Four elements that make an action complete

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Four elements that make an action complete

  1. the basis (Skt. vastu; Wyl. gzhi)
  2. the intention (Skt. āśaya)
  3. the execution[1] (Skt. prayoga)
  4. the completion (Skt. niṣṭhāgamana; Wyl. mthar thug)

An example is given of the negative action of taking life in the Words of My Perfect Teacher[2]:

Take the example of a hunter killing a wild animal. First of all, he sees an actual stag, or musk-deer, or whatever it might be, and identifies the animal beyond any doubt: his knowing that it is a living creature is the basis for the act. Next, the wish to kill it arises: the idea of killing it is the intention to carry out the act. Then he shoots the animal in a vital point with a gun, bow and arrow or any other weapon: the physical action of killing is the execution of the act. Thereupon the animal's vital functions cease and the conjunction of its body and mind is sundered: that is the final completion of the act of taking a life.

Every action has these four elements therefore how they come together determines whether an action yields positive, negative, or mixed results for the future.


  1. Although it’s translated as ‘execution’ in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, the word is a little ambiguous as it has two meanings in English. One meaning is to carry out a course of action, and the other is to carry out a sentence of death on a condemned person. Here it has the first meaning. But it might be better to translate it in a way that conveys what is meant here—that it’s the act carried out as a result of the previous two elements, basis and intention.
  2. Patrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Boston: Shambhala, Revised edition, 1998), pages 103-104.