If a person i.e., a human form dies, then is it possible for him to have his next birth as an animal per his pāpa or puṇya?

The reason I'm asking this question is, I came across the theory below.

If a boy fails in the 5th standard at school, then he remains in 5th std. He is neither allowed to go to 4th std. nor the 6th.

In the same way, if a person dies in human form, then how is it possible that he degrades into animal form as per his karma?

  • 5
    Yes. There are many examples supporting this in Scriptures.
    – The Destroyer
    Aug 24, 2016 at 4:17
  • Human form is the last form in birth which should be utilised in proper way to chant God's name with devotion. Viceversa if this human form is wasted by greed,anger,exploiting other's wealth,lust etc after death it will start from small insects, animals birds etc as per the karmic reflection. You can refer Garuda purana for more Aug 24, 2016 at 10:23
  • Yes this is illustrated beautifully by the story of Jada Bharata .
    – Surya
    Sep 14, 2016 at 1:56

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is a possibility according to the Vedanta schools of Sri Madhva and Sri Vallabha. This view is based on the following shloka:

O son of Kunti! Falling into demoniac wombs, in life after life, they go to still lower states of degradation, without attaining Me.

Gita 16.20

On the basis of such texts, some schools of Vedanta like those of Sri Madhva and Sri Vallabha have propounded the theory of taratamya or inherent qualitative differences in Jivas, some being made for salvation and others for degradation. There is no eternal damnation in Hinduism, but this confinement to 'adhamam gatim' or continued embodiments among the lowest creatures like insects, fish, snakes etc., corresponds to it as the wages for confirmed evil doers.

Swami Tapasyananda in his translation of Srimad Bhagavad Gita

There is also this shloka in the Upanishads that explicitly states that a human being can be born as an animal.

Among them, those who have good residual results of actions here (earned in this world and left as residue after the enjoyment in the region of the moon), quickly reach a good womb, the womb of a Brahmana, or of a Ksatriya or of a Vaisya. But those who have bad residual results of action quickly reach an evil womb, the womb of a dog or of a hog or of a Candala.

Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7

  • This is just a complement to the current excellently sourced answer: > If a boy fails in 5th Stnd at school , then he remains in 5th stnd. He > is neither allowed to go in 4th Stnd nor 6th stnd. If a boy murders his classmates and burns down the whole school, would he be guaranteed to immediately be allowed to try 5th standard again? Or would he risk having to endure a stay in juvenile hall first? Similarly, if a human does enough bad things enough during his lifetime, he can be reborn in a non-human form.
    – Fiksdal
    Aug 24, 2016 at 6:31

Yes most certainly possible.

There are numerous examples in Scriptures which even specifically say by doing what bad karma one gets birth in which animal (or insect or plants) yoni.

The following are only a few among such verses. From Manu Smriti:

12.62. For stealing grain (a man) becomes a rat, for stealing yellow metal a Hamsa, for stealing water a Plava, for stealing honey a stinging insect, for stealing milk a crow, for stealing condiments a dog, for stealing clarified butter an ichneumon (mongoose);

12.63. For stealing meat a vulture, for stealing fat a cormorant, for stealing oil a winged animal (of the kind called) Tailapaka, for stealing salt a cricket, for stealing sour milk a bird (of the kind called) Balaka

12.64. For stealing silk a partridge, for stealing linen a frog, for stealing cotton-cloth a crane, for stealing a cow an iguana, for stealing molasses a flying-fox;

12.68. That man who has forcibly taken away any kind of property belonging to another, or who has eaten sacrificial food (of) which (no portion) had been offered, inevitably becomes an animal.

Similarly, from Vishnu Smriti Chapter XLIV:

  1. Now after having suffered the torments inflicted in the hells, the evil-doers pass into animal bodies.
  2. Criminals in the highest degree enter the bodies of all plants successively.
  3. Mortal sinners enter the bodies of worms or insects.
  4. Minor offenders enter the bodies of birds.
  5. Criminals in the fourth degree enter the bodies of aquatic animals

Similarly, from Parashara Smriti we get the following verses:

16. If a woman despises her husband, because he being either poor, or diseased, or a dunce, — she, after death, is born a bitch, or a sow, again and again.

