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Can animals eperience enlightenment?

edited June 2010 in Buddhism Basics
I am wondeirng about this from a buddhist perspective.

I've just read a book on buddhism and the notion of happiness and joy. The writer said or implied that enlightenment is essentially happiness. All sentient beings desire happiness.

We have dogs. Sadly a couple of years ago my dog was hit by a car and died. My dog was very clever and affectionate and we had a strong bond. When I think about life and the meaning of life and metaphysics etc I wonder about my dog. My dog had such a strong personality that it is hard to believe that he can go. It does not seem just or to make sense. I'm sure most people feel this to some degree when a loved pet or person has died.

From my understanding of Buddhism, Buddhist theory promotes the idea that the essence of my dog lives on - its mind or whatever.

A question I have (regarding buddist theory) is more general regarding animals. Can animals experience enlightenement? Does buddhism believe animals reincarnate up the scale to become human? Or does enlightenment occur in all species but its just a varied experience or something similar. Is enlightment on a human level more fulfilling than say an earthworms level or is it just a variation of a similar experience?

Why are there different types of animals from a spiritual or a toward enlightenment perspective?

If things progress through levels to humanity, then what comes after humanity?

Humans have the ability to 'think about things' more complexly than animals. So how can animals expect to 'become less ignorant' (i.e. wake up).
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Comments

  • ZendoLord84ZendoLord84 Veteran
    edited June 2010
    i don't know...
  • edited June 2010
    "Does buddhism believe animals reincarnate up the scale to become human?"

    Some schools believe that. It is my understanding that Vajrayana does.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited June 2010
    It epends on your definition. he he. sorry couldnt resist.

    My pooch doesn't stop barking at the door and say "there is anxiety present". so it is IMO doubtful.
  • edited June 2010
    There is a beautiful story about the naga (snake) that desired to become a monk.

    http://www.khandro.net/mysterious_nagas_2.htm

    "The snake was given the Five Precepts as the means to attaining a human existence in his next life when he can then be a monk. "
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    The Buddha did not teach that animals can reach enlightenment. But then, animals were not his audience and he was not concerned with issues that had nothing to do with human release from suffering.

    However, enlightenment is not just a matter of living-in-the-moment (which animals do very well) ... it includes freeing oneself from the stimulus-response mechanism that all of us are imprisoned by ... and I don't see animals as being capable of achieving much in that regard.

    As for Vajrayana, they teach that all beings are capable of rebirthing into any of the six realms (god realm, jealous god realm, human realm, animal realm, hungry ghost realm, hell realm), regardless of which realm their previous life was in. This is taught (by my Tibetan monk) literally (if you are full of anger, you will be reborn in hell), but some prefer to take it figuratively (if you are full of anger, you already are living in hell). No matter which way the teachings are interpreted, there is no "progression" up through the realms such as what you queried about.
  • edited June 2010
    My opinion or thought may not be credible as I have only been looking at Buddhism this last 5 days, but I wanted to add to this thread.

    Isn't an animal, for example my dog. More enlightened than most human Buddhists? He causes zero suffering, to himself or others. He only has love, and hates nothing. His acts are only to please others, and is completely unselfish.

    Does he not have the ultimate knowledge of living right now, and in the exact second in time, with no thoughts of God, future, death, 2 minutes, or tomorrow, only what is now! And right now, is what is important.

    If I am completely ass backwards...I am sorry.

    Richard
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    Isn't an animal, for example my dog. More enlightened than most human Buddhists? He causes zero suffering, to himself or others. He only has love, and hates nothing. His acts are only to please others, and is completely unselfish.
    I would say the animal live a much more liberated and free life than most non Buddhists.


    (except some of the more evolved creatures like Chimps, who can pretty much suffer from the same prison as us, to a very close extend)

    The difference is that human can actually make a difference.
    Humans can reach the state of liberation that animals enjoy, but go even much further to full liberation.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    My opinion or thought may not be credible as I have only been looking at Buddhism this last 5 days, but I wanted to add to this thread.

