If a person has murdered someone: ie. A fellow human being (eg. By directly attacking someone; or by indirect attack- by speech/action ; or by other means such as abortion) , what methods are available for such a person for personal reconciliation? It is inevitable that the Law of Karma is in direct effect, but how can such a person attain peace of mind and repay for his sins truly? Many patients I meet in surgery wards have serious past histories of attacking/assaulting others and murder is inevitable sometimes. Please offer your advice. It will greatly help me when consoling such persons in the future. Thank You!

  • Ven. Yuttadhammo has made an answer in this question "How to deal with bad past karma that makes my current life miserable?" which might answer your question.
    – user2424
    Jul 24, 2015 at 0:02
  • @SriLanka I cross posted my answer on that question as well, I'm not sure if that is allowed, but I figure if someone gets to that question they might find it useful. If this is bad form, let me know and I will remove it from the other question.
    – hellyale
    Jul 24, 2015 at 22:43
  • I actually do not know about the policy for cross-posting answers. What you can do is to ask one of the moderators for information on this topic.
    – user2424
    Jul 25, 2015 at 14:09

5 Answers 5


Buddhism doesn't have the concept of sin. It's more of a concept of unskillful or unwholesome action (Akusala Kamma). There is no God to please. There is no "thing" that needs to be done to gain approval. What there is, is bad karma and that the person will experience that karma and the worsening spiral of those problems until they let go of the attachment that caused them to enter that karmic state in the first place.

In my humble view, the best way to help someone caught in a difficult situation is to talk through the boundaries of the box they find themselves in. It's not the killing that's the problem. It's the "why" they killed that's the problem. Until the seed is removed, the plant can grow back again and again.

They are the ones who have to break out of the box, but most don't realize they're in the box to begin with. Listening, compassion, time: Almost always the best medicine for tough karma.

  • That's some good advice Bhante. Thank you for sharing.
    – user2424
    Jul 24, 2015 at 18:43
  • Anumodana Bhante
    – sherly
    Jul 25, 2015 at 12:15

For me, coming from a Christian soceity the word sin brings up issues of blame and guilt. I've found the words unskillful actions rather than sin more helpful when considering actions and their consequences. This seems to neutralise and depersonalise the blame aspect The task becomes one of moving forward and improving ones state of mind rather than one of redeeming oneself from a wretched and blame soaked place.

From there I find verses such as this one from the Dhammapada on how to view the world and move on with our lives

If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.


Although it would not change the effects of later ripping, confessing is the usual and health way, practiced in line with the best success.

"Having done a bodily (same verbal) action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' 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 (who would give certain further advises) ... Instructions to Rahula

There is no such as a "therapeutic" way of doing it given for lay people by the Buddha, but the effects would be the same for them within their community and the possibility to walk ahead. What has been done, has been done, its seen as not right (from ones own view and that of the "victim" and judges), but now lets go on a better way, punishment or rectification (usually regulated by law).

A system which has many elements of the psychology found in the ways of Vinaya are ways used with "Family Constellations" Such has deep effects of release, for all who are (have been) involved.

If nothing is really available, even to go to church and make there ones confession will be useful to walk on (of course one should not avoid the community standards, eg. law)


The Wheel of Knives is a lojung text in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

The pdf contains other content. The Wheel of Knives begins on Page 45 you will have to scroll down.

An audio class on it can be found here.

Typed notes of this audio lecture can be found here Ctrl + F Wheel of Knives to jump to the specific section

A useful chart can be found here. It is in the reading as well, but in a less readable format.

The Tibetans believed that the purification of karma was possible. The Karmic Purification process has 4 steps. There is a class on that too on the same site. (acidharma.org) I will provide a brief summary of the process.

The first step is to take refuge in the 3 jewels, in your knowledge of karma and emptiness. I will not go to into depth on this step.

