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I've heard Samsara as the term to describe a world with suffering. And it's my simple understanding that Nirvana is the absence of suffering. Correct me if I'm mistaken.

My question is fairly simple, i.e., do all beings in this world "get reborn" through karma, or are there ascended beings in this world, living as human beings, free of all suffering?

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The Sambhogakāya or enjoyment body is part of the Trikaya.

It is used by enlightened beings to try and help and guide those out of Samsara.

It is only found in the Mahayana and Vajrayana Tibetan traditions. These beings can come and go from our world as they please, and reside in their own pure lands. Some practices have the stated goal of being reborn in a particular Buddha's or Bodhisattva's pure land, in order to receive teachings directly from them for a lifetime.

There are stories of Bodhisattvas that chose to be reborn in the human realm rather than a pure land, and live entire lives (suffering and all) in our world.

There are also Bodhisattvas that choose to be reborn in the hell realms in order to help beings there.

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My question is fairly simple, i.e., do all beings in this world "get reborn" through karma, or are there ascended beings in this world, living as human beings, free of all suffering?

It is correct, that beings get reborned due to their kamma. Kamma means action, but not just any action. The type we are talking about here is volitional action, i.e. actions where intentionality is present. This type of action is kamically potent. Kamma is created by body, speech and mind. It originates from the Mind and is based in either wholesome or unwholesome roots. Volitional actions have consequences, we call that vipakka which means "ripening" or phala (fruits).

The ripening need not to come right away, i.e. in this life. It can also come in the next life or operate across the succession of lifetimes. If you are interested in reading more about kamma and rebirth, references by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, can be found here.

There are beings in this world that are free some suffering, i.e. Arahants and possibly Pacceka Buddhas (silent Buddhas). These Buddhas are self-enlightened and arise between the time of two fully enlightened Buddhas, e.g. our Buddha, Gautama and the next Buddha to be, Maitreya.

If you would like to read more about Arahants, Pacceka Buddhas and Buddhas, Ven. Yuttadhammo has written about all of them in this answer.

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The predominant description of Nirvana in the Pali scriptures is experienced in the here-&-now.

For example:

Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate and delusion in him that is called the Nibbāna-element...

Iti 44

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It depends on how you interpret Samsara/Nirvana. If you give it a psychological interpretation then yes, one can live in Nirvana and be in this world at the same time because suffering is mental and thus Samsara/Nirvana are in our heads, not "out there".

Now if you're talking about what happens after one who enters Nirvana then dies, then that's another matter entirely. For that, perhaps read up on Nirvana with and without Remainder.

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Can a human being reside both in this world and Nirvana at the same time?

Suffering is a way of seeing things. In a sense we are all already in Nirvana but not seeing it so we are still suffering, so very definitely yes.

LUke 17:21 You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you."

We just need to see it. It is so close! That said I have not met someone who could see Nirvanha for any appreciable length of time.

  • The quote used seems to not be about Buddhism. – Lanka Mar 5 '17 at 12:53

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