Most people reborn as humans?

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Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:49 am

In his explanation of Buddhist rebirth teachings, Ven. S. Dhammika makes an apparently unorthodox statement:

What decides where will be reborn?
The most important factor, but not the only one, influencing where we will be reborn and what sort of life we shall have, is kamma. The word kamma means 'action' and refers to our intentional mental actions. In other words, what we are is determined very much by how we have thought and acted in the past. Likewise, how we think and act now will influence how we will be in the future. The gentle, loving type of person tends to be reborn in a heaven realm or as a human being who has a predominance of pleasant experiences. the anxious, worried or extremely cruel type of person tends to be reborn in a hell realm or as a human being who has a predominance of painful experiences. The person who develops obsessive craving, fierce longings, and burning ambitions that can never be satisfied tends to be reborn as a hungry ghost or as a human being frustrated by longing and wanting. Whatever mental habits are strongly developed in this life will continue in the next life. Most people, however, are reborn as human beings.


The last sentence seems to contradict the Buddha's teaching that rebirth in the human world is exceedingly rare, and I gather that most Buddhists believe very few people are likely to come back as humans next time around. So initially when I came across Ven. Dhammika's statement, I figured this was an idiosyncratic teaching of his own and not in line with the general understanding.

However, now I'm not so sure. Here's why:

1. If he is talking about people here on the earth that we know, then we have to consider that Earth is just one of a potentially infinite number of locations at which beings can be reborn. It's s a speck of sand in the River Ganges, so to speak. Therefore, even if all currently living persons on planet Earth were able to come back as humans, human birth would still qualify as rare in mathematical terms.

2. Even if we include humans in different world systems, the statement would still be supportable as long as the other planes of existence were much, much larger compared to the human plane. That is, if the number of humans throughout all the world systems was extremely small compared to the number of all other beings, then the blind turtle parable would still be true even if Ven. Dhammika is correct.

His interpretation also makes intuitive sense for another reason: the balance of kamma accumulated over the course of an average human life probably evens out. Yes, there are particularly virtuous people, and particularly evil people. Generally speaking, though, people try to be good to the extent that their circumstances allow them to, and our lives are a mixture of the wholesome and unwholesome. Therefore the weight of kamma accumulated during this lifetime doesn't really seem sufficient to override the kamma which brought us to this realm in the first place. It seems more logical to say that extraordinary virtue is needed in order to rise to the heavens, and a heavy weight of unwholesome kamma is needed in order to regress to the lower realms.

What do you think?

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby meindzai » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:22 pm

My thinking has been that when the Buddha talks about the rarity of human rebirth, he is speaking about any beings in any realm being reborn as humans, and how rare that is. When you consider the huge number of beings in a great expanse of planes of *existence. then it makes sense to say that a human rebirth is exceedingly rare.

However I also believe that humans have the best chance of being reborn as humans. Why? Because they have human minds. In the Kukkuravatika sutta the Buddha, rather unwillingly, answers what would happen if somebody had developed the "mind of a dog"

"Here, Punna, someone develops the dog duty fully and unstintingly, he develops the dog-habit fully and unstintingly, he develops the dog mind fully and unstintingly, he develops dog behavior fully and unstintingly. Having done that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of dogs. But if his view is such as this: 'By this virtue or duty or asceticism or religious life I shall become a (great) god or some (lesser) god,' that is wrong view in his case. Now there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal womb. So, Punna, if his dog duty is perfected, it will lead him to the company of dogs; if it is not, it will lead him to hell."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html

In this and in other Suttas, I get the impression of the mind as being a sort of "radio" that "tunes in" to the different realms. Obviously one's kamma is a major factor, but so is the mind state at the time of death, which is related to kamma.

-DaveK

* I believe the "31 planes" is an outline, and there are probably a great deal more than that, but even if I am wrong, there are a great many beings.

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Adrien » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:44 pm

I agree with mendzai. And if we stick with the earth, an idea would be to compare the number of animals with the number of human beings... There is countless more animals (insects and fish included) than humans.

