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I have heard that, normally, as we go on committing sins, we earn ourselves multiple births, sometimes as humans and other times as other living beings.

But say someone is born as some being other than human then how does he realise that he actually got this as a punishment or reward for his previous life deeds, since animals don't have any such self-consciousness?

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    Losing that consciousness is itself a punishment. For, without it how will the jeeva strive for elevation? They wallow in that which is baser for who knows how long. – user1195 Oct 17 '15 at 12:02
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    One is made to loose memory of past lives, so that one can live in the present and practice life properly. The burden of the past, if remembered would be so huge, that it would become very very difficult, in fact impossible to lead a normal life, if one were to remember past lives. Hence, God in his grace, has blessed us by making us forgetful of our pasts. But, at the same time, he being unbiased distributor of our fruits of actions, he grants us proper results for our actions, including punishments. – Nithin Sridhar Oct 17 '15 at 16:45
  • @NithinSridhar How can animals get human birth in their next life? For example - take lions. Their nature is to kill animals for their own survival, that's how God has made them but how will they get human birth or a lower birth? – Chinmay Sarupria Nov 24 '15 at 16:20
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    Animals do not have faculties to discriminate between right and wrong, Dharma and Adharma. Therefore, there life is mostly for facing the fruits of past actions. And when the Karmic cycle moves, and Karmic burdens loosens up, they will get a better and higher birth. – Nithin Sridhar Nov 25 '15 at 3:59
  • Even though animals doesn't have as much capabilities as human being , but they do have some capabilities. All animals of any species are NOT same(like dog, cat etc). There are some dogs which are soft natured , some are violent , some are bad tempered etc – tekkk Nov 25 '15 at 6:32
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I agree with moonstar2001 & Nithin Sridhar! They may not have self consciousness but again it purely depends on spiritual stage of the soul. Punishment is the same even if we know or dont know reason behind such punishment and by that that karma will be cleared off.

May it be human or any other animal, birth itself may be considered as punishment. We need to experience the result of good or bad deeds done by us. We may be not acknowledge but it can be related to anything like if a human/animal gets a comfort or discomfort of any sort it is result of a previous act. We may need to refer sastras for understand the same.

As discussed here sometimes animals may be more lucky than humans in reaching higher spiritual states, so we need not under estimate animals' birth.

Further suggested discussions are Does karma of previous life affect new life? and How exactly does karma work?

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