    Isn't an animal, for example my dog. More enlightened than most human Buddhists? He causes zero suffering, to himself or others. He only has love, and hates nothing. His acts are only to please others, and is completely unselfish.

    Does he not have the ultimate knowledge of living right now, and in the exact second in time, with no thoughts of God, future, death, 2 minutes, or tomorrow, only what is now! And right now, is what is important.

    If I am completely ass backwards...I am sorry.

    Richard
    As FoibleFull said Enlightenment isn't just being in the moment.

    It isn't a regression to pre-self status, but a post-self status realized through effort (meditate, meditate, meditate) and understanding. Finding your donkey only matters after you've lost it.
  • edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    My opinion or thought may not be credible as I have only been looking at Buddhism this last 5 days, but I wanted to add to this thread.

    Isn't an animal, for example my dog. More enlightened than most human Buddhists? He causes zero suffering, to himself or others. He only has love, and hates nothing. His acts are only to please others, and is completely unselfish.

    Does he not have the ultimate knowledge of living right now, and in the exact second in time, with no thoughts of God, future, death, 2 minutes, or tomorrow, only what is now! And right now, is what is important.

    If I am completely ass backwards...I am sorry.

    Richard

    I totally agree with Richard on this one. Not only for the reasons he gives but also the thought process that pours out of the animal. In my youth I had a dog named Bozo. He was long like a weiner dog but had long hair and a foxy face.

    My father handed me a jar to go catch as many grasshoppers as I could because we were going fishing. So me and Bozo ran out to Hobo Jungle (a wild area on the edge of our fields) A spring ran down the length of it and the willows were thick with trails.

    So I seen my first grasshopper and BOOM. I grabbed it and stuck it in the jar and screwed the cap back on. Bozo watched me do this about 3 more times. Suddenly he leaped in front of me and held real still and looked back at me. I went to see wut he was about and he had a grasshopper firmly planted under one of his paws. He took over. He caught them and I retrieved them and put them in the jar. Hell we must have had 50 grasshoppers in about 5 minutes of time.

    We ran back to daddy and I was ecstatic. "Daddy look." My dad held up the jar and took a good look. "My goodness girl you got a bunch in here huh? That didn't take very long." "Yeh I know daddy thats because Bozo helped me. He saw what I was doing and took over. So he caught them and I put them into the jar."

    (heh heh) I'm pretty sure Animals go to heaven cuz a lot of them are a whole lot smarter than human beings.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2010
    The Jewel Ornament of Liberation says that 'animal' is a condition which prevents one leisure to study the dharma because animals cannot hear the teachings (read or hear), cannot contemplate them, and cannot meditate.

    Within the same tibetan tradition it is believed an animal can reincarnate as a human and vice versa.
  • edited June 2010
    Is it possible they do not need to hear the teachings, as they are already, already enlightened? Fearless, unselfishness, have absolutely zero possessions, and are happy, without even understanding what the term happy is, they just...Are. could this be a pure form of enlightenment, enlightenment, without understand what it is, or even having a concept of it

    As an environmentalist I find this subject, very close and interesting.
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    Is it possible they do not need to hear the teachings, as they are already, already enlightened? Fearless, unselfishness, have absolutely zero possessions, and are happy, without even understanding what the term happy is, they just...Are. could this be a pure form of enlightenment, enlightenment, without understand what it is, or even having a concept of it.
    no, to think so would be to have a wild misunderstanding of animals mind.

    Even dogs do suffer from some form of depression, stress, anxiety.

