saMsAra = Reincarnation?

Lance Nelson lnelson at
Tue Feb 14 18:21:15 UTC 1995

Since everyone is busy discussing the momentous issue of moderation, I 
thought this might be a good time to ask a question that, however dumb, 
relates to the actual subject matter of the list.

I notice that in most English language textbooks, the word "saMsAra" is 
given as the Indic translation of "reincarnation."  However, I notice 
that in my reading of VedAnta texts, "saMsAra" generally means something 
more like "world."  So, my question is: What is the correct translation 
for the noun "reincarnation" (or, I suppose, "transmigration") in 
Sanskrit, Hindi, and other Indian languages?  Is there a word, such as 
"punarjanma," that is actually in use to designate reincarnation without 
reference to the cyclic world in which it occurs?

Lance Nelson
Religious Studies    
University of San Diego
lnelson at


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