36. If a Brahman fattens himself with the food of a Shoodra polluted by the impurity of birth or death, I do not know what (vile) animals he will be born (in subsequent lives)

37. Twelve times he will be born as a vulture ; ten times as a hog ; seven times as a dog ; this is what Manu has said.

56. The regenerate men who eat their meals, not having performed the rite for the Visvadevam, are born as crows; their food by no means should be partaken.

55. When his hands exist, if a Brahman, wanting in knowledge, drinks water with his mouth plunged into it [like a beast], he surely shall be born as a dog (in his next birth).


Yes it is definitely possible. Kathopanishad (2.2.7) clearly says

येनिमन्ये प्रपद्यन्ते शरीरत्वाय देहिनः । स्थाणुमन्येऽनुसंयन्ति यथाकर्मयथाश्रुतम् ॥

Some jīvas enter the womb for acquiring bodies (and) others assume plant-form according to (their) karma and according to (their) upāsanā.

As an explanation to this verse, Swami Paramarthananda says

Lord Yama explains what happens to the jīvātmā of the ajñānī after death. This śloka is an important source of knowledge (pramāṇa) for rebirth (punarjanma). The śāstras are the primary evidence for rebirth. There is no scientific evidence for rebirth; we only have supporting evidence. Rebirth is beyond the the other instruments of knowledge available to the humans (apauruṣeya viṣayaḥ). The supporting evidence is the nature of a person in this birth. For example, if a person is a genius in music versus another who has no musical sense, we conclude that for the latter, the training continues from the previous birth. There can be no other explanation for this. This supporting evidence is called sambhāvanā yuktiḥ [the proving evidence = niścāya yuktiḥ).

When an ignorant person dies, what happens to the four factors: the three bodies and Ātmā?

The physical body (sthūla śarīram) dies and mingles with the five elements (pañca-bhūtas). This is obvious through direct observation (pratyakṣa pramāṇa). Ātmā of the ajñānī also is all-pervading and therefore, it cannot travel. The subtle and causal bodies (sūkṣma and kāraṇa śarīrams) are not perceptible by any instrument of knowledge. We can only know their fate from the śāstras. These bodies survive the death of the physical body. Sūkṣma śarīram (kāraṇa śarīram included) and cidābhāsa together is called ahaṁkāra and that travels. The ajñānī’sahaṁkāra travels and occupies another physical body of a deva, human being or other living beings including the plants. God does not determine the type of the new body directly. Lord Yama says that the fruits of our actions (puṇya-pāpa-karmaphalam) determine it. Karmaphalam can only be exhausted only through experience (sukha-duḥkha-anubhava-dvāra-eva-karmaphalam-kṣīyate). Experience (anubhava) is possible only through the physical body. The jīva acquires another physical body appropriate to the world (loka) he is going to. Even in dream, one needs the appropriate physical body to exhaust the dream experience. The physical bodies of heavenly (svarga) and and the dream (svapna) worlds are not visible to us.

How long will it take?

It cannot be known because:

  • One does not know when the next set of karmaphalams will fructify

  • More importantly, when this body drops, the time concept will change – it is not possible to measure the time of another birth in terms of this physical body. The parallel drawn is: the dream time is totally different from the waker’s time.

The new body will be taken when it is ready.

Lord Yama says that every event is governed by law. The type of birth with favorable or unfavorable body and circumstances is dictated by karma of that person. We are fortunate that we do not remember the karma of our previous births; the regrets of the past in this birth itself is burdensome. Lord Yama says that our birth also depends upon what we dwell upon constantly (upāsanā). Whatever one thinks intensely is what he becomes:

Thoughts---> words---> action---> habit---> character---> destiny

Ultimately our destiny begins with thought. Krishna confirms this in verse 8.6 of the Bhagavad Gītā. If one constantly dwells upon God, he becomes one with Him (Īśvara cintayā Īśvaraaikyam).

Hope this helps you.

  • “ Lord Yama says that our birth also depends upon what we dwell upon constantly (upāsanā). Whatever one thinks intensely is what he becomes” <——Yes ! I think this is so accurate ! 🕉 Dec 25, 2022 at 3:00

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