The second step is called "Destruction Force"

To rip out the roots of something (with power). This is regret, not guilt. It is an intelligent, educated understanding that you just screwed up, based upon knowledge of karma and emptiness and how bakchaks work and are reaped. You know that you will suffer from what you did and why, karmically. You know you just caused yourself future suffering and regret it. You feel ill/bad.

You take the cause of the karma you are working with, remember all the times you did it, realize that it is going to cause you suffering. Regret that you commited the deeds in question.

The 3rd step is called "Restraint force" Here you take the cause of the karma you are working with, and you restrain yourself from doing it again. The longer you can restrain yourself the better.

Restraint force. You don't do it again. Since we can't just stop cold for the rest of our lives, we need a plan. So we set a time restraint force limit to stop for awhile - not to do the deed for an hour, a day, a week, etc. and build up the time length to get used to the new habit of not doing the deed. For chronic habits, set a short time limit, say five minutes, and concentrate hard on not doing it. The mind can't concentrate tightly for longer periods to avoid the habit. If you break a vow of restraint, you are lying, and collect more bad karma, so keep the time realistic.

The last step is called "Applying the Antidote" Using the chart, or in some cases logical reasoning, you determine the antidote to the karma you are working with. Stealing would have an antidote of generosity for example. In this step you will have to think about your individual conditions.

If you think of karma like seeds, the idea is this, you stop watering the "bad" karmic seeds. You plant "good" seeds that are related to the "bad" seeds you wish to uproot.

In the case of killing, the antidote of protecting life should be applied. Getting and taking care of pets. Donating to disaster relief charities. Get creative, anything that prevents sickness and harm. Apply plenty of antidote, and try to keep the application up until the period you decided on in step 3 has passed.

Go through these steps multiple times if necessary.

One important thing to note: Karma does not simply disappear, this purification process just speeds up the queue.

The karmic seeds you have are in a queue to ripen. The most powerful ones go to the front of the queue and are experienced first. They delay the other seeds from ripening until the powerful ones are done. ... ...The result of purification is that the intention part of the karmic path is ripped out and dramatically lessens the ripening impact. Karma ripens into a lesser result. It's very important after purification to believe that you're clean - you're pure.

While working with these energies you will experience a period where the karma you are working with ripens quickly, the purification process is not easy, and you will experience suffering directly related to the karma you are working with.

To wrap this up a quick quote from the Diamond Cutter Sutra and one from Tai Situ Rinpoche.

O Subhuti, any son or daughter of noble family who takes up a sutra like this, or who holds it, or reads it, or comprehends it, will suffer. They will suffer intensely. Why is it so? Because, o Subhuti, such beings are purifying non-virtuous karma from the entire string of their previous lives, karma that would have taken them to the three lower realms. As they purify this karma, it causes them to suffer here in this life. As such they will succeed in cleaning away the karma of these non-virtuous deeds of their previous lifetimes, and they will as well achieve the enlightenment of a Buddha.

Tai Situ Rinpoche : Sometimes we do suffer intensely, when we are sick and so on. When we are sick we should resort to medicines and when we get into trouble with people we should try to get out of that trouble. Definitely. However, our attitude to the suffering and the trouble should not be one that defines them as solely negative. Suffering is like a broom that sweeps away the causes of suffering and when we understand this then the suffering is reduced to its true stature. Without the understanding it tends to become amplified to twice, ten or a hundred times its true size. The way we develop our understanding is to think, “The suffering that I am now experiencing is the result of previous karmic causes. Just as I do not want to suffer, neither does any being. Thus may this present suffering be of true benefit in removing the sufferings of all beings.”

