Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to do True Repentance?

I glanced through a book by Gelek Rinpoche and I chanced upon one sentence. He said that even though we do the 35 Buddha Confession and prostrations, it does not really purify our negative karma unless we do it within the 4 Powers. He said that only the 4 Powers are able to purify negativities. Noone has even emphasized this as much as he did. And this morning when I woke up, I realised how true his words are. Then I recollected the 4 Powers - Regret, Remedy, Reform and Resolve. These 4 Powers are what it takes for a true repentance to take place. Otherwise there is just ceremony, but not much purification.

First of all there must be a feeling of genuine regret in our hearts. That is the start of true repentance. Without regret, it means we are not sincere in the repentance. We will continue to make mistakes again and again. In order to start a true repentance, I would recommend we think of something we have done wrong (or one of our numerous bad habits) and truely regret it. And if we stick to our resolve, we will not repeat that mistake again. This is my personal recommendation. Then we choose one remedy, be it 35 Buddha Confessions, the 88 Buddhas Repentance, the Water Samadhi Repentance, the Emperor Liang Repentance, Vajrasattva long mantras, and the list goes on. We can choose one of these as the remedy. Going "cold turkey" is one of the remedy for drug addicts. It is important to choose a true remedy because there are "fake" or "short-term" remedies around. We often believe in these latter types of remedy that does not work as a true purification tool. It could work for temporarily or for other minor worldly purposes but it will not work for a true purification. Feng shui is an example that it not to be taken as a purification tool or remedy for karma. But it may work for temporary worldly  or shorter term purposes. But never for longer term things like karma. So that is remedy. Next we undertake the remedy and go through the reform (sometimes we call it "reliance" as in relying on the remedy chosen) process of the remedy, no matter how long it takes. Normally it is not just one short session, because of our deep negativities, it will take a while before the purification happens. That's basically the reason why we do mantra recitations and prostrations in the hundreds of thousands, even millions of times. Once it sinks in, then the purification can happen. It's just like the "cold turkey" process for drug addicts. They don't get cured over-night. It's a long and painful experience due to the withdrawal symptoms. Purification is also like that. We may experience the so-called "withdrawal symptoms" too. Normally purification is not easy, otherwise we will go back to our old ways and we think that it is easy to get purified. But we must stick to the reformation process and make that great resolve to turn over a new leaf to leave those bad habits behind. Hence strength of resolve is important, and that's the 4th Power. 

It takes all 4 to make the purification happen. Just going through the chanting and bowing and what not, is just one of the 4 Powers. Once we are purified, there may be signs of purification manifesting. That's according to the late Ven. Master Hsuan Hua. But I would advice not to be too obssessed with the signs. If it appears it's good. If it does not, the important thing is not to get upset. The important things is that whether you have the 4 Powers or not. Do you have genuine regret? Did you undergo the remedy with sincerity? Are you truly reforming yourself or just testing it? Do you have true resolve not to go back to your old ways? So to those who think that purification of bad karma is not possible or not fair, think again what you have to go through to get it purified. It really not that easy. Again, having said that, I am sure if there is TRUE REGRET, TRUE REMEDY, TRUE REFORM AND TRUE RESOLVE, then doing only one time the ceremony may be enough to purify millions of eons of negatve karma. But then, how many of us have these genuine 4 Powers. Very soon, we will often slide back to our old habits and bad ways. 

So, we have Gelek Rinpoche to thank for emphasising this point and I share with you this great teaching on true repentance.

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