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The very shortsighted
must learn to see
much further.

– Shilashanti

The Kukkuravatika Sutta records how Puṇṇa (of the Koliyans), an ox-duty ascetic, and Seniya the naked dog-duty ascetic learnt the error of their ways through the Buddha. Prior to this, these ascetics had practised living like the said animals, due to the deluded belief that it would lead to better rebirths. Bizarre as it might be to imagine eating, drinking, walking, standing, sitting and laying down like animals being able to do so, this belief could had arose from shortsightedly ‘seeing’ those animals’ consciousnesses rise to the heavens after death. Of course, this exhaustion of animal karma followed by fruition of wholesome godly karma has nothing to do with being animal-like, but by having been good sentient beings, be it in that just transpired life and/or before.

Puṇṇa asked the Buddha about how the next life of Seniya would be, since he had long practised dog-duty, eating food thrown to the ground, (even sitting curled up like a dog). The Buddha told him to ‘let that be’, to not ask him that. After being pressed thrice for a reply, the Buddha answered that he who develops dog habits completely and uninterruptedly will be reborn among dogs. If he assumed that he would be reborn as a god, which is a wrong view, and fails in his ‘practice’, he would be reborn in hell (which is karmically ‘near’ the animal realm). 

Hearing this, Seniya burst into tears, before asking how the next life of Puṇṇa would be, since he had long practised ox-duty. The Buddha again said to ‘let that be’, to not ask him that. After being pressed thrice for a reply again, the Buddha answered that he who develops ox habits completely and uninterruptedly will be reborn among oxen. If he assumed that he would be reborn as a god, which is the same wrong view, and fails in his ‘practice’, he would also be reborn in hell. Hearing this, Puṇṇa too burst into tears, before requesting the Buddha to teach them how to embrace the right practices. After receiving further teachings, Puṇṇa asked to be accepted as a lay follower, while Seniya as a monastic, with the latter soon attaining self-liberation.

Here are 5 more lessons to share… [1] The Buddha was skilfully bracing all with his initial refusals to reply, to make us more inquisitive, and attentive to these hard truths – for our good! [2] Strong yet delusional beliefs will never lead to reality. [3] We should not be simplistic when it comes to the complex workings of karma, by having a broader view of many lives involved. [4] What we keep ’emulating’ habitually in behaviour is what we will become, karmically allowing, in this life and/or the next. [5] Since who we are often mindful of we can ‘become’, mindfulness of (Amitābha) Buddha is perhaps most skilful, fruitful and safe. This aligns our Buddha-nature to his blessings, to be ever more Buddha-like, and to reach his Pure Land, where progress to Buddhahood is the swiftest.

The very longsighted
must learn to see
much nearer.

– Shilashanti

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