Great Repentance

In a world of impermanence, we should repent deeply. We must also pray with a heart of utmost sincere piety. Where do we start? We can express our sincere piety by keeping the vegetarian precept. By adopting vegetarian discipline, we can express genuine repentance. It is through practicing repentance that we can purify ourselves. 

The word “repentance” in Buddhism carries with it two layers of meanings. Firstly, the concept of cleansing away our defilements, and secondly, once we have been purified thus, to avoid being contaminated by defilements once again. Only in this way can we truly say we have repented.

To eliminate our defilements and realize our pure, intrinsic nature, we have to repent for all the transgressions we committed as a result of our ignorance in the past. Sentient beings accumulate negative karma, layer upon layer, and the world is now in the Era of Decay, where disasters are constantly occurring. Hence, we must be vigilant, observe the vegetarian precept and practice deep repentance.

Does true repentance come about if one stands in front of a Buddha image and expresses remorse for his actions? Even in the face of our repeated transgressions, the Buddha won’t point out our mistakes. Because he is so compassionate, he will not say, “Why haven’t you changed your ways?” Therefore, to eliminate our afflictions and ignorance, we must act now, the practice of repentance cannot be delayed any longer. 

For the past forty-odd years, Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan have worked very hard to give of themselves, showing love and compassion to all equally. Hence, we must mobilize Taiwan to lead the repentance practice so that people around the world can see and feel this movement and be awakened. We hope to inspire goodness in everyone so as to bring about a cycle of goodness in the world.

Every movement that we make, every word that we speak, no matter how subtle, creates karma. We should be vigilant and repent so that we can cleanse all our defilements and not transgress again. This is called, “Great Repentance.” We reap what we sow. But as long as we are determined to change our ways, we are still able to correct the negative karma we have created in the past. Therefore, we need to repent deeply and rid our mind of all ignorance and defilements. We have to stop committing evil and strive towards all that is good. 

As practitioners on the Bodhisattva Path, we have to sincerely seek to realize the Way, delve into the teachings of the Buddha with a pure heart, and further resolve to lead other sentient beings onto the path. When our mind is pure like clear water, it is like a life-giving spring that cleanses away all our defilements and nourishes our lives. Only when our hearts are purified can the essence of Dharma enter our hearts. In this way, we develop our wisdom. 

(Excerpted from Master Cheng Yen’s speeches on 23 & 24/2/2011)