DB Samsara & Nirvana: Homework due April 10

In our first class we introduced the concept of samsara and defined it as the “continuum of the contaminated five aggregates.”

Please take a look at this blog post for an alternative definition before answering the following questions: https://guhyasamajacenter.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/what-is-samsara/

1) come up with your own analogy for samsara and share it with us.

2) take an opposing view point and list some reasons countering the definition of samsara (either the simple one, contaminated five aggregates, or the more refined definition that Rinpoche explained); pull apart the definition, word by word, examine it and challenge it. To clarify: The task is to examine the definition of samsara as being: “the continuum of the contaminated 5 aggregates”.

So you might challenge the assertions contained within the definition. These are:

1) the mind is a beginingless continuum with previous moments of existence giving rise to the next moment,
2) that our 5 aggregates are contaminated in the sense that it they are dependently arisen — yet we mistake self and phenomemon as inherently existing and this gives rise to afflictive emotions and actions,
3) the definition of the self as consisting of the 5 aggregates.

Do you agree with each of these assertions? Maybe…maybe not.

Share your thoughts using the Comment feature, or email me anitendrol@guhyasamaja.org.

Meditation suggestions: (written response not expected) reflect carefully on the 8 sufferings and think of examples from your own life. Think of these sufferings as the symptoms of an underlying sickness. Try to identify the self who experiences the 8 sufferings. Can you find it?


3 thoughts on “DB Samsara & Nirvana: Homework due April 10

  1. Regarding an analogy for samsara:

    I thought about an alcoholic. The alcoholic (person), the booze (representing the 5 aggregates) and the addiction (representing the mental afflictions).

    To become free from the effects of over indulging in alcohol, one must completely abstain from drinking.

  2. A long quote here from Geshe Rabten’s teachings on defining the 5 aggregates, thought this helpful to ponder in addition to other reading materials, before answering the above questions.

    “All beings in samsara are subject to ignorance, from which the other mental defilements arise. This ignorance causes us to perceive our own nature the wrong way. To remove it, we must realize the true way we exist.
    What we call “ego,” or “self,” can be divided into either the body (caused by the parents) and mind (caused by past existences), or the five skandhas (aggregates). These skandhas are the five elements of sensory existence:

    1. Physical form (rupaskandha). This includes air, blood, semen, bone—anything material, composed of atoms. The sound of the voice is included in this skandha, because sound is form.

    2. Feelings (vedanaskandha). These arise from bodily contacts and mental contacts (with ideas, concepts, and so on), and can be pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent.

    3. Cognition, perception, differentiation (samjnaskandha). This skandha is the mind that recognizes objects through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking.

    4. Volitional formations (samskaraskandha). Samskaras are the qualities or tendencies of mind, produced by karma, that control the various kinds of conditioned mental factors, or “caitta.” (Caitta are in an inseparable relationship with the essential mind, “citta.” These factors can be beneficial—for example, concentration, intelligence, wisdom, confidence, energy, tranquillity, friendliness and sympathetic joy at the success of others—or harmful—ignorance, desire, anger, greed and all that is unprofitable in the spiritual sense. Caitta are mental karma; karma of body and speech arise from caitta; most caitta are included in samskaraskandha. The sequence of time and the changing nature of things are included in this skandha.

    5. Consciousness (vijnanaskandha). The function of this skandha is the awareness of an object. It allows the other skandhas to operate.

    The five skandhas together support the concept of ego. This concept cannot be supported by any of the skandhas in isolation; it depends on all of them, just as the wheels, windows, steering wheel, engine, and other parts together make up the concept of “car.” Any of these parts in isolation is not the car. If all the parts are piled together in a heap, it is still not a car. Those parts arranged in a certain order comprise what people recognize and think of as a car. If people did not give it this name and did not recognize it as such it would not be a car.
    In samsara there are three planes of existence: the desire realm (kamadhatu), the form realm (rupatdhatu), and the formless realm (arupadhatu). In the first two realms no being can exist without all five skandhas. In the formless realm, beings have no physical form – rupaskandha—but do have the other four skandhas. Without these there is no ego.
    All beings exist as a combination of skandhas and cannot exist without them. Buddha is also a combination of these skandhas, but ones that have been purified and transformed.
    There are two ways of looking at the ego:
    Through ignorance, negative understanding of the ego. This produces aversion and desire, unskilful karma, and suffering.
    Through realization of shunyata, understanding the emptiness of the ego. This is positive understanding of the ego. Meditation on shunyata removes ignorance and thus ail the other mental defilements and their results.
    As soon as we think of “I” as an entity existing independently, our ignorance has apprehended the ego in the wrong way. When we are aware that the ego does not exist independently, we can find right understanding. Without this understanding, our ignorance persists. This is the main point about shunyata, or emptiness: that the ego does not exist independently. This emptiness is the emptiness of the ego as an entity existing independently. Ego exists only as a combination of the skandhas.”

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