Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Four Opponent Powers

This is a beautiful teaching I came across about the four opponent powers: refuge, regret, repair & resolve, each of which purifies one of the four types of karma: Object, Intention, Action & Completion. The image is Vajrasattva, the bodhisattva with whom this teaching is associated.


The purification practices found within Buddhism are not unlike the practices applied in many other religions. The most essential mental factor that one requires is sincerity or honesty with oneself. When one wants to purify past negative karma, one has to do some action with the correct motivation. 

This is summarised in the following Four Powers of Purification:

  1. Power of the Object: One should practice thinking of all sentient beings one may have hurt. Refuge or reliance on Buddha, dharma, sangha, your own selfless nature and potential for change rather than on your ordinary sense of being inadequate in some fixed way. This purifies karma of Object, either beings or things that carry negative karma.
  2. Power of Regret: This should not be senseless guilt or self-recrimination, which are said to be useless emotional torture. What is intended here is to examine oneself and one's actions and to recognise that negative actions done in the past were very unwise. This purifies karma of Intentions.
  3. Power of Repair: Basically any positive action with a good motivation can be used as practice. Perform the antidote or repair by mentally and then actually doing something (generous, moral, caring, kind.) If you hurt someone, imagine being kind to them, then actually find that person or another person and act accordingly. This purifies the karma of Action.
  4. Power of Resolution: It is good if one can promise to avoid a negative behaviour for a specific time, or at least promise that one will put effort in avoiding repetition. Do not break your commitments. Not being honest at this stage makes the practice useless or even harmful to oneself. This purifies karma of Completion.
It is often explained that one needs to clear a field by purifying it from rocks and weeds, then planting seeds by study and meditation, giving water and fertiliser by doing positive actions, and automatically new harvest will grow.

Originally shared on Buddhist Travellers in 2012.

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