The practice of confession is not a tradition that originated in Roman Catholicism. It came from the heart of Gautama Buddha who took it from the heart of the Lord Sanat Kumara. It came through the heart of Jesus to the apostles and has been the means for the protection of the saints, for thereby they have received Holy Communion and absorbed the Body and Blood, the Alpha and Omega of God. It has given them a continuous walk and a tie to those upon whom they call such as Mother Mary, Jesus and the various saints.
The mystics of Buddhism, of Christianity, of all true religions of East and West of all time have come to the awareness of the inner Light, the all-engulfing Light, the presence of that Light. And by that Light they have seen the inadequacy of the human condition and they desire to confess it, thereby to cast it into the sacred fire.
Confession of sins is a practice which dates back to early Buddhism. It is taught that confession of sins is an indispensable prerequisite to a devotee’s continued progress on the bodhisattva path. Those who have taken the bodhisattva vow are encouraged to renew their vows daily; some texts say three times in the day and three times at night. Before doing so they are to confess their transgressions completely, not hiding anything, and to repent of all negative acts.
A typical confession prayer starts out with a statement of refuge in the Three Jewels and an entreaty to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas to listen to the prayer. This is followed by a confession of sins committed with body, speech or mind not only in this life but in all past lives—even if they were committed out of ignorance. Then the disciple vows not to commit these sins again.
An example of a confession given at a daily service is the following:
I respectfully bow to Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, all Buddhas in the ten directions, boundless Buddha-Dharmas and the Virtuous Sangha.
I have lived many lives under heavy karmic obstacles: desire, anger, pride, illusion and ignorance. Today because of Buddha's teaching I know these as mistakes; therefore, with sincere heart I confess.
I vow to eliminate evils and to do good. I respectfully entreat the Buddhas for their compassionate assistance: body without sickness, mind empty of frustration and anxiety, every day happy to practice the wonderful teaching of Buddha in order quickly to depart from birth and death, understand mind, see into its true nature, develop wisdom and gain spiritual power in order to rescue all of my honored elders, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and relatives; and may all living beings attain complete Buddhahood.
Confession, then, is the deploring of the human condition itself.
In Catholicism confession is considered to be a part of the fourth sacrament—penance. The sacrament of Penance consists of three elements on the part of the penitent: contrition—regretting one’s deeds, being sorry; then confession—confessing them to the priest; and satisfaction, which is the satisfaction of the law. Following this then one receives absolution from the priest.
The priest is intended to be the voice of conscience and more, the voice of one’s Holy Christ Self. There have been many priests who have served that function but not all. The student on the path of the ascended masters’ teachings acknowledges his Holy Christ Self as his own high priest who officiates at the altar of the threefold flame in the secret chamber of the heart.
Contrition, then, is defined as “true sorrow,” the sorrow of the “heart,” as well as the detesting of sin. Therefore, we confess “with the purpose of avoiding such sins in the future.”
A confession has to be given to the priest in enough detail, including the number and the kind of sin, so that he can judge the seriousness of the sin. Absolution is invalidated if the penitent deliberately conceals relevant facts, or if he knows that he does not have genuine sorrow for his sins.
The priest assigns the penitent recitation of certain prayers, works, or devotional exercises. The word satisfaction means the fulfillment of these acts of atonement assigned by the priest.
Anyone guilty of a “mortal sin” cannot receive holy communion without first confessing his sin. A mortal sin is a serious sin against the law of God which is committed deliberately by the sinner for which he is deserving of eternal punishment—that is unless he receives the intercession of God, of the Lord Christ through the priest.
In practice, Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and receive the sacrament of penance frequently in preparation for receiving the communion sacrament weekly or daily.
Saint Francis on penance
Our beloved Saint Francis wrote in his “Letter to All Superiors of the Friars Minor” (the order which he founded):
In all your sermons you shall tell the people of the need to do penance, impressing on them that no one can be saved unless he receives the Body and the Blood of our Lord.
We accept that the communion wine and wafer is charged by Jesus Christ with the power of Alpha and Omega, as he says in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, “Lo, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” Therefore, in this tangible ritual and by the use of this substance we do receive that light essence of Jesus.
Saint Francis had his own concept of penance, broader than the modern usage of the term, and those who have studied his writings have noted that his concept is in keeping with the original meaning of the word in the Greek, metanoia, which means a turning of the heart to God, a renunciation of self and a complete giving of oneself to the will of God.
Third-century Church Father and theologian Origen of Alexandria advocated voluntary confession. He wrote:
If we ... are ourselves our own accusers, we escape the malice of the Devil, (who is our enemy and accuser); for so the Prophet elsewhere says: “Tell thou thine iniquities before (thou be accused), that thou mayest be justified,” and David also in the same spirit saith in the Psalms, “I made bare mine iniquity and hid not my sins.”...
As they who are troubled with indigestion and have anything within them which lies crude upon their stomachs are not relieved but by proper evacuations; so sinners who conceal their practices and retain them within their own bosoms feel in themselves an inward disquietude and are almost choked with the malignity which they thus suppress. But by confession and self-accusation they discharge themselves of their burden and digest, as it were, the crudity which was so oppressive.
Padre Pio, the famous twentieth-century Capuchin monk who bore the stigmata for over 50 years, was one of the great confessors of the Catholic Church. He was born in 1887 and died in 1968. His great calling in life was to be a confessor. So many people from around the world flocked to his doorstep that they would have to take tickets and wait anywhere from one to ten days in order to have him hear their confession.
Padre Pio had a keen sensitivity to the needs of each soul to whom he ministered. He was also known to have had the gifts of conversion, bilocation, discernment of spirits, prophetic insight and celestial perfume.
