How do beings start to be?

Hello dear friends, I’m new to Buddhism. Namaste.

I wanted to ask if there are references in the tripitaka or other texts, on how many beings there are? And where they come from?

Is this discussed in Buddhism? How do beings become to be? Did our being maybe start as a single cell organism perhaps, like bacteria? And then our consciousness evolved further and further.

Does the Buddha even know about bacteria and other micro organisms?

Can I reincarnate into small animals if I commit many sins? Like a flea or even smaller like an amoeba? Are they considered animals too in Buddhism?

I have read the Sutta about hell and these type of lower animals are mentioned, I think.

But my question is, how did I start to become a being? Or is there no definite answer, or maybe not even mentioned in the suttas? Thank you very much.


There’s no beginning. No discoverable beginning is the sutta’s wording, but I take it as infinite past.

Ignorance of this life is due to past life ignorance, repeat the formula, we don’t get a first lifecycle. Ignorance is usually the start in the dependent origination cycle, which explains how rebirth happens.

Animals for the sake of precepts includes the smallest animal which can be seen with the naked eye. Bacterias etc is an open question if they are actually hell beings or not.

Given that there’s always been Buddhas and arahants to the infinite past, the only logical conclusion is that there’s infinite beings, inhabiting infinite multiverse.

Yes, one can be reborn as animals if one has many bad Kammas.


I recommend reading DN 27 Aggaññasutta for human existence history.

Note: One doesn’t need to know this to be a buddhist. But it is good to know as a reference about how beings exist in human realm.

There comes a time when, Vāseṭṭha, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos contracts. As the cosmos contracts, sentient beings are mostly headed for the realm of streaming radiance. There they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.

Regarding other cosmology, one need to hear more discourses, they are all over in the Sutta.

But for new to Buddhist, I recommend read SN 55 and SN 56.11 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.

This is just a speculation. One needs to hear more good dhamma and change the characters to be good. Then there is no doubt, speculation about all of this.

Lower realm only exist for beings whose minds are disturbed (not calm).

For example, if one keeps breaking the precepts such as killing, steal, sexual misconduct, lie. And one has mind that is full of ill-will, greed and delusion. Then, one will surely go to lower realm.

Not only in future, but currently this person mind can be very disturbed as well (like have lot of sufferings such as sick all the time, loss of possession, loss of family etc).

This is ok. There is no discernible beginning.

This is inaccurate and can lead to wrong view. Please read SN 44 such as SN 44.7:

“Master Moggallāna, is this right: ‘the cosmos is eternal’?”
“Vaccha, this has not been declared by the Buddha.”
“Then is this right: ‘the cosmos is not eternal’ … ‘the world is finite’ … ‘the world is infinite’ … ‘the soul and the body are identical’ … ‘the soul and the body are different things’ … ‘a Realized One exists after death’ … ‘a Realized One doesn’t exist after death’ … ‘a Realized One both exists and doesn’t exist after death’ … ‘a Realized One neither exists nor doesn’t exist after death’?”

This is inaccurate as well. There will be a time where there is no Buddha, but the main principle still exist as described on AN 3.136.

Mendicants, whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles: all conditions are impermanent.

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Nice analysis there, Joe.

This is nice (and fun!) …


Thank you very much but I don’t think the Buddha actually uses the words contraction or expansion. More like creation and destruction. Modern translation is only to fit the contemporary narrative and pseudo cosmology.

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In the discussion which follows, I take cosmos to be the whole multiverse, cyclic, spacial etc. Cyclic multiverse model is being taken for granted already. Past infinity means infinite cycles of universe into the past. Future infinity (eternal) means infinite cycles of universe into the future.

I haven’t properly analyzed this before, but taking that the question is the same as asking the Buddha if all beings will become enlightened one day or some beings will never become enlightened, let’s see how this would relate to cosmos is eternal.

Cosmos is eternal, infinite past, seems to lean closer to some beings will never gain full liberation, as infinite time had already passed, yet there are still unenlightened beings around.

Naturally, this triggers some anxiety for those who think that they are the ones who will not ever gain full liberation.

However, there could be another way to deal with the issue:
eternal is going forward, not eternal is also going forward. Regardless of what happens in the past.

Say if cosmos is eternal, it could mean that samsara always will have unenlightened sentient beings being reborn and some will not ever get enlightened. If the cosmos is not eternal, then at some point, all beings will be liberated. So no more Buddhas then, cause no more new sentient beings who can become Buddhas, all attained cessation already.

However, I think you don’t mean that when you said there will be a time where there is no Buddha.

You’re likely referring to the cycles of Buddhas appearing and preaching the Dhamma in the world with the darkness of no Dhamma preached in the world when no (fully enlightened) Buddhas arises. That’s also taken for granted, and is an unstated assumption when I said that there had always been Buddhas into the infinite past. Infinite Buddha cycles to the past.

Into the future, we dunno, if someday all sentient beings will be liberated or not. Answering anyway for or against is damaging to the holy life. If we say some will not be liberated, then some will despair of their chances of liberation, affecting their energy to practise. If we say all will be liberated, then some may become too lax, lazy, since liberation is assured eventually.

So if we limit the eternal thing to the future, the past can be freed to become infinite past.

There are only 2 options there’s infinite past or a first cause. But ignorance has no beginning to it, that is this life’s ignorance is due to previous life and so on. By simple mathematical induction, we get infinite past. First cause is philosophically untenable in Buddhism. So infinite past is the simple conclusion to draw on. The past doesn’t determine the future. Just because samsara has infinite past, it doesn’t doom samsara to have an eternal future, with some beings will never become enlightened. So in this way, it can be not fit into the unanswered questions.

There’s no need to make simple stuff more convoluted by saying we can only say no discernable past but cannot say infinite past.

Now, all the above explanation has become a proliferation of mind (papanca). This leads to wrong view unfortunately.

To defend something that is not there, then to make it right to satisfy your mind or ego.

Hi, welcome to Buddhism.

I started my Dhamma journey around 9 years ago. If there is one advice I want to give my younger self now, it would be to focus the effort on the core teaching which is Dukkha and cessation of Dukkha.

What is Dukkha?
If I own a house which is subjected to destruction by flood, typhoon and forest fire, would it be Dukkha?
If I own this body that is subjected to old age, sickness and death, would it be Dukkha.
If I own this feeling which is always changing, would it be Dukkha?
If I own this view which I posted on the Internet subjected to objection or mockery by others that is out of my control, would it be Dukkha?

Now, by Owning anything, I or a being comes to be. When existence is, Dukkha is.

How do I relinquish that ownership? I would need to abandon the cause of ownership in the first place and the fuel which sustain it.

By abandoning the cause, can I experience the cessation of Dukkha which shows that I’m on the right path?

How do I then remain calm or at peace amidst all the constant disturbances, temptations of the senses and distractions? It would be the noble eightfold path.

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