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"Repent and thy sins shall be forgiven" (The Buddha).... did he really say that?

Well, those aren't his words exactly. But what's certain is that we shouldn't neglect the act of repentance in our practice.

In the Avatamsaka Sutra, the ten great vows of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra are proclaimed and the fourth of these is to "repent and reform evil karma".

In the Repentance Sutra in Response to Sariputra, the Buddha says that those who wish to achieve enlightenment and those who do not wish to be reborn into the lower realms should confess and repent their evil karma:
If there are good men and good women who seek the bodhi of Arhats, the bodhi of Pratyekabuddhas, or the bodhi of Buddhas, [they should confess and repent of their evil karma].
......
If there are good men and good women who do not wish to be reborn as hell-dwellers, animals, or hungry ghosts, they should repent of their evil karma and should not conceal them.
In the Nirvana Sutra, it is said that evil karma dissipates due to confession and repentance. It is important to note that repentance is not merely regret/remorse for a past misdeed but crucially it entails an honest resolve to abstain from repeating the misdeed.
First, one does evil, but later one thoroughly confesses it and repents, and does not repeat it. This is as in the case of muddy water, in which, if the "Bright-Moon" mani [jewel] is placed there, the water becomes clear, due to the wonderful power of the gem. Or it is as when the clouds disperse and the moon reveals itself in its brightness. It is also the same with the repentance of evil acts which one has done. O King! If you repent and feel remorse, the [evil] will go away [and die out] and you will be pure as before.
So does that mean repentance will always completely purify evil karma? Apparently not so, and it is possible for residual, less severe karmic retribution to be experienced in the present lifetime.

From the Nirvana Sutra:
This comes about when a person confesses all the evils he has done, repents, and does not commit them any more; when he repents fully, makes offerings to the Three Treasures, and always reproaches himself. This person, due to his good deeds, does not fall into hell, but receives in this life karmic returns such as headaches, pain in the eyes, stomach and back, an untimely death, criticism, slander, lashings, prison or fetters, hunger, and poverty.
In the Pali Canon, a similar principle is expressed in the Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta:
Now there is the person who has [committed one of the ten unwholesome conducts eg. killing, stealing, etc] and has had wrong view. [Yet] on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination... But (perhaps) the good kamma producing his happiness was done by him earlier [or later], or right view was undertaken and completed by him at the time of his death. And that was why, on the dissolution of the body... he reappeared in a happy destination, in the heavenly world. But since he has [committed one of the ten unwholesome conducts] he will feel the result of that here and now, or in his next rebirth, or in some subsequent existence.
We could say that "right view undertaken and completed by him" includes repentance of his evil conduct.

While the Pali Canon does not speak explicitly about the purification of evil karma through repentance, it does talk about the "transcendence of evil deeds" through repentance in the Sankha Sutta:
[He reflects:] "The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures [the ten unwholesome conduct, ie. killing, stealing, etc.] [These ten unwholesome conduct I have committed] to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good"... So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then [the ten unwholesome conduct], and in the future refrains from [the ten unwholesome conduct]. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.
Despite what has been noted above, there is also the view that repentance alone cannot act to dissipate evil karma and there is a further requirement that good deeds be performed.

From the Sutra of Forty-two Sections:
The Buddha said: "If a person has many offenses and does not repent of them, but cuts off all thought of repentance, the offenses will engulf him, just as water returning to the sea will gradually become deeper and wider. If a person has offenses and, realizing they are wrong, reforms and does good, the force of retribution will gradually exhaust itself as a disease gradually loses its baneful influence when the patient perspires.”
The fact that good karma can dilute the effects of evil karma was also declared in the Lonaphala Sutta of the Pali Canon:
Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup... Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?

Yes, lord.

Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges... Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?

No, lord.

"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [whose wholesomeness is like that of a small amount of water] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual [whose wholesomeness is like the River Ganges] is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.
In the Nirvana Sutra, a similar principle is declared as follows:
O great King! Even small drops of water fill a big vessel. It is the same with the good mind. Each [good volition] thoroughly crushes out a great evil.
So what are the implications of the above?

1) We should regularly confess our misdeeds to our friends, teachers or in our prayers to the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas.

2) We should develop regret of our evil actions but we must be careful not to fall into guiltiness.