    Watch this video, it will blow your mind to realize how amazingly close many primates are to humans.
    <object width="660" height="525"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/hrCVu25wQ5s&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0xcc2550&color2=0xe87a9f&border=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/hrCVu25wQ5s&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0xcc2550&color2=0xe87a9f&border=1"; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="660" height="525"></embed></object>

    'Stress, Neurodegeneration and Individual Differences' by Robert Sapolsky
    <embed id=VideoPlayback src=http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1877467554618436978&hl=en&fs=true style=width:400px;height:326px allowFullScreen=true allowScriptAccess=always type=application/x-shockwave-flash> </embed>

    the last one can be very educative to find out how the human brain works as well.
  • edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    Is it possible they do not need to hear the teachings, as they are already, already enlightened? Fearless, unselfishness, have absolutely zero possessions, and are happy, without even understanding what the term happy is, they just...Are. could this be a pure form of enlightenment, enlightenment, without understand what it is, or even having a concept of it

    As an environmentalist I find this subject, very close and interesting.

    This is pure speculation. As such, it cannot be disproved. But in a Buddhist context, it's pure speculation.
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    As such, it cannot be disproved.
    nope. watch the videos ;)
  • edited June 2010
    Our dog is good fun and enjoys cuddling up with us. She is always pleased to see us and comes and lays her head on my knee if I am upset. I like my dog a great deal. She is a member of our pack and I'm glad she lives with us. She was an adult, rescue dog when we got her from the dog home and training has had little impact on some of her behaviour.

    Given a chance, she will chase and and try to kill birds, squirrels, rats, hedgehogs and cats. She will also start fights with other dogs - no ifs, buts or maybes, she just goes for them. When the postman arrives or the doorbell rings she explodes into a paroxysm of rage. If a person comes into the house uninvited she will attack and bite them. She will eat anything she finds (apart from cabbage, lettuce, onion and garlic) and if not controlled she will eat until she vomits and then will go back for more.

    She is a slave to her instincts unless trained (controlled) by a person. So no, not very buddhist. Although she is better at living in the moment and letting things go than I am.
  • edited June 2010
    So Buddhism places animals I'm the same category that all other religions do? As we are apparently more intelligent, and advanced we are superior? I am very interested in this aspect of Buddhism, where in fact animals lay in the grand scheme of Buddhism.

    I have always put this argument to people. Humans are apparently more superior as we are of a higher intelligence. Now the pure nature of all beings, is survival. Now we as humans, being more intellectual, and superior are destroying the one thing we need to keep continue our existence, the planet. Now I do not see our animal friends destroying its habit, in fact they are a vital role in securing some habitats, why because they understand this earth is a necessity.

    We base there intellect on ours, which doesn't mean its correct, we can explore the human mind, but to announce we understand the minds of animals is somewhat ignorant is it?

    Maybe, if a dog, cat or butterfly could be understood by us, maybe it would be able to explain what "Peace" really is.

    So many religions simply classify animals as unintellectual beings which are below us, and are simply hear for food and entertainment is something I havealways wanted to change - I really REALLY would like to know where Buddhism, all types, especially Theravada teachings, on the matter of animals, hunting, the environment etc etc


    I will watch the videos when I am not in the office :D

    Again, please bare with me, I am very new, and very eager to try to understand. Although I already have fallen in love with this place as people are allowed to have opinions without being shouted down, or made to feel, well stupid. I adore the fact I can come here, ask stupid questions, and opinions which may seem odd, without feeling like an idiot.

    Thanks

    Richard
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    So Buddhism places animals I'm the same category that all other religions do? As we are apparently more intelligent, and advanced we are superior? I am very interested in this aspect of Buddhism, where in fact animals lay in the grand scheme of Buddhism.
    we are animals, with a chance at enlightenment.

    This is not my personal belief but many traditions of Buddhism believe that they can reincarnate as animals.
    and that many animals were once humans.

    If you are a human, you were probably once an animal.


    I believe Buddhism just value life in general, weather it is human or not.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Our dog seems to live in the moment and does not appear to live in self images, but does demonstrate ideation, or at least the sustaining of a mental image a short time. She definitely feels stress, sadness, happiness. She doesn't think about tomorrow and just drops things. She is very protective of the family (pack)and reeeeally cuddly. I find it impossible to tease apart her from my projections of her. Sometimes when certain buttons get pushed "Dapple" disappears and DOG appears, and there is no love in those eyes, not much of anything in fact.
    She is pretty pure. She is not Enlightened. oh.. and she doesnt need to be.
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    and dogs, just like humans, can be driven by their conditioned behaviors.

    enslaved by them just like us.

