Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Confessing to the holy beings

(2.27) With my palms pressed together, I make requests
To those endowed with great compassion –
The perfect Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas,
Who abide throughout the ten directions.

When we engage in purification practice, there is a tendency to focus on the power of regret and the power of the opponent force, but to forget about the power of reliance.

When I first started practicing, I much preferred the term “purification” to the term “confession.”  I could relate to and understand neutralizing our negative karmic seeds by applying opponents, but I couldn’t see nor understand how confession to the holy beings worked.  Now, I find the biggest obstacle to engaging in sincere purification is our inability to admit the actions we engage in are actually negative.  Instead, we rationalize why what we do is not that bad.  This is why it is not enough to just admit to ourselves our negative actions, but instead we go before the omniscient holy beings who know our hearts and see through our self-deceptions, and we confess our wrong deeds.  When we are in their presence, our rationalizations are exposed for the flimsy pretexts that they are.  There is something far more definitive about admitting our mistakes in the presence of holy beings than doing so to ourself quietly in our room.

When we confess in front of the holy beings, we are going to them for help.  We are saying, “I have made many mistakes, I need your help to change my ways.”  Such a mind is ready to purify and sincerely engage in the power of the promise to not commit such actions again.  Without this, we are often just going through the motions of purification or mistakenly thinking that purification practice somehow lets us get away with our negative actions and avoid their karmic consequences.

(2.28) Since beginningless time in samsara,
Throughout this and all my previous lives,
Out of ignorance I have committed evil,
Ordered it to be committed,

(2.29) And, overwhelmed by deceptive ignorance,
Rejoiced in its being committed by others.
Seeing all these to be grave mistakes,
From the depths of my heart I confess them to the holy beings.

The key point here is not all that we have done wrong, but rather the understanding that we have committed these wrong deeds driven by ignorance and delusions.  Almost nobody, even the worst dictators, view themselves as willfully a bad person.  Everyone tries to be a good person and nobody wants to be a “bad guy.”  Nonetheless, our delusions take ahold of us and trick us into doing all sorts of negative and harmful things.  It’s not our fault, it is the fault of our delusions.

Geshe-la says that all delusions are deceptive.  They literally trick us or deceive us into doing things that are ultimately self-defeating.  When we engage in negative actions, we don’t do them thinking we will harm ourselves by doing so, rather we think such actions will bring us the happiness we seek.  Why do we think this?  Because our delusions have fooled us into thinking this way.

Blaming our delusions for our negative actions has two main benefits.  First, it protects us against guilt.  Guilt is a form of anger directed against ourselves.  It is quite different than genuine regret.  When we feel guilty, we beat ourselves up and chastise ourselves for how awful and how stupid we are.  We think beating ourselves up in this way will somehow deter us from engaging in negative actions again in the future (“punishing ourselves”), but it never works that way.  We don’t engage in negative actions knowing they are wrong, we engage in them believing it is not really bad to do them.  Beating ourselves up doesn’t change our assessment of what is smart and what is not, it just adds a layer of punishment onto the karma we will have created for ourselves anyways.

Second, it shows us the way forward for eliminating future negativities.  We need to see through the lies of our delusions.  We might gladly drink a glass of clear liquid thinking it is water, but we wouldn’t touch it if we knew it was poison.  If we see clearly negative as harmful to ourself and to others, it is actually not that difficult to generate regret realizing we have made mistakes and then abandoning our negative actions.

Once we are aware of our negativities as being negative, we then go before the holy beings and confess them openly and honestly.  We admit we messed up.  We admit our delusions fooled us once again.  We admit that our delusions are sometimes stronger than us and they overwhelm us even when we know better.  We then turn to them for help, that they bless our mind to purify our negative actions and to help us have the wisdom to see through the lies of our delusions.


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