My understanding is that, although we are practicing five precepts in this life, there is no guarantee we will not be reborn in lower realm, it is possible to take rebirth in lower realm in the next life or many lives after. But according some sources, when one practices five precepts that person will not be reborn in one of the lower realms (in the next life). Which one is the correct one?
Reaching at least the Sotapanna state is the only 100% guarantee of not being born in lower realms ever again.
But if you reach at least the second insight knowledge -Paccaya Pariggaha Nana of the 16 stages of insight towards becoming a Sotappanna, it is said that you will not be born in a lower realm in the immediate next life.
If you are a devout Buddhist who keeps to the five precepts, it is highly unlikely to be born in a lower realm in the next life. But there's no guarantee. It mostly depends on the quality of your precepts. As in how well you keep to them.
There are many levels of achievement in Theravada Buddhism (in ascending order):
- Faith follower
- Dhamma follower
- Stream enterer
- Once returner
The faith follower basically has faith and conviction in the Buddha as the teacher of the path to the end of suffering, the Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the 8 types of individuals on the path). The faith follower would normally take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, as well as vow to undertake the five precepts. That's merely the first step.
The guarantee of not being reborn in lower realms (hell, animal, asuras and hungry shades) is the result of achieving stream entry (or higher).
For all others, there is no guarantee.
According to the Vera Sutta:
"When, for a disciple of the noble ones, these five forms of fear & animosity are stilled; when he is endowed with these four factors of stream-entry; and when, through discernment, he has rightly seen & rightly ferreted out this noble method, then if he wants he may state about himself: 'Hell is ended; animal wombs are ended; the state of the hungry shades is ended; states of deprivation, destitution, the bad bourns are ended! I am a stream-winner, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening!'"
The five forms of fear and animosity are stilled by the relentless practice of the five precepts.
The four factors of stream-entry are verified confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and having "virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration."
The noble method is the understanding of how suffering is ended by the realization of dependent origination.
The one who has fulfilled the above, becomes a stream winner, who is guaranteed freedom from rebirth in lower realms.
I think that depends mainly on the tradition and/or a practice chosen by a person to follow.
In Theravada, a person has to follow all the precepts (for a lay person or a bhikshu(ni) accordingly), a qualified answer to your question is to be provided by a scholar. One of the core Theravada obligations, as I understand it, is to achieve Nirvana by obligatory following of all the percepts.
In Zen, a person also can be either a qualified master or a mundane follower, yet even an enlightment can be achieved within a single lifetime by any sentien being, even by ; a rebirth to lower realms can be a deliberate choice because of compassion. In addition to usual percepts, specific Zen vows are to be taken.
In Mahayana, a person can be a layman, a scholar or ordained monk/nun/lama within an institution, and many depends on previous karma plus a state of mind at the moment when a person experiences death. A person can be either a layman and a scholar or a scholar and an ordained practiotioner; the number of percepts and/or vows to be taken depends on a school and its lineage.
In Vajrayana, it is the tantric vows (which in some cases may contradict or exclude those taken by laymen) and their purity that define the outcome, together with a state of mind at the moment of death. A person can be a layman at a superficial appearance, and an ordained practitioner and a well-learned scholar by one's nature. A number and essence of the vows depends on a deity and a transmission lineage together with ethics.
Five precepts was declared by Buddha to maintain sustainability of society and harmony with nature is the best explanation and not for gain qualifications to get rebirth in upper realms. E.g killing each other will leads to spread violence and extinction and kill other animals may leads to unbalance and harm the delicate balance of nature. stealing discourage people form farming and manufacturing, sensual misconduct leads damage the health, taking intoxicant,alcohol or drugs damage health and crate violence, lie and break trust will spread violence and damage business and financial development. So five precepts are vital,wholesome and positive moral value essential to maintain sustainability and development in both personal and society-wise. Also adhere to these will give us result here and now no need to wait until next life. See the world with intensive violence,wars,STD(specially AIDS),non chronicle deceases like diabetes,cholesterol,stress,anxiety,corruption,crimes,robberies etc.. and when five precepts are followed individually and society-wise is the proven cure for above issues in world.
The lower realms include "hell", which is unhappiness & suffering. About "hell", the suttas say:
I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable.
For example, imagine a person who clings to the precept of non-killing; believing in vegetarianism. If this person does not have sufficient wisdom, when they experience animals killed for food or people eating meat, they suffer. This persons gets angry or otherwise unhappy. This unhappiness, anger, suffering & experiencing what is undesirable is what the Pali suttas call "hell".