steeltarrow wrote:I know this might be an odd sort of question and I am also not quite sure what forum to put it under. I put it under this one because I am still fairly new and I haven't studied too much of the texts yet so I thought it might fit.
Is spiritual progress possible in the lower realms (animal, hungry ghosts, etc)? By this I mean specifically progress down the path to nibbana with it being continued in later lifes or possibly (I don't know) achieving the goal in that life. I know that it is possible in higher realms as Buddha taught gods the path but wasn't sure about whether beings in the lower realms possesed the power to follow it or if they would just have to wait until they got reborn into a higher state.
Again I am not sure if this is the currect sub-forum or if this was known at all.
I've watched and interacted with animals for a long time, and have found that just as with people, there are good and bad natures out there. In particular I can recall a cat I once knew, who seemed to be able to sense when I was down sometimes, and would come up and show me affection. Most cats only do that when they want something from you - ie, food. But this cat really did seem to have a kinder heart than most. He even let our pet mouse just scamper past him, when it had escaped once. He did not attempt to kill it, with just a few words of warning from us. I've never seen a cat since with such impulse control. My cat today just goes for it, she doesn't give a damn what I think...
So I think animals can make spiritual progress. Altruism is not limited to the human realm. Dolphins have been known to sometimes rescue humans out at sea, giving them a ride back to the safety of the shore. This shows that some of them are both intelligent and
compassionate. They know both that the human needs the safety of the shore, and
they are willing to ferry him back there, yet there is nothing in it for them - it seems to be simply an act of selfless giving. And as we know, good actions done with a wholesome intention behind them, bring good results for the doer, in time.
But can an animal get into jhana / insight and break through to the Dhamma? - well, as I understand it he / she will first have to get reborn as a human being, and
have access the teachings, and
be able to comprehend them. And that's already a rare enough phenomenon, so I hear.