The Sutra Teaching the Four Factors
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 practice of confession (even though no equivalent of that word occurs in the sutra itself) and the purification of misdeeds or negative, harmful actions. The four are: (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 virtuous 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 the mind of awakening. 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.
- English translation: The Sutra Teaching the Four Factors
- 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.