|The "flood" (ogha) of ignorance, sensual desire, craving for eternal existence, fear/anger comes over us like a tsunami sweeping us again and again out to sea to death and rebirth.|
|Three colossal Buddhas in Burma, a tower, reclining, sitting (Mucki Nowak/flickr.com)|
Why does the idea of samsāra matter? In Eastern Philosophy or the tradition of the Dharmic religions, the problem is rebirth. Rooted in ignorance -- because, after all, it is illusory (maya) -- it leads to suffering, to wandering, to chasing fulfillment life after life. Each of the Dharmic religions offers a solution, but only Buddhism offers an ultimate solution.
|Mara (Death) rules samsara (the wheel)|
It is beautiful, only it's not true. The heavens all come crumbling to an end, and one need not wait aeons to see this happening, for it happens from moment to moment. They are conditioned (composite things) nourished by karma that eventually becomes exhausted. Even the hells are this way.
Wiser Brahmins (who so profoundly influenced Mahayana Buddhism) hit upon the idea that it was not Brahma but Brahman (the ultimate, the reality behind maya, the illusion) one was trying to get to, there to merge and unite like a differentiated drop in a vast undifferentiated ocean, losing personal identity. (Some more sophisticated Christian thinking follows along these lines as well, as early Christianity and particularly its universalist form, Catholicism, borrow so much from Hinduism without realizing it). Again, a very beautiful idea, but one still tainted with ignorance and illusion.
|We die here, but what is reborn, what continues?|
What did the Brahmins and Mahayanists do? They quickly equated samsara with nirvana, the ordinary and oppressive with the extraordinary and ineffable, encouraging everyone to believe that this is it. This, here, enjoy! There's nothing to strive for, no salvation/liberation beyond this. This is the beyond, the beyond-the-beyond. This is not. This is samsara.
|The Heart of Wisdom|
|Samsara: 31 planes simplified to six general planes|
|Stop the merry go round so I can get off.|
|Samsaric wandering never ends.|
|Heavens above, woe below, and here we are.|