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Several years ago I did something that was totally legal, but very much against my upbringing, my world-view, and my ethics. It was a spur of the moment thing and I have regretted it massively ever since. However, it has haunted me mentally (and to an extent physically, due to tension) ever since.

I might add, this event didn't hurt anyone else.

What can I do from a Buddhist perspective, to completely cancel out this action and its resultant negative thought-stream once and for all?

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Nyom Eugene,

it's most needed to speak with an "admirable" friend", a teacher (one who actually knows), at least not only to know if it was a fault and which kind of. As your words here give much doubt in regard of whether it even wars or if "you world-view" has something to do with what is right or wrong, and since it is not a proper enviroment here, it's good when Nyom seeks for refuge at proper place.

All my person can offer are proper places here. Amends & confession or Uposatha/Sila ceremonies.

The pattern to come out of a fault is simple: recognize it clear as fault, be ashamed and express it, firm resolving not to ever engage into such again. That's it. Clean. Yet of course does not make deeds undone, but when effects ripe later, easy to bear and one can after cleaning move on, having been lifted out of the hole.

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The Buddha taught every negative action arises from "the element of ignorance" rather than is performed by "the self". "You" did not perform the negative action. What performed the negative action was "the element of ignorance". This is the path of cleansing of Noble Practitioners.

Refer to suttas SN 45.1, SN 12.17, Dhp 172 & 173 & MN 115.

  • Excellent readings @dhammadhatu. Thank you for referring me to them. And the words "You" did not perform the negative action. What performed the negative action was "the element of ignorance" is an important truth for me to remember. I think I need to get that tattoo'd up my arm to make sure I never forget it. – Eugene Apr 1 at 14:07
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I'm not a professional or anything like that. I don't have a bunch of garbage to text. Simply forgive yourself.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    Hello and welcome to Buddhism SE. For information on how to write a good answer, please see "How do I write a good answer?". Answer needs to be revised and provided with further context and explanation. – Lanka Apr 1 at 17:06
  • Don't really like what you're implying with "I don't have a bunch of garbage to text." It comes off like you're looking down on people who give long answers, which isn't cool. – Jess Apr 3 at 2:41
  • My bad didn't mean to hurt your feelings. That's not what I was implying. I read the question and the answer to me was simple. But I am not that person and it may not be simple for him. I was implying that I don't need to type a ton of stuff for such a simple answer. Apparently there are rules for that. I don't like rules made by man. They are useless. – user15082 Apr 3 at 3:20
  • I am curious, @user15082. When you say that you "don't like rules made by man", does that includes the teachings of the Buddha? If so, curious that you would be here in this exchange. If not, I did not understand your answer. (Note: I am not 'baiting' you, I am genuinely trying to find out what you meant.) Best, Jim – GVCOJims Apr 5 at 23:52
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According to SN 7.21 (quoted below), one could purify oneself of sins, not by water purification (as practised by Brahmins), but rather by dipping oneself in the lake of the Dhamma (Buddha's teachings) which has the shore of virtues (sila) - in order words, by practising the teachings, we can purify ourselves.

The Buddha said to Sangarava:

“Is it really true, brahmin, that you practice purification by water, believing in purification by water; that you live committed to the practice of immersing yourself in water at dawn and dusk?”

“Yes, Master Gotama.”

“But brahmin, for what reason do you practice purification by water?”

“It’s because, Master Gotama, whatever bad deeds I’ve done during the day I wash off by bathing at dusk; and whatever bad deeds I’ve done during the night, I wash off by bathing at dawn. That’s the reason why I practice purification by water.”

“The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, brahmin,
unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledge-masters go to bathe,
and cross to the far shore without getting wet.”

When he had spoken, Saṅgārava said to the Buddha:

“Excellent, Master Gotama! Excellent! … From this day forth, may Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge for life.”

According to the Salt Crystal Sutta (quoted below), the notion of purification by practising the teachings is expounded further, through the explanation that one should be "developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable". If you dive deep into what this phrase means, that's all you need to cleanse your negative past completely. You can find some useful commentary by Piya Tan here.

"Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"Yes, lord. Why is that? There being only a small amount of water in the cup, it would become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink."

"Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"No, lord. Why is that? There being a great mass of water in the River Ganges, it would not become salty because of the salt crystal or unfit to drink."

"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

'Now, a trifling evil act done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind [i.e., painful feelings can invade the mind and stay there], undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil act done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.

'Now, a trifling evil act done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind [i.e., painful feelings cannot invade the mind and stay there], developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil act done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

The teachings on the Brahmaviharas in particular are further elaborated in AN 10.219.

  • An excellent and very appropriate answer for me personally @ruben2020. I do not always do my best to focus on the dharma on a daily basis. If I read correctly what the sutras you have quoted say then I can dilute my 'evil deed' to the point of non-existence (like the salt in the Ganges) by expanding my immersion in the teachings. Is the right? – Eugene Apr 4 at 17:31

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