I heard that an
Atma (soul) will take 7 births on the earth. Is it true?
If it is true, then seven janma-s apply only for humans or animals or combinations of them?
It must be numerous rebirths. Can not be counted and explicitly stated. Certainly not seven for all cases.
Atra janma sahasreshu sahasrairapi pArvati |
KadAchit labhyate janturmAnushyam punyasanchayAt ||
[Lord Shiva says] O PArvati, thousands of Jivas get thousands of births and among them, those which have accumulated enough merit, sometimes get a human life.
KulArnava Tantram 1.15
In this verse and the adjoining verses of the same chapter, Lord Shiva discusses the importance of obtaining a human birth and how rarely it is achieved. In that context he says the above verse.
Also, although the word used here is "Sahasra" meaning a "thousand" but actually it refers to something uncountable i.e numerous.
Moreover, it says after getting numerous births a soul gets born as a human. So. it already had taken numerous births before his human birth and possibly it will have many more rebirths thereafter too.
So, it can not be just seven births.
Update regarding seven births:
This "seven births" thing is mentioned in scriptures. It is mentioned as a punishment of some bad deeds that was committed by the soul in it's earlier life. But it is nowhere implied that the soul will not get more than just seven births.
See the following passages from the Devi Bhagavata Purana (DBP) to get more clarification:
If any Brâhmin performs the S’râdh of a S’ûdra, eats the food pertaining to a S’râdh of a S’ûdra or burns the dead body of a S’ûdra, he will have to dwell certainly in Pûya Kunda, where, being beaten by the rod of Yama, he eats the pus, etc., for as many years as there are hairs on his body. Then he becomes reborn in this Bhârata as one greatly diseased, poor, deaf and dumb and ultimately he will have to roam for seven births as a S’ûdra.
Those persons that are proud of their strong positions and who use very harsh burning words to their friends, they go to Vahni Kunda and live there for as many years as there are hairs on his body; next they attain animal births for three births and get themselves scorched under the strong heat of the Sun. He goes to the Tapta Kunda hell who does not entertain any Brâhman guest with any eatables who comes to his house hungry and thirsty. He lives there for as many years as there are hairs on his body and he has to sleep on a bed of fire, very tormenting. Then he will have to be born for seven births as birds.
If anybody washes any clothing with any salt on Sunday, or on the day of Samkrânti (when the Sun enters another sign), or on any newmoon day or on any S’râddha day (when funeral ceremonies are performed), he will have to go to the Ksâra Kunda hell where he remains for as many years as there are threads in that clothing and finally he becomes born for seven births as a veritable washerman.
He who becomes angry and shrinks his eyes at the sight of a guest who has come to his house offends the Devas or Pitris, who do not accept the water offered to them by that villain. On the contrary, he earns all the sins of Brahmahatyâ (murder of a Brâhmin and so forth) and finally goes to Dûsikâkunda where he remains for one hundred years and eats polluted things. Then wandering as Bhûtas for one hundred years he becomes purified. If anybody makes a gift of any article to a Brâhmin and then again gives that article to a different man, he goes to Vasâ Kunda where he eats marrows for one hundred years. Then he has to roam about in India for seven births as a Krikalâsa (lizard) and finally he becomes born as a very poor man with a very short life.
He who always cheats his friends, lives for one hundred years in Gâtramala Kunda. Then roaming about for three births as an ass and for three births as a fox concurrently, he becomes purified. Out of vanity, if anybody jests at a deaf person, he goes to Karnamalakunda where he eats for one hundred years the wax of the ear. Next he comes to the earth as a deaf and very poor man for seven births, when at last he gets purified.
It varies from person to person. No exact number can be given.
When men of knowledge, conversant with the rules of Yoga, become as fixed as a stake of wood, and as immovable as a mountain, then are they said to be in Yoga. When one does not hear, and smell, and taste, and see; when one is not conscious of any touch; when one’s mind becomes perfectly free from every purpose; when one is not conscious of anything, when one cherishes no thought; when one becomes like a piece of wood, then is one called by the wise to be in perfect Yoga. At such a time one shines like a lamp that burns in a place where there is no wind; at such a time one becomes freed even from one’s subtle form, and perfectly united with Brahma. When one attains to such progress, one has no longer to ascend or to fall among intermediate beings. When persons like ourselves say that there has been a complete identification of the Knower, the Known, and Knowledge, then is the Yogin said to behold the Supreme Soul.
Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCCVII
A person who attains the state described above will not have to return to Samsara. The number of rebirths will depend on his past karma and on his effort. Garuda Purana points out that one is a perfect fool to miss the opportunity to attain moksha in a human birth.
Number of births and importance of human birth
In the eighty four lacs of bodies of creatures one does not acquire true knowledge anywhere unless one is born as a man.
Here, after thousands of crores of births a creature obtains human form only sometime due to aggregate of virtue.
Having obtained a rare human form he should endeavour for moksha. If he does not endeavour for it, there can be no greater sinner in the world.
Born in the most beautiful human form he incurs the sin of slaying a Brahmin if he neglects his self.
Without human body it is not possible to obtain the supreme goal. One should be, therefore, very cautious to guard wealth in the form of his body and perform good actions.
…… So far as this body remains intact he should practice dharma. One is a perfect fool who digs a well only when the house is on fire.
[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX]
The implication is that many rebirths may happen if one does not make use of the human birth.