The Sutra Teaching the Four Factors

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As its name suggests, The Sutra Teaching the Four Factors (Skt. Caturdharmanirdeśasutra; Tib. ཆོས་བཞི་བསྟན་པའི་མདོ།, Wyl. chos bzhi bstan pa’i mdo) is an explanation of four dharmas, here meaning 'factors' or 'qualities'. These factors relate to the four powers in the practice of confession (even though no equivalent of that word occurs in the sutra itself) and the purification of misdeeds or negative actions.

The four factors are described in this sutra as:

  1. the action (or correct approach) of repentance or self-reproach, which involves feeling remorse for past negative actions;
  2. antidotal or remedial action, which means cultivating positive actions as an antidote to misdeeds;
  3. the power of restraint, which means vowing not to repeat a negative action; and
  4. the power of support, which means taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and never forsaking bodhichitta.

Through employing these four factors, the sutra says, any negative act, no matter how grave, can be “overcome” in the sense that its karmic consequences can be transformed. This became a crucial idea for Mahayana ethics, both in theory and in practice.[1]

Text

The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 249

References

  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.