The Buddha relates. As a Bodhisattva in Tushita Heaven, emitting light enabling hell beings to be reborn in Tushita Heaven.
The celestial drum speaks and exhorts them, revealing their previous existences. Pay homage to Vairocana Bodhisattva. Do not pursue pleasures, the celestial drum urges. Repent to eradicate obstructions.
How does a Great Bodhisattva repents? The celestial drum responds. Innumerable beings in the Tushita Heavens in countless worlds receive benefits.
The heavenly drum told the gods about their former existence in the hells and exhorted them to repent.
The Dharma Door of repentance is extremely powerful and especially important. One can repent before a Great Good Knowing Advisor, before the images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, before the great assembly, or participate in repentance ceremonies and sessions.
A Bhikshuni (Buddhist nun) once said,
‘True repentance is dug out from one’s heart. But, before repenting, one has to undergo a period of real remorse. This digging out process is not done in a day, a week or a year.. It’s very difficult when it comes to repenting, to do it…. You have to dig it out of your heart literally and once you dig it out you have to have the guts to say what you did, what were your thoughts. It’s a powerful experience if you tell. If you really do it, you become purer and lighter by it. But before that takes place, it takes some struggle and it’s not just an instant or a day or a week, it may take a year before you can dig it out. Your mind keeps replaying the things you do in a way that makes you look good. Some do wrong and then forget about it and let it slip off into a place somewhere and forget about it. I wouldn’t do that.’
There is a saying, ‘Any man will stick up for what he believes is right, but it takes a slightly bigger man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.’
The Elder Master Yin Kuang explained in a letter,
‘Buddhist Sutras teach followers to practice repentance constantly in order to transcend delusion and achieve Buddhahood… If you do not feel shame and remorse, your self-nature may be the same as the Buddhas’, but it is covered by afflictions and evil karma and cannot manifest itself. Just like a precious mirror which has been covered with dust for eons, not only does it not reflect light, even its reflecting nature is hidden. If you realize that the mirror already possesses the nature of brightness and strive ceaselessly to clean it, the light reflected will gradually increase until it reaches maximun radiance. The mirror can then become, once more, something of value in the world.
‘You should realize that the potential for reflection is inherent in the mirror and is not the result of polishing. If it were not so, then a brick would also shine brightly when polished. Yet, you should also realize that although the brightness is inherent in the mirror, without polishing, the day would never come when it would gleam…’
W.Somerset Maugham says, ‘It is curious that our own offenses should seem so much less heinous that the offenses of others. I suppose the reason is that we know all the circumstances that have attended them and so manage to excuse in ourselves what we cannot in others.’
To be able to excuse and forgive oneself easily but not be able to excuse and forgive others is not the conduct of a gentleman. Confucius said, ‘A gentleman sets strict standard for himself, but makes allowances for others.’
If one sees another person committing offenses or creating bad karma, one has an opportunity to honestly reflect within oneself to see if one has that fault or have made similar errors. One might have that same defect in a lesser or greater degree. It is said,
‘Learn from others’ mistakes too,
you can’t live long enough to make them all by yourself.’
Confucius had an even broader perception. He says,
‘A man’s faults are peculiar to his class and environment. By observing a man’s faults one can come to understand his good points.’
The other person is a mirror of oneself. One can see one’s own weaknesses and transgressions in others. A Buddhist Professor once said, ‘The mistakes we see in others are really our own because if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t see them.’
In general, people have a tendency to demarcate themselves from others. They have a favorable opinion of themselves, but view others with an air of superiority. That creates divisions and walls between people. It is almost impossible to recognize one’s own faults if one is like that.
“I looked at my brother with the microscope of criticism,
And I said, ‘How coarse my brother is!’
I looked at him through the telescope of scorn,
And I said, ‘How small my brother is!’
Then I looked in the mirror of truth,
And I said, ‘How like me my brother is!’”
The following is an excerpt from a letter the Elder Master Yin Kuang wrote to a layman:
‘When ordinary beings meet with disaster, if they do not resent the heavens, they blame their fellow-beings. Very few think of repaying their karma and developing a mind of repentance and reform. You should know that if you plant melons, you reap melons, if you plant beans you reap beans. This is the natural course of events. Having sown thorns, do not expect, when harvest comes, to have wheat and rice. If those who create evil still enjoy blessings, it is because in previous lifetimes they amassed great blessing; if not for their transgressions, their blessings would have been much greater. If those who perform wholesome deeds frequently meet with misfortune, it is because they planted the seeds of transgression deeply in past lifetimes. If not for their good deeds, their misfortunes would have been much worse.’
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua says,
‘Once corrected, your mistakes are eradicated. Even offenses so great that they fill the heavens, will be obliterated once you repent of them. It’s only to be feared that, while knowing you are in error, you stubbornly insist that you are right, and argue your own case unreasonably.’
The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch says,
‘Repentance is to repent of past errors, to repent so completely of all bad actions done in the past out of delusion, confusion, arrogance, deceit, jealousy, and other such offenses, that they never arise again. Reform is to refrain from such transgressions in the future.
‘Awakening and cutting off such offenses completely and never committing them again is called repentance and reform.
‘Common people, foolish and confused, know only how to repent of former errors and do not know how to reform and refrain from transgressions in the future. If former errors are not wiped away and transgressions are again committed, how can that be called repentance and reform?’
National Master Ch’ing Liang’s verses on repentance:
From beginningless time we have given rise to ignorance.
And also met bad friends who have increased our emotion.
With no heart of following and rejoicing (in merit and virtue), we have destroyed goodness forever.
From body, speech, and mind, evil has gradually been produced.
In thought after thought it spreads everywhere, defiling all it touches.
Instant after instant it continues, as we scheme day and night.
Not wanting people to know, we have concealed our mistakes.
Not fearing the evil destinies, we have indulged ourselves in every way.
With no shame, and no remorse we have entered the nets of demons.
By denying cause and effect, we have fallen into the pit of icchantikas.
We have followed the flow and have turned our backs on our source.
And on the sea of suffering of birth and death there have arisen great waves.
Fortunately we have heard the teachings of the Thus Come One and his elder disciples,
And now wish to go against the flow and give up our base ways.
With proper faith in cause and effect, we break through being icchantikas.
With shame and remorse before gods and people, we break out of shamelessness.
By fearing the evil destinies, we break through unconcern.
By confessing our evil karma, we break through concealing our mistakes.
By cutting off the continuing mind, we break off constant thought.
By bringing forth the Bodhi resolve, we break through the imaginary and dependent.
By cultivating merit and correcting errors, we break up self-indulgence.
© 2000 Soo Hoong Liung. All Rights Reserved.
By protecting Proper Dharma, we break through non-rejoicing.
By recollecting the ten directions’ Buddhas, we break with evil friends.
By contemplating offenses’ nature as empty, we break from the bonds and servants (afflictions and improper views).