4. The Repentance of the Tongue
The Sutra of Universal Worthy's Contemplation articulates the tongue's repentance this way: "The sense organ of the tongue is gluttonous for all good flavors. It makes living beings break every pure precept and become indulgent. This organ is also the source of speech karma, including lies, lewd speech, evil words, divisive words, slander of the Triple Jewel, praise of wrong views, frivolous speech, contentious and destructive speech, and teachings of non-Dharma. Various evil deeds resembling thorns are born from the tongue. It stops the wheel of the proper Dharma and exterminates the seeds of merit and virtue."
Reading this detailed analysis of offenses committed by the tongue, one can't help but feel a chill. How could one not be ashamed and remorseful?
St. Augustine's Confessions did not include individual repentances for the nose or tongue, but, for your reference, there is a repentance directed at the desire to satisfy hunger:
"Food is meant to sustain life. I may declare that I am eating and am willing to eat for sustenance only, and yet I am turned by this dangerous joy that often supercedes and becomes the first priority in what I do. The means to these two ends are different. What is sufficient to sustain life isn't enough for the pleasures of the appetite. I am often unsure as to whether I continue to eat because of my physical needs or whether I gulp down food because I have succumbed to its temptation...
I am surrounded by temptation. I battle daily with my desire for food. The desire for food is different from the desire for sex; I cannot decisively renounce food the way I can be celibate."
This cuts to the core of the difficulty to resist food. This is a habit that has developed over endless eons. One must fill one's stomach every day, so the desire for food is difficult to balance. There's a major difference here in that Christianity allows meat-eating. God permitted Noah to eat any animal that he wanted. John had a shocking ascetic practice of eating a diet of locusts. In contrast, Buddhist compassion extends to all beings. The Sutra of Universal Worthy's Contemplation discusses explicitly how the tongue's greed for good flavors harms all beings. In modern society, it is easier to be a vegetarian because it is now a more widespread custom. On the other hand, the flavors of food have been dramatically enhanced compared to ancient times. Living beings often eat for the pleasure of it, thereby harming living beings even more. We must avoid such examples.
The tongue's offenses in speech are also limitless and boundless. In the end, one must undergo the retribution for the tongue's karma. One story regarding the karma of speech serves as a warning for us.
During the Buddha's time, King Vatsa went to the City of Rajagrha to beg for food but was gored to death by a cow that had just given birth to a calf. The owner of the cow was afraid and sold the cow. When the new owner took the cow to drink some water, the cow butted into the new owner from behind, killing him. Enraged, the son of the new owner killed the cow and sold its meat at the market. One farmer who bought the head of the cow was resting beneath a tree on the way home. He hung the cow's head on a branch of the tree, but the tree branch was too weak and broke. The head of the cow dropped and hit the farmer, the horns of the cow stabbed the farmer at a vulnerable spot and he died instantly.
Why did one cow gore three people to death? Someone asked the Buddha at the time. The Buddha then explained their past causes and conditions. Previously, there were three merchants who went to a certain country to do business. They rented their lodging from an elderly woman who was solitary and impoverished. Seeing that they could take advantage of the old woman, the merchants left without paying the rent. When the old woman found out, she chased after the three merchants. When she caught up with them, they not only refused to pay, but scolded her roundly. There was nothing the elderly woman could do, but she vowed that if they met again in the future, she would not rest until she killed them. That old woman became a cow in this lifetime. The three merchants were the people who were gored to death. "Man is born with an ax in his mouth; he hacks up his body with his harsh words." (From Chapter Nine, On Speech, in the Sutra of Parables, Dharmapada)
5. The Repentance of the Body
The Sutra of Universal Worthy's Contemplation describes that, "Our body is greedy for and attached to various sensations of touch. For instance, the soft, smooth feel of the male or female body afflicts people and stimulates burning desire, leading them to create physical karma, such as murder, theft, lustful acts, and other deluded deeds. They develop enmity toward living beings, violate pure precepts, and commit the five rebellious acts and ten evil deeds. They even burn down stupas and monasteries and steal the property of the Triple Jewel. They fall into the three evil paths and undergo bitter retribution due to the various causes and conditions of their defiled offenses. St. Augustine's Confessions further state that:
"When I was sixteen, I dropped out of school because of financial hardship at home. I didn't have much to do at home but be with my parents. The thorns of desire grew far taller than me, yet no one came to pull them out.
Conversely, while in the bath, my father saw how I had matured and was wearing the frustrations of adolescence; therefore he happily told my mother that it appears that they are about to enjoy some grandchildren. He assumed a drunken ecstasy. It is precisely this ecstasy that makes us forget our Creator. It must be an invisible wine of poison that pulls one toward what is vile and disgusting. That is when evil grew from within my body.
The body is an instrument for committing offenses. From repenting of the body's deeds, we come to have a profound sense that this body doesn't belong to us. It doesn't listen to us when we tell it not to catch a cold on chilly days. It doesn't listen when we tell it not to be hungry when it becomes hungry. This physical body turns into ash when cremated. The limitless karma it has created drags us down to endure infinite retributions that are miserable. How could we not be cautious and alert, remorseful and ashamed? And, who is it that is deluded and creates karma?
To be continued