Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Micheal Kush
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Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Micheal Kush » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:03 pm

Hello everybody,

Recently I stumbled upon a series of suggestions pertaining to the karmic effects of animals and their rebirth. We are all taught that karma operates by an ethical component that according to your actions whether they be skillfull or unskillful, can drive towards a destinations which is rendered either blessed and great(which is the result of skillful actions: non harming etc.) and dangerous and horrible(hell or animal: unskillful actions control this). So given by the breif description of outcomes, the Buddha advocate ethical purity in that it propels ones basis as a foundation for the eihhtfold path and if not Nibbana, one goes to the deva realm.

However, given the status of animals in which they operate according to murderous instinct(lions,tigers,wolves) does this mean animals such as those above are given no hope and therefore on the verge of declination due to the natural, innate essentials they are bound to?
Wouldnt this spell an end or atleast a declining cycle for this set of aggregates?

It justs seems a bit unfair animals are given a lack of hope for redemption and surely I can see some animal activists( tho this isnt the concern here) protesting a thought like this.

With metta, mike

ALot
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by ALot » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:59 pm

Perhaps most animals just act like animals and will be reborn at the same level again and again? Because that's the level closest to their 'minds' during their livetimes?
Does Buddhist theory allow for animal being born into the body of a man?

Yes, that’s quite possible. Especially if the animal has experience of human beings, either as having been human in the past or through having had very close contact with human beings over a long period of time. In that case, there may be the possibility for that animal to be reborn as a human being. For an animal that has no contact with human being and no past experience as a human being, it’s very difficult to gain a human birth. By virtue of their kamma, animals are much more restricted in their potential. Animals have their natural instincts. The natural instinct of a tiger is to kill for food. It’s not the natural instinct of human beings to kill for food. The natural instinct of an elephant is to eat vegetation, not meat. It’s just their nature, their natural way. The natural state that an animal lives in is likely to promote its rebirth in that same level.

If a man and an animal are closely related to each other, is it possible for the man to be born as an animal?

Not unless the animal had the power over the man. In other words, if the man makes his citta like the animal, yes. If the man lacks all moral virtue and behaves in very bad ways, yes it’s possible.

So by imitating man, the animal will take on his tendencies?

Yes. Dogs trained by human beings can be extremely clever. One would suppose that they have good chance of human birth in the future. But for a wolf living out in the wild, what chance is there? Its nature is wild, it’s not a human nature at all. When the wolf is reborn it will most probably be as a wolf, because that’s what it knows. There is no certainty in that, but the probability is that it will experience the same kind of birth.

Ajaan Pannavaddho, "The Basics of Buddhist Practice"

Micheal Kush
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Micheal Kush » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:16 pm

ALot wrote:Perhaps most animals just act like animals and will be reborn at the same level again and again? Because that's the level closest to their 'minds' during their livetimes?
Does Buddhist theory allow for animal being born into the body of a man?

Yes, that’s quite possible. Especially if the animal has experience of human beings, either as having been human in the past or through having had very close contact with human beings over a long period of time. In that case, there may be the possibility for that animal to be reborn as a human being. For an animal that has no contact with human being and no past experience as a human being, it’s very difficult to gain a human birth. By virtue of their kamma, animals are much more restricted in their potential. Animals have their natural instincts. The natural instinct of a tiger is to kill for food. It’s not the natural instinct of human beings to kill for food. The natural instinct of an elephant is to eat vegetation, not meat. It’s just their nature, their natural way. The natural state that an animal lives in is likely to promote its rebirth in that same level.

If a man and an animal are closely related to each other, is it possible for the man to be born as an animal?

Not unless the animal had the power over the man. In other words, if the man makes his citta like the animal, yes. If the man lacks all moral virtue and behaves in very bad ways, yes it’s possible.

So by imitating man, the animal will take on his tendencies?

