Throughout all religions, there is an emphasis on repentance. It is the ability:
1. To humbly acknowledge a mistake or transgression,
2. To feel the appropriate amount of regret, not too much and not too little
3. To assess whether there is some kind of amends making to do.
4. To let go, pick yourself up, and start over.
In order to live, to serve, to be active in life, we have to have the capacity to let go of our shortcomings and to move on. Negative narcissism can dwell on our mistakes or our character flaws. This re-enforces our concept of a solid self. Of course, neither can we ignore our mistakes. Practice is to take care of mindfully and with awareness the nature of cause and effect.
What helps us let go and move on is our connection to our Big Minds, the buddha-nature and our universal perspective. To understand the nature of time helps us not cling to our stories and the burdens of our historic selves. It is a liberating force.
We live in the moment, but we can’t catch the moment. A moment in Buddhist understanding is 1/62nd of a fingersnap. Or in physics- .1 to the 42nd power. (that is a decimal point, 42 zeros, and a one!) A moment in Sanskrit is a ksana. To acquire the way-seeking mind of spiritual awareness, you have to deeply understand that a day consists of 6 billion, 400 millions, 99 thousand and 180 moments (so says Dogen-zenji). In each of those moments, the entire world is born and the entire world dies. Impermanence happens so fast that our intellectual understanding cannot grasp it. We have an infinite number of chances to begin anew. We have an infinite number of opportunities to plant a different seed for our karmic futures. Cause and effect is very malleable and at the same time, we are not in control.
This is a continuous practice of transformation. It IS practice. From the bodhisattva vows: greed, anger and ignorance arise endlessly. It is a continuous practice to see those concepts of mind, to receive them, transmute them, and let go of them.
Repentance brings alive the idea that we can be fresh. We can begin anew. This freshness is in alignment with the naked truth of time bubbling up fresh in each moment. This freshness and point of view teaches us the great benefit of letting go and starting over.
Here are a number of repentance verses used in the Zen tradition. They are often used in the daily morning service, at precept recitation ceremonies and can be used at any moment; to let go and start again fresh.
From Clouds in Water Sutra Book:
All my ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hate and delusion,
Born of my body, speech and mind,
I now fully avow.
From Thich Nhat Hanh,
Gatha for Beginning Anew:
Due to attachment, anger, and foolishness,
I have committed numberless mistakes
In speech, deed, and thought.
I bow my head and beg to repent.
Wholeheartedly, I ask Buddha to witness
My vow from today to begin anew,
To live day and night in mindfulness,
And not to repeat my previous mistakes.
Homage to the bodhisattva of repentance.
All wrongdoing arises from the mind.
When the mind is purified, what trace of wrong is left?
After repentance, my heart is light like the white clouds
That have always floated over the ancient forest in freedom.
From Dogen-Zenji, Eihei Koso Hotsuganmon:
Although our past evil karma has greatly accumulated,
Indeed being the cause and condition of obstacles to practicing the Way,
May all Buddhas and ancestors who have attained the Buddha Way,
Be compassionate and free us from karmic effects,
Allowing us to practice the Way without hindrance.