There are a variety of purification practices,
"The Bodhisattva's Confession of Ethical Downfalls" being
one of the most popular. We all have done actions that we now feel
badly about doing, and we have aspects of ourselves that we do not
like and wish to change. Purification practices are excellent means
to remove emotional burdens such as guilt, as well as to pacify
the obstacles to our happiness and self-improvement created by the
imprints of our destructive actions. Guilt over past actions is
useless, only leaving us feeling helpless and hopeless. On the other
hand, acting to purify negative imprints and afflictions is very
productive. It helps us to change our bad habits and subdues obstacles
to long life and success in our spiritual practice.
A complete purification practice consists
of four opponent powers:
1. The power of regret for having
done the negative action.
2. The power of reliance: taking
refuge, which restores our relationship with holy objects, and generating
the altruistic intention, which restores our relationship with other
3. The power of the remedial action,
e.g. prostration, offering, reciting the names of the Buddha, reading
or contemplating the Dharma, etc.
4. The power of the promise not to repeat
These four opponent powers are found in
"The Bodhisattva's Confession of Ethical Downfalls," the
Vajrasattva meditation, and other practices.
Confession of Ethical Downfalls: Prostrations to the Thirty-Five
There are several visualizations of the
thirty-five Buddhas. The easiest is to visualize Shakyamuni Buddha,
golden in color, with thirty-four light rays coming from his heart.
These light rays form five rows and upon each ray is seated a Buddha.
The Buddhas in each row resemble one of the five Dhyani Buddhas.
the first row, are the next six Buddhas mentioned in the prayer.
They resemble Akshobya Buddha, blue, the left hand in his lap in
the gesture of meditative equipoise, the right hand in the earth-touching
gesture (on the right knee, palm down). However, the One Thus Gone,
the King with Power over the Nagas, looks slightly different: he
has a blue body, a white face, and his hands are folded together
at his heart.
In the second row, the next seven Buddhas resemble Vairocana Buddha,
white, with both hands at the heart, the index fingers extended.
In the third row, the next seven Buddhas resemble Ratnasambhava
Buddha, yellow. His left hand is in meditative equipoise, and his
right hand is in the gesture of giving (on the right knee, palm
In the fourth row, the next seven Buddhas resemble Amitabha Buddha,
red, with both hands in meditative equipoise on his lap.
In the fifth row, the next seven Buddhas resemble Amogasiddhi Buddha,
green. The left hand is in meditative equipoise and the right hand
is bent at the elbow with the palm facing outwards.
Visualize that you are surrounded by all
sentient beings in human form and that you are leading them in prostrating
to the Buddhas. While prostrating, imagine much light coming from
the Buddhas and flowing into you and into all the sentient beings
around you. This light purifies all imprints of negative actions
and all afflictions.
After reciting the names of the thirty-five
Buddhas and the prayer of the three heaps -- confession, rejoicing
and dedication -- you may also want to recite the "General
After this, visualize the thirty-four Buddhas
dissolve into Shakyamuni Buddha. He comes on top of your head and
melts into golden light. The light descends through the crown of
your head and goes to your heart chakra, in the center of your chest.
Feel that all negative karma and obscurations have been completely
purified and that your mind has become inseparable from the Buddha's
pure mind of wisdom and compassion.
To increase the benefit of each prostration,
first prostrate three times while reciting:
om namo manjushriye namo sushriye namo uttama
Continue to prostrate while reciting the
names of the Buddhas and the confession prayer.
your name) throughout all times,
take refuge in the Gurus; I take refuge in the Buddhas; I take refuge
in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha.
To the Founder, the Transcendent Destroyer,
the One Thus Gone,
the Foe Destroyer, the Fully Enlightened One, the Glorious Conqueror
from the Shakyas I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Great Destroyer, Destroying with Vajra
Essence I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Jewel Radiating Light
I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the King with Power over
the Nagas I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Leader of the Warriors
I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Blissful
One I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Jewel Fire I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Jewel Moonlight I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, Whose Pure Vision Brings
Accomplishments I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Jewel Moon I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Stainless One I bow
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Giver I bow
To the One Thus Gone, the Pure One I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Bestower of Purity
I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Celestial Waters I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Deity of the Celestial
Waters I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Good I bow
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Sandalwood
I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the One of Unlimited Splendor
I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Light I bow
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One without
Sorrow I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Son of the Desireless One I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Flower I
To the One Thus Gone, Who Understands Reality
Enjoying the Radiant Light of Purity I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, Who Understands Reality
Enjoying the Radiant Light of the Lotus I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious Gem I bow
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One who is
Mindful I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One whose
Name is Extremely Renowned, I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the King Holding the Banner of Victory over
the Senses I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One who Subdues
Everything Completely I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Victorious One in
All Battles I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One Gone
to Perfect Self-control I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Glorious One who Enhances
and Illuminates Completely I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Jewel Lotus who Subdues
All I bow down.
