Why the Heaven Got Birds & Horses

I read the Samyutta Nikaya Sutta No. 11.6 The Bird Nests and very surprise why got birds in the heaven under the context of Theravada tradition. I thought this is only be found in the Mahayana sutra like the Amitabha Sutra where there is a description of a birds singing days and nights beautiful, harmonious, elegant, clear and joyful sound. I thought this is probably a kind of decoration or enhancing the status of the Amitabha land but did not expect to find birds in the Theravada Nikaya too. Even got horses as well, the chariots.

I also understand that if we have unwholesome karma, we get reborn into the lower realm like animals, ghosts or hell realm. I also understand the animal realm is below our human realm, lies in the Deprivation World. The devas are in the Tavatimsa realm sharing the same Sensuous World as the human realm but two realm above the human realm. I understand that with wholesome karma we get reborn into the heaven world.

So why in the heave got animal? Is it that the heaven world is also like our human world also got animal, meaning if the devas do evil will get reborn into the animal in their world? Or is it because if we got wholesome karma but not good enough to be reborn as deva but only qualify as animal in that realm?

We know that the animals in our world, kill among themselves, they eat among themselves, or they being eaten by human, etc. Does this also apply in the heaven animal? So what is the difference?

Thanks and regards,
tan boon ann

Alejandro Cardeinte's picture

Animals in heaven in the context of Theravada tradition

It is indeed interesting to know you have discovered a holy text that there are animals in heaven in the context of Theravada tradition. I learned that rebirth as an animal was considered to be one of the unhappy rebirths, usually involving more than human suffering. The animals were believed to inhabit a distinct "world," separated from humans not by space but by state of mind. A commentary I read depicts many sufferings associated with the animal world. They are attacked and eaten by other animals or live in fear of it, they endure extreme changes of environment throughout the year, and they have no security of habitation. Those that live among humans are often slaughtered for their bodies, or taken and forced to work with many beatings until they are slaughtered at the end of their lives. On top of this, they suffer from ignorance, not knowing or understanding with any clarity what is happening to them and unable to do much about it.

joseph campbell

Joseph Campbell explains that in the PURE LAND of AMIDA BUDDHA -for example- there are no "birds" as we may intend animals still in the cycle of samsara, but "jewel birds" of no samsaric consistency, just as the "people" in SUKHAVATI (land of bliss) are of no ordinary samsaric consistency.
Ram Dass also explains how the ultimate Hindu Brahma can be said to be AKASH (ether or space): the "ethereal beings" in the PURE LAND?

Dear Joseph, My doubt is why

Dear Joseph,

My doubt is why "Bird / animal" appears in the heave world described under the Theravada tradition?

Or is it the animal has good karma and get born into the heaven, just like the human being!

Thanks and regards,
tan boon ann

wealthy dogs

Joseph Campbell is a scholar, a mythologist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell).
I heard a teaching once that said that if a person is a perfect scoundrel in this life BUT practices generosity, s-he shall be reborn as the pampered pet of a wealthy master.
I am no Buddhist scholar, but possibly karma plays a part in an animal rebirth in the Theravada heaven.
In the apocryphal gospel literature, Jesus as a child pleads with a palm tree to give fruit to refresh mother Mary.
The tree obeys, and Jesus orders that a sapling from the very tree be taken to heaven to refresh the Saints as a token of gratitude.

Ram Dass

Could you kindly refer a book in which Ram Dass writes about the Brahma being AKASH (ether or space)?

Bows to you.

The mind indeed is of the form of space.

"The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is omnifaced." (Hindu Avadhuta Gita, IX-X century).



It is in the AUDIO course THE YOGAS OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA (1974) I think.
It was quite some time ago I listened to that.
There are a few editions of the same tapes.
You sure can find some seeking online.

a description recites:

A Heart-Centered Spiritual Classic for Your Ever-Changing Life

The Bhagavad Gita is a gem so precious in India's spiritual treasury that many regard it not as a volume of sacred verse, but as a living manifestation of the Divine. In the summer of 1974, inside a balmy Boulder, Colorado, warehouse that served as the main hall of the fledgling Naropa Institute, some say that a minor miracle occurred: the reawakening of the Gita's living presence, as it unfolded in a series of wisdom teachings led by Ram Dass. With Love, Service, Devotion, and the Ultimate Surrender, you are invited to experience these legendary gatherings.

The tale of the warrior Arjuna and his divine friend Krishna serves as metaphor for the recurring dilemmas that we encounter as we spiral into the depths of our spiritual journey. In these sessions, Ram Dass illuminates the Gita’s essential verses with insights spanning many traditions, from Rumi's ecstatic poetry to Basho's koans, from devotional chant to monastic silence, from Sri Ramana's self-inquiry to Saint Paul's devotion to Christ.

The destination? A new perspective on the crucial moments of contradiction and questioning that all spiritual seekers must face again and again: If it's all Divine perfection, why bother with the search at all? Is it possible to awaken without a teacher or guru? Why am I experiencing these strange spiritual "gifts”? Will I get lost in their power? If I'm conscious and kind, why not indulge in all of life's pleasures? Since everyone suffers and dies, will my compassion ultimately matter?

With irrepressible love and intellect (and a good dose of skillful mischief), this epic meeting with Ram Dass yields new answers with every revisit, like a lifelong friend that comes to meet us at each turning of our journey.


A 12-hour odyssey with Ram Dass into his timeless Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita Naropa sessions
Three ways to enter the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita
Karma yoga—reincarnation, dharma, service, sadhanas
Jnana yoga—inquiry, the critical mind, the koan
Mind, illusion, and Brahman
Sacrifice and mantra—trappings and benefits of ritual and form
Renunciation and purification—ashtanga yoga, kundalini, the chakras, austerities, the "witness," desire, sexual energy
Devotion and the guru—bhakti ("devotion"), surrender, siddhis ("powers"), Maharajji
Death and dying—What is born, what dies? How do you live in the present moment?



thank you Sergio!

thank you Sergio!