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June 6th
Issue #8
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Scorpion Solitaire

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Scorpion Solitaire


Buddhism: Samsara

By - 6/6/2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia
  Photo Credit: GuoZhongHua /

Buddhism is full of different concepts, some which are hard to understand for those of us unused to Eastern philosophy. Two of those concepts are Samsara and Nirvana. Most of us are probably familiar with Nirvana as meaning enlightenment. But to understand it, we first need to have a look at the related concept of Samsara.

Samsara is often misunderstood to mean this world and fact that we are reborn within it. Its literal meaning is "continuous flow", referring to the cycle of life, death and rebirth. According to the Buddha, there is no beginning or end to Samsara.

The process of Samsara is caused by ignorance and our attachment to ourselves and our own experiences. To a Buddhist it is characterized by suffering, as the Buddha taught us in the Four Noble Truths. The only way to remove suffering and end the cycle of Samsara is to reach enlightenment.

Many Westerners think of reincarnation as meaning we as individuals are reborn into different bodies. In fact, this view is very different from how Buddhism perceives the process. To a Buddhist, there is no such thing as "self". The illusion of self is what causes suffering and Samsara in the first place.

What is passed on between lives is not personalities or memories, but rather a stream of moments and feelings. Our karma is also passed on to the next life and influences our future. The parts of us that are reborn will be as different from your current being as a seed is from the plant it came from. It will be the same type of plant and it may even look similar, but in all other aspects it is an entirely different plant.

The concept of Samsara is important to understand for those who want to fully understand Buddhism and the Buddha's practices because it is the process we're trying to escape. With Samsara comes suffering, and the only way to be free of suffering is to leave Samsara and reach enlightenment, Nirvana.

Nirvana isn't a place where we go when we die, like the Christian Heaven, but a state we can reach while we are still alive. It is the complete detachment from what we perceive as self, a state of being in which the self is obliterated. When we reach Nirvana, we no longer take part in Samsara and its suffering. And as the Buddha taught us, it is possible to reach Nirvana within our lifetime.


Scorpion Solitaire

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