THICH HUYEN VI
CONFESSION IN BUDDHISM (KSAMAYATI)
We live in this word. There is no one who is quite pure. Lord Buddha said, “Those who still take birth and die in the three realms, i.e. world of sensuous desires, form and formless world (Triloka) and transmigration in the six directions of reincarnation, i.e. the hells, hungry ghosts, animals; male-violent nature spirits human existence and God existence (Sat-gati) are not yet clean, and also no any one race has destroyed the sins”.
That is the truth. This world is called “the suffering of desire”. How can we make it clean? We are staying in the dust world, of course we are influenced. For a long time we have made so many faults which guided us in the black way and we could not see our Buddha-nature. If we want to live in sin and its retribution, we will abandon ourselves to guilt. It’s not necessary to say! But if we would like to be pure and destroy all the great sins in order to become a good person, Buddhism has the method to clean all the guilt. This is called confession or Ksamayati. The Bodhisattva Maitreya three times daily and three times every night put his clothes in order, restrained his body, folded his hands, bowed his knees upon the group, and turning towards the ten quarters, pronounced the following stanza (Gatha):
“I repent of all my sins,
I encourage and assist all the virtues of the road,
I take refuge in and pay reverence to the Buddha’s,
That they may cause me to obtain the unsure-passable wisdom.
I. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF CONFESSION?
Confession is “to ask pardon” Ksamayati in Sanskrit means to seek forgiveness, patience or indulgence, ksama meaning patience, forbearance; Chinese translated into Ch’an-hui, i.e. repentance; but also the first in into as confession, the second as repentance and reform. The mode of action or ritual, at the confessional; also the various types of confession.
Thus, the word confession means to be sorry for action on mistake of the past; it is not to think a long or short time and from now up to later on, we promise that we shall never commit another offense again. If we know the old fault we now beg pardon, if afterwards we make mistakes again and again. That is not the correct meaning of confession in Buddhism.
Regarding the rectification of faults, Pali, texts mention as follows, “kayena vacacittena, Pamadena Maya katam; accayam khama me Bhante, bhari panna Tathagata”. That means, Oh Lord! The Exalted, the wise one, may I be excused for any shortcoming on my part that may have been incautiously committed by me, by speech, thought or body.(2)
II. THE MODES OF CONFESSION:
These ways of confession are all wrong. The sins belong to our mind. It is not outside us. How can we use material, like water, blood, gift or body, etc. to clean our sins? Let us read the gatha of Tathagata as pronounced: If man commits serious crimes, but after that deed severely reproaches him, if he repents (sange) and does not commit them again, he can extirpate his original actions”.
1) In proper form to confess one’s breach of the rules before the Buddha and seek remission.
This repentance belongs to practice; we must set up an altar at which the pure monks are received by the Buddha’s. When we come in front of the altar we must show our sins honestly. With a will, we should confess and desire from now on never to commit it again. If the confession comes from our heart, our mind becomes pure and peaceful. That is the end of sins. In this mode of repentance, we do not forget to recite, “All my evil deeds of the past were based upon beginning less great, anger and stupidity. The evil, born of my body, speech and thought, I now repent (repentantly confess, prated saying) it all”.
2) To seek the presence of the Buddha to rid one of sinful thoughts and passions.
This belongs to practice and more difficult than the other modes. Lord Buddha created this mode which is the confession by meditation and reflection, for the higher types of men, either those who stay at a place where there is no Sangha Bhikshu or there are monks but they are not of pure mind.
If we want to practice this mode we should come in front of the Buddha or Bodhisattva images to trust and worship and to reveal the mistakes committed and promise to abstain from all faults. We practice like that for one day, three days, seven days, forty-nine days till we see a good appearance, omen, or sign, such as we see halo, the valuable lotus or see the Buddha or Bodhisattva come to receive predestination; the prophecy of a Bodhisattva’s future Buddha hood. At this time we stop. Lord Buddha said, “Cut of your craving as with the hand, an autumn lily. Cultivate that very path of Peace. Nibbanam has been preached by the Auspicious One”. (3)
3) Worship the great names of the Buddha’s for confession of one’s guilt.
