To Repent and Reform Means to Correct Our Faults and Turn Over a New Leaf

An Instructional Talk by

Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


The power of the Buddhas is tremendous, and yet the karma of living beings is equal to it. Thus living beings are said to be “weighed down by karma and confused by emotions,” whereas the Buddhas “have ended their karma and emptied their emotions.” So the difference between a sage and a commoner lies in whether one can end karma and empty out emotions.

“Repentance" means repenting of past errors, feeling a great sense of shame and be remorse for the transgressions we made in the past. “Reform” means turning away from future errors, resolving to turn over a new leaf, and never making those mistakes again.

If we don’t repent with diligence, then the karma from the offenses we committed will make us fall. 


From time without beginning until the present life,
I have slandered the Triple Jewel, been an icchantika,
Slandered the Great Vehicle Sutras,
Cut off the study of Prajna,
Killed my father and mother,
Shed the Buddha’s blood,
Defiled the Sangharama,
Ruined the pure conduct of others,
Burned and wrecked stupas and temples,
Stolen the property of the Sangha,
Held deviant views, denied cause and effect,
Been intimate with evil friends, Turned away from good teachers…

I have done these myself, told others to do them, rejoicing at seeing and hearing it done.  All such offenses, limitless and boundless.
Therefore on this day, I bring forth great shame and remorse, confess sincerely, and seek to repent and reform.”

“I only hope the Triple Jewel will compassionately gather me in, and emit a pure light to shine on my body.”

“All evil is extinguished, and the three obstructions are cast out. I return to the  original mind-source, and am ultimately pure.”

The various offenses mentioned above are all extremely serious, yet very easy to commit. If one has unfortunately committed them already, what should be done? Don’t be disheartened, because “Offenses may be vast as the sky. Repent, and they disappear.” Offenses have no shape or form, and if one is truly repentant, it can certainly be worked out. No one should give up on himself and resign to falling!


Our offenses are not only beyond reckoning, they are indeed vast beyond all bounds. Now that we realize how deep our offenses are and how serious our obstructions are, what should we do? Without being told, you should naturally go to repent sincerely before the Buddhas. It is said, “The straight mind is the Way-place.” No matter in front of whom we are repenting, we must say our confession clearly. Don’t be vague and vacillating.


For example, when you ask someone if he has ever committed a certain offense, he says, “I don’t remember,” “I might have,” or the like. Instead of eradicating the karma of one’s offenses, that kind of superficial repentance only plants evil causes, because in the Buddha-dharma, one cannot be the slightest bit careless.

“Even in a hundred thousand eons, the karma you create does not perish. When the conditions come together.” You must still undergo the retribution yourself.


Then is there no way to eradicate the karma of our offenses?  There is a way, which is to say: “I only hope the Triple Jewel will compassionately gather me in, and emit a pure light to shine on my body.” That is, one hopes "the Triple Jewel will compassionately gather me in, and emit a pure light to shine on my body.” That is, one hopes the Triple Jewel- the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha will, in their great vows of compassion, shine their pure, unobstructed, great radiance upon our bodies. When this pure light shines on us, it can remove the three obstructions and reveal our original pure mind and nature, just as the clouds disperse to reveal the moon.

I hope everyone understands the harm of not repenting, and the benefits of being able to repent.