, then that is true repentance. It is of course a good thing if the repentance is carried out according to a religious ritual. However, genuine repentance does not need to subscribe to any fix form or time. The best thing to do is to repent spontaneously. Moreover, when we are promoting the Repent Method across the world, it would not be practical if people can only repent in a fixed form or a fixed venue. The Dharma-nature is everywhere in space and the Buddha is omnipresent. When we understand this truth, we can then repent spontaneously at anytime and at any place, and be spontaneously pure and be with Buddha.

People generally feel that they can repent for those wrong doings that they can remember having committed in this life. They have no idea about those that were committed in their past lives and therefore they don't know what to do. When Buddhism speaks of repentance, it means repenting for all the wrongs committed in the aeons of our many past lives.

Each and every one of us has eight consciousness'. In addition to the six sense-consciousness', namely, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, there is the seventh and eighth (alaya-vijnana) consciousness. (The sixth, seventh and eighth consciousness' are also called mind-consciousness'). The eighth mind-consciousness is the planting field of the mind. The seeds of all affairs, virtuous and evil, of our aeons of many past lives are planted here. When the virtuous seeds encounter virtuous conditions, they sprout, grow, flower and bear virtuous fruits. Similarly, when the evil seeds encounter evil conditions, for example, gambling, drinking alcohol, bad company, etc., they sprout and grow, causing people to commit evil deeds that result in evil consequences and suffering.

Since the field of the eighth sense-consciousness contains countless virtuous and evil seeds, it is necessary that people are repentant about their evil karma. There is also no need to be attached to the virtuous karma. We will be able to become pure and liberated when we distance ourselves from both the virtuous and evil karma that we have committed.

It may appear odd that while people should repent their misdeeds, yet they should not be attached to the good things that they have done.

If we continue to hold at heart the good things that we have done, that is not being liberated. At the very most, because of the immense blessings one may be reborn in heaven in the next life. However, as soon as those blessings are exhausted they will be caused to be reborn in a lower realm. A Chinese proverb says, "It is not necessary to make known the good things one has done." In this regard, Buddhism advocates that when performing an act of giving, one should not bear any notion of who is the giver, who is the receiver and what is the gift. One simply maintains a pure mind.

If people are not repentant for the evil seeds that they have planted, and do not seek liberation, then in future, when the seeds sprout they may be enough to cause them to fall into the realm of hell. Thus we learn and practise the Buddha's teachings, to surpass heaven and hell, or even to be free from transmigration in the six realms of existence (human, heaven, asura, animal, hungry ghost and hell). First and foremost we must repent with deep regret, be pure and liberated. Only then is it the ultimate.

The proper way to repent
The proper way to repent is to recite the Repentance Verse, and at the same time sincerely repent according to the meaning of the words contained therein until your mind is completely pure and you manifest the nature of that purity. However, this may become a mere formality if one is not genuine in one's heart and does not commit wholeheartedly to turning over a new leaf. Some people repent with thoughts of greed for blessings or of lessening the effects of their negative karma. Once such thoughts arise, then the repentance will have no effect. Thus the purpose of repentance is defeated. The most appropriate way is to repent at the very moment you realise that a wrongdoing has been committed, and then resolve not to repeat that. This is true repentance. People must have awareness and correct their wrongdoings at all times.

The attitude in repenting
People must genuinely feel repentant when they repent and this would be most effective. If a person is casual in his attitude towards repentance, then there is no effect. For example, if a person has done another wrong and he sincerely apologises, then the offended party would have no problem at all in accepting his apology. On the other hand if he says 'sorry' casually and walks away, then nobody will heed his apology. Thus, with what frame of mind should one repent? With sincerity and with true repentance, and one can be sure that the repentance will be accepted.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre