Yesterday I briefly explained part of the repentance text for everyone, but I only explained up to “being intimate with evil friends and turning away from good teachers.” Now I will continue to explain further:
“I have done these myself, told others to do them, and rejoiced at seeing and hearing them done.” We know that killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants are improper ways to behave. Each of those offenses are divided into four aspects: causes, conditions, dharmas, and karma. For example, with killing there are the causes of killing, the conditions of killing, the dharmas of killing, and the karma of killing. In any of these aspects, one either personally commits the offense, or tells someone else to do it.
“Doing them oneself” means that instead of putting it into someone else's hands, one personally engages in the improper deed. "Telling others to do them" means encouraging and inciting others to do improper things. This way of indirectly committing an offense is more serious than directly committing it, because the offense of fraud is added to the original offense. Thus, if you do it yourself, it's already an offense, but if you tell others to do it, the offense is even greater.
What is “rejoicing at seeing and hearing it done?” It means you know someone else is committing an offense, and you help him to do it. The ancients called this “aiding the wicked King Zhou to do evil,” that is, adding bad to worse. We should close our eyes and think about it: since eons without beginning, just how many times have we created these offenses? We don't even need to talk about such a distant time. In this short life alone, we have already made uncountable transgressions.
So the repentance continues, “All such offenses, limitless and boundless...” Our offenses are not only beyond reckoning, they are indeed vast beyond all bounds. Now that we realize how deep our offenses are and how serious our obstructions are, what should we do? Without being told, you should naturally know to go repent sincerely before the Buddhas.
Thus the repentance text continues, “Therefore on this day, I bring forth great shame and remorse, confess sincerely, and seek to repent and reform.” In repentance, sincerity is essential. Some people are very casual about it when they repent to their teacher. They give only a partial account, covering up or glossing over their mistakes. This shows that they are not really sincere about repenting of their errors. If that's how they repent, then even after as many eons as there are sands in a hundred million Ganges Rivers, the karma of their offenses will not be cancelled.
It's said, “The straight mind is the Way-place.” No matter in front of whom we are repenting, we must say our confession clearly. Don't be vague and vacillating. For example, if you ask someone if he has ever committed a certain offense, he says, “I don't remember,” “I might have,” or the like. Instead of eradicating the karma of one's offenses, that kind of superficial repentance only plants evil causes, because in the Buddhadharma, one cannot be the slightest bit careless. Some people will always bring up certain examples, such as, “So-and-so created all that bad karma, but now he's so successful. Does that mean there's no cause and effect? Is there no justice?” There's a verse which goes:
Even in a hundred thousand eons,The karma you create does not perish.When the conditions come together,You must still undergo the retribution yourself.
From this, we know the karma we create is sure to bring a result, a corresponding retribution. It's only a question of time; it depends on whether the conditions have come together or not.
Now someone may ask, “If it's the case that ‘even in a hundred thousand eons, the karma you create does not perish,' then is there no way to eradicate the karma of our offenses?” There is a way, which is to say: “I only hope the Triple Jewel will compassionately gather me in, and emit a pure light to shine on my body.” That is, one hopes the Triple Jewel─the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha─will, in their great vows of compassion, shine their pure, unobstructed, great radiance upon our bodies. When this pure light shines on us, it can remove the three obstructions and reveal our original pure mind and nature, just as the clouds disperse to reveal the moon. Then we conclude the repentance by saying, “All evil is extinguished, and the three obstructions are cast out. I return to the original mind-source, and am ultimately pure.”
Now that I've explained this repentance text, I hope everyone understands the harm of not repenting, and the benefits of being able to repent. Another verse of repentance says:
For all the bad karma created in the past,Based upon beginningless greed, hatred and stupidity,And born of body, mouth and mind,I now repent and reform.
This verse of repentance not only allows us to repent of our offenses which have become obstructions, it also explains what caused us to create those offenses. So I hope everyone can sincerely recite it before the Buddhas each day, three times or limitless times. Now I will briefly explain it.
“In the past” includes the recent past, which is this life, and the distant past, which extends back to eons without beginning. In our past lives, we have turned in the six paths, leaving a cow's womb, entering a horse's womb, sometimes born in the Smith family, sometimes born in the Jones family. During all that time, who knows how much karma we created with our offenses?
Why do we commit offenses? The repentance verse says very clearly that it's “based upon beginningless greed, hatred and stupidity.” The three poisons of greed, hatred and stupidity in the mind are the root cause from which immeasurable karma of offenses stems. And due to the evil influence of the three poisons, our bodies engage in the karma of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. In our speech, we engage in lying, frivolous talk, scolding, backbiting, and so on. Thus the verse says, “And born of body, mouth and mind.”
Whether it's the three offenses of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct which we commit with our bodies, or the lying, frivolous talk, scolding, and backbiting committed in our speech, or the greed, hatred and stupidity in our minds, we must sincerely repent of them all. Otherwise, we will be as if caught in quicksand, sinking deeper as the karma from our offenses grows heavier. We will be buried until we can't breathe, unable to pull ourselves out.
Everyone here has supreme good roots. I believe no one will forget to repent, and everyone will make a vow to repent of and eradicate all the karma of their offenses.
A talk given on the morning of June 15, 1958