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(Please Theravada perspective if possible)

NAMO TASSA BAGAVATO ARAHANTO SAMMA-SAMBUDDHASA (I am not fluent, forgive errors)

These are my following questions:

  • Do animals feel emotions just like us or do they feel emotions on an instinctual level only?
  • What makes animals different from humans according to their planes of existence?
  • How can an animal get out of their plane? Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?
  • How does evolution work in terms of animals/humans cause I hear it works with Buddhism?

Metta to all!

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OP: Do animals feel emotions just like us or do they feel emotions on an instinctual level only?

Even among humans, some are more deeply deluded by ignorance than others. Some humans can be easily trained and others are hard to be trained. This can be seen in the Kesi Sutta.

Among animals, you can find purely instinctual animals like mosquitoes, while other animals like dogs can experience emotions a little more like humans can. Anchovy is pretty much instinctual and unaware of human presence. But dolphins can interact with humans and display more complex emotions. Dolphins and dogs can also be trained unlike anchovy and mosquitoes. This shows that some animals are less deluded than others.

OP: What makes animals different from humans according to their planes of existence?

Humans generally have a much greater intellectual capacity and clarity of mind than animals, and this allows them to have the possibility to understand the Dhamma. Even then, some humans, especially those that have committed heinous crimes like killing their own parents, would not be able to fully comprehend the Dhamma.

OP: How can an animal get out of their plane? Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?

This seems to be very rare, because it's very hard for animals to overcome their delusion.

From SN 56.120-122:

“… the sentient beings who die as animals and are reborn as humans are few, while those who die as animals and are reborn in hell, or the animal realm, or the ghost realm are many.”

How animals can escape their situation is not very clear in the suttas.

OP: How does evolution work in terms of animals/humans cause I hear it works with Buddhism?

The Buddha taught about escaping suffering by training the mind. He did not really concern himself with cosmology or biology, which he considered to be unimportant on the path towards the ending of suffering (see the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow). Even teachings that appear to speak about biological evolution, is most probably metaphorical.

  • Seeing a difference in kind between e.g. mosquitoes and dogs -- is that traditional/scriptural that you know of, or is it only modern/personal/scientific opinion? – ChrisW Aug 12 at 10:38
  • This is my personal opinion about animals, but extrapolated from suttas on humans. – ruben2020 Aug 12 at 15:07
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Is it not obvious that animal feel, care about each other. Humans are also controlled by instinct aren't they? Humans creat tremendously more craving and aversion in the world than animals even the best non stream enterer, is likely producing much more craving, and greed than even the worst animal in this day and age. Read and quote all you want but can't you see this truth? This is a sign that more practice and less theory would be beneficial.

  • This reads as if it was meant to be a reply to (and therefore a comment under) Dhammadhatu's answer, right? It doesn't seem to answer the OP question. – ChrisW Aug 12 at 7:26
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Do animals feel emotions just like us or do they feel emotions on an instinctual level only?

AN 3.61 says "for those who feel, I teach the Four Noble Truths". Animals do not "feel". If animals could "feel", they would not be controlled by their cravings & emotions. They would employ mindfulness & wisdom at sense contact & feeling. But instead of "feeling", animals are driven by their emotions rather than "feel" their "emotions". If animals could "feel" their emotions, they could practise vedanupassana & cittanupassana and stop the arising of craving.

What makes animals different from humans according to their planes of existence?

In Buddhism, the word translated as "animal" is "tiracchāna", which means to "move horizontally" or not evolve on a spiritual level; to merely be guided by instincts of reproduction, sex, territorialism, etc. For example, "worldly talk" by monks in Buddhism is called "animal talk".

The word translated as "human" is "manussa", which means "high minded". Suttas such as SN 56.47 define the "human state" as moral righteousness, non-harmful & realised the Four Noble Truths.

For example, animals believe pornography, sexual promiscuity & other forms of liberal sex are OK. Where as "humans" see the danger, degradation & dysfunction of sexual liberalism. The Lokapala Sutta says:

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.

Lokapala Sutta



How can an animal get out of their plane? Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?

Animals leave the animal plane by realising the Four Noble Truths, as taught in SN 56.120, SN 56.47, etc, and abandoning instinctual lusts. This video (in English here) shows the animal named Angulimala realising the Four Noble Truths and having rebirth in the human realm due to abandoning violence.

How does evolution work in terms of animals/humans cause I hear it works with Buddhism?

Buddhism is about 'spiritual evolution' rather than 'physical evolution'. Sutta, such as MN 8, says wholesome states 'lead upwards'.

The Way Leading Upwards

Cunda, just as all unwholesome states lead downwards and all wholesome states lead upwards, so too:

(1) A person given to cruelty has non-cruelty to lead him upwards.

(2) One given to killing living beings has abstention from killing living beings to lead him upwards.

(3–43) One given to…to lead him upwards.

(44) One given to adhere to his own views, who holds on to them tenaciously and relinquishes them with difficulty, has non-adherence to his own views, not holding on to them tenaciously and relinquishing them easily, to lead him upwards.

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  • Do animals feel emotions just like us or do they feel emotions on an instinctual level only?

In hellish realms, beings experience mostly pain.

In the animal kingdom, they feel pain with emotions like greed/lust/fear. In the animal kingdom what is experienced is mostly instinctive as their perception and thinking is not developed. This is a reason they cannot realise the Dhamma.

In the human relm, it is a mix of pleasantness, pain with emotions like happiness/excitement, greed/lust/fear.

In higher planes, it is the most pleasure with emotion like happiness/excitement.

  • What makes animals different from humans according to their planes of existence?

Maha Kamma,vibhaṅga Sutta states that karma is what decides the plane one is borns. In higher planes are pleasant and lower planes are unpleasant.

