Samsara & Bodhisattva

 In Buddhism, samsara is the ongoing cycle of existence; the infinite loop of being born, living a mundane life, and then dying. It can also mean “wandering” or “world”, with the implication of a constant cycle of change. Buddhists essentially believe that this cycle of a life is an illusion we live within. Reaching enlightenment in the eyes of a Buddhist—becoming a bodhisattva (awakened being)—is the only successful way to break away from samsara.

While I’m not a practicing Buddhist, I love studying Buddhism and have the utmost respect for it. And, like many philosophies, I sometimes find it ringing true in other aspects of my life or other places in the world. Though I don’t necessarily find life to be a meaningless void that I need to seek awakening from, I think it does have the potential to be so, and it’s easy to see where the concept comes from in Buddhism. It is all too easy for humans to get trapped in a form of samsara—just living our everyday lives, doing what we need to do, being generally unhappy, uneducated, and uninformed.

Through reading, I believe we can change that. Reading brings with it its own form of enlightenment that I feel is indisputably vital to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Through reading, we can learn more about any part of the world—whether we have the means to travel or not. We can learn about other cultures, other viewpoints, other people. We can explore all kinds of ideas and personalities. We can be endlessly entertained, and run the gamut of emotions from laughing until we cry to crying until our heart aches. We can enter worlds we never thought were even possible. Worlds that don’t even really exist. We can soothe our fears, placate our worries, and explore possibilities.

Taken outside a bookstore in Crested Butte, Colorado

You may not believe in samsara or bodhi; but if you’re here, looking at this post, there’s a good chance you believe in reading. And through reading, we can reach our own version of enlightenment; through reading, we can become our own version of a bodhisattva.

“Knowing others is wisdom; knowing yourself is enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

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