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Purification of Negative Karma

Green Leaves Buddha's head Crying Sad

The Four Forces of Purification: Regret, Reliance, Remedy, and Resolution.

To purify our negative karma we must practice the four opponent powers: the power of regret, the power of reliance, the power of remedy, and the power of resolve.


Regret means that we admit what we did and acknowledge the harmful consequences of our action. The intention of regret is to remove any defense or justification of the action in our mind. In Buddhism, nonvirtuous actions are regarded as negative because they grow into unpleasant and painful experiences, not because they violate an authority or law. Therefore, regret does not involve guilt.


Reliance means that we renew our connection with spiritual practice, whether it be through devotion, compassion, awareness, or presence. Most of what we do that is negative happens when we fall out of attention and mindfulness. Reliance means that we deliberately reestablish our practice so that the conditions for negative action are no longer present in us.


Remedy means that we act in a way that disrupts the operation of the pattern behind the negative action. If we can, we correct the negative action—apologize, make restitution, or make amends. If we cannot remedy the action itself, then we undertake a positive action with the explicit intention to remedy the negative—make a donation to charity, do some community service, help a friend, or better, help someone we don’t like. Apology is part of the third force, remedy. An apology can do much to mitigate the harm done and to set things in a more constructive direction.


Resolution means to form the intention not to act that way again. As long as we retain the slightest sense that we might repeat the action, the patterns associated with that action have a place to grow and develop. To stop the karmic process from evolving further, we renounce completely any defense of the action and any intention to act that way again.

One final point: purification is not about being pure. Purification is about changing our relationship with the reactive patterns that run our lives. Purity, on the other hand, is a spiritual ideal.


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