  • Thorough and precise answer +1.
    – user2424
    Jul 24, 2015 at 22:38
  • @SriLanka The wheel of knives happens to be one of my favorite texts =)
    – hellyale
    Jul 24, 2015 at 22:38
  • 2
    That's one of the things i like about Buddhism SE. All people have something "special" or "favorite area" which they know a lot about and then share it with others. This is a great way of teaching each other. It reminds me of when i was at a private clinic (im a physiotherapist) then if one of the therapists went to a course and learned some new techniques or got some new knowledge then that therapist taught it to all the other therapists too. I really like this way of giving teachings to others so the knowledge can be shared freely.
    – user2424
    Jul 25, 2015 at 14:05

One Morning Phra Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant went for an alms round in Savatee City and saw a Brahmin named Sangarava who believed that to be pure from all sins one had to wash oneself three times a day in the ganger river i.e. morning, noon and evening. People can do away with the evening sin with morning wash, and morning sin with noon wash and the sin committed from noon to evening was washed away with evening shower in the river. It is also believed that the ganger river flowed from the heaven and by the head of the god Shiva. The water didn’t only purify sinful people but could heal disease and if they are to die they would be united with their god.

Phra Ananda reported to the Lord Buddha about Sangarava Brahmin who had a routine of having a bath in the ganger river.

He said:

Exalted one Sangaravah Brahmin is now an old man, he still listens to others. Due to his old belief he therefore doesn’t know the right practice. With your limitless compassion can your lord help him?

The Lord Buddha accepted his request by remaining silent

The next morning the Lord Buddha went to see the Brahmin and asked him:

“Brahmin do you still wash yourself three times a day in the Ganger river?”

Respectfully the Brahmin replied:

“Yes, Sir I still do it”

“ What benefit do you see to have a bath only in the Ganger river but not somewhere else. Please don’t feel that I am interfering with your private life”.

The Brahmin replied with confidence:

“Phra Gotama, I have heard since I was young that theGangerRiveris sacred and can help cleansing all sins because it flowed down the head of Shiva’s head. This is a heavenly river. This is the practice that had been observed by my ancestors and I believe that it could really cleanse all sins.

The Lord talked to the Brahmin with a gentle and friendly voice. Please think that we are exchanging knowledge may I ask you is the sin in the body or mind?”

“ Of course in the mind Phra Kotama”

“when you have a shower to cleanse the body does the water get through to the mind”

“But Phra Gotama the water from theGangerRiveris not ordinary water it is sacred and it is believe that it can cleanse the sin”

“ Do you think our belief can change the truth?”

“ No Sir. Belief can not change the truth, it is as it is no matter whether we believe or not”.

So you agree that no belief can change the truth. But is it true that theGangerRivercan cleanse the sin like you believe.

Listen Brahmin, if a man is lost in the forest and he is heading to the East because he believes it is but in reality it is West, his belief can not change the direction. It is similar to Brahmins who believed that theGangerRiveris sacred and but with their faith they can’t make the water cleanser of the sin,

Behold Brahmin, this is similar to a man with a copper pot that is filthy on the outside and inside. He is trying to clean the pot with lots of water but he only cleans on the outside. So you think that the pot is clean inside as well?.

“ It is impossible Phra Kotama, The man is wasting his energy, he could make the inside of the pot clean. It remains murky as it is.”

“ Behold Brahmin, I say that wrong actions, wrong speech and wrong thoughts caused the flaw to the mind. The mind can only be cleansed by the Dhamma It can not be cleansed with water”.

“Therefore the water from the person who has pure actions, pure speech and pure thought is sacred”

“Come Brahmin come and have a shower in our Dhamma disciplines that are profound and pure, that have the precepts as the shoreline and that are praised by pundit. All knowers loved to take a shower with it and could reach the other shore without being blemished.”

As the Lord explained, the Brahmin said joyfully: Most excellent, Lord! Most excellent! Just as one might set up what was thrown down, or were to reveal which was hidden away, or point out the right road to him who had gone astray, or might bring a lamp into the darkness so that they who have eyes could see external forms. So I, Lord, go to the Lordas refuge and to Dhamma and to the Bikkhu-sangha . Lord, may the exalted one accept me as a lay disciple gone for refuge from this day forth as long as life lasts.

  • When you copy-and-paste a block quote, please "attribute" it, in other words say where you're quoting from.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 28, 2017 at 9:21

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