The Animal Kingdom?

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The Animal Kingdom?

Postby DashLunde » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:13 pm

Hi all!
I'm very new here, and I've got what feels like a very newb question: how exactly does karma work in the animal kingdom? From the little I know about Buddhism, I think that your karma effects where in the world you're born... within human society but also within the entirety of nature. My question is what does the literature say about animals following the Eightfold Path? I assume they can move up, become human, and eventually use human knowledge to reach nirvana... but how does an animal practice, for instance, Right Action? Obviously human beings should not take lives, but what about a wild animal that must do so to survive?
Thanks for any help!
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:21 am

Karma in Buddhism is said to be a natural law like the law of gravity. The law of karma suggests that killing produces unwholesome karma even if it's done by animals in order to survive. No ifs, ands or buts.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby infinitywaltz » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:08 am

In some of the Japanese sects, like Shingon, there are different manifestations of Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit) to protect beings in each of the six realms of rebirth, with Bato Kannon (Hayagriva in Sanskrit) being the protector of animals. And as far as the idea of animals having to "work up" to the human realm, the idea of the mutual possession of 10 worlds developed by Tiantai suggests that each of the 10 worlds has the potential of the other nine, so any living being, whether human or animal or hungry ghost or whatever, has the potential for Buddhahood.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby catmoon » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:06 am

I think animals are just as subject to karma as we are, but they have a lot less control over the karma they create. Which would be why it is so hard to make the transition from the animal realm to the human one.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:58 am

Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom. I think there are some youtube videos showing some of it, for example dogs rescuing another dog or other animals, without any training from humans and similar behaviors in the wild.

I have had about 8 different pet cats over the course of my life, so far. And like any pet owner I can tell you that each had its own unique personality. Some were very nice and very friendly and some were pretty indifferent and aloof. Some only cared about receiving food, others wanted to be petted, others wanted to mostly sleep; but each displayed moments of pleasure, pain, happiness, and the whole gamut of emotions humans experience. Descartes was truly wrong on animals. :tongue:

We are animals too and not much different, except for the capacity for greater knowledge and insight, which if not gained -- well then we have lived a life not much different from them.

One of my cats literally tried to kill one of the new additions, another male (but fortunately was not successful). Another cat was the sweetest thing and would greet everyone who came to the house and would start purring before you even pet him. I suppose for animals, there are some small ways that they could make merit/good karma, for example altruism and avoiding killing as much as possible. Obviously the opportunities will be very limited and their lives are mostly on guard from being killed or eaten and the constant search for their own food, so that it is considered a woeful realm and one to avoid if possible.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby viniketa » Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:21 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom.


Indeed. Do animal gather in packs, herd, prides, etc., so that they will have an alter close by to fight with? Cooperation. Not possible without altruism.

Ditto on the cats. I currently am caretaker for a TNR feral colony that has a distinct family structure with customs that include leading newbies to the feeding station, allowing the most hungry to eat first - after that it seems to go by age, oldest, youngest, nursing mother, healthy intact male (whom I'm trying to catch to be neutered), etc.

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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby plwk » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:18 am

Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom.
And this 'altruism' is from an animal's or a human's perspective?
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:27 am

plwk wrote:
Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom.
And this 'altruism' is from an animal's or a human's perspective?


Altruism is not limited to humans.

At the very least plenty of other mammals demonstrate altruism, compassion and kindness towards members of their own species as well as others.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby plwk » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:46 am

That's just our interpretation of what we think animals do or don't, have or not.
Projecting what I think an animal is or not may not be what the animal is or not actually doing or is and does no justice to the animal itself.
Just like how some people start sexuality labelling on certain animals that they see engaging in certain ways that they think is 'straight' or 'gay' or how black cats oft get demonised and victimised because of human projections and myths...

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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Kaji » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:26 am

David N. Snyder wrote:We are animals too and not much different, except for the capacity for greater knowledge and insight, which if not gained -- well then we have lived a life not much different from them.

Chinese Buddhism has coexisted with Confucianism all along. As a Chinese Buddhist I have learned that the five fundamental virtues in Confucianism - beneficence, honour, respect, wisdom/intelligence, trust - are what makes us truly humans and different from other beings. There are accounts that, back when Hong Kong had approx four million people, a Bodhisattva commented that only one million of them were truly living the human path; the others were living the paths of animals, ghosts and asura. Animals tend live to for nothing more than their desire for creature comfort, food, sex, sleep, etc. Ghosts tend to be selfish, greedy and uncharitable. Asura tend to be jealous and like fighting in whatever form, e.g. physical, verbal, lawsuits.

The Five Precepts are taught to correspond to the five Confucian virtues: not kill = beneficence, not steal = honour, no sexual misconduct = respect, no false speech = trust, no intoxication = wisdom/intelligence. Hence why, as it is taught, following the Five Precepts allows one to retain the human body in one's next life.

