What Is Repentance and How Can You Practice It?

What is Repentance and How Can You Practice It featured image - Poh Ern Si Penang blog
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Repentance is one of the most common ways of practice in the Mahayana Buddhism as it creates an avenue to speed up our realization within ourselves. When we are in constant awareness of our mistakes, repenting them will gradually purify our mind, heart and body into the realization of truth. This realization will then lead us to insight. Eventually, this realization of truth will become our beacon of enlightenment and wisdom.

Let us explore more on this Repentance topic in hopes of understanding what is repentance and how you can practice or perform repentance in life.

What Is Repentance?

understanding what is repentance and how you can practice or perform repentance in life - Poh Ern Si Penang

Repentance is an act of self-admitting guilt on our conscience thereby helping to attenuate the victim’s anger and hatred as well as rectifying our mistakes. This act of repentance can only be achieved beneficially when one performs it with utmost sincerity and truthfully within oneself.

Performing repentance with these criteria will gradually have a peaceful and serene effect on our mind, heart and body. This is the positive effect of Repentance.

However, it is important to note that any act of repentance takes time to harvest the good effect of realization. This positive effect of realization can be attained only when one has some foundation in nurturing compassion, loving kindness and magnanimous heart. Otherwise, without these golden traits of character, one would only perform this act of repentance in a superficial way without any beneficial effect at all.

How to Perform Repentance?

Chanting The Song of Repentance 忏悔歌

There are a number of ways to perform repentance. One is to practice repentance through prayers, such as chanting The Song of Repentance 忏悔歌.

Sharing of Merits

The second means of Repentance is the sharing of merits to our intended entity. How this works is that, when we perform repentance onto our intended entity, we usually radiate compassion, loving kindness and magnanimous heart. This will gradually ignite our mind to attain insight, and it is this insight that becomes the power of realization that serves to invoke the power of Repentance.

Also read: Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting?

Repenting via Self Reflection

Another way to practice repentance is through our own self reflection. This self reflection is based on our shortcomings, mistakes or frequent oversight of wrong speech and wrong actions onto others.

Out of all the listed methods above, repentance through self reflection is the most difficult task to practice as everything have to depend upon own initiation. This act of repentance needs a very sincere and truthful heart to practice until we have finally achieved calm and tranquility as well as equanimity on our mind.

Also read: Understanding and Maintaining A Good State of Mind

Buddhist monk doing repentance prayer chanting - Poh Ern Si Penang

Some of the things worth noting when it comes to practicing Repentance:-

  • When we perform Repentance via a linkage or bond, this will make the act of repentance much easier since such linkage acts as a barometer of assistance to us. The linkage here refers to the condition of either repenting for intended entity of victim of circumstances or repenting for the inflictions of sufferings upon the victim. This linkage that bonds the repentance could be either from human to human, human to soul, or soul in the Hades realm to the human victim of circumstances.
  • In comparison, if we were to perform any repentance alone on our own, it would be much more difficult since everything will have to depend on our own selves.
  • Normal laypeople is unlikely to practice any form of Repentance since their mind is always unsteady and full of worldly attachments. Only spiritually trained people such as Bhante, spiritual teachers and masters or highly trained cultivators could perform Repentance through the abovementioned methods because they have the Time, Energy and the Ideal Conditions to carry out Repentance.

Also read: The Essence of Time

The Story of Angulimala: A Story of Repentance

In conjunction with this topic, one of the good reflection of repentance is the story of Angulimala.

Angulimala wanting to chop the Buddha's finger - Story of Repentance - Poh Ern Si Penang
Source: vridhamma.org

During the time of the Gautama Buddha, there live a young man by the name of Angulimala who was very keen in learning some cosmic powers. In his search for said powers, Angulimala met an evil sorcerer who lured Angulimala into believing the potency of his evil powers and thereby, Angulimala became his disciple.

As the evil sorcerer’s disciple, a condition was set between them that Angulimala must help the evil sorcerer to collect one thousand fingers from any humans. Being naïve and straightforward by nature, Angulimala straight away went into a finger chopping frenzy at any human within his sight and eventually, he was almost able to complete his task of cutting off one thousand fingers – he only needed one more finger to complete his mission.

As he searched for his final victim, he met the Buddha who was standing a distance away from him. Angulimala then called upon the Buddha and stopped him. When the Buddha enquired his needs, Angulimala then told the Buddha that he needed the last finger of the Buddha to fulfil his task. The Buddha then implored the cruelty of chopping one’s finger off and the grief of missing one finger.

Angulimala and Buddha Story of Repentance - Poh Ern Si Penang
Source: mettanandabhikkhu.blogspot.com

By the power of the Buddha’s wisdom highlighting the woe and suffering of losing one finger, Angulimala suddenly woke up from his senses that he had committed a very sinful action. Upon his grave realization, Angulimala then pleaded for mercy and forgiveness. The Buddha not only forgave his mistake but also ordained him upon his sincere repentance but on one condition that he had to fulfill: Angulimala must promise to bear the agony of repentance that will be inflicted upon him by all his past victims.

Thus when Angulimala went out in search of begging alms for food, many victims who lost their fingers to Angulimala immediately threw stones at him upon seeing him around, causing his body to bleed and get hurt badly. After years and years of hardship of bearing all the stone throwing at him, one day, Angulimala finally found peace and solace upon his ripening of bad karma effect. While those victims had not forgotten about the finger chopping incident, they no longer bore great hatred and resentment towards Angulimala due to their acknowledgment of his sincere repentance of bearing the brunt of their anger over the years.

Truly, Repentance is the gateway to attainment of a higher stage of realm but only through correct and proper way to observe the ideal steps of Repentance. Angulimala has indeed able to redeem all his victims misgiving and eventually obliterated all his sinful actions. This is an act of Repentance.

The Power of Repentance in Hades World

One of the greatest consolation in assisting all the souls in the Hades world of redeeming their sinful actions is the power of Repentance. Whenever souls undergo any harsh punishments, Repentance is one of the best means of obliterating their sinful mistakes. It may takes decades before the souls have finally redeemed their wrong doings.

Although it may look easy and simple to just repent, when it comes to the actual application, the souls must truly regret their sinful actions and repent sincerely through their constant awareness and realization of the three golden traits of compassion, loving kindness and having a magnanimous heart. Only with their sincerity will their action of Repentance truly eliminate their bad status condition of living in the Punishment area of the Hades world to being allowed to live a normal soul living in the underworld.

Final Thoughts

As the saying goes, all Buddhist cultivations and training have no boundary and limitations. Apart from the usual practice of sutra and mantra incantations, meditation and listening to the Dhamma, Repentance is also one of the good paths to tread the way towards realization of Truth and Insight, which will eventually lead us to bliss of Happiness and Wisdom.

Repentance is the natural way of spiritual cultivation for those who have already built up their strong foundation in nurturing Principle in their life, Responsibility in their tasks and lastly, Integrity in their character. Such entity would always dwell their mind into performing Repentance for all sentient beings and to lessen human sufferings.

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