topic posted Wed, June 22, 2005 - 4:00 PM by  Unsubscribed
Karma, Samsara, and Nirvana:

Three important concepts in understanding Buddhism are karma, Samsara, and Nirvana.

Karma refers to the law of cause and effect in a person's life, reaping what one has sown. Buddhists believe that every person must go through a process of birth and rebirth until he reaches the state of nirvana in which he breaks this cycle. According to the law of karma, "You are what you are and do what you do, as a result of what you were and did in a previous incarnation, which in turn was the inevitable outcome of what you were and did in still earlier incarnations."(4) For a Buddhist, what one will be in the next life depends on one's actions in this present life. Buddha believed, unlike Hinduism, that a person can break the rebirth cycle no matter what class he is born into.

The second key concept to understand is the law of Samsara or Transmigration. This is one of the most perplexing and difficult concepts in Buddhism to understand!

The law of Samsara holds that everything is in a birth and rebirth cycle. Buddha taught that people do not have individual souls. The existence of an individual self or ego is an illusion. There is no eternal substance of a person which goes through the rebirth cycle.

What is it then that goes through the cycle if not the individual soul?

What goes through the rebirth cycle is only a blank type of subtle energy and set of feelings, impressions, present moments, and the karma that is passed on. "In other words, as one process leads to another, ... so one's human personality in one existence is the direct cause of the type of individuality which appears in the next." The new individual in the next life will not be exactly the same person, but there will be several similarities. Just how close in identity they will be, Buddha did not define. One could think of life as a small, subtle energy or rope. And through that rope runs an invisable signal, like a radio signal. When die, we are stripped of everything that was inside the body, and we no longer can see, smell, taste or think like a human. We are a subtle clear, radiant light or energy moving in a dream like state blown around only by our Karma and moving towards the next womb.

The third key concept is Nirvana. The term means "the blowing out" of existence. Nirvana is very different from the Christian concept of heaven. Nirvana is not a place like heaven but rather a state of being. What exactly it is, Buddha never really articulated.

Nirvana is an eternal state of being. It is the state in which the law of karma, and the rebirth cycle come to an end. It is the end of suffering, a state where there are no desires and the individual consciousness comes to an end. Although to our Western minds this may sound like annihilation, Buddhists would object to such a notion. Gautama never gave an exact description of Nirvana, but his closest reply was this. "There is disciples, a condition, where there is neither earth nor water, neither air nor light, neither limitless space, nor limitless time, neither any kind of being, neither ideation nor non-ideation, neither this world nor that world. There is neither arising nor passing-away, nor dying, neither cause nor effect, neither change nor standstill." Although no Buddhist really claims to understand the condition of Nirvana 100% (except through brief direct Zen-like experiences of it), it remains their eternal hope.
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  • Unsu...


    Wed, June 22, 2005 - 4:04 PM
    This is a vary, raw, clinical veiw of these three important things. Only to serve a quick, dry, interpretation for the newbie. PLZ, by all means, elaborate for others on any of these three points.

    Thanx. :-)

      Wed, June 22, 2005 - 11:16 PM
      each of these topics might warrant their own book or thread for sure.

      for karma, i would add that there was an emphasis on seeing karma from the present moment backward toward causes that led up to the present moment instead of seeing it as effects from causes. the latter view can be a form of fatalism, that what we do 'causes' the future in an unchanging way. but the former is simply saying that all situations are conditioned by multitudes of causes. but the future is still unwritten and we can influence it. in fact, we can interrupt the karmic stream. therefore, we can find enlightenment even in this lifetime by burning up the old karma quickly and through special means and we can learn how to interrupt all karmic momentum so we no longer sow new karmic seeds. so the teachings are very uplifting, with a sense of free will, as opposed to fatalism and that effect must follow from causes.

      the mahayana (and vajrayana) schools seem to take a different view of nirvana and samsara but i'm not sure i know enough of the distinctions to talk intelligently about it. there seems to be less a sense of cessation of afflictive emotions and instead a sense of nirvana and samsara fundamentally arising simultaneously. but i'm already over my head here...
      • Unsu...


        Wed, June 22, 2005 - 11:31 PM
        Aint that the truth. Deceptively simple. I apreciate you adding to any of this. I threw this stuff down just as a kind of diving off point. Especialy for those new to Buddhism. Thank you! :-)
  • Unsu...


    Wed, September 5, 2007 - 3:05 PM
    "To be enlightned is simply to be in a state of flexible awareness or an open mind.
    Enlightenment is the very process of expanding, not of arriving at a
    different set of limits."

    ~Thaddeus Golas

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