    And these conditioned behaviors can be resolved very much like humans.

    Watch the dog whisperer tv show... watch how every time the dog attention get fixated on whatever trigger his behavior, the way to retrain him is to snap him out of it, to redirect his attention to something else (remind you of anything :) )

    If your dog don't behave, you can retrain him and be his Buddha nature :)
  • edited June 2010
    I have found a marked difference in 'animals' that have been in the (good) care of humans, versus the pathetic creatures one finds living a feral/wild existance. A quality of personality, a seemingly more 'intelligent' response. I've had cats that frankly, seemed to idolize me. Waited at the door for me, followed me through the house, and in many ways seem to want to interact with me. Deep, deep bonding.

    It occurred to me recently, that it seemed very much like my actions/thoughts/desires that I project on my spiritual friend. It gave me pause to consider that we pass through our lives not considering the huge effect we have on others.

    I don't know if animals can return in human form, but when my little friends pass, I always speak of Buddha, and the Noble Path...just in case.
  • edited June 2010
    My understanding is that some Buddhists believe that humans can be and often are reborn as animals depending upon their karma.

    Richard,

    To my mind, in terms of reaching enlightenment, beings need to be reborn as humans - so in that sense being human is 'superior'. However, the concept of compassion is clearly applied to all beings whether near or far, behind or in front, below or above. The Dalai Llama talks about the need to recognise that even the tiniest insect wishes to survive and should be treated with compassion. So even if we think that we are superior, our relationship to other beings is that of compassionate brothers and sisters. Tibetans also believe (as far as I know) that every being has been our mother in a previous life, and that we have been theirs. This makes clear the quality of relationship we should have with animals.

    with metta
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited June 2010
    Fran45 wrote: »
    Our dog is good fun and enjoys cuddling up with us. She is always pleased to see us and comes and lays her head on my knee if I am upset. I like my dog a great deal. She is a member of our pack and I'm glad she lives with us. She was an adult, rescue dog when we got her from the dog home and training has had little impact on some of her behaviour.

    Given a chance, she will chase and and try to kill birds, squirrels, rats, hedgehogs and cats. She will also start fights with other dogs - no ifs, buts or maybes, she just goes for them. When the postman arrives or the doorbell rings she explodes into a paroxysm of rage. If a person comes into the house uninvited she will attack and bite them. She will eat anything she finds (apart from cabbage, lettuce, onion and garlic) and if not controlled she will eat until she vomits and then will go back for more.

    She is a slave to her instincts unless trained (controlled) by a person. So no, not very buddhist. Although she is better at living in the moment and letting things go than I am.
    The bolded part above could prove to be problematic, if it hasn't been already.....

    As a Canine Psychologist, I could add comment....
    if you'd welcome input, PM me. ;)
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    mikaakim wrote: »
    So Buddhism places animals I'm the same category that all other religions do? As we are apparently more intelligent, and advanced we are superior?

    No, humans are not inherently superior by virtue of their more "intelligent" brains. They are not superior at all. Humans, however, are DIFFERENT in terms of their potential to find freedom from being controlled by instinct. Other animals are not able to become free from their instincts.

    It is this freedom that cuts the chains of suffering. A Buddhist master feels the rushing in of emotions and instincts, but has CHOICE. Animals do not. We, until we obtain enlightenment, do not either.

    No, we are not superior to animals. But unlike other animals, we have potential to obtain this freedom that the Buddha spoke of.
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    FoibleFull wrote: »
    No, humans are not inherently superior by virtue of their more "intelligent" brains. They are not superior at all. Humans, however, are DIFFERENT in terms of their potential to find freedom from being controlled by instinct. Other animals are not able to become free from their instincts.