An animal (or any other lifeforms for that matter), may be living a path not of its own, but for example the human path. Many domesticated and well-trained dogs seem to exhibit some or all of the above virtues. I would not be surprised if they will be soon be reincarnated as humans.

As a side note, while the Five Precepts are for the human path, the Ten Good Deeds are for the deva path.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby plwk » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:44 am

If this is of any help to the OP...one view from the late Ch'an Ven Master Dr Sheng-yen, founder of Dharma Drum Mountain in his Zen Wisdom: Conversations on Buddhism (pages 14-16, 19-20). This excerpt is typed out as I cannot find an online source.
I read an interesting news story in Taiwan.
An old woman owned a few dogs. There was a fire at her home and she died. One of the dogs had an opportunity to escape the fire but it stayed behind with its master and it too died. At her funeral, one of her other dogs tried time and again to jump into the grave. Several people had to restrain it. Afterwards, the dog refused to eat and it died as well.

The old woman also had children. Soon after her death, they began quarreling over the property she left behind. The newspapers commented that the dogs were more dignified and remorseful than the humans were. From the human perspective, the dogs seem to have more compassion than the people and their behaviour morally superior.

However this is not the case, dogs do not think and act with the same complexity that people do. These particular dogs remembered the old lady being nice to them and they experienced grief when she died. True, the woman's children did not act nobly but those are judgements based on a sense of morality and justice. Were the dogs making moral judgements and thinking logically? Dogs do not ponder what should or should not be done, they do what they do. If it is thinking, it is governed by instinct and habit. Humans on the other hand, make moral judgements. The fact that human beings can reason and make such judgements demonstrates that their mental functions are of a higher order than that of other animals.

A sentient being with a nervous system can experience pain and pleasure, which are retributions for previous actions.
A sentient being with memory can recall, anticipate and enhance its experiences of pain and pleasure.
This means that the experiences of suffering and pleasure are not limited to immediate physical responses.
Memory allows organisms to respond to the environment with greater sophistication and complexity.
Finally, if sentient beings can reason abstractly, speculate about the future and rearrange memories to form new thoughts, they can also distinguish between desirable and undesirable, the beneficial and harmful and the moral and immoral. The ability to differentiate in this manner is the basis of all vexations.
To experience vexations means to further the creation of good and bad karma. These actions that create karma in turn lead to further consequences or retributions.
Only sentient beings with all four characteristics have the ability to reason, to ponder, to contemplate-to understand that they create karma.

Sentient beings that cannot reason and distinguish between what is moral and immoral only receive retribution for their previous karma. In their present life form, they cannot create further karma. Their actions are natural and immediate responses to whatever situation arises. A lion that kills for food creates no karma by that act. Only human beings generate karma because they reason and make judgements. Reasoning, then, is the basis of all vexations and these vexations lead human beings to create new karma which in turn further retribution. On the other hand, only humans, among all sentient beings are capable of practising Buddha Dharma. Buddhist Sutras have talked about other animals that could practice but these Sutras explained that these animals were incarnations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and not just ordinary animals.

Once, I observed one of my students watching a mosquito sucking blood from his wrist. He patiently watched until the mosquito was finished and bloated with blood. Then he thumped the mosquito with his finger and killed it. I asked him why he did that and he said, 'That is the mosquito's retribution. It took my blood and it paid for it with its life'. I said, 'That wasn't equal retribution. The mosquito only took a little blood from you and you took its life. Furthermore, the mosquito doesn't know what it is doing. it has no idea that it is causing you discomfort. The mosquito that causes you pain is not doing wrong. It cannot reason or make judgements. You on the other hand, can. The normal reaction would be to swat the mosquito. That is your choice, especially if you are concerned about being infected with disease but if you do, realise that you have created karma.'

Student: If animals cannot create karma but only receive retribution of previous karma, were they not previously human, because humans are the only creatures that can create karma?
Shifu: This is a common question. People are always trying to find a begining. Where does it all begin? It is not that simple.
First, there are beings on other worlds. Second, there are other realms besides the human realm. In all worlds and all realms of sentient beings, karma is without begining and without end.

If there is a begining, then we must answer the question, 'Where did these sentient beings come from and why did they arrive in the form they did?' There have always been innumerable sentient being and there always will be innumerable sentient beings. Animals are sentient beings that are receiving the retribution for previous karma, therefore they must have been at one point sentient beings that could create karma. But it does not mean that they had to be human beings living on planet Earth. There are other sentient beings that can create karma and there are other worlds. They can also become the same animal, a different animal or a being in another world. Who is to say?