Yes. Dogs trained by human beings can be extremely clever. One would suppose that they have good chance of human birth in the future. But for a wolf living out in the wild, what chance is there? Its nature is wild, it’s not a human nature at all. When the wolf is reborn it will most probably be as a wolf, because that’s what it knows. There is no certainty in that, but the probability is that it will experience the same kind of birth.

Ajaan Pannavaddho, "The Basics of Buddhist Practice"
So, in short: there is no hope for the killer animals unless they reach a state in hell?

This seems to be a bit pessimistic. Thanks thought

With metta, mike

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Polar Bear
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Polar Bear » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:05 am

"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation: 'This is stress...This is the origination of stress...This is the cessation of stress...This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"

— SN 56.48
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

barcsimalsi
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by barcsimalsi » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:08 am

From the physical eye, animals seem to suffer much more compare to humans but i actually doubt that. Animals don't have mind like us so no matter how much they suffer, they don't get extremely depressed like human. In other sense, they don't think much and their mind are not restless.

Also, there are animals that are so fortunate.

Lucky to be humans?
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Karma is crazy!
The one thing i really agree with Buddhism is Samsara and we need to get out of it as soon as possible.

Yana
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Yana » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:30 am

Micheal Kush wrote: It justs seems a bit unfair animals are given a lack of hope for redemption
Hi Michael,

Human Beings are the the only beings capable of practicing the Dhamma fully..i am not saying that animals or devas cannot experience "redemption" or the Dhamma.. only that they are limited or distracted with either too much pleasure,suffering or ignorance.As humans we posses the ability to practice the Dhamma completely..we also have all sides of the spectrum included..we can choose to makes kamma NOW,that can lead us to have the mental mind set of an animal,a deva or a hell being..resulting in a possibility of our future rebirths to be affected by it.

I don't think being reborn as an animal is hopeless, some animals have a better life than most humans..my dog for instance is well loved and behaves very human like, almost mother like, to me..in my past life he could have been my mother..whose to say..some humans behave like animals..completely ruthless and vicious and ignorant..so who is more of the animal and who is more of the human..??

When you see an animal it's not that they don't have any rights to practice the Dhamma..nobody is making or taking these rights..it is a natural law of cause and effect..they made their own choices in the past..which resulted in them being born as an animal...and they'll have to make their own choices now....When i sit and pat my dog i always share something about the Dhamma to him..because he always has a peculiar look on his face..the usual fearful,anxious ridden eyes is replaced with a glint of focus..or the thinking mind..even if it's just for apassing moment he looked like he just remembered something lol....i even do it when i see small insects while i send them metta..or plants even..i pick them up and gently talk to them..doing little things like that not only help other sentient beings have a little peace but also gives You a lot of peace!

:anjali:
Life is preparing for Death

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DAWN
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by DAWN » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:52 am

Micheal Kush wrote:Hello everybody,

Recently I stumbled upon a series of suggestions pertaining to the karmic effects of animals and their rebirth. We are all taught that karma operates by an ethical component that according to your actions whether they be skillfull or unskillful, can drive towards a destinations which is rendered either blessed and great(which is the result of skillful actions: non harming etc.) and dangerous and horrible(hell or animal: unskillful actions control this). So given by the breif description of outcomes, the Buddha advocate ethical purity in that it propels ones basis as a foundation for the eihhtfold path and if not Nibbana, one goes to the deva realm.
Hello Mike,

Look at this chain.

Animals eat other animals (action(kamma) that brings suffering)
Peoples see that, and imitate that. They tell to them selves, we are animals, it's nature, so we will make like our ancestry.
So they take animals, put them in prison, and kill them (hell)

So what is conclusion?

Conclusion is that killing others brings a bad fruit.
If microbes have never begun to kill their friends to get some energy, animals have never been predators, and so peoples were continue to eat banana and other tree fruit, percive other animals not like food but friend, and perharps have never imitate predators, and have never created hells.
So it's a bad kamma fruit.