Ven. Thubten Chodron's advice:
[Regret is] not guilt. It’s important to differentiate these two. Regret has an element of wisdom; it notices our mistakes and regrets them. Guilt, on the other hand, makes a drama, “Oh, look what I’ve done! I’m so terrible. How could I have done this? I’m so awful.” Who is the star of the show when we feel guilty? Me! Guilt is rather self-centered, isn’t it? Regret, however, isn’t imbued with self-flagellation. Deep regret is essential to purify our negativities. Without it, we have no motivation to purify. Thinking about the suffering effects our actions have on others and on ourselves stimulates regret. How do our destructive actions hurt us? They place negative karmic seeds on our own mindstream, and these will cause us to experience suffering in the future.
3) Once we understand the harmfulness of our misdeeds we should resolve not to repeat them. While the scriptures say that we should abstain from the misdeed forever, if we feel that we cannot truthfully do so, then according to Ven. Thubton Chodron, we should nevertheless "commit to being very attentive to not doing it during a certain time period that is realistic for us." But this will probably have less of a purifying effect.

Ven. Thubton Chodron's advice:
It’s good to pick a specific and realistic length of time for making a strong determination not to repeat the action. Then we must be careful during that time not to do the same action. Through making such determinations, we begin to change in evident ways. We also gain confidence that we can, in fact, break old bad habits and act with more kindness towards others. With regard to some negative actions, we can feel confident that we’ll never do them again because we’ve looked inside and said, “That’s too disgusting. Never again am I going to do that!” We can say that with confidence. With other things, like talking behind other people’s back or losing our temper and making hurtful comments, it may be more difficult for us to say confidently that we’ll never do that again.... In such a situation, it’s better to say, “For the next [two/three/four/etc.] days I won’t repeat that action.” Alternatively, we could say, “I will try very hard not to do that again,” or “I will be very attentive regarding my behavior in that area.”
4) We should make our determination not to repeat a certain evil action ever more firmer by strengthening regret.

Ven. Thubten Chodron's advice:
One of the reasons we habitually keep on doing the same things is because our determination not to do it again isn’t very strong, and one of the reasons for that is because our regret for having done it isn’t very strong. So it all comes back to regret. The stronger the regret, the more we’re going to have the determination not to do it, then the easier it’s going to be to change our behavior patterns. To develop regret, we have to think deeply about the disadvantages of the action, the disadvantages for others, the disadvantages for ourselves and become convinced of that. That’s one of the chief things for giving ourselves the ‘oomph’ to break some of those habits.
5) We should take remedial action to offset evil karma. This can take many forms such as meditation, prostrations, chanting, alms giving, etc.

6) Lastly, please heed Ven. Thubten Chodron's warning:
The fact that karma can be purified does not mean it's okay to create negative karma. For example, a broken leg can be fixed, but does that mean breaking your leg is fine to do?
personriverflowAkaneEvenThirdseeker242Silouanmisecmisc1cvalue

Comments

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    Since no one can change the past or know the future, pay attention and take responsibility. If you want a symphony orchestra to go with it, hire one. Otherwise, just pay attention and take responsibility.
    aMattDaozenzenffVastmind
  • riverflowriverflow Veteran
    edited July 2013


    Ven. Thubten Chodron's advice:

    [Regret is] not guilt. It’s important to differentiate these two. Regret has an element of wisdom; it notices our mistakes and regrets them. Guilt, on the other hand, makes a drama, “Oh, look what I’ve done! I’m so terrible. How could I have done this? I’m so awful.” Who is the star of the show when we feel guilty? Me! Guilt is rather self-centered, isn’t it? Regret, however, isn’t imbued with self-flagellation. Deep regret is essential to purify our negativities. Without it, we have no motivation to purify. Thinking about the suffering effects our actions have on others and on ourselves stimulates regret. How do our destructive actions hurt us? They place negative karmic seeds on our own mindstream, and these will cause us to experience suffering in the future.
    @karmablues = Thank you for posting such excellent food for thought!

    Sadly, I'm sure many westerners (myself included) will hear the word "repentance" and carry with it a lot of Christian connotations in connection with "guilt"-- and so struggle with the word because it sounds "moralistic." But we don't have to make that association, looking more closely at the source of this term in the west.

    In the New Testament, "repentance" comes from the Greek word "metanoia": meta- meaning "change" (as in "metamorphosis") and -noia, derived from nous which we usually translate into English as "mind." We could translate the word literally as "change of mind" but the Greek nous had a bigger role in Greek language and culture. "Nous" did not just involve discursive thought but insight (gnosis) into one's own nature. Perhaps "transformation of consciousness" doesn't sound as catchy or poetic-- maybe simply "change of heart" could say it a little better without getting technical.

    I don't know when the association with guilt came in, but I suspect it started with Augustine. @Silouan might have an idea, but I don't think the Eastern Orthodox tradition emphasized "guilt" with repentance. Augustine had his weird hangups. But then again, so did Paul.