Maybe we could say this : "Human birth is difficult to obtain for any beings, but more easy to obtain for human beings. Human birth is not so easy to obtain for any human beings, but is very easy to obtain for human beings wich practice dhamma." It all depend on what group of beings we are talking about (all of them ? animals only ? human beings only ? ariyas only ? etc.)

Also, the blind turtle parable doesn't state that human birth is difficult to attain, but that human birth is difficult to attain for the foolish one.

Bhikkhus, the blind turtle would sooner put his neck into that yoke with a single hole in it than a fool, once gone to perdition, would take to regain the human state, I say. Why is that ? Because there is no practising of the Dhamma there, no practising of what is righteous, no doing of what is wholesome, no performance of merit. There mutual devouring prevails, and the slaughter of the weak.

Bālapaṇḍita Sutta (MN 129)
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Kare » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:17 pm

If rebirth occurs, one might perhaps say with some certainty that most people living today have been reborn as humans? :mrgreen:
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:43 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:t

His interpretation also makes intuitive sense for another reason: the balance of kamma accumulated over the course of an average human life probablheavy weight of unwholesome kamma is needed in order to regress to the lowy evens out. Yes, there are particularly virtuous people, and particularly evil people. Generally speaking, though, people try to be good to the extent that their circumstances allow them to, and our lives are a mixture of the wholesome and unwholesome. Therefore the weight of kamma accumulated during this lifetime doesn't really seem sufficient to override the kamma which brought us to this realm in the first place. It seems more logical to say that extraordinary virtue is needed in order to rise to the heavens, and a er realms.

What do you think?


Having done a great deal of research into the suttas regarding what passes on after death I discovered that it is not the "delusional self" which passes on, but karmic effects. It is the karmic effect which affects the consciousness of the fetus into which it comes into contact. None of this, most certainly, is verifiable, nor can it be validated. The idea that we, our delusional selves, pass on into hell realms, or become petas, or hungry ghosts, or devas, or gods, and etc. is not verifiable either. Only a Sammasambuddha is capable of such discernment. So, my take is that we should simply focus on living our lives in accordance with The Noble Eight Fold Path and making certain that we are mindfully acting intentionally in a beneficial manner, with loving-kindness, compassion, and in equanimity and continue to accumulate merit which we can offer in the spirit of endless charity to any in need, such as all those currently enduring great suffering in Japan, Haiti, and those living under dictators and despots in Africa and The Middle East.
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Aloka » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:33 pm

Could someone please explain to me how all of this fits in with what the Budda said in AN 4.77 concerning anyone trying to work out the results of kamma ?

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html


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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:44 am

Aloka wrote:Could someone please explain to me how all of this fits in with what the Budda said in AN 4.77 concerning anyone trying to work out the results of kamma ?

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html




Hi, Aloka.

Master chess players refer to the chess board as The Sixty-four Square Madhouse, because the number of potential moves is literally beyond the ability of the human mind, even the very best of human minds. This is even worse with regard to predicting the ultimate result of one intentional action, because karmic effects literally go on forever, without end. Therefore, Buddha asked his son, Rahula: (paraphrasing) "What is the purpose of a mirror?" To which Rahula replied to his father, The Buddha, "Reflection, sir." "Just so!" , answered The Buddha. "And just so should we reflect upon the potential consequences of our intentional actions." ..meaning that we should predict the immediate intended consequences, not the ultimate consequences, which ultimately are not knowable.

Such reflection as to the foreseeable consequences of our actions in my understanding is the real value of understanding the law of kamma and kamma vipakha (intentional action and their consequences). Every consequence has a cause. If the cause is the result of an intentional action, then the originator of that action is directly responsible for it, and directly traceable to it.

Consider also that Kamma is simply a special case of dependent origination, and should be understood and treated as such. All things have a cause, and all results are dependent upon one or more causes.

