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Animals are sentient beings and therefore are also bound to the cycle of rebirth.

However, animals are far less intelligent than humans, and are certainly not smart enough to follow a particular code of conduct, or take decisions which are against their nature.

Does Karma and rebirth work differently for animals? Or are animals pretty much doomed to remain animals (or worse) because their nature, for instance, causes them to kill?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Karma is a universal law. It works the same for all beings. Whether you are a god, human or an animal, what matters is the strength of craving, aversion and ignorance.

Yes, if you sink below the level of humans, it's pretty difficult to come back. That's why the hells are called the great houses of Sansara.

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That is exactly why we call it the "precious human life", because we can learn the dhamma and create a lot of merit. Animals don't have this opportunity. It is very hard to create good kamma as an animal... so use your precious human life wisely :)

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The law of Karma is universal, i.e., applicable to all equally and applicable the same manner across time.

Humans are smart hence they can have the Right View but in the case of an animal this is not the case. Also an animal acts mainly by instinct which is Unprompted.

So the state of mind a hunting animat can have is:

  • One consciousness, unprompted (instinct), accompanied by pleasure (pleasure of a good meal), and connected with wrong view (lack of belief of repercussion and consequences of Karma or action)
  • One consciousness, unprompted (instinct), accompanied by indifference (pure instinctive reaction), and connected with wrong view (lack of belief of repercussion and consequences of Karma or action)

The above 2 mindd states generate more heavier Karma than the other.

Also animal will have following mental content which in humans have a choise to eliminate:

  • Ahirika - not ashamed of doing evil
  • Anottappa - no fear to do evil, i.e., fear of the consequences

Also in the animal kingdom fear, hunger, greed, territorial attachments, etc. is predominant which gives arise to unwholesome states and opportunity and intellect to do +ve karma is less.

This all point to that in the animal kingdom you are worse off and would end up accumulating more bad karma. Also if you are a carnivore feeding and survival needs killing as you simply cannot become herbivore, hence the nature of your birth will mean you tend to accumulate more bad karma.

Ref: Manual of Abhidhamma by Ven. Narada, Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Do lions create bad kamma for their next life when they kill?

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