    I'm not sure about other Buddhist traditions, but Thich Nhat Hanh calls it the practice of "Beginning Anew." The opposite of repentance we could simply call denial. Without acknowledging my own obstacles, how can I even take the first step toward deepening my practice? I help no one if I remain in denial.

    Anyway, I don't think "repentance" has to be associated negatively with "guilt"-- it involves more an awareness of harm that one has done and making a firm, wholehearted resolve to sound action-- a much needed "inner recalibration" which we gain by having a "change of heart"-- we reconcile the separation we have created between ourselves and others and also the fragmentation we have created between ourselves and ourselves. For myself, I understand repentance as not merely "moralistic" (this only scratches the surface of the problem) but ontological.

    Rather than "Original Sin," in Buddhism I think the problem stems from "Original Ignorance"-- the assertion of a separate "me"-- and what I don't have right now I take by force, which only increases suffering for everyone all around. In doing so, I only retreat further into the notion of an illusory separation. Repentance, a change of heart represents the doorway to healing this division. Dukkha begins with me. And dukkha ends with me-- but a transformation has taken place between the first "me" and that second "me" in which dukkha ceases.
    karmabluesVastmindSilouanJohn_Spencer
  • footiamfootiam Veteran
    If you have done something wrong, you can repent and make amends. But that has nothing to do with sins. You are just taking responsibility for what you have done. Sins and forgiving sinners has nothing to do with Buddhism; so, I doubt, Buddha said that. Someone else put the words in Buddha's mouth.
    Patr
  • PatrPatr Veteran
    While the Pali Canon does not speak explicitly about the purification of evil karma through repentance, it does talk about the "transcendence of evil deeds" through repentance in the Sankha Sutta:
    [He reflects:] "The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures [the ten unwholesome conduct, ie. killing, stealing, etc.] [These ten unwholesome conduct I have committed] to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good"... So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then [the ten unwholesome conduct], and in the future refrains from [the ten unwholesome conduct]. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.
    Despite what has been noted above, there is also the view that repentance alone cannot act to dissipate evil karma and there is a further requirement that good deeds be performed.


    So very true.
  • @riverflow

    The meaning of repentance as derived from its Greek roots is very interesting to learn about. I like how you personally call it a "change of heart" and I think that points very well to the central importance of repentance. When I think about change of heart, I am reminded about Anguilimala who, as you know, was a murderous bandit and how the Buddha had first caused him to repent which opened the way for him to enter into the holy path and finally to become enlightened. I think Anguilimala's story illustrates well the transformative power of repentance which turned him from being a heartless murderer into someone who "brightens the world like the moon set free from a cloud."

    From the Anguilama Sutta:

    [The Buddha:]
    "I have stopped, Angulimala,
    once & for all,
    having cast off violence
    toward all living beings.
    You, though,
    are unrestrained toward beings.
    That's how I've stopped
    and you haven't."

    [Angulimala:]
    "At long last a greatly revered great seer
    for my sake
    has come to the great forest.
    Having heard your verse
    in line with the Dhamma,
    I will go about having abandoned evil.
    "

    So saying, the bandit
    hurled his sword & weapons
    over a cliff
    into a chasm, a pit.
    Then the bandit paid homage
    to the feet of the One Well-gone,
    and right there requested the Going-forth [ie. ordination].

    .......

    [He] who once was heedless,
    but later is not,
    brightens the world
    like the moon set free from a cloud.

    His evil-done deed
    is replaced with skillfulness:
    he brightens the world
    like the moon set free from a cloud.
    riverflow said:

    ... it involves more an awareness of harm that one has done and making a firm, wholehearted resolve to sound action-- a much needed "inner recalibration" which we gain by having a "change of heart"-- we reconcile the separation we have created between ourselves and others...

    Actually, Ven. Thubton Chodron also advises that since our harmful actions damages our relationship with the recipients of those actions, we should actively seek to repair those broken relationships by asking for forgiveness and/or generating metta and compassion to those people. I wanted to include this part in the OP but couldn't due to the word limit.

    In her words:
    The way to repair the relationships we’ve damaged with ordinary beings is by generating bodhicitta and having the wish to become a fully enlightened Buddha in order to benefit them in the most far-reaching way.
    If it is possible to go to the people we have harmed and apologize to them, that’s good to do. But most important is to reconcile and repair the broken relationship in our own mind. Sometimes the other person may be dead, or we have lost touch with them, or they may not be ready to talk with us... In other words, we can’t always go to them and apologize directly.
    Therefore, what’s most important is to restore the relationship in our own mind. Here,
    we generate love, compassion, and the altruistic intention for those whom previously we held bad feelings about. It was those negative emotions that motivated our harmful actions, so by transforming the emotions that motivate us, our future actions will also be transformed.
    riverflowEvenThird
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited July 2013
    footiam said:

    If you have done something wrong, you can repent and make amends. But that has nothing to do with sins. You are just taking responsibility for what you have done. Sins and forgiving sinners has nothing to do with Buddhism; so, I doubt, Buddha said that. Someone else put the words in Buddha's mouth.