So, by analogy, our kamma lead us to some situation, when some aliens or other hight-intelect living beings will say to them selves. "Look at this peoples my friend, they put themselves in hell, stupid microbes..." so what they will do with us? They will put us in hell to get some energy, like we do with animals. So human hell will apear, and to get out from this kind of slavery will be hard, and very very long, until this hight civilisation will die... like animals will rebirth out of hell when human civilisation will disapear. It's long. They rebirth and rebirth and rebirth in hell many times, many many generations, until get free from hell...

It's foolishness.

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Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english

Micheal Kush
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Micheal Kush » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:31 pm

Thank you for the wonderful and insightful answers.

I really think the resonating aspect of this topic that really struck me was that Karma is crazy and detachment from Samsara is is really the ultimate freedom. Rebirth sounds worse than death.

Thanks for the responses

With metta, mike

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seeker242
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by seeker242 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:49 pm

Micheal Kush wrote:Hello everybody,

Recently I stumbled upon a series of suggestions pertaining to the karmic effects of animals and their rebirth. We are all taught that karma operates by an ethical component that according to your actions whether they be skillfull or unskillful, can drive towards a destinations which is rendered either blessed and great(which is the result of skillful actions: non harming etc.) and dangerous and horrible(hell or animal: unskillful actions control this). So given by the breif description of outcomes, the Buddha advocate ethical purity in that it propels ones basis as a foundation for the eihhtfold path and if not Nibbana, one goes to the deva realm.

However, given the status of animals in which they operate according to murderous instinct(lions,tigers,wolves) does this mean animals such as those above are given no hope and therefore on the verge of declination due to the natural, innate essentials they are bound to?
Wouldnt this spell an end or atleast a declining cycle for this set of aggregates?

It justs seems a bit unfair animals are given a lack of hope for redemption and surely I can see some animal activists( tho this isnt the concern here) protesting a thought like this.

With metta, mike
I don't think any animal activists, who understand and follow the Buddha's teachings on kamma, would protest something like this. :) The Buddha never said it was impossible for animals to be reborn as humans. Who knows such intricate workings of kamma besides the Buddha himself? Perhaps the tiger will be reborn as a house cat whose owners keep it inside and don't allow it to kill anything. And from there it takes a human rebirth? Not out of the realm of possibility IMO. :)

Micheal Kush
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Micheal Kush » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:58 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Micheal Kush wrote:Hello everybody,

Recently I stumbled upon a series of suggestions pertaining to the karmic effects of animals and their rebirth. We are all taught that karma operates by an ethical component that according to your actions whether they be skillfull or unskillful, can drive towards a destinations which is rendered either blessed and great(which is the result of skillful actions: non harming etc.) and dangerous and horrible(hell or animal: unskillful actions control this). So given by the breif description of outcomes, the Buddha advocate ethical purity in that it propels ones basis as a foundation for the eihhtfold path and if not Nibbana, one goes to the deva realm.

However, given the status of animals in which they operate according to murderous instinct(lions,tigers,wolves) does this mean animals such as those above are given no hope and therefore on the verge of declination due to the natural, innate essentials they are bound to?
Wouldnt this spell an end or atleast a declining cycle for this set of aggregates?

It justs seems a bit unfair animals are given a lack of hope for redemption and surely I can see some animal activists( tho this isnt the concern here) protesting a thought like this.

With metta, mike
I don't think any animal activists, who understand and follow the Buddha's teachings on kamma, would protest something like this. :) The Buddha never said it was impossible for animals to be reborn as humans. Who knows such intricate workings of kamma besides the Buddha himself? Perhaps the tiger will be reborn as a house cat whose owners keep it inside and don't allow it to kill anything. And from there it takes a human rebirth? Not out of the realm of possibility IMO. :)
I completely agree with you. However, my issue with this chain of dependant origination adhering to the rebirth of animals is that say, lions will keep killing, bringing them to possibly an endless cycle of rebirth amongst animal realms due to their violent instincts. However, a sutta comes to mind(forgot which, not good with sutta recollection) that the Buddha stated there are some people who live life unskillfully yet are reborn in radiant blessed realms and this applies vice versa. I guess this can shed some light of the issue. Provided by much explanation above, my doubts and questions have been further clarified.

