The wheel of life, Trongsa dzong,Buddhist art of Bhutan. photo by Stephen Shephard, 2006, Creative Commons
The wheel of life, Trongsa dzong, showing the realms of Samsara. Buddhist art of Bhutan. photo by S. Shephard via Creative Commons

In Hinduism and Buddhism one speaks of Saṃsāra. Saṃsāra is a Sanskrit word, the literal meaning of which is “a wandering through” [1]. Samsara consists of continuous cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

In Sanskrit, enlightenment is called moksha, as liberation or freedom from Samsara. In psychological terms, freedom from samsara expresses liberation from the object attachments and object identifications that are superimposed upon the true nature of the Self.

Western psychology locates the ego within a world of object representation and object identifications. The ego knows the world according to the senses: sound, smell, sight, touch, taste. The senses point outward toward the object world. To make sense of the object world the mind creates object representations: color, weight, size, shape, form, name, location, etc. We know objects by the names we give the objects and by the predicates we use to describe them.  

If we try to know the nature of Self by the way of the object world, then we will only know the Self as an object. But, the true nature of the Self can never be known as an object. Moksha (enlightenment) is, in truth, realized through Self-knowledge (jnana). To know the nature of the Self, we must come to realize the Self beyond object representations.

The nature of Self is indeterminate, eternal, infinite, formless. It can never be an object representation. If we treat the Self as an object, we are attempting to give the Self object determinacy. Attempts to make the indeterminate Self into something determinate only lead to realizations of the Self as empty or void.

Though the Self is empty of object representation, it is not devoid of quality. To know the nature of the cosmic Self  is to move beyond language, beyond object representation and object identification so as to experience the non-objectal qualities of the Self.

The Self is known through intuitive awareness. Symbolic life guides the psyche beyond the world of objects, of Samsara,  into non-objectal quality.  Archetypes guide the individual self on a path beyond object identification so as to discover the nature of the cosmic Self.


  1. Wikipedia

6 thoughts on “Samsara

  1. Hey Jennifer, i think you will find this article really interesting. Are you acquainted with Spinoza’s theories on knowledge?

    Mark, Image, Sign: A Semiotic Approach to Spinoza
    Lorenzo Vinciguerra
    European Journal of Philosophy
    Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 130–144, March 2012

    it is a completely different approach to immanence, and i am not sure if Zizek agrees with it, since he is critical about deleuze’s work. But if you are curious about a semiotic view of the world, instead of a «perceptionist one», check this article on Spinoza and the theories of the signs….and perhaps Deleuze’s Proust and signs.

    One question, what do you mean with divine?


    Marco Rosa

  2. All is illusion; there is no space, time, or mass. These are all projections of consciousness. As consciousness advances or recedes so does space, time, and mass.

    Is then consciousness real? By what measure can we measure consciousness for real-ness? By whether it occupies time and space, and has mass? We are locked in a classic circular argument.

    But let’s say we grant consciousness real-ness for the argument’s sake. What have we granted it, really? The answer remains unknown. Consciousness remains in a dimension we have no words or references for, except, possibly, aware-ness. But what is aware-ness?

    1. David,

      Indeed, this concept of consciousness is illusive and so is the space and time which it perceives. And yes, awareness too is an illusive concept. But nonetheless, here we are perceiving. We are here in awe of space, of time, of mass, of the possibility that it may or may not be an illusion. We are the ones, who right now, in this moment, have been given the infinite blessings of perception.

      I have always felt that no matter what I suffered, I would always be thankful for this life. There are many things I regret, many uncomfortable moments, many aches and pains. But I would go through it all again, and again, for the gift of awareness.

      It is us, all too fragile and fallible human beings, who are capable of perceiving the infinite, the eternal. It is us who can contemplate the divine. And for that, I believe, we are blessed beyond measure.

      1. How can anyone see straight when he does not even see himself and the darkness he unconsciously carries with him into all dealings? CW 11: Psychology and Religion: par 140, pg 83.


        I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “… verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Mt 17:20).”

        Why would we or any human being not ask for that which we would receive without fail except our having little or no belief that our wishes will alter the reality of our lives. The miracle is that Jesus and those seers who came before and after him who believed as he believed ever had the creative insight to utter the sentiment that Jesus’ words so adroitly captured.

        Until Einstein, we (in the western world at least) believed in Newton’s absolute time and space and that matter could neither be created nor destroyed as was codified in Lavoisier’s articulation of the Law of the Conservation of Mass. Before then we believed that gods and goddesses and totems (and their likes) controlled our destinies. We lived in ignorance of the truth. Many of us are still living in ignorance, holding onto a world that in fact does not exist.

        And who are we? Above you say we are, “all too fragile and fallible human beings, who are capable of perceiving the infinite, the eternal.” I’m sure that in another moment of reflection you would say otherwise. I have read too many of your posts to believe otherwise. We are not only the blossoms that appear above the ground, but also the rhizome root that appears beneath the ground. More yet, we are the immanence appearing as life. However, we are no thing we can speak of or identify. Nothing.

        Rather than relishing in our sufferings to have life, we should know that when we look at yonder mountain in the distance and say come hither, there is nothing to stop its coming nigh, as there is nothing to stop us from stretching forth our hands and in every wit being made whole. 🙂

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