Saṃsāra is certainly an important and interesting Buddhist term. Generally, it refers to the worldly or secular life. As it relates to the afterlife of worldly beings it is metempsychosis, an endless succession of births and deaths from which there is no emancipation except by the attainment of nirvana which is realized by the very self or atman (pratyatman).
Westerners who continue to dabble in Buddhism tend not to accept the inescapable judgment of saṃsāra while, nevertheless, being able to accept the three marks of existence, namely, that conditioned things are impermanent. Karmic impressions (saṁskāra ) are unsatisfactory (duhkha). And all things are not the atman. They do not, however, accept the converse and least of all that nirvana is immortal. Such people have found no need for nirvana.
To live a samsaric existence is to live tautologically and groundlessly. It is a life without real meaning that just keeps repeating itself; that never transcends itself sufficiently to escape the gravity of saṃsāra. We know the routine—we’ve all lived it. Such a life gives us false hope. But sooner or later hope runs out. We are eventually faced with overwhelming shock and devastation.
We don’t even care about preparing for such a catastrophe. Still, hidden in the words of the Buddha is real hope, something very close to us. First of all, we have to have faith that what animates this illusory body of ours is where nirvana is to be found—no other place. And by means of dhyana (intuition) we can turn to it and behold it all it once. It has many names such as pure Mind, Buddha Nature, the Pure Land, or bodhi but one fact concerns us: that we directly experience its illumination which lifts the shroud of saṃsāra.