    I think you are absolutely right, @footiam. Actually, in the context of Buddhism, repentance is not about asking for divine forgiveness but it can be regarded as an act of self-forgiveness.

    From A Truthful Heart: Buddhist Practices for Connecting with Others by Jeffrey Hopkins:
    The practice of Buddhist repentance is not [...] the asking for divine forgiveness. It is the clear recognition of our unskilful actions done intentionally or unmindfully through our body, speech and mind, which are the results of our lack of compassion and wisdom, originating from our attachment, aversion and delusion. After recognising our misgivings, we make resolutions to be as mindful as we can, so as to never repeat them under any circumstances. In this sense, repentance is about forgiving oneself through expressing regret and turning over a new leaf, absolving oneself of unhealthy guilt while renewing determination to further avoid evil, do good and purify the mind with greater diligence.
    riverflow
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    I think if we are acknowledging our need to act from a more authentic place it hardly matters whether we see that as acknowledging that to the 'outside' or 'inside' of our changing self. The important thing is that we do it.
    Both the Greek term metanoia and the Pali and Sanskrit terms talk about a turning, a reversion.
    Repentance is not merely a feeling, whether of guilt or anything else. It is dynamic. Its continuous process that is a result of a degree of one-pointedness. Of re-collection.
    riverflowrobotEvenThird
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    genkaku said:

    ... If you want a symphony orchestra to go with it, hire one. Otherwise, just pay attention and take responsibility.

    We can only be here and now; the past is unknown. We mostly agree that the future is unknown but the same thing is true for the past, we only know the (re)construction we create in this moment.
    This reconstruction is like a dream; it shows us what we are feeling now; we project that in a story and we identify with the main character and share his/her emotions. It is our own little Hollywood; the story of my life projected on the screen of my internal movie screen.

    Regrets, repentance, remorse; they are the drama we create - right now - for our entertainment and for establishing an identity.
    We can treat them like we treat anything that comes and goes in meditation. We don’t push them back; we don’t identify with them, we don’t hang on to them. They just come and go.

    There is nothing to attain in Buddhism there is no big change. The music doesn’t swell and “The End” doesn’t appear on the screen in big letters.
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited July 2013
    zenff said:

    We can only be here and now; the past is unknown. We mostly agree that the future is unknown but the same thing is true for the past, we only know the (re)construction we create in this moment. This reconstruction is like a dream; it shows us what we are feeling now; we project that in a story and we identify with the main character and share his/her emotions. It is our own little Hollywood; the story of my life projected on the screen of my internal movie screen.

    Well, I agree that the past can be equated as a kind of illusion just like the future and the present can also be regarded as a kind of illusion (for unenlightened beings anyways). However, that doesn't mean there is nothing useful to be gained by contemplating about past events. For example, in the Mahanama Sutta, the Buddha advises that we recollect our own virtue and generosity. This practice involves recollecting the virtuous and generous deeds we have done in the past.

    The Buddha's instruction that is most relevant to the topic of repentance is the following that he gave to Rahula in the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta:
    Having done a [bodily/verbal/mental] action, you should reflect on it: 'This [bodily/verbal/mental] action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful [bodily/verbal/mental] action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful [bodily/verbal/mental] action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful mental qualities.
    So the Buddha advises us to contemplate bodily, verbal and mental actions that we have done in the past and to contemplate whether these actions were harmful to ourselves and others. If we believe that a past action was harmful and caused suffering, then the Buddha advises that such action be confessed and abandoned. In fact, it could be said that these instructions were meant to lead one to repentance.
    zenff said:

    Regrets, repentance, remorse; they are the drama we create - right now - for our entertainment and for establishing an identity.
    We can treat them like we treat anything that comes and goes in meditation. We don’t push them back; we don’t identify with them, we don’t hang on to them. They just come and go.

