Rare human birth:
In one discourse the Buddha compares the soil that he has taken up under his fingernail to all the
soil on earth and then says, "So too, bhikkhus, those beings who are reborn among human beings
are few. But those beings are more numerous who are reborn elsewhere than among human
beings. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: we will dwell diligently. Thus
should you train yourselves." Samyutta Nikaya 20.2
In Samyutta Nikaya 56.102-131, the Buddha explains that it is difficult to attain rebirth to the
human or deva realms. The Buddha states that "those being are much more numerous, who
when they pass away, are reborn in the animal realm, the domain of ghosts, in hell." It is
difficult to attain rebirth to the human world or in the deva realms and thus, should not be
"Here, friend, as I was coming down from Mount Vulture Peak, I saw a skeleton moving through
the air. Vultures, crows, and hawks, following it in hot pursuit, were pecking at it between the
ribs, stabbing it, and tearing it apart, while it uttered cries of pain. It occurred to me: It is
wonderful, indeed! It is amazing, indeed! That there could be such a being, that there could be
such a spirit, that there could be such a form of individual existence!
Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: Bhikkhus there are disciples who dwell
having become vision, having become knowledge, in that a disciple can know, see, and witness
such a sight. In the past, bhikkhus, I too saw that being, but I did not speak about it. For if I had
spoken about it, others would not have believed me, and if they had not believed me that would
have led to their harm and suffering for a long time [by not following the Path].
That being, bhikkhus, used to be a cattle butcher in this same Rajagaha. Having been tormented
in hell for many years, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years, for many
hundreds of thousands of years as a result of that kamma, as a residual result of that same
kamma he is experiencing such a form of individual existence."
Samyutta Nikaya 19.1
There are others, but these are the ones I remembered off the top of my head.