V 11-13 Repentance is the Foundation of Buddhists 忏悔是学佛人的根
Disclaimer: The translations are not official nor endorsed by 2OR, so please just treat it as a ‘fan-based’ translation. The Buddha-Dharma is profound. No matter how you convey it, it won’t be completely perfect. Because the Buddha-Dharma is an experience, it’s an awakening 【佛法深奥无比，怎么写，都不会是究竟圆满。佛法是一种悟】. Please enjoy, and I hope it serves as a good filler until the official English version comes out.
This chapter will continue from the last where we talked about Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s ten great action-vows. Why is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva mentioned? That’s because, in the ‘Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance’, we recite ‘O’ Holy Samantabhadra Bodhisattva of great action’ three times in the end. Many people may ask why Guan Yin Bodhisattva or other Buddhas aren’t mentioned at the end of it, but instead, it’s Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. That’s because the main purpose is to uphold the spirit of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva power of vows. When we recite the ‘Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance’, we are also making vows. We’re repenting, and we vow not to do unwholesome deeds again. So it also incurs a power of vow.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva fourth great action-vow is ‘to repent and reform all karmic hindrances’. As long as you exist in the Human Realm or in any other realms within samsara, it indicates that you definitely have negative karma. Repentance is a process that could be explained in two stages. When somebody has done something wrong, they will harbour feelings of regret. When they have this feeling, they would recall the incident in their memories and identify what they had done wrong. And then from that incident, they would try to introspect and search for the root of the problem. That’s the first stage where the person repents on the cause of the incident. Afterwards, they would regret the consequences or what has happened due to their mistake. That’s the second stage where the person repents on the consequences of the incident. Master once mentioned before that a person had unintentionally caused somebody to suffer a heart attack due to high blood pressure and who subsequently died. When that person repented, they said, “I regret that I badmouthed and infuriated him. I’m very regretful that I caused him to die.” As you could see, repentance is repentance of both the cause and the consequence. In this incident, karma is also involved. That’s why, whenever you speak or act in a reckless way with disregard of the consequences, then you must recite the ‘Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance’.
Regardless of whether it’s Gautama Buddha or any other Bodhisattvas, they all share the same understanding of the action of repentance. It could be summed up in the phrase ‘If one’s unwholesome karma has taken form, they would not be accepted by the universe’. So for example, if you wounded somebody and that person suffered real damage as a consequence and causes another chain reaction of implications, then it means that the unwholesome karma has manifested and taken form. When it does, then the whole universe knows.
In the past, wasn’t there a saying ‘Filial piety could move the heavens and the earth’? It refers to if one is filial towards one’s parents and respectful to one’s elders, then they could stir up the emotions of the heavens and the earth. And what do the heavens and the earth refer to? Doesn’t it refer to all the various realms across the universe and the Dharma realms including the Human Realm?
‘If one’s unwholesome karma has taken form, they would not be accepted by the universe’. In other words, all the realms won’t accept you if you do too many unwholesome deeds. So you must repent. Many people do unwholesome deeds while hiding in their house or in their basement. And that karmic consequent first gradually matures within their mind before manifesting and taking real form. Karmic retribution doesn’t happen immediately. If you commit unwholesome acts on the road, the heavens will immediately receive this message. You are always being watched, and you dare to do unwholesome deeds in broad daylight. So their karmic retribution could be where they get into a car accident. Many criminals immediately drive away once they’ve robbed someone, then suddenly they get hit when they’re getting away and crash. That’s their karmic retribution.
If you recite Buddhist scriptures for your whole lifetime, you would be able to eliminate eight billion calamities developed from your severe sins. When you heard the word billion, don’t you feel that it’s a lot? In other words, if a person recites Buddhist scriptures during their whole lifetime, they would resolve a lot of calamities. Think about it: how would they encounter calamities if they do? In the past, monks were initiated into the temples and monasteries when they were very young. And they stayed there to recite sutras over the course of their lifetime. How would they encounter any calamities in the monastery? Then look at how many hardships and problems we encounter in the Human Realm. The Buddha-Dharma is real, not fake. Although you might have done a lot of bad things in the previous life, in this lifetime, if you could behave like monks and properly recite Buddhist scriptures and repent, then many of your serious sins will gradually be resolved. For example, if you did many bad things in your daily lives, workplace or household in the past, but you’re now currently reciting sutras daily, repenting and doing meritorious deeds in the Guan Yin Temple, then what calamities would you encounter? Many of your potential calamities would’ve been resolved.
‘Pull out the roots of all negative karma, and be reborn in the Pure Lands Dharani’. Your sins and negative karma are already planted deep inside your eighth consciousness, so it isn’t just a problem of resolving it, but to pull it out. So for example, if you stole something in the past, do you think that reciting sutras simply could resolve it? It can’t. Instead, you must also repent, “I vow never to steal again.” Repentance is pulling out the roots of all negative karma.
Why do the Buddhist scriptures describe it as ‘pulling out the roots of all negative karma’? That’s because you are removing the source of your unwholesome thoughts and behaviour, and by doing so, you are getting rid of all of your future unwholesome thoughts and behaviour. ‘Be reborn in the Pure Lands Dharani’. Many people don’t even recite the full name of the ‘Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra’ and simply recite ‘Rebirth Mantra’. When you understand the meaning of the name and recite it, your feeling is not the same. “In the past, I’ve done too many bad things in my love relationship with others. I’m now determined not to repeat it. I must reform my shortcomings. I must thoroughly stop it.” That is to ‘pull out the roots’.
If one could recite the Buddhist scriptures, then they could eliminate their negative karma. The ten minor mantras are also considered as Buddhist scriptures. Some people don’t understand. They think that mantras are the same as incantations, but the concept is completely different. For example, greater mantras are called sutras, not incantations, just like how the concept of ‘God’ in the western world and China are completely different. In China, the concept of god is like deities or spirits. While in the western world, the concept of God refers to the almighty being who is the greatest and formless. That’s why we mustn’t confuse it.
Both cultivation of one’s behaviour and one’s mind share the same level of importance. In the past, there weren’t a lot of people who cultivate their behaviour. They mainly recite Buddhist scriptures and Buddha’s name. Just like monks and nuns who basically only recite sutras and Buddha’s name for their whole lifetime. But the behaviour of the modern-day people has become more out of order. That’s why they must simultaneously cultivate their behaviour and mind as they must also reform their unwholesome ways. When we were young and acted wrongly, the teacher would put us to detention so that we could reflect on what we’ve done wrong so we could reform ourselves. If you read something wrong, then the teacher would tell you to repeat the sentence. Isn’t that trying to correct your mistake? The principle is the same.
In the cultivational practice of reciting Buddha’s name or reciting Buddhist scriptures, regardless whether you have sharp faculties (people who have sharp faculties are smart and wise) or slow faculties (people who have slow faculties are foolish and unawakened), or whether your negative karma is light or serious, as long as you properly recite Buddha’s name or Buddhist scriptures, then you could be reborn in the Pure Lands. But there is still one main requirement, and that is that you must not create new negative karma.