Confession, Remorse, Forgiveness and Resolve
We now confess all evil deeds and obscurations wherein through deceit or ignorance
We stray from this pure view of natural basic goodness by creating a convincing Identity
Which actually believes itself somehow independent from the Universal Continuum:
First: stubbornly maintaining the prideful, self-centred territory of Me
That grandiose arrogance of putting first Myself
Seeing all experience always and only through the humourless lens of the ‘I’
Generating no end of external and internal obstacles such as bad habits and chronic illness
The ever-metastasizing cancer of Ego,
The root of all individual and collective ignorance, complacency, anxiety, suffering and disease
The primitive belief in a mechanical universe comprising only lifeless physical particles
The materialist superstition that mind is merely a quantifiable by-product of brain matter
All such engendering abiotic, artificial and overly commercialized cultures
Worshipping false gods of money, fame, science, medicine, material success and suchlike
Along with all failure to listen, to learn, to sacrifice, to give, to serve
To heal, to love, to rejoice, to celebrate, to sing, to dance.
Second, being seduced by no end of lust: lust for self, lust for others
Emotional lust, sexual lust, aggressive lust, ambitious lust, jealous lust, cruel lust
Lust for approval, status, certainty, control, safety, comfort, pleasure, distraction, oblivion
Aggression, slander, betrayal, greed, denial, oath-breaking, harsh habits of body, speech and mind
Siren songs insinuating irresistible temptations to instantly gratify known negative urges
All stirring up self-perpetuating cycles of compulsive conflicting emotion
All inflammatory, all driven, all stressful, all humourless, all degrading, all dishonourable:
We feel deep remorse for any harm from such selfish fixations, sins of omission and misdeeds.
[Say one or more out loud. Brief pause to let them sink in, then continue.]
The text starts to encourage more proactive engagement on our part in preparation for the actual practice session which soon follows. That said, it is still written in the ‘passing scenery’ style so all one has to do is follow along with the various suggestions made without having to do too much more, although at a certain point one has to pause the chanting to reflect on some real-life examples of what is being contemplated. There are two initial sections, the first dealing with the issue of egocentricity as ‘the root of all individual and collective ignorance, complacency, anxiety, suffering and disease,’ the second having to do with being driven by ‘lust,’ which might also be called passion or emotion. In some schools of Buddhism they say that there are two main overarching obstacles, namely ‘primitive beliefs about reality’ and ‘conflicted emotions.’ Well, here they are. The text here emphasizes materialism as a concomitant adjunct to egocentricity because this is one of the core, defining elements of our modern age; in other times or cultures it might choose to emphasize superstition or addiction to blood sacrifice or some such.
The second section ends with a statement following these two main obstacles: we feel deep remorse for any harm from such selfish fixations, sins of omission and misdeeds and then the text in [brackets] instructs us to [Say one or more out loud. Brief pause to let them sink in, then continue.]
This is the first actual instruction in the text apart from the unwritten one to chant the entire thing (except for the titles) out loud. The point here is to prepare oneself for the upcoming practice by engaging one’s actual personal history and experience in the exercise.
Is the text implying that we get sick because we have done wrong? Possibly, but if you read through both sections involving primitive beliefs and conflicting emotion you can see that perhaps it’s hinting more at the variety of interconnected and related ways we create general atmospheres of malaise, each of us making, a unique mandala in so doing; some tinged more with passion, others with aggression and others by ignorance. It is that general shape, or atmosphere, which engenders sickness or health. As Pasteur discovered shortly before his death, the germ theory he is now famous for was overly simplistic and rather than the germs being an exogenous enemy it was the terrain we offered them: if we offer a terrain hospitable to their growth and reproduction they will gladly take advantage of it; if no such terrain is offered, then, pathogenic or not, they cannot take up residence. This text simply helps us attune to a more neutral and clean mind-body terrain and in so doing will help balance chronic illness syndromes without having to address them directly. The balancing begins the process of altering the terrain and as the terrain alters so also does the mix of helpful and harmful microbes in the immune system and wider body such that at some point we find the chronic disease beginning to lift, if not entirely than at least a little. And a little is a lot more than none which is a lot more than an ongoing worsening of the various conditions which is what most people suffering from chronic conditions end up enduring. So the text is suggesting that the trajectory can be changed from one of gradual daily worsening to gradual daily improving. It’s actually that simple.
Having confessed and feeling remorse we can now contemplate the provocative truth
That each moment we are either opening or closing
That there is no safe zone of refuge in-between nor any sanctuary in isolation
Feeling the emotional shrapnel and scar tissue tracing the lifetime tales of who we are
Without flinching or denial facing illness, faults and failures honestly
Without even a trace of deceit wiping the karmic mirror clean
Now clearly reflecting the great secret that all such transgressions
Lack any lasting substance like letters written on water
Knowing the heart truly wishing others well invokes healing angels of blessings
Soft petals of peace settling from above like silent snowflakes.
