Samsara

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  • Examine the Buddhist teachings about death and rebirth.
    • Introduction
      • A Buddhist believes that a person is made up pf 5 heaps which are known as skandhas and that they rearrange when we are reborn.
      • The wheel of Samsara helps to explain this concept.
      • Samsara is the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth through the law of karma.
        • Karma means volitional actions.
        • The Sanskrit literal meaning is 'wandering on'.
      • Kalpas/Eons are the units used for the Samsara time scale. They are vast units of time equivalent to billions of years.
    • At the centre of the wheel are the 3 mental poisons which keep the wheel of samsara turning.
      • The 3 mental poisons are greed, hatred and delusion, which are represented by a pig, snake and rooster.
      • They are pictured biting onto each others tails, to show that each feed of one another.
    • The next circle is divided into 2. One half shows humans moving up, while the other half shows them moving down.
      • This indicates that depending on your karma, you can move into a better realm or a worse realm.
      • By doing good skilful actions you will produce good karma-phala, but if you do bad/unskilful actions you will produce bad karma-phala.
        • Karma Phala refers to karmic fruits.
      • However just because you produce bad karma-phala doesn't necessarily mean that a bad rebirth will follow but the appropriate results will  come to fruition in time.
    • Then comes the 6 realms, which are divided into good and bad.
      • Good Realms
        • The human realm is seen as the most favourable as it has the correct amount of suffering to motivate humans to seek enlightenment and release.
          • Peter Harvey described the human realm as 'the most marvellous opportunity for growth'.
        • The animal realm, which is the most basic of the realms.
        • The deva realm has everything provided for you. It is a beautiful dream world, however this means they lack motivation to seek nirvana.
      • Bad Realms
        • The hell realm is full of torture.
        • The peta realm includes the hungry ghosts which have an attachment to the earth.
        • The asuras relam is where angry beings are always at war with one another.
      • Bad actions lead to a bad realm, good actions lead to a good realm.
    • Then comes the 12 links. These are ways of expressing the truth that ignorance, about the consequences of things lead to suffering.
      • Eg. A picture of a potter which indicates how we can shape and create our own future if we produce good karmic actions and that if we do really well have a good rebirth into a more favourable realm.
      • E.g. A blind man which represents spiritual ignorance, which is the basic nature of life as analysed by the Buddha.
    • Yama, the Lord of Death keeps the wheel turning. He is shown griping the wheel tightly to show that karma has a huge influence on your rebirth.
    • Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings. They contribute to each realm separately.
      • In the human realm, they show the way to spiritual life.
      • In the animal realm, they bring education and culture.
    • Linking to anatta which means no self/ no permanent fixed state.
      • Imagine the flame of one lamp lighting another. It is not the same flame in the second lamp, but it has come about due to the first.
        • In the same way, although there is no soul to pass from one life to another, Buddhists see the future arising out of the present.

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