The 108 Prostrations of Repentance was probably developed by the Chan school of Buddhism in China. It was brought to Korea and used for some time until it evidently became lost. It was rediscovered and revived in recent decades by the late Ven. Seongcheol, Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and is usually performed during the evening ceremony in major monasteries. It has also become highly popular with lay Buddhists at numerous Chogye temples throughout Korea. Each number in parenthesis refers to the number of the prostration.
Written by Brian Barry
We honor will all our hearts the Buddha who gives us direction through his great selfless compassion for all sentient beings. He provides us with great joy and happiness, for he is the one who is adorned with the marks of a Buddha, and the one with great wisdom and great light. (1)
With all our hearts, we take refuge in Vairocana Buddha (2)
and we take refuge in the Three Jewels -- the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. (3)
Now that we have become spiritually aware, we pay homage not in the hope of receiving blessings or entering Paradise. Nor do we hope to become personally enlightened by hearing the Teachings, through karma, through mystical powers nor through the Bodhisattvas. We rely on the Incomparable Teaching so that all sentient beings may reach the Great Enlightenment simultaneously. (4)
(Prostration numbers 5 through 97 are to 93 different Buddhas, many of whose names in Chinese characters are unknown. Romanization of the Korean would probably create considerable problems for the reader, so the names have been intentionally omitted for the time being. Instead, 93 prostrations to all the Buddhas of the universes should suffice for now!)
To the innumerable Buddhas of the past, present and future, we ask that you remain with us always, compassionately looking over us.
.. In this life and in lives throughout time immemorial, we have performed all kinds of seriously unwholesome karma. We have performed this ourselves, made others perform it and delighted in seeing others perform it. We have stolen scared objects, have made others steal them and delighted in seeing others steal them. We have performed enough unwholesome karma to drive us into the realms of the hells, urged others to perform such karma and delighted in seeing others perform such karma.
We are aware of some of this awesome karma but we are unaware of much of it, for it is buried deep within the karmic storehouse. And for all this karma, we deserve such retribution as to fall into the realms of hells, of hungry ghosts or of animals. Even if we were to reincarnate in the human realm, we would deserve to be born in unbearable circumstances -- in terrible isolation or among savages. We now repent for all of this unwholesome karma. (98) We ask all the Buddhas of the universes to verify this repentance and we ask them to look over us with their great compassion.
Transference of Merit
Furthermore, if in the past we have achieved merit through selfless generosity, through keeping the Precepts, through feeding even a single morsel to a hungry animal, through purity of action, through helping others to achieve the Way, through training on the Path, or through great wisdom, we now gather all of this merit together, and before the Great Wisdom of Enlightenment, we transfer it just as all the Buddhas of the universes transfer their merit.
Through the merit achieved through repentance, and merit achieved by imploring the Buddhas of the universes to spread the Dharma throughout the universes for eons, we hope to achieve incomparable wisdom. We now take refuge in and honor the Buddhas of the past, present and future, Buddhas who are the seas of noble and endless virtue for suffering sentient beings. (99)
(from "The Vows of Practice of Samantabhadra")
"I now honor, with purity of deed, word and thought, all of the past, present and future Buddhas of the universes. I honor all of the Buddhas, who through the wondrous power of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, are as numerous in a single atom as there are atoms in the Dharma realm. (100)
"I praise, through all eternity, the Buddhas who are as numerous in a single atom as there are atoms, and who, surrounded by Bodhisattvas, pervade the Dharma realm, speaking in mysterious and wondrous ways throughout eternity. (101)
"I offer such adornments as the finest of flowers and garlands, of musical instruments and perfumes and parasols. I offer a mountain of robes and the finest of fragrances and powdered incense, and sticks of incense and lamps, all piled as high as Mt. Sumeru. I deeply believe in the Buddhas of the past, present and future, the magnificent teachers of wisdom; and I make offerings to the Buddhas through the great powers of Samantabhadra. (102)
"I repent for all my unwholesome karma of the past that was rooted in the three poisons of avarice, aversion and delusion, karma which I performed mentally, verbally and physically. (103)
"I take joy in all the virtuous deeds of sentient beings, of the educated and the uneducated, of noble beings and of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. (104)
"I implore to hear the Dharma Teachings of the Enlightened Ones, the lights of all the worlds. (105)
"I implore the Buddhas who are striving for Final Enlightenment to remain with us for our benefit. (106)
"And all merit from honoring, lauding and making offerings to the Buddhas; all merit and joy from imploring the Buddhas to remain with us and teach us; and all merit derived from repentance -- all of this I transfer to all forms of life throughout the universes." (107)
And should there be any remaining merit for transferring such merit, I again transfer this to the Incomparable Eternal Dharma. I also transfer the great sea of merit obtained through the single-minded absorption beyond dualities of mind and phenomena and the dualities of Buddhist Law and the secular world.
And may all the retribution I have acquired from finding fault with and criticizing others for their misdeeds, and all the retribution I have acquired from illusions produced by attachment to the self and to dharmas be dissipated. With each thought I will spread great wisdom throughout the Dharma Realm and rescue all sentient beings from suffering.
I vow to transfer all merit as endlessly as the Void is endless, as endlessly as the karma of sentient beings is endless, as endlessly as agonies are endless. (108)