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03) Samsara


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Samsāra or Samsāra (Sanskrit: संसार), (in Tibetan called "khorwa")[1], literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death,rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other Indian religions. In modern parlance, samsara refers to a place, set of objects and possessions, but originally, the word referred to a process of continuous pursuit or flow of life. In accordance with the literal meaning, the word should either refer to a continuous stream of consciousness, or the continuous but arbitrary drift of passions, desires, emotions, and experiences.

In most Indian religions, life is not considered to begin with birth and end in death, but as a continuous existence in the present lifetime of the organism and extending beyond. The nature of the actions (karma) committed during the course of each lifetime, (good or ill) determines the future destiny of each being. Samsara is closely linked with the idea of rebirth (or reincarnation), but mainly refers to the condition of life, and the experience of life.

In Buddhism, at the moment of death the consciousness (consciousness of the different senses, such as eye consciousness, ear consciousness etc.), acts as the seed for the spawning of the new consciousness in a new biological structure, conducive to the volitional(Sakhāras) impulses at the moment of death (which are themselves affected by previous volitional impulses). In other Indian religions, the volitional impulses accrued from the present life are transmitted to a consciousness structure popularly known as the soul, which, after an intermediate period (in Tibetan called the bardo), forms the basis for a new biological structure that will result in rebirth and a new life. This cyclical process ends in the attainment of moksha. If one lives in extremely evil ways, one may be reborn as an animal or other unfortunate being.[2]

In a modern vernacular context, particularly in the Himalayas, samsara is also a word used to describe how life is full of attachments and comings-and-goings, a subtle state of suffering. For example, when saying goodbye to a loved one, one might utter, "ah... samsara."

Etymology and origin

Samsara means "to flow on", to perpetually wander, to pass through states of existence.

The historical origins of a concept of a cycle of repeated reincarnation are obscure but the idea appears frequently in religious and philosophical texts in both India and ancient Greece during the middle of the first millennium BCE.[3] Orphism, Platonism, Jainism and Buddhism all discuss the transmigration of beings from one life to another. . Reincarnation was adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy, and Brahmins first wrote down scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Cycle of rebirth

The concept of samsara is closely associated with the belief that one continues to be born and reborn in various realms in the form of a human, animal, or other being (depending on karma).[2] In particular, Jainism[10] maintains that, if one performs extremely evil karma, also as a plant or even as a rock, and similar tendencies can be found in Purāas, in theBhagavadgītā, in the Manusmti[11] and in similar texts. Nonetheless, most philosophic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism[12] maintain that plants and even more obviously rocks cannot be included in samsāra since they lack the possibility of experience (bhoga) and, hence, of karma.

Sasāra in Hinduism

In Hinduism, it is avidya, or ignorance, of one's true self that leads to ego-consciousness of the body and the phenomenal world. This grounds one in kāma (desire) and the perpetual chain of karma and reincarnation. Through egoism and desire one creates the causes for future becoming. The state of illusion that gives rise to this is known as Maya.

Through ascetic practice one finally attains sanctity and liberation (moksha or mukti).

Broadly speaking, the holy life (brahmacarya) which leads to liberation is a path of self-purification by which the effects of sins are released.

The Hindu Yoga traditions hold various beliefs. Moksha may be achieved by love of Ishwar/God (see bhakti movement, see Mirabai), by psycho-physical meditation (Raja Yoga), by discrimination of what is real and unreal through intense contemplation (Jnana Yoga), and through Karma Yoga, the path of selfless action that subverts the ego and enforces understanding of the unity of all.

The Rig Vedic, Yajur Vedic and Atharva Vedic Upanishads like Aiteraya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Swetaswatara Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad etc. contains the most ancient ideas on Reincarnation of soul.[13][14][15] As confirmed by latest research in the field of archeology and Astronomy, Vedas were older than 2600 BC which takes it far earlier than all other religious texts.[16] Hence, based on this, the earliest known texts to have spoken about karma, sansara and Moksha or Mukti, are the Vedas and other Dharmic Texts. (Dharmic Texts stands for the Vedas, Ithihasas and Puranas). The Vedas describe Karma as the result of enjoying the sensory pleasures of this material universe.[17]

Samsara in Buddhism

The concept of Samsara as a cycle of rebirth and suffering within the six realms is taught in Buddhism. To understand the concept of Samsara it is important to know about the six realms, rebirth, karma, and nirvana, which is known as the state beyond the suffering of Samsara.