    It is this freedom that cuts the chains of suffering. A Buddhist master feels the rushing in of emotions and instincts, but has CHOICE. Animals do not. We, until we obtain enlightenment, do not either.

    No, we are not superior to animals. But unlike other animals, we have potential to obtain this freedom that the Buddha spoke of.
    very well said, very eloquent and well articulated; thank you! :)
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited June 2010
    The nature of enlightenment is one of turning the whole system of bhavana/becoming upon itself and achieving release from that cycle. As I'm pretty sure a non-human animal cannot achieve right view (4NT), it follows that enlightenment cannot be achieved either.
  • edited June 2010
    FoibleFull wrote: »
    No, humans are not inherently superior by virtue of their more "intelligent" brains. They are not superior at all. Humans, however, are DIFFERENT in terms of their potential to find freedom from being controlled by instinct. Other animals are not able to become free from their instincts.

    It is this freedom that cuts the chains of suffering. A Buddhist master feels the rushing in of emotions and instincts, but has CHOICE. Animals do not. We, until we obtain enlightenment, do not either.

    No, we are not superior to animals. But unlike other animals, we have potential to obtain this freedom that the Buddha spoke of.

    I've just read a book on buddist ideas by a buddhist. He describes a
    'problem' with the human condition is to think too much, too many anxious thoughts, etc. He suggests the answer lies in the likes of meditation, stilling the mind and observing 'the natural mind' which is Buddha. If 'natural mind' and simplicity is the essence of consciuosness and of all things then it seems hard to be sure that animals can't know this - at least in a particular way - as they are often not as 'domesticated' as we are but rather more simple. I remember this idea being discussed in the book 'The Four Agreements' - can't remember author (not buddhist but American Indian philosophy I think). Yongey Mingur Rinpoche 'The Joy of Living' was the book I was reading.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    pinkgrass wrote: »
    I've just read a book on buddist ideas by a buddhist. He describes a
    'problem' with the human condition is to think too much, too many anxious thoughts, etc. He suggests the answer lies in the likes of meditation, stilling the mind and observing 'the natural mind' which is Buddha. If 'natural mind' and simplicity is the essence of consciuosness and of all things then it seems hard to be sure that animals can't know this - at least in a particular way - as they are often not as 'domesticated' as we are but rather more simple. I remember this idea being discussed in the book 'The Four Agreements' - can't remember author (not buddhist but American Indian philosophy I think). Yongey Mingur Rinpoche 'The Joy of Living' was the book I was reading.

    I think what we are discussing here is "what is the nature of enlightenment?"

    If I am reading your words correctly, you believe that intellectualization interferes with enlightenment, and that the simple mind such as we see in animals, and such as we meet in meditation, shows us the way to enlightenment.

    Feedback?
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Can animals eperience enlightenment?

    Can animals experience non clinging?
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Can animals eperience enlightenment?

    Can animals experience non clinging?
  • edited June 2010
    If someone in the house has food they have our dog's undivided attention. She will sit and stare at the food dribbling saliva all of the time. She is also disturbed and cannot settle if there is a dirty plate in the room. Seems like clinging to me.
  • edited June 2010
    FoibleFull wrote: »
    I think what we are discussing here is "what is the nature of enlightenment?"

    If I am reading your words correctly, you believe that intellectualization interferes with enlightenment, and that the simple mind such as we see in animals, and such as we meet in meditation, shows us the way to enlightenment.

    Feedback?

    Um, I know very little about Buddhism, so I'm only really tossing in some thoughts. I'm talking more about the way I interpreted what the buddhist guy in the book was saying. He gave the example of a worm experiencing simple mind. He said that people might question the quality of a worms experience of mind, but he pointed out that worms don't have many of the potential anxiety and worries that people do. To be honest, I didn't find his book to really come together in terms of all its ideas. However, I found some of what he said in the book interesting (especially his ideas about time).

