57 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.

  • Importance of imagining our death and dying process
  • Examining what we are craving and clinging
  • Working with our habitual patterns
  • Karmic seeds, seeds of afflictions and latencies of afflictions
  • Recognizing that birth is the cause of aging or death
  • Different types of birth
  • Birth in Pali tradition

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature 57: Birth (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Imagine your death and the dying process. Based on how you have lived and on your habitual tendencies, what types of craving and clinging are likely to arise in your mind at this time? What kind of thoughts and aspirations would you like to have while you are dying? Recall that these will influence which karmic seeds are nourished and become renewed existence. How can you train in these thoughts and aspirations now so that your mind will be in a virtuous state then?
  2. What is the difference between karmic seeds and latencies of afflictions?
  3. Consider that you don’t enter the next life with a blank slate. Rather, all the karmic seeds and latencies come with your mindstream from this life into the next one. What dominant karmic seeds might you have brought to this life? Why are you not an elephant or a fly, for example, in this life? Contemplate the various causes for your human rebirth.
  4. Since your experience of happiness and suffering, as well as your ability to meet and practice the Dharma, are dependent on these, how might you want to direct your mind moving forward? What do you want to do and not do, practice and abandon?
  5. How do the choices we make in each moment create the conditions in which specific karma can ripen? Make some examples of this from your own life and the world around you. How might thinking in this way on a regular basis make you more aware of what your motivations are.
  6. How deeply do you understand that birth is the cause of aging and death, that anything that comes together must disintegrate? We normally see birth, marriage, a great meal, a new home or car, etc as happy events, but what does the Dharma say about these? Are they the happiness we think they are? So you struggle to live with the truth of this? What is the goal of seeing the whole picture of birth, aging, sickness, and death? What is it leading our mind to understand/do and how can yo overcome your difficulties accepting aging, for example, or death?
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.