Author John McCaffery gives a colorful account of Padre Pio as a confessor:
Padre Pio’s day revolved chiefly around his Confessional; and it is, I believe, as a Confessor more than for anything else that he would wish to be remembered. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week he sat there, for fifty long years....
Even without the long, fatiguing hours of concentration in the Confessional, where his direct contacts with weak, sinful, suffering humanity principally took place, it was an existence that the greatest human strength could not have stood up to for long. With his endless penitents thrown in, each of them considering himself or herself a special individual requiring all of his attention, and with a special attention that he did effectively give to all of them, it was a life which without his complete immersion in God which would have been absolutely impossible to bear. But for fifty years he bore it in the intense heat and bitter cold of the Gargano mountainside.
How was he as a confessor? All things to all men paternally. Where tenderness was needed, it flowed out from him. Where help and prompting were required, they were given. Where bracing and strengthening were called for, they were provided. All sincere men and women were at once enveloped in the mantle of his sanctity. They came away not only cleansed but, in the sensing of his remoteness from sin and why, more keenly aware of what sin really meant.
Many said he could be gruff and irate, that he would at times snap shut the panel in the penitent’s face, that he could demolish a penitent with a searing phrase.
It is true. All things to all men. He recognized immediately insincerity, hypocrisy, or falsehood, and struck at it. But he was not out of pique or vindictiveness. He loved souls too deeply for that. It was his way of netting his fish. Where he had been rough or angry the penitent would be found later to have returned to more correct or chastened dispositions, and would be received accordingly.
The purpose of confession
When we confess our sins it is with the goal that our temple should become the temple of the living God. Because that is our goal we pay attention to our actions, thoughts, words and deeds so that nothing that we do is an offense to our Lord, our Holy Christ Self, our I AM Presence or to the ascended masters.
One of the most important prayers that we can give when we desire our oneness with the path of Maitreya, the lords of the seven rays, Jesus the Christ and the Buddha is to call daily that that which is offensive to our Lord which does escape our notice and our attention because of the crudity of our own perceptions should be brought to our attention because our greatest desire is that we should not offend our Lord.
The ascended masters on confession
The ascended masters have given to us from time to time in their dictations the admonishment to confess our sins. El Morya said on August 8, 1988:
If you are outside of the Law, whether human or divine, you must quickly confess your sins to the appropriate persons, make rectitude, correct such states and come into alignment. For the sin not confessed, the illegal posture not acknowledged, though none may know about it, does prevent the karma from descending and therefore does prevent the expiation of that karma—even if you give the violet-flame decrees daily.
The making right of all things with all persons in embodiment or elsewhere is most necessary, for the alignment with my heart or with the embodied Messenger cannot be strong when there are those deeds, actions and records not in keeping with the Law.
Thus, if there be not the confession and then the repentance and then the willingness to balance the karma, there is not the tight coil of our oneness—a coil so tight between us that I desire to have with you, that there be no separation heart to heart, breath to breath, soul to soul, chakra to chakra.
On March 17, 1985, the ascended master Saint Patrick spoke of the purposes of confession and penance:
Take heart and recognize the mighty purpose of confession. Recognize it in this hour: that every man’s sin, whether recent or ancient, does accrue to him and therefore prevent the full covenants of God from manifesting. Why is this so? It is because God has made covenant with His beloved Son who is your own Christ Self, who is worthy of every offering and of the fullness of the Science of Being.
This offering the Christ, by His grace, does bestow upon your soul when the soul is ready and able to receive it, clothed upon with that wedding garment. Thus, you who have gained the wedding garment, if the garment becomes stained, do confess your sins in sealed letter to Almighty God, to the heart of Christ, and let it be burned. And if you desire that the Mother of the Flame should know this also to pray for your salvation, you may write to her as well in a separate letter.
And therefore, beloved hearts, understand that confession, remission of sin, repentance therefore does once again restore you to that alignment with the chalice of being who is Christ. For Christ is the crystal chalice, Christ is the Holy Grail, and the Light that is poured therein does become the nectar thou dost quaff.
Beloved hearts of living flame, therefore not once in a lifetime but daily, submit therefore the past and the present into the sacred fire that the call might go forth and be answered as though it were the call of your Lord. And truly you are His vessel, His representative, His instrument, and His messenger as you keep your soul unspotted from the world.
Blessed hearts, it is efficacious truly to the spiritual life to understand the meaning of this confession. For truly, in the crystal clarity of the mind that does fast and pray weekly and cast those sins in the sacred fire, there does come the presence of holy angels and the recognition of the voice of Christ and the inner independence in the I AM THAT I AM.
Truly understand the housecleaning that comes through the realization “Not I but God in me is my Deliverer,” for herein lies the key to the forgiveness of sin. For inasmuch as God is the Deliverer, a man’s sins cannot hold him bound forever; for the deliverance of Almighty God is therefore the means to self-elevation in Christ.
For more information
Lecture by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, “The Path of the Bodhisattva: Confession,” September 25, 1988. Audio recording available from Ascended Master Library.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, September 25, 1988.
- Dharma Chants: Daily Service in English (Los Angeles: International Buddhist Meditation Center, 1980), p. 4.
- Saint Francis, “The Letter to all the Superiors of the Friars Minor,” quoted in Andrew T. McCarthy, Francis of Assisi as Artist of the Spiritual Life (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2010), p. 210.
- Origen, Homilies on Leviticus.
- John McCaffery, The Friar of San Giovanni: Tales of Padre Pio (Whitsable, Kent: Padre Pio Information Centre, 1985), pp. 68–69.
- El Morya, “The Light and the Beautiful,” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 31, no. 77, November 13, 1988.
- Saint Patrick, Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 28, no. 16, April 21, 1985.