This mode also belongs to practice. Venerable Pu-Tung-Fa-Shin in the Tung’s dynasty of China founded it. He picked up 53 Buddha’s names in the “Fifty-three past Buddha’s Sutra”. That is, from the Fukuang Buddha to the Fa-Ch’uang Man-Wang Buddha and he pulled out 35 Buddha’s names from the Bhisajyaraja and Bhaisajyasamudgata Sutra, and Amitabha Buddha’s name. In the end he added the ten great action of the Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. (4) It becomes the rite, totaling 108 Buddha’s names. We worship them to suppress 108 defilements in us.
This mode of repentance for those who most sincerely worship these Buddha’s names in sure to destroy the defilements and the sins which were committed in this life, as well as in the past life. The great names of the Buddha’s have a capacity beyond thought or description. Venerable Pu-Tung-Fa-Shih therefore, prepared this ceremony. The mode of worshipping the great names of the Buddha’s for confession of one’s guilt is practiced in all the Mahayana monasteries nowadays.
Regarding confession, we have one story in the Sakkara Sutta in which Lord Buddha explained. “On one occasion, at the Jeta Vana, two of the brethren had a dispute in which one of them gave offense. Being aware of this, he confessed his offense to the other as such, but the latter would not accept his apology.
Now, many of the brethren went and reported this to the Exalted One, who said, “Bhikkus, there are two fools, he who does not see his offense as such and he who does not accept the other’s right ruling. A wise pair was two of whom this one saw the offense as such, and that one accepted the other’s right ruling.
A long time ago, Bhikkus, Sakkara, ruler of the gods, when calming the Thirty-three Gods in the Suddhamma Hall, spoke in that hour this verse:
“Let anger come beneath your sway,
Be there in friendship no decay,
Blame not where censure is not due,
And be no slander spread by you,
By wrath had folk are overthrown,
As if an avalanche came down”. (5)
4) To meditate on the way to prevent wrong thoughts and delusions.
This belongs to the absolute or Noumenon. It is very difficult; the man of the superior character or capacity can practice this mode. There are two ways:
A. Contemplation of the mind uncreated.
It means investigation in our mind when it was not born. As the Prajna-Paramita-Hriday Sutra has said, Buddha addressed Shubuta, saying, “All living beings of all countries and lands in the innumerable worlds are beings with various kinks of mind, which are entirely known to Tathagata. To Tathagata the various kinds of mind are really not minds but are merely called ‘minds’. And why? Because, O Shubuta, these so-called ‘minds’ whether they are of the past, or of the present, or of the future, are unreal and cannot be grasped. (6) In the three periods, we cannot find our mind, from where do false or misleading thoughts come? If there is no mind, the sins are removed. The Sutra mentions, “The sins belong to our mind appear, then definition also belong to our mind; if our mind is not uncreated, of course, those sins are also finished. That is called the truth of confession.
B. Contemplation of methods as not produced.
That means investigate reality (the true nature) is not produced by the law or truth. The word reality here means the true nature neither dying nor being reborn (Anirodhaupada). Since a long time ago, up to nowadays it is permanence. It is not changed by the time or is not moved by space. That is called Reality. Other names of it are the Real or Absolute Dharma without attributes, Bhutatathata, Buddha-nature, and Truth.
When we recognize the reality, we remove falsehood. Now all the sins have no place to stay. In another important Sutra we find, “We would like to confess, we must investigate the reality of the Dharma, the sins really are destroyed”.
III. TO DEVELOP THE NEW GOOD ACTION AND TO CUT DOWN THE GUILTS
After confession Buddhists must develop the good deeds in order to destroy the old sins:
Our old guilt’s are so much, we can say innumerable. Our life is continuing altogether from life to life, as the long rosary, timeless! Then, every life ever recurring Samsara or transmigrations, the round of mortality. We commit sin again and again, from this cruel to that wicked, from small fault to great sin. It becomes the bad karma which guides us into the ways of suffering.
In the Buddha Avatamsaka-mahavaipulya-Sutra, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva said, “If the sin of human beings have the physiognomy, this world surely is filled. That is true, the human beings sins piled up for so many lives, and hereditary through the periods of customs, habits, karma, etc… for instance, concupiscence, resentment and unintelligence, when we are born they are in us already. These things are very deep; it is so difficult to destroy them within for a short time. In the Sutra call “Nature doubt appear so many other sins, it is called ‘the discriminating perception’. We understand all of them. Therefore, we cannot confess as a matter of form. We must practice sincerely for the bad characteristics to become weaker and weaker.
