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Saṃsāra, the Hourglass, and the Cage

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Thanako

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PostSubject: Saṃsāra, the Hourglass, and the Cage Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:11 am#1

Part 1: Saṃsāra


Today we are going to be looking at something a little bit different. I've already covered a lot of religious elements stemming from both Islam and Christianity, and while in the past I've touched on Saṃsāra, I've never really been able to put into words why this is in all likelihood the most important word Revo has ever used in Sound Horizon.

A fair warning, this is heavy religious concepts. I'm not preaching, or telling anyone to pursue or follow, or likewise abstain from any belief system. I just know that these sort of things don't seem to be discussed or put into words well in western communities, at least, not very often.

I've inspired some people already to look into things for themselves and that really has touched upon my heart, but even those people might be reading this over with skepticism, especially after the assertion I've just made. On top of mentioning just Saṃsāra, which is only mentioned by name rarely, I'm also going to be looking at the implications it has in relation to the (in)famous cage symbolism we will only see again for the umpteenth time in the future.

It actually baffles me a bit that there is so much talk on philosophy from say Freud, but this element goes largely unchecked in the western community. Perhaps it's because people don't exactly understand a concept appearing in both Hinduism and Buddhism. And even then, on the surface the information one could find on Saṃsāra is actually kind of vague itself. The word itself literally means "to wander about" in Sanskrit. To make matters worse, Saṃsāra is never associated with an hourglass, rather, the concept is associated with a wheel. Why would Revo choose an hourglass?

You're asking the wrong questions. The most common association about Saṃsāra is that it represents a place, where we are. So to say, a cage, if you will. We are not within Saṃsāra. That isn't the correct way to look at it, even if that could be the most logical conclusion with a brief look into things.

Saṃsāra is an action, just as the name translated implies. Saṃsāra is often considered a synonym for suffering. According to Buddha, you'd sooner find the beginning of a circle, than you would the beginning of Saṃsāra.

Now let's look at why this can cause confusion. Saṃsāra is the process of creation. We can create a brand new world, and of course we live within that new world. Along the way, you'll come to discover others who do this very thing. A constant theme is that these worlds will fall apart, even if you have the power to create another world in the stead of the last one. This is a basic description of the cycle.

Some reading may interpret this as a fascinating, and a very fun concept. Something people would want to do. There is a charm to having the creativity and power, so to say. It would be almost bliss, if not for the obvious fact: the world has suffering. Some would say that's what Sound Horizon teaches; we endure suffering and should have bright spirits about ourselves, or we may come to regret what we've done.

Our new worlds inevitably kill us. They fall apart and can not escape from their own destruction, even if you did everything in your power to fight this inevitability. Birth itself is seen as a risky, and painful process in Buddhism. But you will also endure physical and mental scarring from experiencing these over and over.

Buddha once asked some monks if they would think that there was more water in the vast oceans, or tears wept from our own Saṃsāra. All of the monks gasped in surprise when they learnt that the tears they'd wept outnumbered the waters of the oceans. That's a lot of water.

One of the most important factors to consider is that you're not the only one doing this. More and more people are born and die each day. Each person you'll ever meet has a world that is in part powered by your own, but it is a mutual exchange. Even though you will find friends, lovers, or even new family; you will also encounter enemies. From this standard, it is just someone who causes harm, despair, or something similar to you in your life. This includes parenting, or having a pet. You do labor, meet basic standards of living, and in some cases you may even die while doing these sorts of things.

There are ways, understandings, of how to break free from Saṃsāra.
Noah, for example, understands this. He remains. While in Buddhism and Hinduism, there is nobody who would ever want to remain after learning more about Saṃsāra, Noah is a very probable example. He is an immortal magician, after all. Just what his knowledge is would be unclear, but it is very clear that he knows a lot that nobody else does. He has found a sort of loop-hole to make Saṃsāra work in his favor.

With that said... Noah can still not escape from it. Even in Sho no Sasayaki, we are told of a man (who may or may not be Noah) who attempts to escape from his "fate". But in this case, we are told that there will only be another, and another. The man in the story may try as long as he wants, but it will catch up to him. Chronica goes on to say he did fail. That the listener will fail, and so will even herself, who is perceived as a Goddess. There is no point in pitying that.

Chronicle is first and foremost about the rebirth aspect, but that's leaving out an entire half of this cycle. Join me in the next post, where I will cover the meaning of the hourglass in a more broad detail, as well as the 2nd horizon, and the massive contrasts to the first. The main point of this post is for reference. We will be getting into the Sound Horizon aspects in the next post.

But hey, maybe you've noticed the themes of Saṃsāra yourself? That cover of Roman with the cycle of life? Perhaps the line in Honoo that is potentially referencing the words of Buddha I quoted earlier? Or even the idea that Elef and Misia will be reborn as Russians?


...Or perhaps you've noticed the darker undertones. Rein no Sekai, the "Paradise Parade". What are your ideas on this?

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PostSubject: Re: Saṃsāra, the Hourglass, and the Cage Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:36 pm#2

I strongly believe that Sound Horizon is ultimately a story of repetition. In the end, it's all about the cycles and how they are presented in different ways in every releases. Morning and night and birth and death are repeated over and over again, ultimately to show repeated, cage-like suffering.

