Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 11/28/2017


For some reason, the theme of confession bubbled up after my morning session, perhaps as a result of pondering on forgiveness yesterday. I did a quick search and stumbled on Jayarava’s blog. Frankly, I couldn’t put it better myself so I’ll just paste and share the link below:

Confession in Buddhism is somewhat different than in Catholicism as we can see in the story of the fruits of the homeless life. (Sāmaññaphala Sutta – DN 2 *). In this story the conscience of King Ajāttasattu is pricking him – after all he has killed his mother and father and usurped the crown! He decides that a visit to a holy man might help him sleep better at night. After quizzing his courtiers on who to visit he decides to go to see the Buddha. As they approach they must abandon their transport and go on foot into the jungle. Since the Buddha is staying with a great company of monks, the King thinks he should be able to hear them, but all is silent – the murderer is worried about being assassinated himself! However they come into the presence of the Buddha and after a long talk Ajāttasattu goes for refuge to the Buddha as a lay follower, and then confesses his murderous actions. The Buddha’s response, to the king in the first place, and to the bhikkhus after he has gone, highlight the two very important aspects of confession in Buddhism.

The Buddha says to the king:

“Indeed, King, transgression [accayo] overcame you when you deprived your father, that good and just king, of his life. But since you have acknowledged the transgression and confessed is as is right, we will accept it. For he who acknowledges his transgression as such and confesses it for betterment in future, will grow in the noble discipline.”

The word accayo literally means “going on, or beyond”, and in the moral sphere, means acting outside the established norms – so transgression is quite a good translation.

However once the king departs, the Buddha says to the bhikkhus:

“The king is done for, his fate is sealed, bhikkhus. If the king had not killed his father… then as he sat there the pure and spotless dhamma-eye would have arisen in him.”

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