I recently attended a webinar by well-known author and teacher, Caroline Myss, who happens to come from the Catholic tradition. During the Q&A the question of confession came up. The questioner expressed the need to confess but lacking a spiritual community did not know how to find someone to whom they could offer their confession. Many of us have felt the pain of guilt and, like the webinar attendee, have also felt the need to confess with nowhere to turn for relief. I was moved to share this because I believe guilt to be one of the most unnecessary and destructive emotions we can harbor.
I too was raised Catholic and grew up practicing confession. In the Church, confession is a sacrament that takes place between the practitioner and her priest. I am now a practicing Buddhist, and for the past eleven years, I have come to understand and employ a form of confession that is different from what I learned as young Catholic. Buddhist confession does not require the presence of another person, yet it can be just as powerful. I have come to enjoy this aspect of my practice and the relief this daily act of confession provides.
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, please heed me!
Please purify all my negative karma and emotions.
In front of all Buddhas, I honestly confess all my mistakes.
I sincerely regret all my harmful intentions and actions.
I completely eliminate all my negative thinking and emotions.
I completely eliminate all my afflictions and negative karma.
All my negative thinking, let go. Let go!
All my negative emotions, let go. Let go!
All my unhappy feelings, let go. Let go!
All my trauma, let go. Let go!
All my regret, let go. Let go!
All my guilt, let go. Let go!
Let go! Let go! Let go!“
~ from The Buddha Path written by H.E. Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche
This prayer exemplifies the Nine Powers of Purification. When all steps are included, the practitioner engages a profound cleansing purification. When repeated daily or whenever necessary, much negative karma can be cleaned, leaving the practitioner feeling a sense of lightness and peace.
The Nine Powers of Purification
- The Power of Visualization Clearly visualize the object of your prayer, in this case we might visualize Buddha Shakyamuni as our guide.
- The Power of Supplication Here we really want to feel as though we are making a sincere plea. The more emotion, the stronger the healing effect.
- The Power of Confession Admitting our mistake, saying our mistake out loud, naming our mistake is a necessary first step.
- The Power of Regret We spend some time in regret, remembering our mistake, but remember that regret is like soap. It must be washed off to work.
- The Power of Decision Only we can decide to let go of our mistakes. The power of decision is a necessary step toward the purification we seek.
- The Power of Antidote The antidote is the healing. The healing is in the act of letting go. For that reason we use a physical mudra, a clutching or grasping our hands into a fist, then thrusting our open hands outward in a releasing gesture. This feels wonderful and engages body, speech and mind for a thorough cleansing effect.
- The Power of Commitment Of course we are human and we will make more mistakes. But by making a positive commitment we increase our own power to make and keep positive aspirations. That is why we call it “practice.”
- The Power of Healing Mantra Repeating mantra is the swiftest way to restore positive thinking. In our practice we use, Om Badzra Sattwa Hung. An alternative might be, “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.”
- The Power of Certainty We reserve our doubting for contemplation. We do not hold doubt during our meditation. The more strongly we can hold and feel certain, the more healing the meditation. The more we repeat what we know, with certainty and feeling, the more strongly our meditation heals us.
Confession works. Confessing in front of others is powerful. But it’s not the only way. By remembering that our thinking is powerful, a daily repetition of this Clear Purification Practice can be a profound healing exercise.