The Buddha taught his disciples how to liberate themselves from the suffering of life through the death of the ego. Methods for exploring and transcending the Wheel of Birth and Death (samsara) lie, therefore, at the center of Buddhist teachings. The various traditions of Buddhism individually and collectively address the problems of living partly through teaching the "art of dying," the creative passage from attachment to the world of things into a new life beyond birth and death (Evans-Wentz xiii-xvii). Liberation (nirvana) depends upon first understanding the situation of the individual within the world, and then upon dying to that state through transcending it.
Of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, the first two address directly the structure of samsara (Kalu 15-16). The First Noble Truth announces that life is suffering. The Second Noble Truth describes craving or desire as the primary cause of suffering (unhappiness). With these two propositions Gautama Buddha is said to have analyzed duhkha, the underlying "disease" that afflicts sentient beings (Matthews 27-29). The world is inherently afflicted with decay, sickness and death.
In answer to his pessimistic diagnosis of life, the Buddha also presented his dharma, a prescription for ending the meaningless, frustrating, unhappy character of living. The practice of Buddhist teachings is embodied in the second pair of Noble Truths: the Third suggests that it is possible to attain a state of liberation from pain; the Fourth outlines a way to liberation, the Eightfold Path. Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist psychology and Buddhist practice revolve around the description and resolution of suffering (Matthews 5-10, and Burtt 27-29).
Liberation from duhkha, the suffering implicit in the Wheel (or Round) of Birth and Death appears to come out of a kind of desperation. It is an acknowledgement of the fundamental futility in life from the perspective of the individual living...