To the One Thus Gone, the Foe Destroyer, the
Fully Enlightened One, the King with Power over Mount Meru, always
remaining in the Jewel and the Lotus I bow down.
All you thirty-five Buddhas, and all the others, those thus gone,
foe destroyers, fully enlightened ones and transcendent destroyers
who are existing, sustaining and living throughout the ten directions
of sentient beings' worlds -- all you Buddhas, please give me your
In this life, and throughout beginningless lives
in all the realms of samsara, I have created, caused others to create,
and rejoiced at the creation of negative karmas such as misusing
offerings to holy objects, misusing offerings to the Sangha, stealing
the possessions of the Sangha of the ten directions; I have caused
others to create these negative actions and rejoiced at their creation.
I have created the five heinous actions,
caused others to create them and rejoiced at their creation. I have
committed the ten non-virtuous actions,
involved others in them, and rejoiced in their involvement.
Being obscured by all this karma, I have created
the cause for myself and other sentient beings to be reborn in the
hells, as animals, as hungry ghosts, in irreligious places, amongst
barbarians, as long-lived gods, with imperfect senses, holding wrong
views, and being displeased with the presence of a Buddha.
Now before these Buddhas, transcendent destroyers
who have become transcendental wisdom, who have become the compassionate
eye, who have become witnesses, who have become valid and see with
their omniscient minds, I am confessing and accepting all these
actions as negative. I will not conceal or hide them, and from now
on, I will refrain from committing these negative actions.
Buddhas and transcendent destroyers, please
give me your attention: in this life and throughout beginningless
lives in all the realms of samsara, whatever root of virtue I have
created through even the smallest acts of charity such as giving
one mouthful of food to a being born as an animal, whatever root
of virtue I have created by keeping pure ethics, whatever root of
virtue I have created by abiding in pure conduct, whatever root
of virtue I have created by fully ripening sentient beings' minds,
whatever root of virtue I have created by generating bodhicitta,
whatever root of virtue I have created of the highest transcendental
Bringing together all these merits of both myself
and others, I now dedicate them to the highest of which there is
no higher, to that even above the highest, to the highest of the
high, to the higher of the high. Thus I dedicate them completely
to the highest, fully accomplished enlightenment.
Just as the Buddhas and transcendent destroyers
of the past have dedicated, just as the Buddhas and transcendent
destroyers of the future will dedicate, and just as the Buddhas
and transcendent destroyers of the present are dedicating, in the
same way I make this dedication.
I confess all my negative actions separately
and rejoice in all merits. I implore all the Buddhas to grant my
request that I may realize the ultimate, sublime, highest transcendental
To the sublime kings of the human beings living
now, to those of the past, and to those who have yet to appear,
to all those whose knowledge is as vast as an infinite ocean, I
go for refuge.
here for a detailed explanation of this practice by Ven. Chodron
- PDF file]
Woe is me!
O Spiritual Masters, great Vajra Holders, and
all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who abide in the ten directions,
as well as all the venerable Sangha, please pay attention to me.
I, who am named _________ , circling in
cyclic existence since beginningless time until the present, overpowered
by mental distortions such as attachment, hostility and ignorance,
have created the ten negative actions by means of body, speech and
mind. I have engaged in the five heinous actions and the five parallel
I have transgressed the vows of individual liberation,
contradicted the trainings of a bodhisattva,
broken the tantric commitments.
I have been disrespectful to my kind parents, spiritual masters,
spiritual friends, and those following the pure paths. I have committed
actions harmful to the Three Jewels, avoided the holy Dharma, criticized
the arya Sangha, and harmed living beings. These and many other
destructive actions I have done, have caused others to do, and have
rejoiced in others' doing. In short, I have created many obstacles
to my own higher rebirth and liberation, and have planted countless
seeds for further wanderings in cyclic existence and miserable states
Now in the presence of the spiritual masters,
the great Vajra Holders, all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who abide
in the ten directions, and the venerable Sangha, I confess all of
these negative actions, I will not conceal them and I accept them
as negative. I promise to refrain from doing these actions again
in the future. By confessing and acknowledging them, I will attain
and abide in happiness, while by not confessing and acknowledging
them, true happiness will not come.