    Repentance is certainly not just a drama we create for our entertainment and ego. It is a very skillful act because it's essence involves abandoning unskillful/harmful acts. Regret and remorse, to the extent that they lead one to repentance, should also be considered as skillful states. Because the act of repentance is one which leads to the abandoning of harmful acts, it therefore causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase. As a result. repentance is a type of mental conduct that should be cultivated as per the Buddha's instruction in the Sevitabbasevitabba Sutta:
    'Mental conduct is of two kinds, I say: to be cultivated and not to be cultivated. And mental conduct is either the one or the other.’ So it was said by the Blessed One. And with reference to what was this said?

    Venerable sir, such mental conduct as causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates it should not be cultivated. But such mental conduct as causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates it should be cultivated.
    robotCittariverflowmisecmisc1
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    edited July 2013
    Yes, I can understand what you (and the quotes) are saying. It probably can work that way; at the other and “confession” and remorse can be a game people play. It makes them feel better, but it doesn’t fundamentally affect their behavior.

    More importantly; I think that if we want to be “free” from our past we may want to change the way we relate to our past (or to the story we think is “our past”).
    When we indulge in the emotions (either positive or negative) of the story, we let the story dictate the way we feel. We are not free. When we suppress the emotions we are not free either.
    When we see that there’s a scriptwriter behind the story who dictates our feelings; when we see the dreamlike nature of the story we can allow to emotions to come and go and still be free.

    For me that’s part of what meditation does. It trains this meditative way of relating to whatever happens during the meditation. Sitting motionless; allowing it to be there, not doing anything about it and not perpetuating it.

    That's the real "wholesome state" in my opinion.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    How do you know what does or doesn't affect other people's behaviour?
    An acknowledgement of personal responsibility for our unskillful behaviour is enormously liberating for many..indeed for many it is a vital precursor at times before meditation.
    In many schools of Buddhism it is built into the premeditation preliminaries.
    karmablues
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited July 2013
    Zenff, any good advice or instruction if not applied in the way it was intended could of course lead to unbeneficial results.

    As for being free from the past, I don't think repentance is about clinging to emotions. Being able to acknowledge personal responsibility and let go of harmful habits and behaviour is very liberating.

    As for the method of meditation you describe, it certainly has its benefits. Nonetheless, the Pali Canon records 40 different objects of meditation that the Buddha taught some of which are meant to counteract specific types of defilements. These methods are not based on just sitting there with bare awareness but some involve focused thinking and contemplation. The most well known one is probably metta meditation which helps to develop metta and counteracts ill-will/anger. All of these meditations, if done properly, leads to wholesome mental states.
  • Yes, there are many things I did in my past that I now regret. Looking back, I see the chain of karma that ended in much suffering and bad results from my bad decisions.

    A life without regrets is a life unexamined.

    But I am not the boy or man who made those decisions. The pain in my life from letting my desires or fear rule my actions was what motivated me to grow, to do better and help my life have meaning. It taught me the hard lessons of life in a way all the sutras and good intentions never could have. Some of the worst, most painful times in my life turned out in the end to be the most important to me being who I am today.

    So yes, I regret. I regret missed opportunities and people I've hurt along the way. If I had to do it over, I'd certainly act different. But that just means I'm not the same man who did those things back then. It means when I see someone making the same mistakes, I have been there, done that, and can have compassion for that idiot destined for a buttload of karma.

    So I regret. But it's also true that we must also have the determination not to make the same mistakes. Sometimes it takes a few lessons learned. Everyone regrets the hangover, but how many of us stop drinking after the first experience?
    karmablues
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    @Riverflow - Great post! You say "I don't know when the association with guilt came in, but I suspect it started with Augustine."

    I recently read a piece answering this very question. Trouble is I forgot what it said. I think it was explained as the result of a simple mistranslation, one that became fixed as a 'truth' in the doctrine of the Roman church but not the Orthodox. I'll see if I can find the passage again and report back.


    riverflow
  • Florian said:

    @Riverflow - Great post! You say "I don't know when the association with guilt came in, but I suspect it started with Augustine."

    I recently read a piece answering this very question. Trouble is I forgot what it said. I think it was explained as the result of a simple mistranslation, one that became fixed as a 'truth' in the doctrine of the Roman church but not the Orthodox. I'll see if I can find the passage again and report back.

    I don't recall all the details now (such a loooong time ago) but the Orthodox understood "original sin" very differently from their western counterparts. And the Orthodox have never relied as heavily on Augustine either.

