India Glossary
Samsara

India Glossary
Atman

Brahman

Rita
   During the period in which the Upanishads were written, Hindu philosophers began to develop the concept of samsara in line with other aspects of Upanishadic thought. The Hinduism of the the Samhitas looked on the material world as understandable and controllable; it was in the material world that the gods (devas ) gave to humans and the gods could be controlled through hymns, prayers, rituals, and sacrifices. But the Upanishadic Hindus began to think of the world as illusion (maya ); reality (Sat ) was rather to be sought in the unchanging and unitary principle of the universe, whether that be Rita, Brahman, or Atman. The material world, on the other hand, was a place fragmented and constantly changing; this changing aspect of the universe came to be called samsara.


India Glossary
Caturvarnas

Karma
   The Hindus long before this had integrated the concept of reincarnation into their religion; the Vedic Brahmanas speculate about "death after death," or a death in the afterlife that returns one to life. This concept, along with that of karma, in which all action is seen as the result of previous action and the cause of future action, were combined in the Upanishads to produce the meaning of samsara as "reincarnation based on past actions." Karma not only determined in what form or what caste one was reborn into, it also made reincarnation necessary. All your actions must produce some action in the future; the only way this can happen for all your actions is if you have lives in the future.


Buddhism
Buddhism

India Glossary
Atmandsiddhi

Jainism

Moksha
   This doctrine of samsara obviates any dream of an eternally happy afterlife; if the changing world is but an illusion and we are condemned to remain in it through birth after birth, what purpose is there in atmansiddhi? The goal became not an eternity in a blissful afterlife, but moksha, or "liberation" from samsara .This quest for liberation is the hallmark of the Upanishads and forms the fundamental doctrine of both Buddhism and Jainism.

Richard Hooker



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1994, Richard HookerRichard Hooker
Updated 10-02-97