"Repentance Dharma" is one of the "Eighty-Four Thousand Dharma-Doors" in Buddhism, and it is one of the most important and expedient dharmas. It enables people to reform to a new proper path of life.
Living beings continuously reincarnate and their attachments to the five desires create myriads of karma cumulatively. The karma is the force that controls us in the cycle of rebirth in various realms of existence . In order to liberate ourselves from this endless sea of suffering, we must first repent for the bad karma we have created. Repentance can purify our minds and ultimately lead us to awakening . Cultivation without repentance is like cooking sand in the hope of getting rice without any chance of success.
Repentance ceremonies are very popular practices at the various branch monasteries . The most observed ceremonies are: The Great Compassionate Repentance, Medicine Master Repentance, Emperor Liang's Jewel Repentance, Avatamsaka Repentence, and The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance, and so on.
Avatamsaka Vihara holds repentance ceremonies on the second week of every month, Medicine Master Repentance ceremony is held on even months and The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance on odd months. We recite the first section in the morning, and the middle and the last sections in the afternoon.
Below is a brief introduction to each of the repentance ceremonies to help practitioners better understand these different practices.
The Great Compassion Repentance is an elegant and powerful repentance ceremony that helps to cleanse and purify our body, mouth, and mind. The Great Compassion Repentance is also known as, “The Dharma of Repentance of the Great Compassion With A Thousand Hands and A Thousand Eyes”. In this repentance, we recite the twelve vows made by Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. We also recite the Great Compassion Mantra twenty-one times.
The power of the Great Compassion Mantra is inconceivable. Venerable Master Hua stated, “In the Great Compassion Mind Dharani Sutra, it says, “Those who recite the Great Compassion Mantra can dispel all disasters. They will not be burned by fire or drowned by water.” So I urge the laypeople who can already recite it to do so at least three times a day. Those who cannot recite it should learn quickly. The merit and virtue of the Great Compassion Mantra can not only make thieves and robbers go away, it can also dispel the myriad illnesses, and resolve all demonic troubles. So we should sincerely recite it.”
According to The Great Compassion Repentance text, those who uphold the Great Compassion Mantra will obtain four kinds of benefit:
1. One will not fall into the three evil destinies.
2. One will be reborn in any Buddhaland.
3. One will attain immeasurable samadhis and eloquence.
4. One will obtain whatever he seeks in this life.
In this ceremony, we bow to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, repent of our offenses, and recite the Great Compassion Mantra to help wipe away our karmic obstacles and purify our body, mouth, and mind. The Great Compassion Repentance is conducted on a daily basis from 12:30pm to 2:00pm at Avatamsaka Vihara. This service is open to the public and all are welcome to attend the service.
The Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master Jeweled Repentance is a dharma practice created for repentance of past offences based on The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata. At our temple, Avatamsaka Vihara, the repentance ritual is conducted in two bowing sessions, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The morning session begins with a repentance ceremony, followed by bowing to Volume One of the Medicine Master Jeweled Repentance, and completed with chanting of "Na Mo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master Buddha" in circumambulation. The afternoon session starts with bowing to Volume Two and Three of the Medicine Master Jeweled Repentance, followed by chanting of "Na Mo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master Buddha" in circumambulation.
In his explanation of The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua told us that "Sakyamuni Buddha discovered that the living beings in the Saha world have the deepest affinities with two Buddhas-Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata in the East and Amitabha Tathagata in the West. Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata in the East bestows blessings and prolong life on people and help them in times of disaster and difficulty; Amitabha Buddha of the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West made a vow that those who recite his name single-mindedly will be able to take their karma along and be reborn from a lotus in his Buddhaland, and when their lotuses open they will see the Buddha and awaken to the patience of non-production." Therefore, Medicine Master Buddha has a profound affinity with us - the living beings in the Saha World.
Out of unequalled compassion, Sakyamuni Buddha explained to us in the Saha that Medicine Master Buddha's vows are inconceivable. If a person is afflicted with a serious disease, with signs of death appearing, at that time, if the sick person's parents, close relatives and friends, on his behalf, can very honestly take refuge with Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, make offerings to the Medicine Master Buddha day and night with utmost sincerity, read and recite The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata for forty-nine times, light forty-nine lamps, make seven images of the Tathagata, hang up five-colored life-prolonging banners that are forty-nine spans long, then the sick one will be able to return to life, surmounting the crisis. This is the tremendously compassionate and life-protecting power of the Twelve Great Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light.
