Will You Incarnate As An Animal? A Buddhist Take
Are you, or have you been, a dog or cat in your next life?
What about a bird, or a reptile?
Lots of people often have these questions when they investigate Buddhism and the idea of reincarnation.
And certainly, it is a fascinating discussion!
Buddha had some extremely unique views on reincarnation, especially when it came to the idea of animals and souls.
SEE ALSO: The Afterlife Of Buddhism
Do Animals Have Souls?
The short answer: yes.
Buddha taught that animals have an essential essence, just like humans, that cannot be destroyed or touched by anything in the physical universe.
Buddha himself told stories of his previous incarnations as whales or white elephants.
But Buddha also taught that the migration from soul to body was determined by karma.
This was essential to his teachings.
It’s the law of karma, or cause and effect, that teaches that rebirth into a new body happens only because we need to learn an important lesson.
It’s dependent on our actions, thoughts, deeds, and words.
How this Informs Compassion
Buddha believed everything- including plants- are interconnected physically and spiritually, and should therefore be respected.
He also taught that everyone should be vegetarian unless completely impossible.
Every being deserves to be happy.
All living things fear being beaten with clubs. All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, Let no one kill nor cause another to kill. -Dhammapada 129
The Progression of Reincarnation
In Buddhism and Hinduism, it’s taught that a soul will go through a succession of incarnations until it reaches a human body.
Usually, it starts from plant or mineral, and works itself up to higher life forms.
A human body is considered to be the most important incarnation, because it is uniquely gifted with the ability to find enlightenment.
Therefore, animals are slightly lower on the wheel towards nirvana.
We are the only ones capable of creating the ten realms of being- Bodhisattva (an enlightened being destined to be a Buddha, but purposely remaining on earth to teach others), Pratyeka Buddha (a Buddha for himself), Sravka (direct disciple of Buddha), heavenly beings (superhuman [angels?]), human beings, Asura (fighting spirits), beasts, Preta (ghosts), and depraved men (hellish beings).
And each of these states are frames of mind as well.
Re-framing the Question
To a Buddhist, it’s less important what they will become in the next life, and more important to consider what they are already.
This is an important concept, because it brings the practitioner into the moment…not into the past or future.
Besides, focusing on your state of being in the present will definitely ensure your future incarnations go much smoother!
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