The word World comes from the Old Norse word “verold”, meaning “man age,” or human era. Therefore the word world really means “world age”—a particular phase or cycle within the unfolding story of the cosmos as it relates to humankind.

SamsaraThe world can be seen as a cyclic succession of world ages (yuga) in time-bound existence whereby humans and other beings are given the opportunity to mature spiritually in repeated incarnations. The world is essentially a school in which the goal is to graduate (by realizing the Self).

The Cycle of Existence

The Sanskrit language has many words that mean “world” but none captures this endless recycling of human experience through the mechanism of time more than the term Samsara. It means “that which flows together”. Samsara is the round of birth, life, death, rebirth, etc…

Also known by these terms:

  • Samsara-mandala (round of cyclic existence)
  • Samsara-cakra (wheel of cyclic existence)
  • Samsara-sagara (ocean of cyclic existence)
  • Samsara-wriksha (tree of cyclic existence)

Samsara is often wrongly translated as “conditioned existence,” which fails to convey the rhythmic or cyclic nature of our individual worldly lives, which ride on the current of time.

Samsara is karma (law of cause and effect). Existence is an infinitely complex network of conditions giving rise to other conditions. An individual who is bound to the realm of Samsara is called a Samsarin.

Samsara is maya (illusion) and is full of dukkha (suffering) mainly due to the experience of impermanence, manifesting as change and death.

The Path Out

A Tantric master burns the karmic seeds of future rebirths, masters time and space, and thus frees himself from the cycle of Samsara.

Samsara is the root of suffering. He who exists [in this world] is [subject to] suffering. But, O Beloved, he who practices renunciation, and none other, is happy.

O Beloved, one should abandon samsara, which is the birthplace of all suffering, the ground of all adversity, and the abode of all evil.

O Goddess, the mind that is attached to samsara is bound without binds, cut without weapons, and exposed to a terrifying potent poison.

Because suffering is thus everywhere at the beginning, the middle, and the end, one should abandon samsara, abide in Reality, and thus become happy.

– Shiva (Kula-Arnava-Tantra)

In order to transcend Samsara, which is both internal and external, we need to know the territory we are dealing with, which is where the understanding of cosmology comes in.

When we realize the imperishable Self, previously obscured by karmic habit patterns, we overcome the world, which means we overcome our particular restricted world experience, or bondage.

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