However, for the sake of the living beings with scant power who cannot properly practice the Dharma, the Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Repentance Ritual is abridged from The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, so that living beings can uphold precepts and bathe themselves...worship Medicine Master Buddha with all sincerity, then all their prayers will be answered, and all their wishes will be fulfilled (see Volume One).
For us mundane living beings, because of the darkness we accumulated over countless lifetimes, all our speeches, thoughts and actions are contaminated by karma and offenses, drawing to ourselves calamities, even short lives and premature death. Fortunately, today we have met The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata and the Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master Jeweled Repentance. As long as we repent to Medicine Master Buddha with all sincerity and devotion while upholding precepts, how can we not dispel calamities, prolong lives, even be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West and be totally liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth?
Please take a look at the instructions which our Fundamental teacher Sakyamuni Buddha gave us in The Sutra of the Merit and Virtue of the Past Vows of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata:
"There may be those among the fourfold assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakhas and Upasikas, as well as other good men and women of pure faith, who accept and uphold the eight precepts either for one year or for three months, practicing and studying them. With these good roots, they may vow to be born in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss where the Buddha of Limitless Life dwells, to hear the Proper Dharma, but their resolve may not be firm. However, if they hear the name of the World Honored One, Medicine Master Vaidurya Light Tathagata, then as the end of their lives drew near, before them will appear eight great Bodhisattvas, whose names are: Manjusri Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Observes the Sounds of the World, Great Strength Bodhisattva, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, Jeweled Udumbara Flower Bodhisattva, Medicine King Bodhisattva, Medicine Superior Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva. Those eight great Bodhisattvas will appear in space to show them the way, and they will naturally be born by transformation in that land, amid precious flowers of a myriad colors."
Human life is very hard to obtain and we have obtained it today, the Buddha Dharma is extremely difficult to encounter and we have encountered it today. We hope that all living beings in the Saha World be bathed in the oceans of the compassionate vows of all the Buddhas, live a life of complete fulfillment, and march toward total liberation.
"The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance" was written by Dharma Master ZhiZhuen, who was also known as WuTa National Master of the Tang Dynasty. He wrote this Repentance article after Venerable Master Kanaka had cured a sore on his knee called "Sore Resembling Human Face ." Curing this sore resolved his vendetta with his past life's enemy. The purpose of this repentance dharma is to teach us that we must resolve hatred and conflicts with others, repent our past faults, and cultivate the Buddha-Way. The act of eradicating the "three obstructions" is the Cause and attaining Buddhahood is the Effect.
"Cause and Effect" has profound meaning in Repentance Dharma. By simply reciting repentance sutras and bowing will not eradicate evil acts. When one repents, one must pray sincerely and reverently to the Buddhas of all ten directions and to all sages to be one's witness. The act of repentance is to ask for forgiveness for past errors and to reform to prevent future errors. One should repent so completely that all evil acts done in the past never arise again. One should reform to refrain from such transgressions in the future, and to practice good acts diligently. Thus by leaving the bad habits forever and upholding the percepts prudently, we can purify our mind and obtain wisdom.
"To wash off our sins" is the common result for various kinds of repentance dharma. "The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance" stresses on washing off past hatred with "Samadhi Water." "Samadhi" means "Proper Concentration" which is a state of absorption when the mind is focused on percepts, kindness, and compassion. A quote from Great Wisdom Sastra (DaChiTuLun) states, "Concentrating our mind on kindness without movement (delusion) is called Samadhi."
Nowadays we use "water" as part of the title in the "The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance" to symbolize rinsing our past sins with our kind and compassionate mind. If we immerse ourselves in water, the merit and virtue from repentance washes away our past sins and leads us to a new, reformed life. We should use the rest of our reformed lives to propagate Buddha dharma, and to benefit all living beings. Let our spiritual mind be sublime, so that we shall not waste our lives and shall not disappoint National Master WuTa for leaving a piece of work for us.