Here is the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta in which Buddha spoke of the need for reflection upon our intentional actions "before" taking them:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:12 am

Lazy_eye wrote:In his explanation of Buddhist rebirth teachings, Ven. S. Dhammika makes an apparently unorthodox statement:

What decides where will be reborn?
The most important factor, but not the only one, influencing where we will be reborn and what sort of life we shall have, is kamma. The word kamma means 'action' and refers to our intentional mental actions. In other words, what we are is determined very much by how we have thought and acted in the past. Likewise, how we think and act now will influence how we will be in the future. The gentle, loving type of person tends to be reborn in a heaven realm or as a human being who has a predominance of pleasant experiences. the anxious, worried or extremely cruel type of person tends to be reborn in a hell realm or as a human being who has a predominance of painful experiences. The person who develops obsessive craving, fierce longings, and burning ambitions that can never be satisfied tends to be reborn as a hungry ghost or as a human being frustrated by longing and wanting. Whatever mental habits are strongly developed in this life will continue in the next life. Most people, however, are reborn as human beings.



What is the source / context of that quote? I couldn't find it at his http://www.Buddhisma2z.com/ website. I could ask him for some more clarification, but wanted to see the exact source first, if you have it.

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:19 am


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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:39 am

Greetings,

MN 48 wrote:And how does this view that is noble and emancipating lead the one who practises in accordance with it to the complete destruction of suffering?

Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest... considers thus, 'Is there any obsession unabandoned in myself that might so obsess my mind that I cannot know or see things as they actually are?' If a bhikkhu is... absorbed in speculation about this world, then his mind is obsessed. If a bhikkhu is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is obsessed...

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Aloka » Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:22 am

Hi Ron,

Sensibly reflecting on our intentions and actions as in MN 61 isn't the same as fruitless speculation about the results of kamma in relation to what happens after death though - such as will we be reborn as humans or animals etc.

As Retro quoted from MN48 :

If a bhikkhu is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is obsessed...


with metta,

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby dhammapal » Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:13 am

I don't want to ruin your day, but check out Samyutta Nikaya 56:102 Passing away as humans. The Buddha said that the chance of a human getting another human birth after death is like a fingernail of dirt compared to the great earth, due to not understanding the Four Noble Truths.

With metta / dhammapal.

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby fragrant herbs » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:44 pm

dhammapal wrote:I don't want to ruin your day, but check out Samyutta Nikaya 56:102 Passing away as humans. The Buddha said that the chance of a human getting another human birth after death is like a fingernail of dirt compared to the great earth, due to not understanding the Four Noble Truths.

With metta / dhammapal.


In that case there is no hope for most of us even though we study the dharma since we may not fully understand it.This all makes it sound like only those who understand the dharma are born as humans.

So why do we have so many humans on earth that don't understand the dharma?

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:51 pm

Aloka wrote:Hi Ron,

Sensibly reflecting on our intentions and actions as in MN 61 isn't the same as fruitless speculation about the results of kamma in relation to what happens after death though - such as will we be reborn as humans or animals etc.

As Retro quoted from MN48 :

If a bhikkhu is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is obsessed...


with metta,

Aloka


Agreed! However, such "projection" is not totally fruitless, because it is also a mental exercise, a teaching tool in how kamma works as taught by Buddha. It all depends on how it is used. It may be used as an admonition that our intentional actions can have very serious consequences. If used as such, then it is beneficial. If used just to amuse ourselves and/or in frivolous speculation as you say, then it may be harmful. If someone, such as parents sometimes do to their children, warns a child of the potential consequences of their actions to control or manipulate their potential behaviors, then the intention is what is in question. For example, if I told my children they might poke their eye out when playing with a sharp stick, my intention is to prevent their injury. If I told them that they would go to hell if they don't get me a beer from the refrigerator, because I am too lazy to get up off the couch and get it myself, then all that I am potentially creating a neurotic child, who will learn to resent me as a parent. I am potentially causing harm to my own child and also to myself.
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:11 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:What is the source / context of that quote? I couldn't find it at his http://www.Buddhisma2z.com/ website. I could ask him for some more clarification, but wanted to see the exact source first, if you have it.


