Karma purification takes two main forms: applying the 4 Rs (Regret, Reliance, Resolve, and Reparation) to those previous acts that have not yet ripened, and enduring with patience the consequences of previous acts that are already ripening. We have paid much attention to the former (greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/four-powers-of-purification/), but the latter is equally necessary.
“Enduring with patience” is not passive resignation. We utilize our suffering to reduce the suffering of others. How? We also apply the 4 Rs, but with a different focus.
- We regret the cause of our present suffering, rather than the suffering itself, which is only an effect.
- We rely on the instructions of the Buddha, contemplating the Five Remembrances:
- I am sure to age. I cannot avoid aging.
- I am sure to become ill. I cannot avoid illness.
- I am sure to die. I cannot avoid death.
- I am sure to be separated from all that is dear to me. I cannot avoid separation from what is pleasant.
- I am the owner of my actions, the heir to my actions. Actions are the womb from which I have sprung; actions are my relations; actions are my protection. Whatever actions I do, wholesome or unwholesome, of these I shall become the heir.
- We resolve to remember the faults of samsara and renew our efforts to attain the cessation of suffering through cultivation: abandoning what must be abandoned and adopting what must be adopted.
- We offer reparation by experiencing our physical, emotional, and mental pain and displeasure on behalf of the many who are in similar or worse conditions, and dedicating our patient endurance (not the suffering itself) to these sentient beings.
This is a crucial distinction. We do not dedicate our suffering to others —they already have enough. We are not scapegoats or sacrificial lambs, as is the case in those religions that rely on animal or human sacrifice for (false) ritual purification. We dedicate our patience, which is not only virtuous, but is also a transcendent perfection (paramita).
Dedicating our patience is not magic. Our patience reduces the accumulation of suffering directly by affirming and deepening our understanding of karma. Dedicating our patience to others indirectly reduces their suffering through example, and through our eventual attainment of complete enlightenment, which brings with it the power to liberate others.