Sangsara and Delusion

July 19, 2014 § 3 Comments

Morning mist 1890

A psychologist might tell you that the greatest challenge to mental wellness is the failure to recognize that thoughts exist only in the brain. A Buddhist might simply say that thought is empty. The Buddhist might also speak of Sangsara, or Samsara.

Sangsara is a term used to describe the consciousness of objects combined with the delusion that objects exist independently of the observer. Awakening to reality destroys Sangsara in the sense that the delusion is destroyed. In the psychological sense, this means that thought is no longer seen to exist in the world as an independent, separate thing made of concrete substance.

Most of us know delusion as the stalker who believes a public figure is in love with them. As the hypochondriac who believes they are ill when no trace of illness can be found. Or as extreme jealousy where one believes his or her partner is cheating, even though there is no evidence to support that claim. The Buddhist would tell you, however, that the belief that any thought is something real and concrete is a delusion, and one shared by most of humanity.

It is easy to see delusion acting within yourself. Simply wonder if you really did lock the car door or if you really did put that credit card back in your wallet after your last purchase, and see how quickly that thought is felt to be real!

If you take that feeling into meditation and examine it, you will begin to see that not just that thought, but all your thoughts are felt to be real whether they correspond to the physical world or not. If you examine that feeling deeply, you will begin to see how your mental world extends into the outer world. You will begin to see that you are reacting to that mental world instead of your actual physical surroundings.

In seeing this you will begin to see how, as the Buddha said, you are bound to appearance. And how deeply your attention is fixed, as if hypnotized; upon an illusion you’ve mistaken for reality.

Knowing a thought to be just a thought, frees you from bondage to that thought. Knowing all thought to be just thinking, frees you from Sangsara.



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