    As people can and do on a spiritual level learn from animals and the way they live and behave, I don't think we can dismiss them as unenlightened. Animals know a quality of life, and probably a quality that is unique to their type. They exist for a reason surely. They can experience happiness. However, intellectualization isn't bad and I presume can serve in attaining enlightenment.

    For me now that I've read posts and thought about it bit for the past few days I've concluded that I don't have all the answers and I might not need to have them. Life is somewhat of a mystery and maybe we just don't have to understand it all. Just my thoughts right now.
  • edited June 2010
    Fran45 wrote: »
    If someone in the house has food they have our dog's undivided attention. She will sit and stare at the food dribbling saliva all of the time. She is also disturbed and cannot settle if there is a dirty plate in the room. Seems like clinging to me.

    No, she is meditating on the food with clarity of mind. :lol:
  • edited June 2010
    pegembara wrote: »
    Can animals experience non clinging?


    I take your point. But if they can't experience 'non clinging' then can they experience the desire to experience non clinging? Is it 'OUR ability to develop non clinging experience' that which makes us not at ease with our clinging?

    Just another thought. We have four dogs. One is a pig. Another eats only a small amount savouring each bite (and never snatches from my hand). He only eats till he's had enough and stops. So not all dogs are pigs. One of the reasons some dogs pig out is because in the wild they might not eat for a few days - it has to last. So is that gluttony or is that practical and a neccessity? As humans translate dogs into a domestic environment, humans are responsible to ensure they don't overeat in the home by disciplining them - or imposing the discipline. The dog feels better and heathier for it, even though intellectually it probably doesn know why.

    Sorry, I've lost my train of thought with this a bit and must go.
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited June 2010
    pinkgrass wrote: »
    I take your point. But if they can't experience 'non clinging' then can they experience the desire to experience non clinging? Is it 'OUR ability to develop non clinging experience' that which makes us not at ease with our clinging?

    Just another thought. We have four dogs. One is a pig. Another eats only a small amount savouring each bite (and never snatches from my hand). He only eats till he's had enough and stops. So not all dogs are pigs. One of the reasons some dogs pig out is because in the wild they might not eat for a few days - it has to last. So is that gluttony or is that practical and a neccessity?

    Sorry, I've lost my train of thought with this a bit and must go.


    This the Buddha would call is a [thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding.]
    "A bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to. When a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to, he directly knows everything... he fully understands everything... whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he abides contemplating impermanence in those feelings, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. Contemplating thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. When he does not cling he is not agitated... he personally attains Nibbana. He understands 'Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.'"
    MN 37
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited June 2010
    pinkgrass wrote: »
    Life is somewhat of a mystery and maybe we just don't have to understand it all. Just my thoughts right now.


    I see this as great wisdom, pinkgrass!
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited June 2010
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mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]--> I don't believe animals can reach enlightenment as they have a limited thinking process unlike humans who can think from many points of view. And therefore humans can accumulate a lot of good karma and if they wish bad karma. However if an animal does something which described as a skilful action, is there real intention to do this action because they know it is a skilful action or is it something more instinctive to the animals character. I think the later and hence I think animals cannot really accumulate enough positive karma or understanding of the Dharma to ever achieve enlightenment in their present life. However I do believe that animals can be reborn as humans and visa versa as life is equal in samsara, only how far along the path differentiates us. I believe that one life is not more important than the other, be it human or animal, in essence humans and animals share the same fundamental life force it’s just that humans have reached a stage on their path through past actions which gives them the opportunity to reach enlightenment in this life.
  • MX_83MX_83 Explorer
    edited June 2010
    Nichiren Buddhism teaches that even plants can attain enlightenment because the Buddha nature exists in all things. So, at least in theory, animals can become enlightened.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited June 2010
    MX_83 wrote: »
    Nichiren Buddhism teaches that even plants can attain enlightenment because the Buddha nature exists in all things. So, at least in theory, animals can become enlightened.

