Samsara or cyclic existence is a cycle of recurring problems in which we are continuously born, experience various problems during our lives, and die.

  • Ignorance keeps us bound in samsara.
  • We think we are a permanent, concrete, findable, independent entity.
  • Then we cherish this illusory "real self" dearly, always thinking our own happiness & suffering is the most important.
  • This lack of understanding leads us to:
    • Develop attachment (clinging) & anger (aversion) towards others
    • Believe that happiness & suffering come from outside ourselves
  • We act under the influence of this ignorance and thus create karma.
    • When we understand cause & effect, we try to act constructively.
    • When we're ignorant or careless, we fall under the influence of disturbing attitudes (attachment, anger, jealousy, pride, closed-mindedness).
    • These lead us to act negatively; these actions leave imprints on our mindstreams; these imprints influence our experience.
  • After we die, we take another body according to the causes we created. Once that karma is exhausted, we leave that body to take another.

There are six realms or life forms in cyclic existence (three fortunate, three unfortunate):

  • Humans
  • Semi-celestial beings
  • Celestial beings
  • Animals
  • Life forms experiencing continual frustration & clinging
  • Life forms experiencing continual fear & pain

Knowing about the various life forms and thus being aware of the possible long-term effects of our actions, we should be mindful of what we think, say & do.