As most of you might know that in Hinduism, it is believed that you and every other living thing consist of two things one is "a soul" which is indestructible, true and reality. No harm can be done to the soul. The other is your "body" which is illusion. It is destroyed after you die. Your soul then gets free from your body when your body dies and goes to another body it calls rebirth.

Every soul has to pass through several species as per evolutionary process. According to Padma Purana, the different types of life-forms in the universe are 8,400,000:

  900,000 of which are aquatic ones;   
2,000,000 are trees and plants;  
1,100,000 are small living species (like- insects and reptiles);  
1,000,000 are birds;  
3,000,000 are beasts and  
  400,000 are human species. 

Only after passing through all of the above forms will a soul get its human form. As we can say the soul inside of a human is the same as that of a soul inside of an ant or an elephant.

The cycle of birth and death continues on until it is merged with the Supreme One called "Paramatma" (or a soul gets free from the cycle of rebirth). This is called "Moksha". The time taken for the Moksha will depend upon one's "Karma" and "Dharma".

For example, as we know for the sake of food, a Tiger kills a Deer, Plants are killed by Elephants, a Snake kills a Rat, and we, humans, also kill many things like plants and animals for food (or for habitat) and so on. As per my knowledge the above all have done the same karma or sin. But as we know if human's karmic account is not clean, he will only be wandering in different planes of existence in different kinds of bodies suffering or enjoying different kinds of pain and pleasure depending upon his actions (karma) respectively.

My questions are:

  • Does it mean the 8,400,000 forms are created simultaneously at one time?

    1. If yes, then, does it mean some souls are coming directly to human-form?

    2. If not, then, why is a specific number of life-forms given in Padma Purana?

  • Does Karma apply to all life-forms?

    E.g., can the soul of a tiger take birth as tiger only or can it go to a lower life-form according to its karma (by killing a animal for the sake of food)? Or will it always gain a higher life-form of the evolutionary process?

  • How to know that it's their result of karma or it's their own way of life (it means no prarabdha karma generated and they will go direct to higher life-form)?

  • Is there any possibility of skipping one life-form of evolutionary process and go upward or downward? Specially, does this happen in humans i.e., going to a lower life-form? (Higher simply means attaining moksha, as per my knowledge)

  • Does this karma only apply to humans?

  • Are there any scriptural references for any of this?

UPDATE: Added one more question related to this topic.

  • 1
    very good question!! I think there is two application of karma. One is karma exhaustion and other is karma generation. All beings are subject to karma exhaustion. However only the beings with conscience are subject to karma generation. But the Truth is that this Karma is highly complicated. nobody knows where Karma begins, how it functions across beings and how it affects exactly. But one thing is for sure, we as human beings generally are subject to karma, and also we can go beyond Karma by Bhakti, Jnana or Karma Yoga. This is the focus of all the Sruti scriptures. All the best.
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1
    Good question. My first impression is that karma is only generated while in human form, but I have not thought about this question before in detail. Will do some scriptural research and try to find an answer. Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 4:38
  • @Sai I was in the impression of that first one should generate karma and then it will be exhausted and this applicable to all forms. But as you said "All beings are subject to karma exhaustion. However only the beings with conscience are subject to karma generation". is this means it applicable to human only or something else which I'm missing? And I complete agree with you on "concept of Karma is complicated to understand". As in BG(4.17) Lord Krishna has told, 'Gahana Karmano Gatih' (Gatih of Karma is unfathomable). Thank you!!:) Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 8:31
  • Yes only if karma has been generated it can be exhausted. Thus if a being is born as a other form first, it could have never generated any karma. So what it is exhausting? That is a great question. But the thing is, there is no beginning for the soul, there is no beginning for all this. Nobody knows when karma started nobody knows what was the first form for the soul. That is why Sri Krishna says that Karma is depthless. By beings with conscience I do not mean only human beings. There are infinite number of worlds in the Universe, each world has its own life forms and its own conscious beings.
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 17:34
  • 2
    Thus on Earth perhaps human beings have conscience, whereas in another loka some other being has conscience. By no means we are the only beings in creation. There are infinite planets, infinite universes, infinite planes, etc. For more information Autobiography of a Yogi 43 explains all the various worlds :) All the best!!
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


Tiger kills deer for food. Same way snake kills rat for food. They mostly never kill the prey for fun. I have heard the stories, where even if anyone go near to tiger without disturbing it, when its stomach is full, it would not attack them. Whole ecosystem is created and balanced by different types of creatures.

As long as tiger kills deer for basic survival, then it is NOT a sin. Same way if human kills plant for basic survival it is not Not sin. But if he kills unnecessarily for fun or just to show of power, then it is sin.

Let me answer to your questions,

// Is this means 8,400,000 yonis created simultaneously at one time?

8,400,000 are different type of species, not number of yonis.Each species have unknown number of yonis. Soul can get incarnated in any of these species based on its karma.

// Is this karma apply's to all yoni (life-forms)?

Only abode Lord vishnu is free of karma. All other lokas people do karma. That's how souls do migrate between lokas. But in some lokas, soul can live long long duration, before taking next lifeform.

//Like, Is a soul of tiger will take birth as tiger only or lower yoni to mete its previous karma (by killing a animal for sake of food)? Or will it gain a upper yoni of the evolutionary process?

How do you think, if tiger cannot accrue karma, it can climb up evolutionary ladder? Have you heard about story about a dog, which became sun god vivasvan?

//Is there any possibility of miss one yoni(Life -form) of evolutionary process and go upward or downward? Specially, is this happens in human form goes to downwards yoni(Life-form)?

Moving up and down in the spiritual ladder is very common. Some people do pious work in order to attain spiritual realms, but after gaining that, they becomes egotists, neglect god and descend back to lower realms.

Attaining moksa or higher realm is possible even in lower forms. But it is easiest in human form than in animal form.

Most of examples of animals attaining higher realms are due to them having non-animal instincts due to their previous lifes .

For Ex: In Gajendra moksa - he could completely remember his past lives and could able to recite Hari kirtana.

Bharata chakravarti could able to remember his past lifes while in the form of deer.

  • 5
    You should cite sources. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 7:49


Non-human forms don't have freedom of choice as their are slaves of their gross as well as subtle senses. These forms are given to "burn" your karma, either by getting pleasure or sufferings.

That's why the Vedas are insisting on the importance of using this human body to search for the Absolute Truth.

athato brahma jijnasa

"Now one should inquire about Brahman" (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.1)

You get a new body according to 2 things: your past deeds (karma, which means literally "action") and your last desire just before leaving your actual body.

Because of these two things, you will have to live through different pleasures and suffering.

As for the later, you may consume a part of your "bad" karma in what we may call "Hell", then take birth on some lower ("infernal") planetary system, and finally, by taking birth as a lower form of life.

  • 2
    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources for your claim that non-human animals can't generate new Karma. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 15:44
  • 1
    In any case, "athato brahma jijnasa" is not saying "Now that you've acquired a human body, you should inquire about Brahman." It's saying "Now having studied the Karma-Kanda (Samhitas and Brahmanas) portions of the Vedas, it is time to inquire about Brahman, the subject of the Jnana-Kanda (Upanishads) portion of the Vedas. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 15:45
  • 2
    Well, animals don't read sanskrit (i.e this injunction is for humans.)
    – avetisk
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 16:34
  • 2
    First of all, it's not really an injunction, it's just a description of what the inquiry in the Brahma Sutras is about. But yes, of course the Brahma Sutras are meant to be read by humans, not animals. But that doesn't at all address the question of whether animals can generate karma or not. So you should cite sources for that claim. Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 16:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .