Our human life is a journey in which we struggle to free ourselves from many limiting
forces within. These forces prevent us from being what we truly are, and this struggle is an intrinsic part of our life. In it, the universe has presented us with a task of waking up. Even though the depth of our being is already inherently perfect and enlightened we must still make constant choices to walk on the right path. Without these choices, our life would remain unfulfilled and we would experience only a continuation of delusion and suffering. For this reason we must have a courageous heart to make the right choices again, and again.
Every now and then it is necessary for us to seize the opportunity to go deep inside ourselves, to understand ourselves better and to reconnect with the path we have been traveling on. It is for this reason that there is a particular observance day in the Buddhist tradition called Sojong, which literally means restoration and purification. During Sojong, one makes an extra effort to look deeply into oneself and observe that which is obstructing and holding them back. It is an opportunity to become conscious of karmic patterns and to see how much we have strayed from the true path. In such an honest and humbling recognition one is able to strengthen their sacred vows of awakening.
Sojong is also regarded as a means of confession in the Buddhist traditions. In this sense, confession is not about judging oneself or performing self-flagellation from a viewpoint of conventional morality. Instead, it is the simple act of bringing everything into awareness, which is the most powerful form of spiritual purification. In the Sutras, confession is described as “revealing” or “not hiding,” but if this idea is not clearly understood it can be seen as heavily moralistic. Here not hiding means to not stow anything away into the unconscious, instead bringing it all to one’s acknowledgment. In this way we become a witness within the light of awareness. In monasteries, Dharma practitioners come together to recite words of confession to each other in a symbolic act of witnessing. This act has nothing to do with fear, retribution, or punishment. Instead, it is a loving and compassionate acknowledgment and acceptance of where one is on the path. When we know how to do that, healing and transformation happens in our heart.
There are many rites related to the observance of Sojong in accordance with various sacred vows of ordination (for example, monastic or tantric Buddhist ordinations). In the Dharmata Fellowship I often invite you to practice a very simple form of Sojong. We do it once a month on the 15th of the Western calendar. The date does not have to be exact, especially if you happen to live in a different time zone. On this day, you may want to get up a little bit earlier than usual and lengthen your meditation periods. During meditation, call upon the ultimate truth as a witness and examine in detail how you have been living over the last 30 days. Acknowledge all of the moments when you have fallen out of awareness and perhaps take some time to engage in the fundamental Buddhist reflection on impermanence and preciousness of human life. Afterward, make a strong commitment to continuously walk on the right path with love, wisdom, and compassion.
Sojong is a wonderful time to feel the collective aspirations of the Sangha and to know that we are walking on the path alongside many openhearted bodhisattvas. It is also a time to realize that we have everything we need to go beyond all obstacles and to rediscover an unfathomable source of strength, beauty, and courage.
With palms joined,