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What is Samsara?


Samsara

I teach two things. There is suffering, and release from suffering. ~ Buddha

Samsara is a word in both Sanskrit, and Pali that refers to the endless cycle of being born, existing, followed by our inevitable death, and if we do not Embrace Nirvana, our rebirth once again.

This cycle of birth and death will only bring us suffering, or Dukkha which is the opposite of nirvana for as long as we allow this cycle to last.




The degree of our suffering, (dukkha) will only be influenced by our karma. Our deeds both good and bad in this lifetime, as well as those in our past lifetimes will determine our experience in this lifetime, as well as what our life experiences will become in our next lifetime.

Samsara is also known as the wheel of existence. The wheel of existence consists of six realms…

Hells (Naraka)

Naraka is a Buddhist realm of hell which is similar to that of the Christian concept of hell, however unlike the Christian hell, occupants of the Buddhist realm of Naraka are not doomed to stay there for eternity.

The hell of Christianity sentences wrong doers to an eternity of suffering based on their god’s displeasure of their misdeeds. In the Buddhist realm of Naraka one will find themselves in one of the 16 different layers there based on their accumulated karma.

There is no divine intervention involved. Only past karmic actions will determine in which level of Naraka, if any those whose evil acts combined with their evil intentions will have to endure their unfathomable suffering.

The 16 levels of Naraka are comprised of eight cold, and eight hot which are.

Cold Narakas
Arbuda, the blister Naraka.

Nirarbuda, the burst blister Naraka.

At at a, the shivering Naraka.

Hahava, the lamentation Naraka.

Huhuva, the chattering teeth Naraka.

Utpala, the Blue lotus Naraka.

Padma, the Lotus Naraka.

Mahapadma, the Great lotus Naraka.




The Hot Narakas
Sanjiva, the Reviving Naraka.

Kalasutra, the Black thread Naraka

Samghata, the Crushing Naraka.

Raurava, the Screaming Naraka.

Maharaurava, the Great screaming Naraka.

Tapana, the Heating Naraka.

Pratapana, the Great heating Naraka

Avici, the Uninterrupted Naraka

Hungry Ghosts (Pretas)

Preta is a Sanskrit name for a type of supernatural being that is enduring more suffering than that of humans. Negative karma that they have acquired have caused them to be afflicted with a strong desire, or hunger for a particular object. Hence the term, Hungry Ghosts.

Petas are characterized as being very thin, but having an enlarged abdomen. They have small mouths, and thin necks symbolically giving them little ability to satisfy the hunger that they crave above everything else.

Traditionally in Buddhist teachings Pretas were depicted as having a craving for that which is unnatural, such as dead bodies, or even fecal matter. Today in more modernized terminology these beings insatiably crave, that which they were strongly attached to as humans.

Some hungry ghost desire money, while others crave the opposite sex above all else.

Hungry Ghosts will continue to crave that which they did as humans. Petas attachment to their desires will be the cause of their suffering for as long as they allow their desires to consume them. They will continue to suffer until they let go of their desires.

Are you a hungry ghost? What do you crave more than anything? Let go of your attachments to avoid a rebirth as a hungry ghost.






Animals (Tiryak)

The realm of the kingdom of animals is a realm of samsara that exists in the deepest depths of the ocean, they also walk upon the Earth, while others take flight, and soar above us all. The animal realm is just one of the six realms of existence.

Animals are a special group in the existence of Samsara. They are neither exceptionally intelligent, nor do they have the consciousness to determine right from wrong. Animals only know one thing… survival.

Animals are either a predator, or they are the prey. They only think, I am hungry, I must eat to stay alive, or they think, I must flee from predators in order to stay alive.

Predators will attack and kill other animals without compassion or empathy in order to eat. The prey will flee with every breath of their being, in order to survive.

Unlike hungry ghosts who only desire to consume that which they crave, animals will consume almost anything in the name of survival.

Even though animals are on a higher realm of existence than Naraka’s or Preta’s, unlike humans they are incapable of comprehending the concept of Dharma.

(When one severs the chains of the first three of the 10 Fetters that person will become a Sotapanna and will no longer be subject to rebirths in the lower realms of Hells, Hungry Ghost or Animals.)

Humans (Manushya)

Manushya are Homo sapiens, or humans. If you are reading this now that would be you. In Sanskrit Manushya refers to an animal with a mind.