    This teaching sounds more like "Smile and the whole world smiles with you" rather than saying plants of their own accord attain Enlightenment.
  • edited June 2010
    MX_83 wrote: »
    Nichiren Buddhism teaches that even plants can attain enlightenment because the Buddha nature exists in all things. So, at least in theory, animals can become enlightened.
    All things having "Buddhanature" doesnt mean that they are in a position conducive to the attainment of Buddhahood/enlightenment.
    Buddhanature is the empty nature of all phenomena, not some magical capacity for awakening.
    In my opinion it is best summed up by the compound Tibetan word Rigtong.
    Rig is rigpa and tong is emptiness, the word sums up nicely the empty yet energetic and luminous quality of the ultimate nature of phenomena.
    Because the our ultimate nature is rigtong we posses the capacity to recognize and actualize that nature as Buddhahood.
    I find it highly unlikely that plants and other animals posses the capacity to recognize and work with their own nature in the same way that humans do.
    Meditation is the path because it is how we work with our Buddhanature in order to reach the result.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Animals (including dogs) are mainly reactive beings. They respond to situations largely with preconditioned, instinctual responses. They don't have the intellectual capacity to contemplate their existence. That is one of the faults of life as an animal. They also tend to live in a world of fear. That is true even of dogs who lead a very pampered life (many of them) compared to other animals. Just see how they respond when somebody knocks on the door.

    The Buddha taught that only as a human does one have the intellectual capacity and the leisure to practice Dharma, so while it is true that all sentient beings have Buddhanature, only humans really have a shot at enlightenment. That is why it is called a "precious human birth".

    Palzang
  • ansannaansanna Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Originally Posted by MX_83 viewpost.gif
    Nichiren Buddhism teaches that even plants can attain enlightenment because the Buddha nature exists in all things. So, at least in theory, animals can become enlightened.

    In Lotus doctrine of Tientai and Nichiren, it states that plant and non-living material can also attain enlightenment, it actually refers to Buddhist object of worship ( painting, mandala, statues etc ) which made from paper ( plant ) , wood, cray , metal etc . But the key point in this principle is that it is the human who do the Buddhist practice , invoked one's Buddha nature, and his/her enlightenment that trigger the influence to the object of worship , in the principle of oneness of man and it's enviroment . ( and not the other way round , as the object that made from plant and non-living material cannot trigger their own enlightenment , nor it could then influence the human who do not do the effort of cultivation )

    In the Buddhist sutra, only in the Lotus Sutra provide the example of the naga princess who attained Buddhahood in her present animal body . But naga are very special and high form of animal ( they are not normal animal you come across )
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Palzang wrote: »
    Animals (including dogs) are mainly reactive beings. They respond to situations largely with preconditioned, instinctual responses. They don't have the intellectual capacity to contemplate their existence. That is one of the faults of life as an animal. They also tend to live in a world of fear. That is true even of dogs who lead a very pampered life (many of them) compared to other animals. Just see how they respond when somebody knocks on the door.

    The Buddha taught that only as a human does one have the intellectual capacity and the leisure to practice Dharma, so while it is true that all sentient beings have Buddhanature, only humans really have a shot at enlightenment. That is why it is called a "precious human birth".

    Palzang
    for some reason, i think whales may have the capacity to contemplate their own existence.

    They spend their days talking and signing to each others... they have a giant brain... their behaviors can be extremely sophisticated...

    maybe...
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited June 2010
    pinkgrass wrote: »
    Does buddhism believe animals reincarnate up the scale to become human?
    Hi Pinkgrass

    Some Buddhists believe what you have said above and others do not.

    On the video link below, at 4:06 minutes, we can listen to a famous Buddhist monk's belief animals can reincarnate into human beings.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KauGMZVBnjk

    Kind regards

    :)
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited June 2010
    I think that thjere is no way in accordance with dharma that animals can become in any sense enlighteneted.

