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General question about confession of wrong doing.

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:15 pm
by Sam Vara
Elsewhere in this section, someone has posted a confession of wrong doing. I'm impressed, but didn't want to hijack his/her thread with my daft questions, so I thought I'd start another one.

Did the Buddha advise lay people to make such confessions? Of course, it is a requirement for monks, and I know of the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta where he advises Rahula:
If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

If I have read it correctly, the advice is for bodily and verbal actions only, and I don't know whether Rahula was a monk by then or not.

I seem to recall lay confession being recommended, but can't find any article with this in. Is lay confession practiced in any particular tradition? And would anyone like to share any information or even opinions on why confession should be so valuable? If it is the truthfulness regarding the amended action that is important, is it not enough to be truthful to oneself? Is it efficacious, and what makes it so? I'm familiar with confession in the Anglican Christian tradition, and also find that impressive and quite moving.

Re: General question about confession of wrong doing.

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:31 pm
by binocular
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:15 pm
And would anyone like to share any information or even opinions on why confession should be so valuable? If it is the truthfulness regarding the amended action that is important, is it not enough to be truthful to oneself?
On a general note:
It makes sense to confess one's transgressions that affect others. Doing so will clarify the relationship and genuinely give room for making amends and for reestablishing trust.
But even if one's transgressions don't (directly) affect others, it is still good to talk about them (with proper discreetness etc.), again, for making the relationship more genuine.
The focus on the relationship is admirable friendship, and that being the whole of the holy life.

Admitting one's transgressions also places one in the position for others to offer appropriate support and advice, which one probably needs, given one's transgression.

Re: General question about confession of wrong doing.

Posted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:57 am
by Dhammanando
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:15 pm
Did the Buddha advise lay people to make such confessions?
Yes and no.

No in the sense that the Vinaya requirement for bhikkhus to regularly and methodically confess to each other any breaches in their training rules has no equivalent for householders.

But yes in the sense that there is a narrative found several times in the suttas in which certain householders do in fact confess to the Buddha to having committed such and such misdeeds and their doing so is approved by him. There is some overlap (both conceptual and in the phrasing) between the stock formula used in these voluntary and unsolicited acts of confession and the confession formula the Vinaya prescribes for monastics.

[King Ajātasattu:]
“Venerable sir, a transgression overcame me. I was so foolish, so deluded, so unskilful that for the sake of rulership I took the life of my own father, a righteous man and a righteous king. Let the Exalted One acknowledge my transgression as a transgression for the sake of my restraint in the future.”

“Indeed, great king, a transgression overcame you. You were so foolish, so deluded, so unskilful that for the sake of rulership you took the life of your father, a righteous man and a righteous king. But since you have seen your transgression as a transgression and make amends for it according to the Dhamma, we acknowledge it. For, great king, this is growth in the discipline of the Noble One: that a person sees his transgression as a transgression, makes amends for it according to the Dhamma, and achieves restraint in the future.”
(Sāmaññaphala Sutta)

_______________________________

Vinaya formula for confessing a pāṭidesanīya offence:

“Friend, I have committed a blameworthy, unsuitable act that ought to be acknowledged. I acknowledge it.”

Formula for all other classes of offence:

Confessing monk: “Friend, I have fallen into an offence of such-and-such a name. I confess it.”

Confessor: “Do you see the offence?”

CM: “Yes, I see it.”

Confessor: “You should achieve restraint in the future.”

CM: “I will achieve restraint.”

Re: General question about confession of wrong doing.

Posted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 2:09 am
by SarathW
Venerable sir, a transgression overcame me
I can recall reading this few times in Sutta.

Re: General question about confession of wrong doing.

Posted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 11:50 am
by Sam Vara
Dhammanando wrote:
Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:57 am

Yes and no.

No in the sense that the Vinaya requirement for bhikkhus to regularly and methodically confess to each other any breaches in their training rules has no equivalent for householders.

But yes in the sense that there is a narrative found several times in the suttas in which certain householders do in fact confess to the Buddha to having committed such and such misdeeds and their doing so is approved by him. There is some overlap (both conceptual and in the phrasing) between the stock formula used in these voluntary and unsolicited acts of confession and the confession formula the Vinaya prescribes for monastics.
Many thanks, Bhante. Much appreciated.

And thanks to binocular, too.