17 November 2010

Repentance and the Three Poisons

In the translation used at our temple, the "Repentance Gatha" runs like this:
All my ancient twisted karma
Stemming from greed, anger and ignorance
Arising in body, speech and mind
I now fully repent.
It identifies the source of what is repented in the Three Poisons: greed, anger and ignorance.  I'm given to understand that there's some question about whether 'ignorance' is the best English rendering of moha.  Other candidates might be 'confusion' or 'delusion.'  In any case, it is, in the tradition, not merely an absence of knowledge but rather an active mistaking, a willful refusal to see past where I am now, a complicit unknowing.  'Greed' for dosa and 'anger' for lobha are clear enough.

I seem to find myself in the middle of a discussion that began when I questioned the view that there might be such a thing as "loving-anger" by asking if 'loving-greed' and "loving-ignorance" would be on the list as well.  I don't know whether there are or are not such things, but I do know why I'm not all that interested in finding out.

It has been my experience that every time I acted out of greed, anger and ignorance it did not go well for me or for others.  I don't mean that sometimes there weren't some real, concrete good things that came out of so acting, for sometimes there were.  I do mean that every act of mine that stemmed from greed, anger and ignorance had the certain effect of clouding and hindering Mind: when I acted from greed, anger or ignorance, I sooner or later came to see that in so doing I had moved in a direction away from the realization of prajña wisdom.   What might have looked like a bright (loving?) idea at the time proved itself to be just another turn of the wheel of saṃsāra.  I had gotten nowhere.

Taking on a human birth is rare, and the span of this life is short.   I've got my work cut out for me, for I've spent more than ample time walking down dead-end paths.  The world is filled with enough suffering, and I really, really don't want to be adding more.  I repent the time and energy wasted on anything that has kept and still keeps me from doing what needs doing, and I resolve not to continue in this way.

I'm certainly not going to try to pass off dross as gold.

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