Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue — The Importance of Confession to Faith

A "Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue" was held online December 2. Catholic representatives Father Alexei Smith from Saint Andrew Church, Professor Michael Kerze from Los Angeles Valley College, Darya Jones from Loyola Marymount University, and Buddhist representatives Abbot Ven. Bhante Chao Chu from Los Angeles Buddhist Union, Rosemead, Ven. Hui Ze from Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, Rev. Fredrick Brenion from Higashi Honganji Temple, and Sabrina Ho from Tzu Chi Foundation all attended —a total of 7 people.

At the beginning, convener Michael Kerze invited Ven. Hui Ze to share about Buddhist repentance (confession). Ven. Hui Ze explained repentance is very important for Buddhist practitioners. In the Threefold Training of Morality, Meditative Concentration and Wisdom, the practice of repentance is categorized in the training of morality and mindfulness. The founder of Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, encourages us to self-reflect during night and dawn, to practice “Right Effort” diligently to prevent unwholesome qualities from arising, and to extinguish unwholesome qualities that already have arisen. Moreover, Buddhist monastics must perform a repentance ceremony before taking the precepts to repent their karma of the past, in order to receive the pure precepts.

Catholic priest, Father Alexei, went on to share the Catholic Sacrament of Confession. The Latin word for confession is metanoia which means "change"; the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, or way of life through confession. The Sacrament of Penance, also known as the second baptism, means that one can get a new life. It is also a way for Catholics to move from a life of sin to be closer to Christ.

Convener Michael Kerze found many similarities in the interpretation of confession between Catholicism and Buddhism. For example, when the Eastern Rite Catholics confess, they must recite ceremonial texts, pray in person, and commit themselves to confession. This is very similar to the Buddhist confession method. Another example is during the sacrament of confession where, in Catholicism, the confessor is compared to a patient, the pastor compared to a nurse, and Jesus to a doctor. In Buddhism, the Buddha is like a good doctor, Buddha’s teachings are like a prescription or medicine; and a monastic is like a nurse.

Michael Kerze, the convener, ended with hopes to discuss the meaning of weddings in Catholicism and Buddhism during the next dialogue. As the session came to a close, the air was filled with the anticipation of future insightful discussions.