Why do we take refuge in the Buddha? We take refuge because we know that the self is not a secure refuge for itself. How do we know this? Well, we know it by self-examination. This is one of the aspects of contemplation, meditation: one looks into oneself, one looks into one's own mind. What does one find there? Many things: perhaps criticism, perhaps envy, perhaps possessiveness, perhaps a sense of affront: “How can other people be like this to me?” Self-pity. We find many things.

If we observe ourselves we see that sometimes the blood boils: we are angry or we are fearful, or things have just got too much. The mind is like that. When we look carefully we see that all these wayward passions have an impact upon our behaviour. Perhaps we sometimes sulk, or perhaps sometimes we lash out, or we become argumentative when it is not really at all necessary.

Sometimes, of course, we are brave and generous and wise, and kind and good… but often we're not. So, in Buddhism, we have a practice of contrition, of looking at our own case, realise that you're a poor case.

In the text Shushogi it says: “Because of their limitless compassion the Buddhas and patriachs have flung wide the gates of compassion to both gods and men. And although karmic consequence for evil acts is inevitable at some time during the three periods, contrition makes it easier to bear by bringing freedom and immaculacy. As this is so, let us be utterly contrite before the Buddhas. Contrition before the Buddhas brings purification and salvation, true conviction and earnest endeavour. Once aroused true conviction changes all beings in addition to oneself with benefits extending to everything.

So, we call contrition... in Japanese contrition is sange, so we refer to contrition as the sangemon. Mon means a gateway. Contrition, sange, is a gateway to the Dharma. It makes it real in our life, makes it palpable, we feel it.

In the Summary of Faith and Practice (also podcast #23) it refers to the Three Minds, about which there have been other podcasts: The Sincere Mind, (podcast #35), The Profound Mind (podcast #58) and The Mind that Transfers Merit (podcast #80) and then it says “and the Mind of Contrition as a fourth.” (Part 20 of the Summary of Faith and Practice)

In the recent wonderful Bodhi Retreat we had a lecture on Naikan and we also practised some Nei Quan Chi Quan in the Amida Style. This is part of our practice: to examine the evidence of our life in the ordinary passage of the day or in  intensive periods of reflection and to see our true nature. In contrition, of course, we resolve to do better, but more importantly, we see our nature, we see we are of the nature to do such things. We are not the perfect specimen that our ego would like to believe. This makes us humble and this humility is an essential foundation for the nembutsu. For a nembutsu to be a true nembutsu it must spring from a humble heart.

So, Namo Amida Bu.
Thank you very much. 


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