Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Today I'm practicing Sojong - the practicing for purifying and restoring broken vows. I'm joining many of the 'Vision Group' in Singapore, supporters of my Guru, Shangpa Rinpoche, who have been regularly practicing Sojong on significant days of the lunar calendar. The practice was supposed to have been instituted among the general population by Vasubandhu, sometimes referred to as a Second Buddha.
"By this action, may I purify all my bad karma, refrain from further wrong action, and become a means for all beings to transcend suffering".

Below follows the instructions from Shangpa Rinpoche for Sojong:

Sojong – The Significance and Benefits of the Practice

Sojong is a practice for purifying and restoring broken vows. "So" means 'to restore', i.e. to make broken vows and replenish positive virtues. "Jong" means 'to purify', i.e. to clear away negative karmas and harmful deeds. Traditionally, Sojong is practised bimonthly by members of the sangha to restore any broken Pratimoksha vows. This purification practice is also observed by some lay Buddhists. For lay Buddhists, Sojong is usually practised on holy days, full moon (Lunar 15th day) and new moon (Lunar 30th day) days.

For lay Buddhists, Sojong comprises taking the 8 Mahayana Precepts for one day and a formal confession. We tend to break our precepts constantly due to our deluded emotions and habits. Sojong cultivates a deliberate effort to reflect on oneself - a practitioner becomes more mindful of his own habitual tendencies, and by developing compassion and bodhicitta, he will awaken his natural innate state - his true Buddha nature. In today’s world, Sojong is a particularly useful practice for busy people who have no time for more formal practise in monasteries or Buddhist Centres. It is a simple but meaningful practice even a busy person can easily do at home or at work.

The Mahayana Sojong is primarily practiced to develop Bodhichitta – i.e. loving kindness and compassion. Yet, most lay people choose to take the 8 precept and practice Sojong only on holy or multiplying days. The Mahayana Sutra mentioned that on every 8th day of the month according to the lunar Tibetan calendar, millions of tiny beings in space die due to the changes in the energy of moon which creates strong elemental forces that they cannot withstand. It is therefore very important to develop compassion and loving kindness towards them, dedicate merits to them and wish for their liberation. Rinpoche personally prays for their liberation on this day, he also encourages each and every one of us who wishes to practise Sojong to remember our bodhicatta aspirations and to do our part on this day.

Compassion and wisdom are the core components of enlightenment. When we combine Rinpoche’s teaching with our inherent compassion to practice wisely, and cultivate within us compassion and bodhicitta for all sentient beings, these noble qualities will grow stronger and stronger, until it gradually becomes our nature. As we further refine our understanding of the teachings we receive with diligent practice, we will eventually be able to arrive at the fruition of our aspirations – enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. No matter where we are, as long as we are able to spare a few moments, with mindfulness and with the right understanding of the Sojong practice, we can put into practice one of the most wonderful Buddha’s teachings.

Below are some guidelines for practice by a lay practitioner at home:-

1) Preliminary Preparation: Set up a small shrine with an image of Buddha (may be picture, statue, photo, etc.).

2) Taking Refuge:
"In the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, I take refuge until enlightenment is won; by the merits of giving and other virtuous deeds; may I attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings."
(Recite three times.)

3) Generating Bodhicitta:
"Through this practice, may I quickly awaken to my true Buddha nature. May countless beings benefit."

4) Invocation:
"I invoke as my eternal, infallible and true witness my guru and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three times."

Visualize in the space in front of oneself is one's guru, in the form of Avalokitesvara (or other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas), surrounded by the principal and lineage masters, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

5) Reflection: Search one’s mind for any broken vow(s) and regrets for lapses in mindfulness. Look deeply into oneself and the thousands of habitual tendencies that seem to define oneself. Realise that one’s nature is really one’s ego persistently but ignorantly trying to assert its own identity. The only way to awaken from this delusional state is to cultivate a continuous state of crystal clear awareness so that habitual tendencies are instantly recognised and liberated the moment they arise.

6) Taking the 8 Mahayana Precepts:
"I affirm and vow to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that I shall:-

1) not kill,
2) not steal,
3) abstain from sexual acts,
4) abstain from telling lies,
5) abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants,
6) abstain from singing, dancing, wearing frivolous things,
7) abstain from meals after noon time,
8) abstain from high seats or luxurious beds."

These precepts are essentially the same as the monastic precepts, except instead of taking them for life; a lay practitioner takes them for one day at a time. Taking the precepts from dawn to dawn is a very effective way to train the body, speech and mind of a lay practitioner. If the precepts are kept correctly, one’s ignorance will diminish; his knowledge and wisdom will naturally increase; his meditation practice will also benefit.

7) Dedication of Merit:
"I dedicate the merit of this and all Sojong practice to each and every sentient being. May all beings accomplish within their minds the accumulation of moral disciplines, concentrative meditation, transcendental wisdom, and ultimately attain enlightenment and be freed from the sufferings of Samsara."

This dedication is an act of generosity - sharing our benefits and merits from this practice with all sentient being.

(Instructions from Shangpa Rinpoche, recorded by his devotee Vicky, Singapore, 2006).

These are some words on Sojong (Practice of Confession) by Supreme Master Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha:

To fully restore all positivity,
To clear away all negativity;
To replenish (so) virtue and purify (jong) harmful deeds;
The Tathagata has taught the practice of Sojong.