Everyone is not entirely bad. If the bad characteristic has been present from long time, the good nature also has been there since olden times. Each of us all has Buddha-nature that is the root of good action. For a long time the Buddha-nature remains dormant. Now we want to develop those good features, of course, the bad ones will be destroyed immediately!
Let us read one paragraph in Samyuita-Nikaya as follows, “May the Exalted One accept this our confession, Lord, for restraint in the future. Verily, brethren hath transgression overcome you, so foolish, so stupid, so wrong were ye in that ye, who are in orders under a Doctrine and Discipline so well declared, did out-talk each other after this fashion. But inasmuch as ye, brethren, have seen your transgression as transgression, and have made confession, as is right, we do accept this from you. For this, brethren, it is to grow the Aryan Discipline, when having seen transgression as transgression we make confession as is right, and in future practice self-restraint. (7)
As we know in the forgoing passages, the ordinary people or the believers of every religion, have the way of their confession. But only the modes of confession in Buddhism suppress all sins. Because Buddhism follows the way to leave the evil and follow the good action making it its purpose.
Of the four modes of repentance in Buddhism there are few which belong to practice or phenomenon. It has the Noumenon or absolute; some are high, some are low. According to the level and circumstance of everyone who does practice! A man of superior character practice ‘to meditate on the way to prevent wrong thought and delusions’. Those who cannot find suitable place where there are no good monks, practice ‘to seek the presence of the Buddha to rid one of sinful thoughts and passions’. Men have favorable conditions, have the altar at which the commandments are received by novice, have the high priests, practice ‘in proper form to confess one’s breach of the rules before the Buddha and seek remission’. Reminding those who look at the heavy karma and see the mode of repentances which are difficult to follow. Those persons in every night or in the full moon days or the days in which they have received eight precepts (Atta Sila) go to the monasteries or in home to practice ‘Worship the great names of the Buddha’s for confession of one’s guilt. That is also very good.
The modes of confession in Buddhism thought it has worship and kneeling down, has also prayer, but it is not only to beg for something or to implore in order to grant someone. In that worshipping or that kneeling down, it contains many meanings and profits. As we know, worshipping of the Buddha’s great names is to wear down the body and in that tiredness there is the happiness of spirit in us. (We know that in practice outside we shall get many high meanings inside everyone).
Thus, the modes of repentance in Buddhism have the main aims as follows:
1. To find the way to train our mind to become pure, to finish the sin at present and also to destroy the crimes of the past.
2. To find the way to develop the noble action, it follows the good steps of the Saints and sages.
Thanks to the confession in Buddhism, people can change their bad characteristics into good ones. Thanks to these repentances we make life more happy and the activities of society to become more peaceful! So, those who should like to end sin want to be released from births and deaths. Who are fond of the truth should practice the modes of confession in Buddhism sincerely. Above, we progress in the life of the individual, and below we make the life of all living beings to become happier.
When all is well, one neglects to burn incense,
When in pressing need, one embraces the Buddha’s feet.
1. Ancient Buddhism in Japan.
2. P.19, in the Sutta book of the Penang Buddhist Association.
3. Ucchinda sinecham attano kumudam saradikam VA panina.
Santimaggam Eva bruhaya Nibbanam Sugatena desitam.
Verse 285. Dhammapada.
4 1/Venerating the Buddha’s, 2/Praising the Buddha’s. 3/Extensively practicing Offerings, 4/Repenting the obstacles (consisting) or (evil) deeds. 5/Consenting to and rejoicing in the blessing virtues (of others). 6/Praying (the Buddha) to turn the wheel of the law. 7/Praying the Buddha’s to stay in this world. 8/Always following the Buddha’s teachings. 9/Constantly benefitting all living beings. 10/Universally turning all (his virtuous roots) towards (all living beings for their benefit, and to go Buddha road).
5. The Sakka Suttas Text i, 239 translated by Mrs. Rhys David’s, M.A.
6. Translated by Shao Chang Lee, p. 45.
7. Translated by Mrs. Rhys David’s Kindred Sayings, Vol. II.