David,

I've seen the essay at a number of sites. One is http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/qanda05.htm

dhammapal wrote:I don't want to ruin your day, but check out Samyutta Nikaya 56:102 Passing away as humans. The Buddha said that the chance of a human getting another human birth after death is like a fingernail of dirt compared to the great earth, due to not understanding the Four Noble Truths.


Yes, but consider the huge scale of the cosmos as understood in Buddhism -- countless world systems, kalpas, and so on. On this scale even if every human being alive today were reborn as a human, it would still be as a speck of sand to the River Ganges. So the Buddha's teaching above does not necessarily contradict Ven. Dhammika's statement.
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:11 pm

fragrant herbs wrote:In that case there is no hope for most of us even though we study the dharma since we may not fully understand it.This all makes it sound like only those who understand the dharma are born as humans.

So why do we have so many humans on earth that don't understand the dharma?
As long as there is life, there is always hope. Understanding the Dhamma on the intellectual level is not enough, but its a good start, and an essential requirement at that. Most human beings don't even acquire the mundane right view of believe in ownership of kamma (kammasakkata sammāditthi), because false beliefs abound, and even within Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path is not practised in full.

If even mundane right view is absent, no one will strive hard to realise the Dhamma. Those who think that most human beings will be reborn as human beings again, clearly hold a view contrary to the teachings in the Tipitaka. Human rebirth is very rare, and only the Noble Ones are guaranteed to avoid rebirth in the lower realms in the next existence.

Just performing the mundane meritorious deeds of charity, morality, learning Dhamma, etc., is not enough. We must become one who strives to attain the Path (āraddhavipassaka), which means attaining at least the Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away (udayabbhaya ñāṇa).

The lower stages of insight are not enough as, although they arouse serene faith, they don't arouse samvega. Higher stages of insight such as knowledge of fearfulness (bhayañāṇa) or knowledge of disgust (nibbidā-ñāṇa) are even better.

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby fragrant herbs » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:54 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala,

Then how is it, if a human birth is so rare, that it was given to people who are not going to even come close to studying the dhamma, who are extremely harmful to others? And what good does it do to give someone a lower birth, such as that of an animal or an insect, when they cannot learn anything from it?

To me, it would be better if those who are already on the path could continue along that path in their next life as a human, even if they didn't understand the 4 Noble Truths completely. Otherwise they have obtained no benefit.
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby manjughosamani » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:21 pm

Hello,

fragrant herbs wrote:Then how is it, if a human birth is so rare, that it was given to people who are not going to even come close to studying the dhamma, who are extremely harmful to others? And what good does it do to give someone a lower birth, such as that of an animal or an insect, when they cannot learn anything from it?


I don't think kamma-vipāka has anything to do with giving something. It is a natural law that kusala actions lead to higher birth, while akusala ones lead to lower birth.

Wishing you all the best.
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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby PeterB » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:35 pm

Kare wrote:If rebirth occurs, one might perhaps say with some certainty that most people living today have been reborn as humans? :mrgreen:

:o :lol:

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Re: Most people reborn as humans?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:20 pm

mañjughosamaṇi wrote:I don't think kamma-vipāka has anything to do with giving something. It is a natural law that kusala actions lead to higher birth, while akusala ones lead to lower birth.


I think the problem is that in some cases, the relationship between kamma a) and vipaka b) seems counterintuitive or not quite right.

For example, holding wrong view is said to result in animal rebirth or hell. Some of the greatest minds in human history are guilty of that, in the sense that they were not Buddhists. It doesn't make sense that the mental capacity of an Einstein or Hawking would be reduced to, say, that of a bug simply by virtue of the fact that they didn't subscribe to the doctrine of kamma and rebirth. The vipaka doesn't seem to match the kamma. Of course we can say it is imponderable and all that, but such an answer is somehow unsatisfying. The teaching frankly sounds like the usual sort of scare tactic religions deploy against heretics or nonbelievers.

By contrast, it makes sense that, say, if you spent your whole life wallowing in sensual pleasures, you might regress to an animal state, or if you were consumed with hate you could end up in hell.


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