    But yes, find the passage, I'd be interested to read it--it sounds like what you read might go along similar lines (you can jog my memory too! haha)
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    @karmablues Your post is very insightful. I was familiar with the necessity of this as a Buddhist, but did not have much detail about it. However, I did notice though that the emphasis or importance at least in the West was lacking, much like now in Western forms of Christianity including Roman Catholicism. I have wondered if there is some kind of influential connection there. I do think that aspect of Buddhism had an impact on me and was a very important part in my conversion to Orthodoxy where the formal practice remains significant and vital.
    riverflow said:
    In the New Testament, "repentance" comes from the Greek word "metanoia": meta- meaning "change" (as in "metamorphosis") and -noia, derived from nous which we usually translate into English as "mind." We could translate the word literally as "change of mind" but the Greek nous had a bigger role in Greek language and culture. "Nous" did not just involve discursive thought but insight (gnosis) into one's own nature. Perhaps "transformation of consciousness" doesn't sound as catchy or poetic-- maybe simply "change of heart" could say it a little better without getting technical
    @riverflow Your description of repentance is very accurate from the Orthodox perspective. I would also add that the soul is the ineffable essence of intelligence with the nous being a higher faculty of the soul situated at the level of the heart.

    To expand a bit on the Nous the following is an informative description by Father John Romanides:

    "The chief concern of the Orthodox Church is the healing of the human soul. The Church has always considered the soul as the part of the human being that needs healing because She has seen from Hebrew tradition, from Christ Himself, and from the Apostles that in the region of the physical heart there functions something that the Fathers called the nous. In other words, the Fathers took the traditional term nous, which means both intellect (dianoia) and speech or reason (logos), and gave it a different meaning. They used nous to refer to this noetic energy that functions in the heart of every spiritually healthy person. We do not know when this change in meaning took place, because we know that some Fathers used the same word nous to refer to reason as well as to this noetic energy that descends and functions in the region of the heart.

    So from this perspective, noetic activity is an activity essential to the soul. It functions in the brain as the reason; it simultaneously functions in the heart as the nous. In other words, the same organ, the nous, prays ceaselessly in the heart and simultaneously thinks about mathematical problems, for example, or anything else in the brain.
    We should point out that there is a difference in terminology between St. Paul and the Fathers. What St. Paul calls the nous is the same as what the Fathers call dianoia. When the Apostle Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit,"[1] he means what the Fathers mean when they say, "I will pray with the nous." And when he says, "I will pray with the nous," he means "I will pray with the intellect (dianoia)." When the Fathers use the word nous, the Apostle Paul uses the word "spirit." When he says "I will pray with the nous, I will pray with the spirit" or when he says "I will chant with the nous, I will chant with the spirit," and when he says "the Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit,"[2] he uses the word "spirit" to mean what the Fathers refer to as the nous. And by the word nous, he means the intellect or reason.

    In his phrase, "the Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit," St. Paul speaks about two spirits: the Spirit of God and the human spirit. By some strange turn of events, what St. Paul meant by the human spirit later reappeared during the time of St. Makarios the Egyptian with the name nous, and only the words logos and dianoia continued to refer to man"s rational ability. This is how the nous came to be identified with spirit, that is, with the heart, since according to St. Paul, the heart is the place of man"s spirit.[3]
    Thus, for the Apostle Paul reasonable or logical worship takes place by means of the nous (i.e., the reason or the intellect) while noetic prayer occurs through the spirit and is spiritual prayer or prayer of the heart.[4] So when the Apostle Paul says, "I prefer to say five words with my nous in order to instruct others rather than a thousand with my tongue,"[5] he means that he prefers to say five words, in other words to speak a bit, for the instruction of others rather than pray noetically. Some monks interpret what St. Paul says here as a reference to the Prayer of Jesus, which consists of five words,[6] but at this point the Apostle is speaking here about the words he used in instructing others.[7] For how can catechism take place with noetic prayer, since noetic prayer is a person"s inward prayer, and others around him do not hear anything? Catechism, however, takes place with teaching and worship that are cogent and reasonable. We teach and speak by using the reason, which is the usual way that people communicate with each other.[8]

    Those who have noetic prayer in their hearts do, however, communicate with one another. In other words, they have the ability to sit together, and communicate with each other noetically, without speaking. That is, they are able to communicate spiritually. Of course, this also occurs even when such people are far apart. They also have the gifts of clairvoyance and foreknowledge. Through clairvoyance, they can sense both other people"s sins and thoughts (logismoi), while foreknowledge enables them to see and talk about subjects, deeds, and events in the future. Such charismatic people really do exist. If you go to them for confession, they know everything that you have done in your life before you open your mouth to tell them."
    riverflowkarmablues
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited July 2013
    @riverflow Blessed Augustine is a Saint of the Orthodox Church as well though not all his thoughts are considered Orthodox. I haven't really examined when the West began to acquire a more significant scholastic and legal approach to its theology, but the inclusion of the Filioque in the West would probably be the place start. It changes the whole dynamic of the Trinity reducing the Holy Spirit to a bond between the Father and Son rather than its own distinct hypostasis or persona. Theological differences between the East and West are consequences of it. Though many would consider this change in relationship between the persons of the Trinity insignificant, it follows that man's relationship with the Trinity is also altered.