There are very few hard and fast rules in Buddha Dharma. Buddhism says that only humans can practice but certain individual animals, deities and spirits can practice too. They know something that enables them to practice. There are also certain heavenly realms where beings can practice. For the most part however, it is humans that can practice Buddha Dharma.
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Sara H » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:16 am

Animals are one of the six realms of existence.

You can see a visual depiction of this in the Wheel of Life:

Image


In this image, Humans are on the top left of the wheel, with animals directly below us.

Also, on top are the Devas (god-like and heavenly realms),
and to the right of them are the Titans, (beings born with power but jealous of those in the Deva realms and always seeking to do war and strife with them)
Then below them, are the Hungry Ghosts or Asura realms, (disembodied spirits, ect)
Follow by below, Hell realms, or those who live in constant agony and severe pain and anguish (I tend to think of Rawandan Genocide here, or the Prison Camps in North Korea)
And then to the left again to Animals.

The important thing to note, is that none of these realms is considered permanent.

Beings are not sentenced to live forever and ever in a hell realm for instance, and even those with a great deal of merit will not stay in "heavenly" realms forever if they do not increase their merit.

It also shows that with the human realm, is considered the best for training, as those in the human realm are the most willing to listen and hear and practice the Dharma as we are not too busy distracted by pleasure such as in heavenly realms or intense pain such as in hell realms.

It is also important that each realm has it's own Buddha, and Buddhisatva's and it is said that the kindest Kanzeon (Boddhisatva of Compassion) is found in Hell, or hell realms.

That is to say that there is always some compassion to be found or something or those pointing the way.

In the center is the pig, snake and rooster, symbolizing Greed, Anger, and Delusion, respectively, which is what keeps the wheel turning.

Becoming free from Greed, Anger, and Delusion, is what allows one to "escape" the constant wheel, and realize Enlightenment, and then become a Buddha.

Around the edge are the various kinds of acts that we get up to in our lives, that keep the wheel turning.
Representing Dependant Origination. These are shown as links or somewhat chain-like

The inner circle next to the center shows that by creating good or bad karma we climb out of lower realms or fall out of higher ones into lower realms, but that this really is just a circle that keeps spinning, and not, in itself a solution to suffering.

In one of the ceremonies in Zen, we offer merit to all the evil and wicked in heaven.

That is to say that even these states are not ideal, and rather temporary planes of existence, and have suffering and Greed, Anger, or Delusion, also.

There is a specific symbolism regarding the demon holding it, though offhand I forget what that is. I'll post later if I remember.

There is also shown that there are people in the human realm leaving the wheel to Buddhahood, as describes what I said earlier.

There is also usually a moon, or Buddha or Bodhisattva in one of the upper corners that shows throughout all this, it is not separate from the Eternal, and that there are Buddhas who point the way.

This diagram is said to have been come up with by The Buddha Himself.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Sara H » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:23 am

I had to look up regarding the figure as I'd forgot what it was,

It represents impermanence. And that things end and change.



The wheel is being held by a fearsome figure who represents impermanence. The Dalai Lama states:

The fierce being holding the wheel symbolizes impermanence, which is why the being is a wrathful monster, though there is no need for it to be drawn with ornaments and so forth... Once I had such a painting drawn with a skeleton rather than a monster, in order to symbolize impermanence more clearly.[22]

This figure is most commonly depicted as Yama, the lord of death. Regardless of the figure depicted, the inner meaning remains the same–that the entire process of cyclic existence (samsara) is transient; everything within this wheel is constantly changing.[23]

Yama has the following attributes:

He wears of crown of five skulls that symbolize the impermanence of the five aggregates.[24] (The skulls are also said to symbolize the five poisons.)
He has a third eye that symbolizes the wisdom of understanding impermanence.[24]
He is sometimes shown adorned with a tiger skin, which symbolizes fearfulness.[24] (The tiger skin is typically seen hanging beneath the wheel.)
His four limbs (that are clutching the wheel) symbolize the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.[25]


A helpful link here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavacakra

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby Sara H » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:39 am

"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: The Animal Kingdom?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:07 pm

I didn't see this listed, but here are some discourses on karma/kamma:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el248.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part1-b
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I know this is a Mahayana board, but given that the Chinese have the Agamas and the Tibetans have the Kanjur, I thought it might still be applicable...

From the first 2 stories - it would almost seem to imply that if you act like a normal dog (an animal with carnivorous tendencies), you will either be reborn among dogs or in a hell.
It would seem that as a predator, your only way of earning merit to improve your situation is in the case of showing mercy - maybe you didn't eat the vulnerable baby mouse that one time...
If you were particularly cruel as a predator - killing more than you needed to survive, acting out of rage, prone to torture other animals; then you're more likely to end up in a hell.
Most likely, I think, an average predator that only kills what it needs to live will be stuck as that type of predator for an endless number of cycles with very few opportunities to improve their situation.
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