Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Wheel of Samsara

A Buddhist Master once said:

"All things are but creations of the Mind,
All existences are based only on Consciousness;
Happiness and suffering depends on oneself,
What have they got to do with the conditions we are in?"

In Buddhism, we believe all sentient beings are trapped in the Wheel of Samsara, of never-ending birth and death. This wheel consists of 6 realms of existence, consisting of the Deva (gods), Asura (titans), Human, Animal, Ghost and Hell realms. Driven by their own karma, sentient beings die and are reborn constantly in any of these realms. Those with good karma are reborn in the higher realms of Deva, Asura and Humans, whereas those with bad karma are reborn in the lower realms of Animal, Ghost and the worst, Hell. None of these realms are real or permanent and they originate from the fundamental ignorance of the Mind. Although they are not real, sentient beings will continue to perceive them as real until they could attain Nibbana. Because they perceive the 6 realms as real, the suffering they experience will also be real. It is like a person experiencing a nightmare; every horrible event seen in it will appear real and frightening to the dreamer. But when he wakes up, he realizes that none of it is real. The same could be said for good dreams - however pleasurable they are, they are unreal and impermanant. Once a person wakes up, nothing will be left and he will be left unhappy once gain. That is the true nature of our samsaric existence.

Many modern educated people and cynics question the truth of rebirth and of the 6 realms of existence. The most common dismissal is that nobody knows what happens after one dies. They say heaven and hell are merely superstition to make people do good. These people rather believe in the materialistic view that when a person dies, he becomes ashes or dust and existence stops there. However, that is a superstition in itself. Why? Because just as you cannot see heaven and hell, you also cannot see what happens to the mental components (consciousness) of a person after his physical body dissolves.

Know that the 6 realms of existence are not worlds that one can only see after death; but they are all here, in our human realm. These other dimensions are present in our current dimension, and those whose frequency is tuned right would be able to perceive them. How is this possible? Remember that all things originate from the Mind. The 6 realms are also in the Mind. Let me take you on a tour through all of them, right here, right now.

Close your eyes. First focus your thoughts on creating happiness for the whole world, through Loving-kindness, Compassion, Appreciative-joy and Equanimity. If your mind is always basking in such wholesome thoughts, then you are already experiencing the bliss of the Deva realm.

Secondly, focus your thoughts on working for the good of your family, your friends and relatives, and even the society and the country. If your mind grasp to these kind of wholesome thoughts, then you will find yourself truly happy in the Human realm.

Thirdly, focus your thoughts on envy for those in a better state than you are, on constant striving, whether mentally or physically, to be like them or even take their place. When the mind is constantly struggling to compete with others better off, you are living in the realm of the Asuras.

Fourthly, focus your thoughts on eating, sleeping and having sex. When one can think of nothing other than these base instincts, you are already one of the Animals.

Fifthly, focus your thoughts on how to satisfy all kinds of cravings, whether it is for food, money, power, fame, sex or pleasure. If the flames of desire burns your mind constantly, so much so you cannot gain even a moment of peace, you have become a real Ghost.

Lastly, focus your thoughts on anger and destroying all those things that stand in the way of the gratification of your desires. If your mind comtemplates violence and death upon other beings, you have just passed through the gates of Hell.

Now contemplate your mental journey through these 6 kind of thoughts. Do you finally see the 6 realms in their true sense? If so, the path of the Dhamma awaits you!

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