    The Eastern Orthodox see sin as a word, deed, or thought that distances oneself from union with the Trinity where sin and the economy of salvation have a holistic basis and not legalistic as you pointed out, but it is very difficult to overcome that legalistic thought living in the west, and being a western convert to Orthodoxy, though not from a Christian background, it is something of hindrance that I'm still struggling with and hope to eventually eradicate.

    Forgiveness first starts with oneself, and then is confirmed in heaven when it is sought and asked for with humility and compunction. When confessing sins in the sacrament it is to God and not to a priest. The priest is a witness and stands by your side as you face an icon of Christ. He reads the prayer of absolution and in it identifies himself also as a sinner. Not every priest is a confessor and can administer the sacrament.

    Orthodox Elder Sergei of Vanves counsels the following on repentance:

    “There are three stages towards repentance for specific sins:

    1) Repenting of the sin in your mind as soon as it is committed.

    If you have wicked thought and repent it by desiring to think and act otherwise, this sin is erased immediately

    2) At the end of the day, when you are doing your examination of conscience, recall the sin and ask God for forgiveness again.

    We must have a sharp conscience, so that every night we can examine ourselves and what we did during the course of the day and see what we did wrong, what good we failed to do, and what we did poorly. Then, we should ask God’s forgiveness for all these things.

    Always keep repenting, not because you have necessarily done something, but because our nature is weak. We must repent for what we are. When we repent, we must consider not just what we have done wrong, but all the good we have failed to do.

    3) Confess the sin and repenting of it when you receive the sacrament of Confession.
    This allows us to avoid remaining psychologically and spiritually burdened by the sins we have committed in the past."

    Additionally, "Our attitude towards the Kingdom of Heaven should be like that of a traveler who must not become panicked about all the things he has to do once he arrives at his destination, but must continue on, planning for his current journey. We must realize that we do not know when the train will come that will take us to the Kingdom. To be ready when it comes, we should be like the wise virgins and always have oil in our lamps.

    We must never believe that our sinful state is beyond repair. We must be confident that there is always forgiveness for us. All we need to do to be forgiven is to ask.
    Repentance is the key to spiritual life. It allows us to have the wedding garment without which we are cast out of the wedding feast.”


    We can shed tears of regret on our pillow at night, and this is certainly a good start, but it is in confession where the rubber hits the road. It’s an entirely different experience of catharsis. The Kingdom of Heaven is within.
    riverflowkarmablues
  • @Silouan - It makes me happy you posting here. Just sayin'. :)

    Just as Buddhism helped shed light on Eastern Orthodoxy for you, I find that Eastern Orthodoxy has shed light on Buddhism for me (one of my dearest friends is a retired Greek Orthodox priest-- I don't know if I ever told you that).

    More and more I have learned not to always see different religious traditions in terms of an either/or proposition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. /\
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    @riverflow Thank you for sharing that.

    I do believe my Buddhist past has helped shaped me and its influence definitely helps me in penetrating the more esoteric and mysterious aspects of my faith, so it is very much a part of me and I can’t just turn a switch and shut it off.

    We shall meet in the middle guided by GBV. ;)
    riverflow
  • riverflowriverflow Veteran
    edited July 2013
    In the Portable Men's Society @Silouan !
    Silouan
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    And in Buddha's wisdom, define repentance?
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Thanks @Silouan. I find these posts very helpful. It's interesting though. I can still manage to find something to argue about.

    When the Apostle Paul says, "I prefer to say five words with my nous in order to instruct others rather than a thousand with my tongue," I would not interpret this to mean " he means that he prefers to say five words, in other words to speak a bit, for the instruction of others rather than pray noetically." This seems a bit implausible. I would take his words to mean that he prefers to instruct others directly from the heart, immediately and simply with few words, and not confuse them with endless intellectual chatter. That Paul meant that he prefers to teach others rather than pray noetically seems an unlikely interpretation and even a bit of a confused idea.
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited July 2013
    hi JohnG, I don't think the term "repentance" is explicitly defined in the scriptures but by looking at the context wherein the term does appear and how it is used, I would say the term describes a mental process from (1) Recognizing or realizing that one has committed an act that is harmful/unskillful; to (2) Acknowledging personal responsibility for the harm/suffering caused by such act; to (3) Making an honest and firm resolve to change, turn over a new leaf and never repeat such act ever again.
    JohnG
  • John_SpencerJohn_Spencer Veteran
    edited July 2013
    In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as 'repentance' is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), "after/behind one's mind", which is a compound word of the preposition 'meta' (after, with), and the verb 'noeo' (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by 'after' and 'different'; so that the whole compound means: 'to think differently after'. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, "change of mind and heart", or, "change of consciousness".

