3

"In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn among devas. Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn in hell... in the animal womb... in the domain of the hungry ghosts." (Pansu Sutta, SN 56.102)

According to this quote most humans go to the lower realms. This doesn’t make sense to me because majority of humans though imperfect are ethical and moral. How true is this? How strict should we live our lives so that we can be reborn to a higher dimension?

  • 1
    The passage doesn't actually claim that most humans go to lower realms. It's comparative: it merely suggests that more humans go to the lower realms than go to the upper realms. Buddhism typically holds that most people are reborn in the human realm. – Ted Wrigley Apr 19 at 15:05
  • 1
    I actually wasn’t able to put the paragraph preceding this text which says that: "In the same way, monks, few are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn among human beings. Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn in hell... in the animal womb... in the domain of the hungry ghosts.” – luigiman Jun 9 at 8:59
  • And do you have a source where it is said that most people are reborn as humans in Buddhism? – luigiman Jun 9 at 9:19
1

In Buddhism, the 'human' realm does not always refer to something biological. The word 'human' ('manussa') in the Pali language means 'high minded'. For example, AN 6.39 says:

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.

It appears the Pansu Suttas SN 56.102-131 are about what happens when the Four Noble Truths are realised and when the Four Noble Truths are not realised. The sutta quoted in the question is only an excerpt. The complete sutta is:

Few are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn among devas. Far more are the beings who, on passing away from the human realm, are reborn in hell... in the animal womb... in the domain of the hungry ghosts

Why is that?

It’s because they haven’t seen the four noble truths.

https://suttacentral.net/sn56.131/en/sujato

The message of the Pansu Suttas appears the same as the message of the Lonaphala Sutta. The message of the Pansu Suttas appears to be when a non-Arahant enlightened person who has realised the Four Noble Truths falls away (cutā) from being human, such as if they are unmindful and perform an unmindful skillful action, due to realising the Four Noble Truths, they won't fall into the lower realms because they realise there is no self that did the unmindful unskilful action. Instead, they know the doer of the unskilful action was the element of ignorance. Therefore, their human status/coming-to-be (paccājāyanti) is not lost.

The Pansu Suttas can be contrasted with ordinary suttas about kamma, which are about the ordinary outcomes that follow from (upapajjati) various acts of kamma (actions).

It is important to note, in the ordinary suttas about kamma, proceeding to (upapajjati) 'heaven' ('a happy state') due to a skilful action is not permanent. 'Heaven' is not permanent in Buddhism.

In summary:

  1. The Pansu Suttas SN 56.102-131 appear to be about, due to realising the Four Noble Truths, how the human or godly state (paccājāyanti) does not change significantly despite unmindfully falling away temporarily from that state.

  2. The ordinary suttas about ordinary kamma are about the ordinary outcomes that follow from (upapajjati) various acts of kamma (actions).

Note: The word two Pali words 'paccājāyanti' & 'upapajjati' commonly translated as 'reborn' are different. The word 'upapajjati' means 'to proceed closely to the former' (for example, from performing an action causing pain, one proceeds to a painful state). The 'paccājāyanti' appears to refer to the attainment of a realm status.

| improve this answer | |
  • Hi, I have read this comment many times but I can’t fully comprehend it, My understanding of Buddhism is fairly low, and I would appreciate it if you can explain this in simpler english maybe? And to answer my topic are you saying that most humans won’t really be reborn in the lower realms? – luigiman Jun 9 at 9:14
0

This is a very intersting question and a hard reality. What makes you think people actually are ethical and moral? Most of people have huge attachments, envy, and are easily dragged into evil conducts. For exemple, try having a beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend, and see how many people will try to flirt with him/her despite knowing you are in a couple. Also witness jealousy around you.

Look at the world history. Does it seems peaceful? I think there is a false assumption in your question. Since most people gravitate around greed, envy, selfishness, ignorance, they are doomed to go down instead of going up in the long term (hundred of life cycles as someone mentionned)

| improve this answer | |
0

Yes, and just something to be trusted if told by the Awakened one and or One who knows and sees. If it happens that someone without virtues and morals equal of the Noble ones gains birth under humans, he/she nevertheless experiances a low realm equal life like an animal, ghost,... Just observe the different between animals and humans in how far they are different.

| improve this answer | |
-1

This doesn’t make sense to me because majority of humans though imperfect are ethical and moral. How true is this? How strict should we live our lives so that we can be reborn to a higher dimension?

Just do some quick math and you'll see it all makes sense, although it'd be a bit depressing to face this truth. So, assuming every sentient being gets a fair and equal chance for rebirths in any realm, just counting the total number of mammals in this world, there're ~ 130 billions. The number of humans in this world ~ 7.8 billions. So every mammal sentient being would have a 7.8 / ( 130 - 7.8 ) odds of rebirth into the human realm. Now that's just mammals, start factoring in every animal species, the hungry ghosts, the hell-dwellers, etc. and you'll see that that blind turtle simile the Buddha taught in SN 56.48 was not far-fetched at all. So, it's no longer a question about whether it's true, it's a question of whether you're strong, brave, and wise enough to face it in order to solve it.

| improve this answer | |
-1

I think that based on the discourses one probably shouldn't assume that most humans go to lower birth and that nothing else is true.

There is an indication that women probably do so more frequently but afaik no actual frequency for either gender or of both genders taken together can be inferred to support the assertion that most fall to a lower state with the breakup of the body.

It is said a human birth is very rare. Also 7000000000 is a low number compared to the numerous bugs, birds and animals. Im not holding that the numbers correlate but we would have to consider such things to do the estimations.

In the lore it is expressed that taking birth repeatedly as human or this or that animal is the norm, ie 500 times as this or that class of being, in particular animal or human. Nothing like this about hell realms afaik. These are Jataka fwiw.

As for the Pansu Sutta one can infer that fewer go to a higher birth than a lower birth. One infers nothing about the value of 'a neither higher nor a lower becoming'.

Afaik there isn't much more to go on. If i had to guess id say that i hold that most people will probably experience consequences of their actions after death and that based on a human birth.

It is still relatively hard to get the x amounts of consequtive and non consequtive human births, they are incalculably rare in the grand scheme of things and one is most likely to pass to a lower state afterwards.

I think i hold that it might be that most humans will eventually end up in hell and that beings are seemingly born in states of woe most of the time.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.