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?

  • Please quote the "sources" you are referring to. This will improve the quality of the question. Thanks Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 10:50
  • 1
    I do not quote it because it's verbal not written. Thanks.
    – B1100
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:21

5 Answers 5


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.

  • What fails a devout Buddhist who keeps five precepts to be born in a happy destination then?
    – B1100
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 4:16
  • If something unwholesome comes to the mind at the time of your death. Like in the case of queen Mallika or like in the case of the monk who kept continuously worrying about plucking a leaf of a tree accidentally. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 6:04
  • (1) What if something unwholesome don't come up to the mind of that devout Buddhist who practices five precepts at the time of his death, would you say he will be guaranteed not to take rebirth in one of the lower realm? (2) In the case of queen Malika and/or a monk, why the virtue of precepts that they cultivated thoroughout their life can't hinder the trivial unwholesomeness that occurs at the time of their death?
    – B1100
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 10:29
  • If a wholesome Karma comes to the mind, you'll be born in a happy destination and if an unwholesome Karma comes, you will be born in a lower realm. There is a precedence to what Karma comes forward to give the next birth. First comes weighty Karmas. That means the Jhanas, path attainments or 5 heinous karmas. If there's nothing as such then comes the Karma you have done very recently. If not, a Karma you have practiced throughout your life. Otherwise a random Karma. Read more here: lawsofthenature.com/FourKindsOfKama.aspx Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 11:48
  • @B1100 The story (or a story) of the broken leaf is detailed here. I think the monk who broke a leaf and became a snake had been worrying about it habitually (or obsessively) during his life, not only at the moment of death; and he'd failed to confess it as he should i.e. he disobeyed Vinaya.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 13:34

There are many levels of achievement in Theravada Buddhism (in ascending order):

  • Faith follower
  • Dhamma follower
  • Stream enterer
  • Once returner
  • Non-returner
  • Arahant

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.

  • So five precepts are vital,wholesome and positive moral value essential ... now no need to wait until next life That may be true but it doesn't seem to answer the OP's question, which asks: "according to Theravada, if one practices five precepts in this life, is one guaranteed not be reborn in one of the lower realms (in the next life)?"
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:20
  • This is the correct and practical explanation to the question. That's the realistic purpose of follow five precepts. Results are immediate,here and now. But if some one believe rebirth and follow five precepts for gain spiritual gain does't matter as above mention upgrade in society will occur and it is guaranteed. But reborn in upper realms is your personal experience after your death which no body can guarantee. Rebirth is controversial concept. what I mention is Buddha declared five precept upon the purpose of to maintain sustainability in the world. That's the answer. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 6:30
  • But believers of rebirth and non believers are free to follow and protect five precepts. believers expect spiritual gain and non believers experience the moral values and upgrade and development of society and world. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 6:34

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.

SN 35.135

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".

  • It's hard for me to see this as more or less of an answer to the OP's question than this answer is.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:26

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