In modern Sanskrit-derived languages, it is primarily used to mean "world" in the theological sense. In other words it signifies life on earth as a place of suffering and exile from one's true origins.
According to these religions, one's karmic 'account balance' at the time of death is inherited via the state at which a person is reborn. During the course of each worldly life actions committed (for good or ill) determine the future destiny of each being in the process of becoming (evolution or devolution). At death the underlying volitional impulses (samskaras) thus accrued and developed are carried and transmitted in 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 process is considered to go on indefinitely until insight leads a person to practice renunciation of worldly pursuits and practices instead the virtues.
If one lives in evil ways, one is reborn as an animal or other unfortunate being.
Samsara is derived from "to flow together," to go or pass through states, to wander. Mostly a great revolving door between life and death and an endless cycle of reincarnation. Also known as a game in ancient India.
Cycle of rebirth
Under this concept one continues to be born and reborn in various realms in the form of human, god, animal, or other being (depending on karma).
Samsāra 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 practise one finally attains sanctity and liberation (moksha or mukti) - the equivalent of salvation in the Indian religions.
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), 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. Advaita Vedanta, which heavily influenced Hindu Yoga, believes that Brahman, the ultimate Truth-Consciousness-Bliss, is the infinite, impersonal reality (as contrasted to the Buddhist concept of shunyata) and that through realization of it, all temporal states like deities, the cosmos and samsara itself are revealed to be nothing but manifestations of Brahman.
Saṃsāra in Jainism
- Further information: Karma in Jainism
In Jainism, Saṃsāra is the worldly life characterized by continuous rebirths and reincarnations in various realms of existence. Saṃsāra is described as mundane existence, full of suffering and misery and hence is considered undesirable and worth renunciation. The Saṃsāra is without any beginning and the soul finds itself in bondage with its karma since the beginingless time. Moksa is the only liberation from saṃsāra.
Saṃsāra in Buddhism
- Main article: Samsara (Buddhism)
The concept of Samsara cyclic existence is taught by many Buddhist teachers. To understand the concept of Samsara it is important to know about the six realms, what cyclic existence is, and enlightenment or the liberation from the uncontrolled cycle of existence.
Saṃsāra in Sikhism
In Sikhism, it is thought that due to the commendable past actions and deeds (known as karma or kirat) that people obtain the chance of human birth, which is regarded in Sikhism as the highest possible on Earth and therefore an opportunity that should not be wasted. And only by continued good actions and the "Grace of the Almighty" can one obtain liberation from the continuous cycle of births and deaths of various bodily forms that the soul has been undergoing since the creation of the universe. The end of the cycle of transmigration of the soul is known as mukti. For Sikhs, the state of mukti can be achieved whilst still alive, known as "Jivan Mukat", literally "liberated whilst alive".
Saṃsāra in Surat Shabda Yoga
In Surat Shabda Yoga, attaining self-realization results in jivan moksha/mukti, liberation/release from samsara, the cycle of karma and reincarnation while in the physical body.
Surat Shabda Yoga cosmology presents the constitution of the initiate (the microcosm) as an exact replica of the macrocosm. Consequently, the microcosm consists of a number of bodies, each one suited to interact with its corresponding plane or region in the macrocosm. These bodies developed over the yugas through involution (emanating from higher planes to lower planes) and evolution (returning from lower planes to higher planes), including by karma and reincarnation in various states of consciousness.
- ^ a b "Reaching the Level of the Gods", Hinduism, The Canadian Encyclopedia.