I don't want to go into too much detail because that's exactly what you're going to be doing, but this is the common thread that ties together all of the Horizons. But yes, the themes of Samsara, an endless cycle of death and rebirth, is something that transcends all of the Horizons. It's given a new coat of paint and sometimes cleverly disguised, but it's always, always there.

As for the darker undertones, I like to think that they are the result of continuous suffering as well. Rein no Sekai is the last song of Pico Magic Reloaded, an entire release about the progression of madness. Rein no Sekai is where we end up: a wasteland where the metaphorical "paradise parade" ("crowds of sinners gather round") takes place, a place of darkness--the culmination of the transformation from paradise into abyss. The wasteland is also referred to in Yaneura Roman, where Savant breaks the fourth wall once again and tells the listener that "there is no place to go on", as all that lies ahead is an endless abyss. The Another Roman remix continues right from where Yaneura Roman leaves off, implying that it is another "end of the road" situation.

The bottom of the water of memories (the oblivion of forgotten memories), Rein no Sekai, the Paradise Parade, the Flood of the End, and Another Roman are all metaphors for the "end", rather, what happens as a result of the endless cycling in the cage. Everything is broken down, twisted, delusional--perhaps a reflection of the very character whose cage the Sound Horizon universe is confirmed to take place in...
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PostSubject: Re: Saṃsāra, the Hourglass, and the Cage Tue Mar 24, 2015 1:08 am#3

Part II: The Hourglass


Today's post is going to be a much darker shift in tone than last time's. The first part was mostly done for introductions to the idea of Saṃsāra and the implementation within Sound Horizon. Today we are going to look at the fatal flaw of the 2nd horizon, or at very least with Rinne no Sunadokei's story. It is up to you to come to your own conclusions, as always.

It is very easy to make sense of the hourglass symbolism, but as I have already hinted, this is the very idea that taints the horizon itself. In the 2nd part, I will hopefully explain why Thanatos-ko is wrong in her views. Or, if you prefer, the speaker for Rinne no Sunadokei. However, the exposition and information doesn't end with just understanding Saṃsāra. There is more to understand, before we assert anything.

Pratītyasamutpāda. Tackling this term requires a lot of understanding.
It isn't so easy for me to explain, especially in English. I'll boil it down to the basics and say that this word has multiple meanings. It boils down to the idea that everything is connected. Pratītyasamutpāda itself would translate to "Chain of Dependent Origin". Every one thing depends on every other thing. This is a very complex and thorough concept that can take on multiple meanings, and I am not exactly a monk in a position to properly lecture on it, and it bares less significance than Saṃsāra in this case. But it is worth mentioning because one of the major points, or causes of suffering ties into this: Saṃskāra.

Saṃskāra is a word that is widely debated on how to translate. Like Saṃsāra, the "Sam" would mean "Joined together/complete together, but in the case of kāra, there no real way to give it justice in the English language. It essentially means an action, any action, the cause of said action, doing said action, or anything related to it. It's a very broad term, and in Buddhism it means even more on top of the meaning of the word itself.

The term within Buddhism means "Impressions/Fabrications". This is where the real knowledge is. The second cause of suffering, a false perception of reality. This is only one of the possible meanings of Samskāra, but let's look deeper.

Rinne no Sunadokei uses an hourglass to represent death, and life on a much smaller scale. The speaker of the song is seemingly about to escape from Saṃsāra, but makes a fatal mistake. This within the song is represented by a change in style, and a filter over the voice of the speaker. The cycle is repeated because of selfish desire. Or, perhaps for a wish, if you've been keeping up with Sound Horizon as a whole.

There are several issues with the symbolism of an hourglass within Buddhism. As we have already explained in part I, Saṃsāra has no beginning. The idea of an hourglass implies that there is one, and it puts much more emphasis on death. Saṃsāra is also almost exclusively represented by a wheel, something that goes around and around. The 2nd horizon is also wrong in this regard.

It is by no stretch of the mind to assert that the girl in Thanatos (or the speaker) is wrong. If they were truly down the path of enlightenment, they would have escaped from Saṃsāra, or their cage, if you will. This example is the closest we have seen, but even understanding what is implied to be the canon workings of Sound Horizon's world spiritually, there are still flaws. If right, the horizon would have ended here, but we know from Pico Magic's continuation that the understanding almost certainty never comes. From this, we can tell that the speaker is currently the closest from escaping the cycle, but just isn't close enough. While we have seen some, such as ABYSS, claim to escape from their cages, what they get for it is presumably a new world, out of a nightmare.

The world of Thanatos is damned to repeat, perhaps for all of time. The story continues to spin because of a false perception of reality. Something in the end will cause Sound Horizon to end, according to Revo himself. Will this ending wrap up the elements of being trapped within Saṃsāra? With Nein looking like it may revisit the old horizons, do you think elaboration will be granted?

Sound Horizon has a dual-structure. Life vs Death is a common trend, but look closer. Acceptance vs Defiance is just as strong.

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