    Will you repent?
    seeker242Silouankarmablues
  • John_SpencerJohn_Spencer Veteran
    edited July 2013
    Ha! OK - that was really weird. I just came across this quote on Wikipedia and thought it would make an interesting discussion so posted it and then went to view 'recent discussions' - seems @karmablues has taken you here already.

    Right, I shall read that discussion list now!

    riverflow
  • Great minds think alike, eh? ha
    John_Spencer
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Moderator Note:

    I have, in fact, merged the two discussions here.
    Thanks all.
    John_Spencer
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Reminds me of this. :)
    Ananda once asked the Buddha:
    "What, Venerable Sir, is the rewarding advantage of morality?"
    "Freedom from regret, Ananda!"

    "And what is the advantage of freedom from regret?"
    "Joy that produces bliss, Ananda.
    Bliss then generates happiness.
    Happiness enables concentration.
    Concentration facilitates vision and knowledge.
    Vision and knowledge bring disillusion and detachment
    Disillusion and detachment induce direct experience of
    certain and complete mental release, Ananda…"
    AN X.1
    riverflowkarmablues
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    @Florian No argument :)

    I understand what both of you are saying and I don't think there is a dichotomy between what is actually being expressed though I do see the difference in clarity. I would add that St Paul also says to pray without ceasing, and that the fathers tell us that noetic prayer and interior silence is to be accomplished in all aspects of our life even while working, sleeping, and speaking with or instructing others.
    riverflow
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited July 2013
    The Buddha Nature of the mind is purity, goodness, compassion and wisdom. It is the ground for the experience of compassion and wisdom called enlightenment.

    In a state of ignorance the mind is obscured by negative conflicting emotions which lead to the committing of negative actions which perpetuate our Samsara. In order to reveal our Buddha Nature we must stop accumulating negative karma by refraining from negative actions, strengthen positive actions, and control the mind.

    It is also necessary to purify negative actions already done to lessen or eliminate future results that bind us to our Samsara. The most powerful means of purification is repentance, and since Buddhist strive every day to become more aware of how their thoughts, word and deeds influence their experience repentance could be understood as being aware of one's negativities and their purification.

    riverflow
  • @seeker242

    The Nirvana Sutra says basically the same thing:
    O good man! The Bodhisattva has no repentance in his mind when he sees that the shila [morality] he upholds is steadfast. As there is no regret, there is joy in his mind. As he has joy, his mind is happy. As he is happy, his mind is at peace. As his mind is at peace, there comes about an immovable samadhi [concentration]. As the samadhi is immovable, there is true knowing and seeing. Due to true knowing and seeing, there is parting from birth and death. Parting from birth and death, he achieves emancipation. As a result of emancipation, he clearly sees the Buddha-Nature.
    riverflow
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    Perhaps you are thinking that karma is some sort of justice system, external to you, perhaps administered by some outside "power".
    Not so.

    Karma means "imprint". Every action, word, thought, and feeling sets an imprint in your being .. and certainly, at least, a neurochemical imprint in your brain.
    Repeated imprints become our habits.
    And we ARE out habits. Buddhism teaches that what we think of us "me" is nothing more than a constantly flowing set of emotional and mental habits.

    So we constantly create our own imprints, every second we are alive. Even this very moment, we are setting SOME kind of imprint inside ourselves. And deliberate, intentional actions, especially ones that we dwell on, set the strongest imprints of all.

    When we regret a hurtful act, we are deliberately and intentionally setting imprints of:
    - a resolve to NOT do that again
    - compassion for the person we hurt
    These imprints help to counteract the negative imprint we created inside ourselves by performing the action that we now regret.
    In this way, WE are changing our imprints. We are lessening our imprints of selfishness (which is usually what causes us to perform a regrettable action), and increasing our caring for others.

    I would not go so far as to call this "redemption" .. especially since "redemption" implies the existence of a outside redeemer .. and if Buddhism YOU are your own redeemer. But if you speak of "redemption" in a metaphorical way, then I suppose it's usable.

    It is really important, in Buddhism, to claim total responsibility for who you are and how you react .. and for the direction your life moves in, which is based on what you choose for this very moment. We cannot get anywhere in Buddhism unless we work with ourselves.
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