When the Buddha was in the world, any Bhikshu who had violated a major precept and who sincerely and openly repented to a peer or to the Buddhas would have his offense eliminated. Now that the Buddha has entered stillness, an average person who wishes to repent must invite and welcome all Buddhas. Before inviting the Buddhas for the reason of repentance, one should be sincere and serious. Therefore besides an adorned temple and pure ceremonial rites, one should further eat vegetarian food and cleanse oneself. This applies not just to Buddhism. Whenever a nation suffers disasters, the Emperor, President, or local official must lead the government officials in following a vegetarian diet and praying for blessings. These are the basic ceremonial rites for extinguishing offenses and praying for blessings. Bowing, singing praises, offerings (of incense, flowers), repentance, beseechment, rejoicing, transference, and making vows became standard activities in repentance ceremonies after the Buddha entered stillness. The penitent contemplates in sequence: (1) him or herself, (2) all beings, (3) the Dharma, hoping that all offenses will be eliminated and that no evil will occur again in the future. One can definitely eradicate one's offenses in this way.
Although the Avatamsaka Repentance is different from the Dharma Flower Samadhi Repentance, the repentance nonetheless includes a section on dhyana contemplation2 that's a part of the repentance based on noumenon. There's an hour and a half of Sutra recitation, an hour of bowing in repentance, and an hour of sitting in meditation. These are the periods allotted in the schedule to allow for honest cultivation. However, the Avatamsaka Repentance is arranged according to Universal Worthy's vows of conduct. What the penitent is single-mindedly bowing to are all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the worlds of the Flower Treasury, the Bodhisattvas who are the hosts of the seventh and ninth Avatamsaka assemblies, and the Bodhisattvas of the fifty stages.
One ought to contemplate the following ten types of birth and death during repentance:
1. I have been ignorant since beginningless time;
2. Evil friends have increased my emotions;
3. I have not gone along joyously, but have been forever reducing my goodness;
4. I have been indulgent with my body, speech, and mind so that evil gradually grew;
5. My every thought is tainted;
6. I continue to err in thought after thought;
7. I conceal my mistakes in the hopes that no one will find out;
8. I recklessly go forth without any fear of the evil paths;
9. Shameless and unremorseful, I am trapped in the demon's net;
10. I deny cause and effect, sitting in the pit of an icchantika
The ten ways to defy birth and death:
1. To shatter the icchantika, one's faith in cause and effect is proper;
2. To shatter shamelessness, one is remorsefully repents before humans and gods;
3. To shatter the absence of fear, one is horrified by the evil destinies;
4. To shatter pretense, one reveals one's karmic offenses;
5. To shatter the thought of permanence, one ends the idea of continuity;
6. To shatter pervasive arising, one makes the resolve for Bodhi;
7. To shatter indulgence, one cultivates merit and amends misdeeds;
8. To shatter unhappiness, one guards and protects the proper Dharma;
9. To shatter evil friendships, one is mindful of the Buddhas throughout the ten directions;
10. To shatter the slaves that bind, one contemplates the nature of offenses as empty.
National Master Qingliang's commentary in the Avatamsaka Prologue on the Chapter on the Meritorious Virtues of the Light of the Thus Come One's Subsidiary Characteristics describes ten frames of mind that adhere to birth and death:
1. False ideas about self and others give rise to the view of a body;
2. Having internal afflictions and encountering evil situations, one's ego thrives;
3. One ceases any good thought or deed, inside and out, and does not rejoice in others' goodness;
4. One indulges the three karmas and does every evil;
5. Though the acts may not be large, one's evil thoughts are pervasive;
6. One's evil thoughts continue day and night;
7. One covers up and denies mistakes, wishing that no one will learn of them;
8. One harasses and attacks others, unafraid of the evil paths;
9. One is shameless and unremorseful, unafraid before ordinary people and sages;
10. One denies cause and effect, becoming an icchantika.
To be continued
2. Ibid, p. 146, Sample Schedules for Cultivating the Dharma Flower Samadhi.
Venerable Master's Dharma Words
♦The reason people have not become Buddhas is that they only pay lip service to cultivation.