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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Kamma, Samsara, and rebirth

Summary

Key teachings and terms

Jhana/Dhyana: Pali and Sanskrit terms for deep meditative state or intellectual state of absorption involving direct awareness and insight into reality and experience. The Buddhist tradition identifies four to eight distinct stages or levels of meditative absorption.

Kamma/Karma: Literally “action” or “deed,” this term refers to the fact that actions, intentions, volitions, and, in general, states of mind have or produce consequences. The basic Buddhist account of it is that appropriate and inappropriate, wholesome and unwholesome mental tendencies or habits lead to actions that ultimately produce fruits or consequences.

Rebirth: Ancient Indian idea that one is reborn after death. It is usually connected to the idea of kamma. According to Buddhist cosmology there are six realms of rebirth: the realm of the gods or devas, the realm of the demi-gods, the human realm, the animal realm, the realm of the hungry ghosts, and the realm of hell. All six realms are thought to be real, but some forms of Mahayana Buddhism claim that they are best thought of as states of mind.

Rta: Indian term for the underlying structure and fundamental normative rhythm that organizes the energy and existence of all beings in the universe. It also refers to the law-like regularity and harmony of both the moral and physical spheres of the universe.

Samsara: Literally “wandering on” or “flowing on” this term conveys the idea of “aimless and directionless wandering” and refers to the ongoing and seemingly endless cyclical process of birth, life, death, and rebirth. In a more general way, it refers to the conditioned world of this life as it is experienced and caused by one's kamma with its concomitant dukkha.

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