Formative action

46 Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature

Part of an ongoing series of teachings (retreat and Friday) based on the book Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature, the third volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.

  • Clarifications and responses to a few questions
  • Polluted karmic seeds and rebirth
  • Mental karma, physical or verbal actions
  • Nonvirtuous or virtuous actions
  • All four branches complete
  • Seed of karma and having-ceased of an action
  • Three types of formative actions
  • Non-meritorious, meritorious and invariable
  • Unfortunate or fortunate rebirths
  • Rebirths in form or formless realms
  • Reflection points from the first link

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature 46: Formative Action (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Which of the 12 links keeps transmigrating sentient beings in samsara and why? What keeps you in samsara? Be specific with examples from your own life.
  2. What are examples of karma that do not bring about a rebirth in samsara?
  3. Although we may have confidence in karma and its effects, we often do not make decisions in accord with its natural laws. Why is this? Make some examples from your own experience.
  4. What are the three types of formative actions? Trace the process of their arising from ignorance to the action and make examples from your life.
  5. How do we create demeritorious karma and how can we counteract it?
  6. What is the most urgent thing we should strive for in order to be able to continue studying and practicing the Dharma?
  7. What factors affect the rebirth we take in the next life? How might thinking about these factors change the way you approach the way in which you live your life?
  8. Go back to the text to identify causal and immediate motivations. Examine what your motivations are. With this awareness, we have the ability to stop actions that are non-virtuous and increase virtuous actions. Resolve to create the causes for your future by being mindful of your motivation.
  9. As you go through the day, be aware that your actions that are complete with all four branches are creating causes for your future lives. How does this awareness change how you think and what you do?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.