The best way to understand the above section – as with all of them – is by chanting it regularly and letting it resonate over time. The last line is followed by the instruction: [Pause…]. The idea here is to have a feeling of something pure and kind and peaceful settling from above like silent snowflakes. If you have sat outside in the wood as snow falls gently down you know the feeling. In deity visualisation practices there is usually a section after you have imagined a deity – either yourself or one in front of you – when you then empower the deity with a sense of sacred presence by imagining little snowflake-sized deities coming down from above and imbuing it with sacred presence. We all share this innate sense that blessings come from heaven so here there is a sense of having confessed and felt remorse there is a sense of coming clean which invokes healing angels of blessing. The language is a little over the top flowery but the idea is just to let any feelings that resonate with this sort of imagery come up and work their magic.
So no matter how complacent, confused, bewildered or dispirited
We now resolve to clean up our act now and in the future
To let go of clinging to entertaining distractions, self-absorbed fixations and obsessions
Of lifetimes wasted masticating the mouldering cud of preoccupied dissatisfaction
Of navigating through endless shoals, backwaters and sewers of never-ending
Plots, schemes, anxiety-ridden dramas, self-serving beliefs and cultish secrets
Of dragging heavy karmic baggage from the past into the resplendent, ever-opening present
Choosing instead to arouse and relax into ever-present wakefulness
To head into the wind of any pain or challenge with
Openness, gratitude, grace, generosity, discipline, skilfulness, confidence and good humour
Truly gentle, truly kind, truly loving
Taking any chronic illness, pain or obstacle as medicine to open us further
Unreservedly forgiving self and others all and everything
Letting healing spontaneously blossom
Appreciating each moment as Lucid Dream wherein all beings in this very world are
Primordially Awake Buddhas dwelling in primordially Awake Buddha Fields.
Again, the text speaks for itself and will yield different layers of meaning and association when repeated over time assuming it is regularly practiced, guidelines for which will be forthcoming. That said, a couple of points regarding the last two lines:
Lucid Dream: the text isn’t claiming that our reality is a lucid dream but it can be likened to a lucid dream in that everyone in our world is fundamentally awake whether or not they know it. A lucid dream is when you are dreaming and aware that you doing so in the dream. As it happens, in dream yoga this state can be used for healing or developing wisdom but the analogy here is that in everyday waking life we are often sleepwalking, essentially unaware that we are aware, just blundering from one thing to the next pretty much on automatic pilot. Being aware of what we are doing including possessing and using awareness to do so is what is meant by mindfulness. Mindfulness is not simply paying attention to an object but being aware that we are doing so. This is known as ‘placing the mind’ which is something done with deliberation. That said, the point being made in these two closing lines is that a refreshed, sacred-feeling world cleansed of guilt and reservations from the preceding confession and forgiveness section is like a Lucid Dream ‘wherein all beings in this very world are Primordially Awake Buddhas dwelling in primordially Awake Buddha Fields.’ Again, the language is flowery but the idea is that when we are awake we create a world of wakefulness in which all beings are also perceived as being awake which, fundamentally, they all always are. Behind the clouds of endless vicissitudes the Sun of our basic buddha nature is always shining whether we see it or not but now at this point in the text we are seeing it by seeing clearly those aspects we hold onto. It is said that the only difference between a Buddha and a confused sentient being is that the Buddha fully sees the nature of confusion. Once any sort of obfuscation is seen clearly for what it is it is self-liberated into wisdom. This is a very profound but also simple thing.
That said: neither is the text saying that our perceived collective reality is NOT a lucid dream!
Buddha and Buddha Fields could have been expressed differently to prevent any sense of this being a text for Buddhists only but the whole world is now familiar with the word Buddha, though admittedly it means different things to different people.
A Buddha creates a ‘buddha field’ just as a brave person creates a mandalic atmosphere of courage and a coward creates a mandala of cowardice. A Buddha creates a healthy mandalic atmosphere of wakefulness, wisdom, kindness and peace.
The text encourages us to feel that way now that we have just gone through an honest self-appraisal contemplating ‘the great secret that all such transgressions lack any lasting substance like letters written on water’ and thus that we are all primordially good from beginning to end, top to bottom, that we are all, each and every one of us, fundamentally Buddha and everywhere we find ourselves is fundamentally a Buddha Field. Anybody from any faith can contemplate this so these terms should not be a problem. At this point the person chanting is engaging with overtly positive emotion and commitment which itself is already stepping out of the dispiriting prison into which chronic disease so often seems to entrap us.
With this sort of mood, atmosphere and perspective, we are now ready to practice a basic meditation to help with any chronic illness, obstacle or challenge. If we have truly taken what is expressed in this section to heart then there will be no need for any subsequent practice; but in case there is more work to be done (!) and because after the ten minutes or so needed to chant our way through the Liturgy a little meditation practice might now be a pleasure whereas before we probably felt too down in the dumps to enjoy any such activity, we can cheerfully continue on to the next Main Practice section…