Confession of Negative Actions

Confession of Negative Actions

Date of Advice:
November 2020
Date Posted:
June 2023

A student wrote to Rinpoche confessing all their negative actions and asking what they could do to purify the karma. Rinpoche told the story of Milarepa, who purified all his past negative karma and became enlightened in one lifetime.

Artwork by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much for the clear explanation of what you did. That’s very good that you confessed everything. I understand your situation, your past experience.

There is the famous yogi from the past, not a monk, but a lay person, Milarepa. After his father died, his aunt and uncle took all the materials from the family and gave them such a hard time. Then Milarepa’s mother requested that he learn black magic and he did this, learning from a teacher. He dug a hole for seven days and made retreat and then with the power he attained, he sent the mountain rocks rolling down to the place where his aunt and uncle lived. They were having a marriage party and the rocks killed thirty-seven people and many more animals, which were downstairs under the house. They were all killed.

After doing this, Milarepa was so upset and then his black magic teacher said, “If you want to practice Dharma, in order to practice Dharma, you should go and see Marpa, who is not an ordinary being.”

Then Milarepa went off to find Marpa and when he found him, he offered his body, speech and mind to Marpa. He had nothing else to offer in return for teachings, food and a place to stay. Throughout his time with Marpa he never arose heresy.

Marpa asked him to build a nine-story tower by himself, with no one else helping, then after he had finished he had to take all the stones back to where he had originally taken them from. So Marpa asked him to do this three times—to build such a tower and then tear it down again. One tower still exists in Tibet, although I haven’t seen it. If you do pilgrimage in the southern part of Tibet, at a place called Lhokha you can see it.

Actually, Marpa wanted Milarepa to experience even more hardships in order to become enlightened more quickly—even though he did still get enlightened in his brief lifetime—but the wisdom-mother of Marpa requested Marpa to teach Milarepa and Marpa accepted to teach him. So Marpa manifested as the deity and the mandala and gave him teachings and then sent him to the mountains to practice.

During that time Milarepa underwent many hardships, having no pleasure in the happiness of this life, only eating nettles, no chili, oil or salt, just nettles cooked in a clay pot. Even that clay pot broke because so many nettles were cooked in it; even the outside broke but somehow the inside was intact, so he still used it.

Milarepa underwent many hardships. He bore all this in order to become enlightened and so many yogis did likewise. Milarepa became famous in the East and the West and because he became enlightened he could enlighten so many other beings, he enlightened so many sentient beings.

I am using this example because definitely we can change. We can change just like Milarepa. He killed so many living beings but he followed his guru without anger or heresy, even though Marpa beat and kicked him when he came to teachings with others. He would get kicked out. This was in order to purify his negative karma created since beginningless time.

Marpa was an enlightened being, which means he completed bodhicitta, he completed compassion, he completed the development and the understanding and realization of emptiness, he had direct perception of emptiness. He was free of all the gross and subtle [obscurations] and he was an enlightened holy being with perfect power to benefit sentient beings in whichever way was most beneficial for them.

I am talking about Milarepa’s life story because you can also change, you can do like this. In early times you can do like this and then become pure. You can become enlightened in a short lifetime of degenerated times.

Please understand what you really have to know—that life is short and this human life is so precious. It is only one time, it doesn’t happen all the time, plus it is very short. Death is definite, the time of death is uncertain and at the time of death material things don’t help. We are going to be separated from surrounding family and friends, and we can’t take anything to the next life, not even our own oceans of jewels. Also the body, we can’t take it to our next life, none of these things. We can only take the practice of holy Dharma if we have done that practice in this life.

So, this life is very short. There is confession, and you can meditate strongly on the shortcomings of attachment, sexual misconduct and the benefits of morality. Think about this and study every day.

You can even become a monk. Even though before there was so much sexual misconduct, done so many times before, by becoming a monk you can slowly become pure over time. If you become a monk you can purify so much and collect so much merit. It purifies [negative karma] not only from this life but also from beginningless rebirths. You can talk more about this later and ask questions and it can be discussed with other elder Sangha members or geshes so you can understand what that life actually means.

With much love and prayers ...