Samsara: The Cycle of Birth and Death

By Niranjana KarthigaiRajan

Everybody isbound by karma (deeds). And each one’s life is thus constituted of good and bad experiences depending on one’s own karma. Sanchitakarma is like the bank of karmas, good orbad,that one comes with at birth. Prarabdha karma is a small set of Sanchitakarma because of whichwe have come intothis birth and the fruits of which are experienced in our current lifetime. Based on one’s individual karma, the atma is caught in this vicious cycle of births and deaths and takes many different forms over several births.

 A Story from Chandhogya Upanishad

In Hinduism, all life goes through birth, life, death, and rebirth and this is known as the cycle of samsara. Samsara is full of horrors and has all kinds of sufferings – SamsarasAgaramghOramanantakleshabhAjanam.

Chandhogyaupanishad depicts samsara with the story of a tiger and a man. Once a man was chased by a tiger in the forest. While running he fell into a well and during the fall, he got hold of thebranch of a tree that was growing on the wall.

Beneath him, there were poisonous snakes with raised hoods,hissing. Then he saw a rat eating away the branch on which he was dangling. Sooner or later the rat wouldfinish eating the whole branchand he wouldn’t even have the root to hang on. In this utmost anxious and dangerous condition, a few drops of honey dropped from the branch and the man began to relish its flavour.

This is the state of everyone of us. Amidst all the miseries surrounding us in this world, we continue cherishing the mundane worldly pleasures like those honey drops.

An Analogy from Ramayana

In the Ramayana, Sita’s imprisonment in Ashoka Vanam inLanka by Ravana is compared to our perils in samsara. Our atma is in a similar situation in our body.Lanka is surrounded by an ocean of salt water;we are caught in the ocean of samsara.

Sita was tormented by ten-headed Ravana,whereas we are distressed by ten indriyas – kama (desire), krodha (anger), moha (illusion), ahamkara (ego), matsarya (jealousy/envy), lobha (greed), mada (pride) and so on.

While both Sita and Rama were unaware of each other’s state, Hanuman conveyed Sri Rama’s message to Sita. Hanuman has played the role of a preceptor. In case of jivatmas, only we are ignorant of the Lord, but the preceptors guide us to recognize Him. Sita didn’t abide by Ravana’s words, whereas we are carried away by our unstable mind.

The Birth of the Unborn One

The Lord is described as one who is without birth and in different forms. It may seem contradictory. But we have to understand the fact that He is ‘birthless’ since He takes birth not on account of karma but out of His sankalpa (own will). While jivatmas can’t remember their previous births, the omniscient Lord is aware of all of His incarnations. He incarnates from time to time in order to protect us from the quagmire of samsara and to grant liberation.

He incarnates forthe sole purpose of rescuing us from the cyclic ocean of births and deaths.

Getting out of samsara

While the jivatmais exhausted during the endless travel through the cycle of births, how can anatmarelive itself from this bondage of births and deaths?

The only way out is by channeling our thoughts towards the Lord and meditating on His auspicious qualities withutmost faith.

In Bhagavad Gita, chapter 4, sloga 9, Krishna tells Arjuna, “janma karma cha me divyamevaṁyovettitattvataḥtyaktvādehaṁpunarjanmanaitimāmeti so ‘rjuna”. Which means that one who understands the truth of His divine incarnations gets liberated from the material bondage, and therefore he returns to the abode of the Lord immediately after quitting his present material body.

When Krishna was born in the prison cell in Mathura, He slashed the chain shackles of His imprisoned father and mother. Similarly, contemplating on the Lord’s endless effulgence and His holy incarnations gets us liberated from the shackles of samsara.

Thus, Lord Narayana out of compassion gives the jivatma the chance to get rid of the sins and seek liberation. For the people who are drowned in the ocean of samsara and whose minds are besieged by the desire of worldly enjoyment, there is no resort to cross the ocean than the boat in the form of Lord Narayana. His Lotus feet alone representthe only boat which guides jivatmas cross the ocean of samsara.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 17 June 2022

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