Great Repentance prayer to Eighty-Eight Buddha – Part 1

This confession prayer belongs to Mahayana Buddhism.

As I started translating it from Chinese to English, more and more stuff came up. So instead of one very lengthy post, I think let’s walk the translation path together.

I will assemble the full prayer text along with method of prayer at the end of this translation. Let’s start with understanding the prayer text first.

The Chinese text is beautifully composed to flow like a poem or song. If we translate literally, the text will miss important English syntax. Therefore, I pay more attention to the meaning than the form.

I try my best to piece everything together after doing some research in the internet and hope it will benefit anyone who wish to practice this prayer.

I am just using material available on the internet plus a pinch of my own understanding. I am not wise or a professional Buddhist translator. Do not believe everything you read here. Please analyse with logic and wisdom.

Fundamentally, Buddhist practice is meant to help us eradication our greed, hatred and ignorance. Always take this milestone as our guide when we practice mind training.


Background

This prayer was composed by Vajra Master Acala during the Sung Dynasty in ancient China. Vajra Master refers to highly accomplished practioner of Vajrayana Buddhism.

The advantage of confession prayer as a spiritual practice was shared in another post. Personally, when I first read this text, I thought to myself,” what a load of superstitious rubbish…” Later on in life, when I realised that all Buddhist spiritual cultivation is about training my mind, then I see the logic in it…..


The prayer starts with the following text,

大慈大悲愍众生,

With great compassion and loving kindness you regard all sentient beings,

大喜大舍济含

Possessing equinamity, you rejoice in the liberation of all beings.

相好光明以自严,

Self-adorned with marks of perfections and radiant aura,

众等至心归命礼。

We devotely take refuge in you throughout our life!

Note: The first 3 verses recollects the qualities of the Buddha(s)

The 1st two verse describe Buddha(s) as someone whom we can always rely on. It recollects the 4 immeasurable mind. He is full of (1) loving kindness [wishing all beings to be happy] and (2) compassion [wishing all beings to be free from suffering]. That means he is like a perfect parent who love and protect his children.

He treats all sentient beings (3) equally. He does not discriminate or have favoritism. Whether you are a diligient monk who meditate the entire day or a serial killer like Angulimala, he treats both equally.

Last but not least, the Buddha(s) is always delighted to show beings the path towards liberation. (freedom from suffering). He is joyous at our liberation from samsara. He is happiest when we become Buddha.

This 4 qualities mean that we should have confidence that Buddha(s) is more than happy to help us.

The 3rd verse remind us the super qualities of Buddha. We all know that Buddha was a prince in India. So what is so special about this human being?  Emphasis is placed on the word “self-adorned” (自严) . This means that the following wonderful stuffs about Buddha is not being bestowed upon him by another superior being.

Foremost, we recollect the marks of perfections that Buddha(s) is born with. According to scriptural account, Buddha possessed various unique physiques. Some of those unique physiques caused the Buddha to possess “super” human quality since birth, even before his Enlightenment. (for example, being extremely strong or being able to walk upon birth was due to his unique bone structure,). Buddha explained that his special physiques are caused by his past karma of practiting the perfections of noble qualities. (patience, compassion etc)

Many people during his time remembered him as a person possessing an aura. (literally glowing) Therefore this verse provide us confidence that Buddha is not just another ordinary human. He is someone special who is more than capable of liberating us.

The 4th verse describe the type of mentality a disciples should have. We have to be devoted. Devotion means an unwavering faith that is strengthened by our determination. When we take refuge throughout our life, it means that we are determined to stick to our refuge regardless of what happens to us in our life, be it happiness or sadness. Therefore no matter what happens in life, we will never give up our refuge in the Triple Gems.

Note the word We is used in this verse.  When reciting this prayer text, we do not change the “We” to “I” even if you are reciting this prayer alone. When we recite a Mahayana prayer text like this, it is not only meant for ourselves. In Mahayana Buddhism, we also recite prayer on behalf of all sentient beings.

End of part one.

Hope you enjoyed reading.

May all be auspicious, well and happy.

Please feel free to share and teach others who are interested too.

 

 

 

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