Discovering Buddhism

Samsara and Nirvana

“Samsara, or cyclic existence, does not refer to our land or our house or our things. Samsara refers to the mental afflictions and the negative thoughts that bind us to this tiresome cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.”

–Yangsi Rinpoche, Practicing the Path

All living creatures know suffering—this is the Buddha’s first noble truth. And many of us also know how ordinary pain can grow into extraordinary suffering due to the power of our minds. In Buddhism, these negative states of mind that lead to suffering are called delusions. They are a primary cause for our remaining stuck in samsara—the cycle of endless rebirths that ordinarily propels one’s mind toward more suffering. The good news is that complete liberation from the suffering of an afflictive mind (nirvana) is entirely possible.

Explore the meaning of samsara and nirvana with Gus Cutz, and learn how to move out of a state of inevitable suffering to one of pure and irreversible peace. Find out how to develop your own determination to be completely free from suffering (renunciation) and its role on the spiritual path. Get empowered with practical tools for dealing with disturbing emotions up to the point of elimination, and reflect on the possibility of nirvana––and how that differs from enlightenment. 

This is the ninth of 14 modules in the Discovering Buddhism series. Students may join at any point in the cycle. Discovering Buddhism was designed for students interested in deepening their understanding of fundamental Buddhist concepts, and provides an experiential taste of the Buddha’s teachings and the skills we need to make our lives most meaningful. Each module includes teachings, meditations, readings, discussions, and a short retreat. For more information on the Discovering Buddhism program, please click here.

Important Note

This is an online-only event that is administered using Zoom which is an interactive video-conferencing tool that allows participants to see one another and ask questions. You will need a computer, a tablet or a smartphone with the Zoom application to attend. If you are using Zoom for the first time, please login a few minutes earlier to allow any necessary installations on your device.

After registering, the system automatically sends you a confirmation email and a receipt email (if applicable) that contain the Zoom meeting link and other instructions if any. If you don’t immediately receive the email(s) with the Zoom information, or you have questions about Zoom or accessing the class online, please contact us at [email protected].

Registration / Schedule

The course is 5-weeks.

Suggested: $20 per session, or $90 for all 5-weeks of the course
Other offering options: free to $30

The review session or assessment on Wed Apr 7 is optional. Discovering Buddhism Daylong Retreat will be on Sun Apr 11, 10:30am—3:30pm. Registration (TBA).

The suggested amount helps support teacher offerings and expenses, direct costs and rent. Shantideva member discounts or benefits will be applied automatically if you have a membership in MindBody. 

Shantideva Center may publish recorded sessions in the public domain (e.g., on YouTube). By registering for this event, you are agreeing to give your consent to this process. To protect your privacy, we recommend being conscious about any personal information you share during the sessions. To further enhance anonymity, you may want to consider turning off video or naming yourself using abbreviations.

Time zone: US Eastern Standard Time (GMT/UTC-4)

For questions regarding registration, please email [email protected] for assistance.


If you are a registered student, you may access the readings on our password protected page. After registering, an online receipt will be sent to the email address that you used to register. The page link and password will be on the receipt. Please contact us at [email protected] if you have questions about accessing this page.

Discovering Buddhism Certification

FPMT certification is available for those who complete all the components of the course. The completion certificate confirms the satisfaction of having accomplished a comprehensive engagement with the path to enlightenment and is symbolic of your commitment to spiritual awakening.

If you are interested in receiving credit for completing each module, please indicate your commitment to completing all of the module’s requirements by printing, completing, and signing the first page of this document. You can bring it to the first session of the module or email it to [email protected].

About the Teacher

Gustavo Cutz has been an active volunteer with Shantideva Center since 2008 and previously worked as an editor at Wisdom Publications in Boston. He was the facilitator for Discovering Buddhism until 2012 and has taught the course since 2017. He is in the process of becoming an FPMT-certified teacher. Gus also interprets and summarizes Geshe Thubten Soepa’s teachings on topics such as the Four Noble Truths, the eight worldly concerns, the six perfections, the “Eight Verses of Thought Transformation,” and, most recently, Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, chapters 1-3. Gus is a clinical psychologist and currently practices on Long Island.