    Whatever enlightenment is, we know that the path leading to it is one that requres directed change and practice in many conceptual directions; the spiritual, the moral, the mental, the intellectual....

    Faculties that animals, even I would say other primates, just don't have in anything but the most proto-formation. In cases of spirituality I would say, certainly, zero.

    namaste
  • GuyCGuyC Veteran
    edited June 2010
    As far as I understand, Stream-Enterers and Once Returners can only be reborn as human beings or devas. In light of this, I would say that you won't find any gorillas who are Stream-Enterers or mice who are Once-Returners. Let alone any koala Arahants.
  • edited June 2010
    Are animals not already enlightened? We should always begin, as is our way, at the beginning. Examine our reasons for even assuming enlightenment is any kind of goal for any beings other than humans (who hold views, beliefs, perceive a mind-made world in favor of reality). In doing so we will find our answers.

    Namaste
  • ansannaansanna Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Are animals not already enlightened? We should always begin, as is our way, at the beginning. Examine our reasons for even assuming enlightenment is any kind of goal for any beings other than humans (who hold views, beliefs, perceive a mind-made world in favor of reality). In doing so we will find our answers.

    first of all, we should attempt to understand what is the characteristic for enlightenment, for this we would take the behavour of our historical Buddha who walk the path in human form , and his enlightened wisdom, compassion, courage , determination, teachings that could endured many generations in doing the salvation work , and enlightened behaviours,

    then we can do the comparison with those 'enlightened animal behaviours ' to see that ready could matched ?
  • edited June 2010
    ansanna wrote: »
    first of all, we should attempt to understand what is the characteristic for enlightenment, for this we would take the behavour of our historical Buddha who walk the path in human form , and his enlightened wisdom, compassion, courage , determination, teachings that could endured many generations in doing the salvation work , and enlightened behaviours,

    then we can do the comparison with those 'enlightened animal behaviours ' to see that ready could matched ?

    Yeh check this out, I just saw a man who had been chewed up by a crockadile in Africa and he got away but was loosing blood fast somehow I think he may have staunched the flow. He heard something very heavy coming his way. He was leaning against a tree. It was a cape Bull Buffalo. They have the highest killing rate for people in that continent.

    The animal came close enough to him and they stared at one another for awhile. The man thought he was going to die from the crockodile already and here is the one of the biggest most ferocious beings standing in front of him. The Buffalo and him stared at one another for awhile and then ya know what happened? The huge beast layed down beside him. I did not see the conclusion to the film. But the man telling the story so I knew he survived. But BOY....What are the odds? Lions creeping all about. And even they are afraid of those huge bulls.

    I had to leave the house at that time and Im like WOW! I kinda wonder but I think they are already enlightened. I think they can speak in heaven and I even had a white horse speak to me years and years ago. Sooo.

    Yeh Im in favor of the already enlightened part. Not too sure about the fear thing cause we also have a healthy fear from the crazy wako jobs out there. O...ok now Im just rambling.
  • GuyCGuyC Veteran
    edited June 2010
    Arahants would never intentionally harm anyone. But it does not follow that not harming means you are an Arahant. All apples are fruit, but not all fruit is an apple.
  • edited June 2010
    Not the longest response here, but what makes a human rebirth a "higher" rebirth is the fact we can rationalize our thoughts.

    I think the main difference is our ability to rationalize and understand our fears. For instance, when it is windy and the windows in my house are open, it causes a draft that slams my bathroom door. Now, my dog doesn’t know why the big bang from the door is happening, just the fact it scares her. Or when it is thundering outside, which is going to happen tonight, she just knows that loud boom scares her.

    As human beings, we can break this info down and understand what is happening. While some, especially younger children, might be fearful of the thunder, with some understanding that fear can be dispelled. I don’t think my dog has the ability to conquer that fear. To me, that one of the differences between the realms of rebirth.

    While I think at times I would much rather live the life of my dog, I also look at her anxieties and inability to rationalize pretty simple things.
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