For people who don't believe in literal rebirth as animals,(secular or non) how would they describe the mental state associated with rebirth in the animal realm? E.g, if stress is associated with hell rebirth, what mental state is associated with animal rebirth .

  • I recommend your elaborating your question, what mental state, the animal, the people? Apr 27, 2017 at 16:37
  • Greed (貪), Anger (嗔), Ignorant (癡), Arrogant (慢), Distrust (疑) lead to rebirth in the Six Realms, they all get a hint of each but depended on inclination these mental states manifested as forms. Animal Realm is heavy with Ignorant, Asura with Arrogant, Greed the Hungry Ghost, Anger for Hell beings. For a human to be reborn as human again is a challenging task. Animal could be prevously human whilst human could be from other realms too, such as animal. Those have long history of believing in a soul or God-made-man, they rather believe it's mental state, not real animal form, that is wrong. Apr 29, 2017 at 11:43

2 Answers 2


'Animal birth' is described in many places in the suttas. It refers to ignorance (stupidity), lacking reflective reasoning (ayoniso manasikara), immorality & the merciless devouring of other beings, including mutual devouring.

Animals merely blindly follow & act upon instinctual drives & desires without having the capacity to reflect upon the consequences. This is the meaning of 'animal birth'.

Below are some quotes.

Bhikkhus, a god, a human or any other good state would not be evident from actions born of greed, hate and delusion. Yet, bhikkhus, from actions born of greed, hate and delusion a hellish being, an animal birth a ghostly birth or some other bad state would be evident. AN 6.39

Sooner, I say, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole than the fool who has gone once to the nether world would regain the human state. For what reason? Because here, bhikkhus, there is no conduct guided by the Dhamma, no righteous conduct, no wholesome activity, no meritorious activity. Here there prevails mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, they have not seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. SN 56.47

Now on that occasion the wanderers of other persuasions had come together in a gathering and were sitting, discussing many kinds of bestial (animal) topics, making a great noise and racket. AN 10.93

Bhikkhus, these two bright principles protect the world. What are the two? Shame and fear of wrongdoing. If, bhikkhus, these two bright principles did not protect the world, there would not be discerned respect for mother or maternal aunt or maternal uncle’s wife or a teacher’s wife or the wives of other honored persons, and the world would have fallen into promiscuity, as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs and jackals. But as these two bright principles protect the world, there is discerned respect for mother… and the wives of other honored persons. AN 2.9

The follow quote is important because it shows 'animals' can realise the Four Noble Truths, which also show this quote cannot refer to real animals but to people:

Beings (sattā) are few who, when they pass away from the animal realm (tiracchānayoniyā) are 'reborn' (paccājāyanti) among humans (manussesu)… those beings are more numerous are reborn in hell…. For what reason? They have not realised the Four Noble Truths. SN 56.102 to 131

This video might help understand, which shows Angulimala, the mass-murderer, as a 'animal', being reformed or changed into a 'human' by the Buddha:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNzrKAzxipYenter image description here

THE FIRST OF the Four Woeful States is hell. Hell is anxiety (in Thai, literally “a hot heart”). Whenever one experiences anxiety, burning, and scorching, one is simultaneously reborn as a creature of hell. It is a spontaneous rebirth, a mental rebirth. Although the body physically inhabits the human realm, as soon as anxiety arises the mind falls into hell. Anxiety about possible loss of prestige and fame, anxiety of any sort — that is hell.

Now rebirth in the realm of beasts is stupidity. Whenever one is inexcusably stupid about something: stupid in not knowing that Dhamma and nibbāna are desirable, stupid in not daring to come into contact with or get close to Buddhism, stupid in believing that if one became interested in Dhamma or Buddhism it would make one old-fashioned and odd. That is how children see it, and their parents too. They try to pull back and move far away from Dhamma and religion. This is stupidity. Regardless of what sort of stupidity it is, it amounts to rebirth as an animal. As soon as stupidity arises and overwhelms one, one becomes an animal. One is a beast by spontaneous rebirth, by mental rebirth. This is the second Woeful State.

The third Woeful State is the condition of a peta...

Buddha-Dhamma For Students

Please note: this is not a 'secular interpretation' but, instead, the true meaning of the suttas.

  • So the animal, ghost, and hell realms correspond to ignorance, desire, and aversion (anxiety), respectively?
    – ChrisW
    Apr 27, 2017 at 23:28
  • I doubt "anxiety" (at least in modern understanding) is the right word to use in your context, nor do I see any connection to a "hot heart". Maybe some other descriptive words would be better?
    – user3169
    Apr 29, 2017 at 5:18

Not keeping precepts, following the nose (mood), incapable of doing merits, lying around like a pig, eating like a dog, stngy like a mouse, dwelling in equanimity like an ox, such is called manussa-tiracchano, a human body but a behavior like an animal. If the question was about how to recognize such, this would be the answer.

Behaving like an animal leads to rebirth as such.

What leads to and rebirth as animal according the canon:

·Ten unwholesome actions (MN 41)

· Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views. If one is generous to monks and nuns, however, one may be reborn as an "ornamented" animal (i.e., a bird with bright plumage; a horse with attractive markings, etc.; AN 10.177).

· Behaving like an animal (MN 57)

from: The Thirty-one Planes of Existence

  • I marked your answer down because, while I thought some parts of it were useful, particularly the 1st paragraph, it does not explain a 'secular interpretation' of AN 10.177, which the translation refers to "rebirth" as an "elephant", "cattle" or "chicken". accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.177.than.html Apr 28, 2017 at 6:48
  • 1
    No Problem @Dhammadhuta , maybe you like to add: Please note: this is not a 'secular interpretation' but, instead, the "true" meaning of the suttas.
    – user11235
    Apr 28, 2017 at 7:59

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