The Concept of Samsara

Samsara is an endless cycle in a human’s life. Karma, spiritual results of actions, moksha, the liberation, salvation, and goal, reincarnation, the rebirth, and atman, a person’s soul, all connect to explain the cycle of life. Reincarnation is when each soul (atman) passes through the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth repetitively, respectively called transmigration.

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Hindus believe that transmigration is a bad thing, as it traps the soul and keeps it in the samsara cycle. Karma is similar to ‘what goes around comes around,’ but judges you by your whole life’s actions. It determines where you come back and what you come back as. Moksha has three parts to it. First comes liberation, which is from getting out of samsara. Second comes salvation of the soul to the spiritual world. Third, is the goal of the Moksha, which Hindus hope to achieve Moksha. Moksha is the reason why Hindus try to produce as much positive karma as they can.

These basic concepts all work together for Hindus to believe in achieving Moksha. The caste system works with 4 main groups. Each group has certain jobs, to which Hindus prefer in their social classes. In society, social class is given to separate responsibilities to each class, known as egalitarianism.

Hinduism has almost 33 million gods and goddesses. The most important gods of Hinduism include Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganapati, Vishnu Avatars (including Rama and Krishna), Saraswati, Lakshmi, Durga Devi, Indra, Surya, Agni, and Hanuman. Brahma, the creator, is the first member of the Hindu Trinity. In Hinduism, he creates many objects throughout the whole universe. Vishnu, the preserver, is the second member of the Hindu Trinity. He retains order in the universe that Brahma creates. He is also worshipped in many incarnations and is less visible than nature gods. Shiva is the third member of the Trinity and is named the destroyer. He destroys objects in the universe for a new cycle of objects created by Brahma. Shiva is normally praised the most, as it says that he is the start of new things. These three gods are the top of all 33 million gods.

The rest of the gods fall in behind the members of Hindu Trinity. Ganapati is known as the removal of obstacles, and is Shiva’s first son. He has a very special place in Hinduism, as Hindus place him on the walls of their homes for no obstacles in their life. The Avatars of Vishnu are considered savior forms of gods on Earth from the heavens. Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning. She is the wife of Brahma, who is worshipped for learning, wisdom, speech, and music. These are the second group of gods that are the most important.

Next, Lakshmi, the god of good fortune, is the wife of Vishnu and plays a role in incarnation. Durga Devi is the most powerful and frightening goddess that fights for order (dharma). Indra is the King of Heaven and is the lord of the gods. Surya is named as the sun, who is a golden warrior on a chariot pulled by seven white horses. Agni is the god of fire, and holds a fire ritual as the sacrificer in sacrifice ceremonies to this day. Lastly, Hanuman, the monkey king/servant, is the performer of strength, devotion, and courage.

Around two thousand B.C., during the time of the Aryan invasion, the caste system dates back to this time period. The societies to this date still have this name. It has a total of four main groups, with a fifth outside of the system. The first group are called the Brahmin, similar to Brahma, known as the reflective ones, or the priests. They are considered the teachers and spiritual leaders. The second group are called the Kshatriyas, or the protectors of their society. These are considered the people of the police or military. The third group is called the Vaisyas, or the merchants. These people are skilled producers of materials. The last group, the fourth group, is called the Shudras. The Shudras are similar to maintenance workers. They are the hard workers of all the groups. Outside of the caste system, are what they call the untouchables.

The caste system has imposed rules on these castes to make more order in the groups. Usually, the people of a caste have had rules to only help their caste, and not other castes. They are not allowed to interact with the other castes. Like many other small countries, they do have laws regarding marriage. The caste determines who a caste member can marry. It also determines where they can live and what job they will work. Those of higher class may not have similar rules to other castes. Brahmans are of higher class and are nonviolent, spiritual priests. Another law that was created, almost two thousand years ago, are the Laws of Manu. These laws put rules on food, marriage, money making, avoidance of certain things, and these rules maintain peace.

Caste rules are very strict, such as marriage time lengths, jewelry/ornaments a women can wear, even when water can be taken from a well. The only thing that can be taken out at any time is farming or trading. Usually, these people include the priests, barbers, weavers, or any other mechant that can create an item.

There are four main types of yoga. Karma, Jnana, Astanga/Raja, and Bhakti yoga. Karma yoga are self centered activities that, later on, link to a greater objective. It usually requires some amount of sacrifice for use in the next life. This form usually enjoys worldly pleasures. Jnana yoga promotes philosophical wisdom and knowledge. This type is usually in a secluded space to study, with minimal activity. Astanga or Raja yoga are divided into eight essential stages. Most modern day yoga is based off of this. This yoga requires some difficult standards to people to participate in. It is said to have mystic power to become smaller than the smallest. Lastly, Bhakti yoga is a path to devotional service. This is a combination of all types of yoga. This is a recommended practice to those emotional people as a symbolic worship method.

These types of yoga bring spiritual guidance to the Hindus. These four types bring liberation for a person to achieve moksha. Each one builds up to obtaining a new sense to a different meaning. All four seem to have some mystic power to discipline the practitioner.

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