Saṃsāra and Rebirth

Jeff Wilson

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Saṃsāra and Rebirth

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Buddhists conceive of the world as a suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end, known as samsara. Beings are driven from life to life in this system by karma, which is activated by their good or ill actions committed in this life as well as previous lives. Liberation from samsara is the raison d’être of Buddhism, and thus, in a sense, every resource in the Oxford Bibliographies Online for Buddhism could be said to relate to this entry. In the earliest conceptions, samsara seems to have had five distinct realms: hells, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, and heavens. The latter realm eventually split into the two realms of the devas and the asuras to form the six-realm scheme common to all contemporary forms of Buddhism. Of these realms, the human realm naturally receives the lion’s share of attention in traditional commentaries on Buddhist practice, while the hellish, heavenly, and hungry ghost realms are particularly important in the literary, moral, and ritual spheres of Buddhist activity. Saṃsāra is contrasted with nirvana, the state or realm of peace that lies beyond suffering, ignorance, and rebirth.

Article.  5276 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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