- Samsara is the round or cycle of birth and rebirth that all beings are subject to in the Hindu world-view. By extension it is often used to designate the world, where birth and rebirth are the human des-tiny. The term is also used in JAINISM, Buddhism, and SIKHISM.The negative evaluation of samsara, so preva-lent in Hindu belief, began to color the ancient VEDIC tradition only in the era of UPANISHADS, some of which begin to show attitudes that would directly lead to the development of world-deny-ing philosophies. The Vedic MANTRAS themselves are life-affirming and envision a peaceful, joyful heaven as the result of merit in one’s life. There is no trace in them of REINCARNATION, of the hopeless mire of birth and rebirth. Reincarnation appears in the Upanishads, the small texts that were appended to the prose portions (BRAHMANAS) of the Vedas, along with the first evidence of the sense of entrapment in a web of endless births. The Buddhist and Jain traditions also focus on KARMA and the hopeless trap of the world.Further reading: Rajeshwari Vijay Pandharipande, The Eternal Self and the Cycle of Samsara: Introduction to Asian Mythology and Religion, 3d ed. (Needham Heights, Mass.: Simon & Schuster Custom, 1996); Heinrich Zimmer, Philosophies of India (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.