35 Buddhas of Confession | Confession Prayer

35 Confession Buddha Prayer

The Thirty-five Buddhas are the special confession Buddhas. While they were still Bodhisattvas, they made special vows to assist others beings to overcome their negativities. Its actual title is the Sutra of Three Heaps.

This sutra is divided into three different sections, also called Three Heaps.

So what are actually the Sutra of Three Heaps?

  • The first heap is homage by prostration to the Thirty-five Buddhas.
  • The second heap is Confession.
  • The third is the heap of Dedication.

The four powers and the "Seven-Branch Prayer" are also included in the sutra.


First Heap: Homage by Prostration

The prostration is done by imagining each of the Thirty-five Buddhas. We then physically or mentally bow to them. The prayer starts with the words "I and all sentient beings perpetually take refuge in the Guru".

and then "take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,"

Taking refuge in the guru is not part of the original sutra. But it was later on added by Tibetan masters as their tantric Buddhist influence. The guru is key to reach all the Buddhas. Therefore, tantric masters practice this spiritual understanding.

While sincerely prostrating, we imagine and recite the names of each of the Buddhas. The main focus of the prayer is the Thirty-five Buddhas who are surrounded by the other Buddhas of the ten directions.

Second Heap: Confession

Why are 35 Buddhas called the Confession Buddhas?

The second heap of the confession prayer begins right after. When we begin to recite these words of confession, we think and speak the prayers. We openly admit that these wrong deeds are our faults in your own samsaric history.

These prayer help us to express our weakness. Realizing and expressing them, we make a complete confession. Without these perfect prayers, even if we knew that lots of things must have been wrong in our past and we wanted to do something about it, we wouldn't know how to do it.

The prayer defines all the wrong deeds, those we directly do or influence others to do. 

We confess all the major deeds. They include the five deeds that ripen immediately to the ten unvirtuous deeds, and all other deeds which may be obstacles to your spiritual progress. According to Bodhisattva doctrine, those who took Bodhisattva vows need to recite the "Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer" three times each day.35 Buddha Thangka

All of our bad deeds are caused by the three poisons.

In the sutra, Shariputra asks Buddha if Bodhisattvas could be damaged by the three poisons. In response, Lord Buddha tells him that they could have two major violations and one minor violation.

  • Hatred and stupidity are considered major
  • And desire is considered a minor violation.

Desire is considered minor, but it is harder to overcome. Hatred is considered major, yet can be removed easily. Stupidity is both major and difficult one. 

If a major violation through desire occurs, then one must confess in the presence of ten Bodhisattvas.

  • Mediocre violations should be confessed in the presence of five Bodhisattvas.
  • A minor violation should be confessed in the presence of one or two Bodhisattvas.

Lord Buddha continued, a major violation of a combination of all three poisons, such as the five sins that ripen immediately, can be overcome by confession to the Thirty-five Buddhas and buddhas of the ten directions.

Everything can be overcome by sincerely reciting the confession prayer and imagining that the Thirty-five Buddhas and all the buddhas of the ten directions are really there. It should be done with total faith, devotion, remorse, humility, and complete conviction in wanting to overcome.

Third Heap: Dedication

The third heap is the heap of dedication. It is a request for all the glorious, Buddhas to be gracious, the beginning of the dedication prayer.

The first part is dedicating whatever conditional merit we have accumulated in this life and all lives from time. The virtuous deeds of generosity, morality, patience, rejoicing at the virtuous deeds of others, etc.

Next we dedicate the deeds associated with bodhisattva virtue: aspiration Bodhicitta, to liberate all sentient beings.  Then engaging in the practice of the six perfections and practices of the Great Vehicle. The practice of unsurpassable wisdom is also dedicated, which is the result of meditation.

Dedication actually it is a very profound subject. 

It is important to emulate all the enlightened buddhas of the past, present, and future and dedicate them.

This Thirty-five Buddhas prayer is a perfect dedication prayer, and we must recite them with heartfelt sincerity.

The last part of the prayer is in verse form; it was added by Tibetan masters These lines of prayer are to reiterate your confession, and in addition to that there is a short seven-branch prayer.


Power of Reliance

For true purification, the important part is to make confession with the four purifying powers. The buddhas are the sources of purification, and we must completely believe in them and take refuge in them to develop Bodhichitta. By performing this, we have a correct power of reliance.

Power of Remorse

The second is the power of remorse. This power is for overcoming negativities. Because without remorse there is no sincerity to overcome the wrongdoings.

Those lacking a proper understanding of the entire situation of Samsara feel, they haven't done anything wrong. Others of us reject the idea of being a sinner. Actually the Buddhist understanding is that there's nothing wrong with us fundamentally. We have a perfect nature.

Confusion and illusion causes us lots of unpleasant pain and suffering. Jamgon Kongtrul the Great writes that just like the person who swallows poison and deeply regrets his mistake and desperately tries to get rid of it, similarly we should feel great remorse for our wrongdoings. That's what the power of remorse is all about.

Power of Remedy

The third is the power of remedy. Many different remedies for overcoming our negativities exit in tantric Buddhism. The general remedy is Vajrasattva practice and recitation of the One-Hundred-Syllable Mantra. Another method is Niguma's purification with the letter AH, which is an extraordinary and powerful practice. In this case, the "Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer" is a remedy, and Nyungne practice as a whole is a very powerful purification practice.

Power of Commitment

The fourth is the power of the commitment to never engage in wrongdoing again. This power of commitment is necessary because without such commitment you will engage in negativities again. The main reason for not being able to overcome negativities is lack of seriousness and sincerity; the commitment must be a really powerful one from the bottom of heart, otherwise all the other powers will be lacking as well. It has been said that you must make a vow that you will not commit wrongdoings again even at the cost of your own life. If you make such a commitment, then you can absolutely overcome any wrongdoing.

If you apply these four powers correctly, and you say the "Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer" properly and do Nyungne practice sincerely, you can absolutely overcome all the karma and become completely free and liberated beings like the buddhas of the past, present, and future.


Source: Buddhist Fasting Practice, by Wangchen Rinpoche

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