Buddhist teachings have declared that the human realm of samsara is the only one of the six realms of existence in which one has the unique ability to reach enlightenment as a Buddha.

Enlightened Buddha’s are always human. The proper conditions cannot exist in any of the other realms of existence to facilitate the achievement of becoming an enlightened Buddha.

Gods (Devas)

Devas in Buddhist teachings are one of the many different non-human entities in the six realms of existence. They exist on a higher plane than humans and animals do, and they vibrate at a higher frequency making them invisible to the human eye.

There are multiple realms of devas, and multiple levels within each realm. Devas on lower levels are unaware of those on higher levels giving many delusions of grandeur as they believe themselves to be all powerful.

The three main realms of existence for the devas are

Arupyadhatu – these devas do not have a physical body, nor do they occupy a distinct location. They simply exist in a meditative state as they contemplate all that is non – physical. They have let go of attachment to their desires in previous lives on other realms.

The meditation that they have practiced in their past existences has evolved into something greater, and serves them well in their current existence. They no longer have any cravings for or interactions with the lower levels of existence.

Their only thought now is on what lies beyond in the higher realms of existence.

Rupadhatu – these are devas that do have a physical form, but have no gender. They have no desires, or cravings, and exist in deva worlds comprised of multiple layers of existence that extend above the earth.

There are five main groups of Rupadhatu devas the most prevalent of them are Buddhist practitioners who passed away before reaching the level of Arhat.

An Arhat is one who has been enlightened to the true nature of reality, and has embraced nirvana.

Kamadhatu – these are devas which possess a physical body that is much larger than, but otherwise similar to humans.

They have longer lifespans than humans do, and are much happier with their existence then humans generally are. They live their lives in a similar way to humans, but due to their lack of desire, or attachment they are much more content with their life than those in the Manushya (human) realm.






Demi-gods (Asuras)

Asuras… so powerful are they in their abilities, yet so misguided are they in their intentions. The Demi gods (Asuras) are similar to the gods (devas) save for the fact that their actions are less than hospitable than that of the Devas.

Being similar to humans, Asuras have cravings, and attachments. The big difference is Asuras have a much stronger desire for that which they crave, than humans do.

Asuras will place their cravings above all else. They have no compassion for others. Empathy is a trait that they have never known. They only know anger, hate, and aggression.

They have no patience for those whom they believe are beneath them. They will belittle, and insult all those around them either verbally, or only in their own minds. They too have monkey minds. Their monkey minds always lead them to hostile confrontations.

Asuras exhibit little control over their thoughts and actions, much like animals.

Asuras are aware of the existence of the Devas (gods), and they are jealous of them. The Asuras always want to engage them in combat to prove that they are stronger, and are superior. This desire for aggression against the Devas are never successful for the Asuras.

Asuras can also be born into the realms of the animals, and humans to experience life in those realms as a being with the mindset of having aggression with no compassion.

There are many animals such as gators, lions, tigers, and other predatory animals who only exist to concur, and consume others without hesitation, or remorse. These are most certainly Asuras who have been incarnated into the realm of animals.

Asuras who are born into the human realm of existence are often both impatient, and intolerant when dealing with everyone that they interact with. They are always confrontational with others, because they believe that they are dominant above all others in the human realm.

There are those among us who refuse to assimilate with us in the human realm of existence. The problem is not because they have an alpha personality, the dilemma is their rebirth as an Asura in the human realm of existence.

Their monkey minds will be talking to them relentlessly. If somebody coughs, or sneezes, they will not have compassion for them, but they will express agitation for them, for choosing to spread their illness among others.

Dwell upon your own viewpoint. Do you look upon others with compassion, or disdain?

Are you an Asura? Look for the signs, deep within yourself. Only you know the thoughts the permeat your mind, and soul. Do you exhibit compassion for those around you, or do you only have animosity for everyone that you encounter?

There is a path for your escape from the realm of Asura if you are now in the human realm of existence. Just let go of your attachments, and free from the wheel of Samsara you will be.

Embracing Nirvana is liberating ourselves from the suffering of Samsara. Let go of your attachments, and Embrace Nirvana.




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Recommended Reading:

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature (The Library of Wisdom and Compassion Book 3)

The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering

The Beginner's Guide to Walking the Buddha's Eightfold Path

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation


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