Also, it is karma which decides disparity among humans. [Cūla Kamma Vibhaṅga Sutta]

  • How can an animal get out of their plane? Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?

It is by death in any of the following ways:

  • the ending of their karma
  • the ending of their life-span
  • in material worlds accidents
  • in higher realms, it is said that one can descend to a lower realm by wishing so
  • the ending of their karma and life-span

Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?

Karma is exsusted when it it felt.

In the context of getting out of a plane of existence, this is the exhaustion of the karma which created the birth or any of the other ways above.

  • How does evolution work in terms of animals/humans cause I hear it works with Buddhism?

Some of the creatures of light (the Abbhasaras) who had curiosity and a greedy nature began to dive and taste the savory Earth's substance. At that moment, the creature found out that it tasted so delicious. Thus, greed started to seep in and it ate the substance voraciously, greedily, also calling its comrades (who were flying above and on earth) to join in the feast. Not long afterwards, the creatures began to eat greedily, and due to the huge amount of the mud substance they could feed on it for a very long time.

As they ate and ate, their luminous body began to be coated by the mud substance, formed a coarser body, then suddenly, the sun and moon were seen, so were the stars, and also Night and Day began on Earth. The logical explanation of this was that the creatures were the self-illuminating, so blinding and luminous that they didn't notice the Sun. The Earth was covered in their light. So, when the materialization took place, the light faded inside their newly conceived 'body' of mud and thus the night and day became apparent to them. Then, as the night and day became apparent, seasons and years also appeared.

Their body was still coarse and roughly shaped. Thus, after a very long time, the mud-like substance began to be exhausted. Then, mushroom-like plants began to grow so fast that they replaced the mud-like ocean. The creatures began to devour them as well, and they also found it delicious, like sweet honey and milk. Their body hardened more and details began to turn finer.

After another very long time, the mushrooms also began to be exhausted, replaced by cassava or turnip-like plants. They also began to devour them night and day, and thus they began to notice differences amongst them. As the changes of their bodies varied between each other, the concept of difference arose. The concepts of the beautiful and the ugly were born. The beautiful scorns the ugly and they became arrogant because of their appearance.

Then, after the turnips, the earth was grown with rice plants. The first rice plants were without husk and kernels. The sweet and honey-like rice flourished seeds abundantly. The people consumed them for a very long time. But there are people who became greedy and lazy. They took more rice than they needed for one day's meals. They began to take two, four, eight, and sixteen days' of rice reserves as they were too lazy to take rice everyday. Owing to this, many other creatures began to store and hoard the rice. The generation time for rice plants became slower and slower. Usually, it took only one night for the plant to grow and be ready to be consumed, but by the karmic power the plant began to grow more and more slowly. Also the rice grew in kernels and husks, scattered, which the creatures must work, nurse, maintain, harvest, and cook in order to obtain the white rice.

By this time, the body of the creatures had become finely evolved. There was already the distinction between male and female. The man became preoccupied with women and vice versa. Then, as they were deeply attracted to each another, passion and desire was aroused, and they engaged in sexual relationships. The people who saw a couple engaged in sexual activity scolded them, and usually the couple were forbidden from entering the village for a certain period of time. Owing to this, the indulgent couples built closed dwellings where they indulged in sexual activity.

Aggañña Sutta

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Do animals feel emotions just like us or do they feel emotions on an instinctual level only?

I don't really understand the question.

It's taught though that animals react to (your) good-will with their being non-violent toward you -- see for example here:

Modern experience suggests they may react in a similar way (i.e. non-aggression) if you're not afraid.

Yet the monastic code tells monks to not attract laypeople into places where there are dangerous animals.

What makes animals different from humans according to their planes of existence?

If they're unable to understand language, is one difference that they can't easily learn the Dhamma?

I think that's a reason why people are urged to take advantage of their having-been-born-human, i.e. it's a rare opportunity.

How can an animal get out of their plane? Is it by working off Kamma by suffering?

Perhaps that's answered by the sutta of the turtle and the hole, i.e. SN 56.47 and SN 56.48.

The Pali word adhicca has meanings like "fortuitous", and "unlikely" or "rare".

How does evolution work in terms of animals/humans cause I hear it works with Buddhism?

I don't understand what you're asking about (i.e. what you heard).

There is a sutta -- Aggañña Sutta (DN 27) -- which is described as being "an account of the origin of life and the world" ... so you might take it as an origin myth or as saying smething about the evolution of species ... but I think it may be allegorical.

  • I marked this post down because the word adhicca is not found in SN 56.47 and to say such seriously misrepresents the sutta. SN 56.47 is straightforwards in its content while SN 56.48 (which contains adhicca) is not straightforward and subject to imaginative papanca by puthujjana. – Dhammadhatu Aug 12 at 1:56
  • What is "rare" (dullabho) is a person who teaches the teaching and training proclaimed by a Realized One suttacentral.net/an3.114/en/sujato suttacentral.net/an6.96/en/sujato – Dhammadhatu Aug 12 at 2:04
  • Ah yes, SN 56.48 is saying it's rare to attain human existence AND (or when) a Tathagata arises in the world (so the dhamma-vinaya is proclaimed and you can practice etc. for the ending of suffering). – ChrisW Aug 12 at 7:43
  • The comment seem to be conflating words & imputing unwarranted meaning upon them. Regardless, SN 56.47 defines what the "human state" is and it obviously does not mean "homo sapien". How can 7 billion homo sapiens on Earth be "rare"? SN 56.48 appears to say it is mere "luck" that a rare individual (such as my good self) has the necessary mental faculties to comprehend the True Dhamma. – Dhammadhatu Aug 12 at 9:07

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