Personally, I just find it more horrifying to engage in a thought of living a life as say, a disabled person or totally deprived being, who is ignorant of their past life and who lives another life of birth, decay, death. And yet people say rebirth was conjured up to escape the fear of eternal death. Yea rite .

Thank you for the illuminating explanations.

With metta, mike

santa100
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by santa100 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:30 pm

It's a matter of probability. Even within our own human realm, some of us will do something terrible and be reborn into states of woes while some will do something wholesome and be reborn into better states. Let's say the odds for humans to be reborn into good/bad states are 50/50, then the odds of beings in hell, animal, or hungry shades would skew more toward the bad end more often than the good because of the reason in the OP. However, if Kamma was a mathematical equation, then it'd be safe to say there're enough variables in the equation to allow room for animals to be reborn into better states, however small the odds may be. A lioness might sacrifice her own life protecting her cubs from the poachers or other lions' attack; some tigers in Thailand become "vegetarians" by living with the Buddhist monks; many others might get captured by circus folks to perform circus tricks and no longer have to kill to feed themselves, etc.. Bottom line is that Samsara is a nasty place so we'd better take advantage of our time here as humans to cultivate the Dhamma. Retrogressing into the lower realms would make it many many many times harder to get out..

Micheal Kush
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Micheal Kush » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:59 pm

santa100 wrote:It's a matter of probability. Even within our own human realm, some of us will do something terrible and be reborn into states of woes while some will do something wholesome and be reborn into better states. Let's say the odds for humans to be reborn into good/bad states are 50/50, then the odds of beings in hell, animal, or hungry shades would skew more toward the bad end more often than the good because of the reason in the OP. However, if Kamma was a mathematical equation, then it'd be safe to say there're enough variables in the equation to allow room for animals to be reborn into better states, however small the odds may be. A lioness might sacrifice her own life protecting her cubs from the poachers or other lions' attack; some tigers in Thailand become "vegetarians" by living with the Buddhist monks; many others might get captured by circus folks to perform circus tricks and no longer have to kill to feed themselves, etc.. Bottom line is that Samsara is a nasty place so we'd better take advantage of our time here as humans to cultivate the Dhamma. Retrogressing into the lower realms would make it many many many times harder to get out..

I couldnt agree more.

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Kamran
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by Kamran » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:40 am

Interesting post. When you consider animals the logic of rebirth seems to break down. Its like asking if animals go to heaven :)
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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DAWN
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by DAWN » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:41 am


SN 22.100 The Leash (2)

Monks, I can imagine no one group of beings more variegated than that of common animals. Common animals are created by mind. And the mind is even more variegated than common animals. Thus one should reflect on one's mind with every moment: 'For a long time has this mind been defiled by passion, aversion, & delusion.' From the defilement of the mind are beings defiled. From the purification of the mind are beings purified.
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english

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waimengwan
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Re: Karma, Rebirth and Animals

Post by waimengwan » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:45 pm

I like what Santa100 has said. Yes it is so dangerous for us to descend into the lower realms. The chances of rising to a better seems almost non existent. Our last thought in a human form can create the that very throwing karma, through one altruistic act to a better rebirth. How long we can stay in that better rebirth is another story altogether.

There are stories of ants on a leaf circumambulating a stupa hence getting a better rebirth, a hog was pursued by hunter till exhaustion and the last thing it saw was a stupa and gained a better rebirth. Which is probably why many lamas they like to make stupas everywhere to bless the environment and bring benefit to humans and animals in that area.

The chances to get back to better states is there but it is not easy especially if you are born a carnivore.

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