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What is the source of the cycle of life/death in the scripture , Does it have references in the Pali canon? Is the cycle itself introduced with Buddhism or came from other sources?

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    samsara is a cycle, that is true. – user2512 Jul 13 at 22:11
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Where did Buddhism get this from?

Why, it got from the Buddha's direct experience, of course.

The Buddha spoke in MN 4:

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

"This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

"This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Jul 13 at 15:10
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What is the source of the cycle of life/death in the scripture , Does it have references in the Pali canon?

From SN 15.2:

At Savatthı. “Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would reduce this great earth to balls of clay the size of jujube kernels and put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my father, this my father’s father.’ The sequence of that man’s fathers and grandfathers would not come to an end, yet this great earth would be used up and exhausted. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, this sa˙s›ra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving."

Is the cycle itself introduced with Buddhism or came from other sources?

No, the concept of Samsara already existed in other religions before Buddhism.

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Dependent origination includes death and rebirth:

DN15:2.1: When asked, ‘Is there a specific condition for old age and death?’ you should answer, ‘There is.’

If they say, ‘What is a condition for old age and death?’ you should answer, ‘Rebirth is a condition for old age and death.’

The sutta continues:

DN15:3.1: So: name and form are conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. Feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

In SN6.1, the Buddha thinks about the difficulty of teaching what has not been taught before:

SN6.1:1.5: But people like attachment, they love it and enjoy it. It’s hard for them to see this thing; that is, specific conditionality, dependent origination. It’s also hard for them to see this thing; that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment. And if I were to teach this principle, others might not understand me, which would be wearying and troublesome for me.” And then these verses, which were neither supernaturally inspired, nor learned before in the past, occurred to the Buddha...

The cycle of life and death was understood before the Buddha. What was not understood before is the concept of dependent origination and the escape from the cycle of life and death.

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The Bhavacakra (the "wheel of becoming") is associated with the 12 Nidanas -- i.e. with paṭiccasamuppāda -- as well as with the Three Poisons, the various realms of existence, and so on.

I think the "cycle" is a graphical representation or summary of several elements of doctrine.

Wikipedia says,

The Theravada-tradition does not have a graphical representation of the round of rebirths, but cakra-symbolism is an elementary component of Buddhism, and Buddhaghosa's Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) contains such imagery:

It is the beginningless round of rebirths that is called the 'Wheel of the round of rebirths' (saṃsāracakka). Ignorance (avijjā) is its hub (or nave) because it is its root. Ageing-and-death (jarā-maraṇa) is its rim (or felly) because it terminates it. The remaining ten links (of the Dependent Origination) are its spokes (i.e. karma formations [saṅkhāra] up to process of becoming [bhava])

I'm not sure whether it's true, that the graphical representation doesn't exist within Theravada -- an older version of Wikipedia used to include this diagram. Though it's easy to believe that Theravada scriptures are primarily textual not graphical.

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