Wondering, are animals mindful?

Don’t know if animals have a mind, if they had some of these animals, critters, etc are very very mindful in most activities they do they can beat human mindfulness, stillness, craving to an though probably can never eradicate. those living in forest know annicha very well much better the humans.

Not sure if they might get enlightened what does text say about this


Well, I’ve heard it explained this way. A cat is very mindful as it stalks a mouse in the backyard, as thoughts of murdering our mouse friend run through its head. But the cat is just following it’s desire to kill the mouse. And cats, and all the other animals, just live endlessly following their desires, therefore suffering…

This is why being reborn in the animal realm would be bad, you can’t end suffering, you’re a slave to your desires.

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I wish I could sit as well as my cat does, or be “in the now” as well as my late dog was. My guess is that all mammals have more awareness than we give them credit for, and maybe some birds too. I don’t question whether other species have “mind,” depending on what you mean by that. Observing their behaviors makes me think they do, and that they’re not so different from me.


Lots of animals can pass the theory of the mind test. Basically they show that they have planning, intention, and desires. Basically all primates have this skill, as do most parrots and corvids (crows and ravens), and so do whales and dolphins! There is an interesting program from the PBS program NOVA that discusses how bird’s minds work that you may be interested in, it even discuss crow funeral rites. There is also a cheap book called “Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes” by Frans der Waal, that discuss chimpanzee society, they can think scarily like us!

We keep on expanding the list on animals that have a mind or conscious the more research we do. I wouldn’t doubt if we found that all higher animals have a mind, even if they don’t express it in ways we’d expect. I think the EBT back it up when it talks about the animal realm just being a rung or two below the human realm.


Most Humans also do the same and going on. Only eight fold path we find it’s so difficult to cut the ties of craving. Read some bodhisatva stories where Buddha mentioned of being king of crows, dogs or a peigon and was able to do right things defying these attachments so wonder why can’t animals get enlightened


Humans have more than mind; we have the knowledge that we have mind. Then we also have the potential to develop the further an awareness of the state our mind is in, ie mindful or not, with what defilements, with what factors of enlightenment. I doubt that any animal can step back and consciously observe it’s mind.


PS: It would be good if folks can help us root this discussion in the EBTs. :smiley:

# The story of an animal, Mahakandhaka.
“Indeed, you serpents are not liable to growth in this dhamma and discipline.

Not only serpents, non of the animals is liable to growth in this dhamma


The path is eightfold and starts with right understanding which is at a first point as simple as an engaged conceptual appreciation of the four Noble truths and its associated ennobling tasks.

The right sort of mindfulness from the perspective of awakening is the one developed in context of development of the path as a whole, preceded by the path factors of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, and right effort. It also is key for the development of right immersion, which then leads right insight and right liberation which make the path tenfold.

If another animal species can achieve that from hearing the Dhamma that should not stop the path from unfolding and awakening to taking place. See AN10.62 for a big picture perspective of that process.

I do however not know of any animal species beside humans who can hear the Dhamma as presented by the Buddha and get that triggered. And even among us, an absolute minority is able to achieve that given the statistics of how many of us call ourselves Buddhists and among these how many effectively develop the path to the point of embracing right livelihood prescribed by the Buddha (i.e. ordain or embrace a simpler and toward renunciation household life)

That said, as per the model of awakening found in EBTs once a human attains the first stage of awakening - i.e. of stream-entry - the Buddha is quoted to say no further rebirth in an inferior realm is to be expected.

Hence, it is hard to argue for example for an animal to be on the sure path for awakening.

On the other hand, if we take the Jataka tales as true, it is interesting to see in there the Buddha telling us of previous births in the animal form. I wonder if the commentaries have any explanation for that apparent inconsistency? Maybe bhante @Dhammanando may have something to share about that?



Even the animals, such as dogs and foxes, know that we’re going when they go. Nevertheless, the view as self(sakkayaditti) does not ends or reduces.
Think of a dog or a cat, infront of a mirror, they would find it difficult to understand their image as their own. (Edited according to a comment). Dogs have been mirror-tested, and dogs don’t pass. Because they’re not smart enough to recognize themselves in a mirror. Mirror self‐recognition may be based on a specific aspect of mental representation, the cognitive ability, say scientists.

After prolonged exposure to their reflected images in mirrors, chimpanzees marked with red dye showed evidence of being able to recognize their own reflections. Monkeys did not appear to have this capacity.
Chimpanzees: Self-Recognition

When we consider their wisdom or smartness, is very low that they find it difficult to self-recognition. Even though that we think they are capable of being mindful, that is just our guess. Just think of a moment when you get to know someone, You think your girlfriend or boyfriend loves you, but is it always correct? We are reasoning things with our observation, which is not always correct.

Animals can be trained for a certain extent, but there is a limit to their capabilities. Even though we think that animals live in the world same as us. One’s perception is his world. Every single being has his own world created through his own senses. For an example
dogs and cats are color-blind.
Are dogs, cats, and raccoons color blind?

Therefore, it is understandable that the world they see is completely different from us.
Animals (pets) are not that smart to understand dhamma or being mindful.

Does someone need knowledge of mind to be mindful? How much knowledge we need and how much we know about mind, I don’t know much and see there are contradictions while some says there are several minds while other say one mind yet nothing can point to an object to say its mind. Buddhism tells about experiencing everything thyself and trust only that knowledge.

7 factors of enlightenment tell when right things are lined up and mindfulness is bright automatically energy is arises and the mind gets sharper and sharper refinement process starts

Thank you for the elaborating the answer, I am confused on my understanding of right understanding (this is developed are very later stages and keeps getting refined), and noble eight fold path, watched Buddha episode on Netflix where in a debate with a top class Brahmin who was plotted to defeat Buddha in debate later turned to be a decisiple and to him Buddha very clearly explained there are three stages of increasing knowledge they are progressive each leads to development and strengthening of others they are sila, samadhi and prajna or wisdom, according to that right view and right intention are developed very later not earlier as indicated mostly by texts in eight fold path Threefold Training - Wikipedia

There are many levels of development of right understanding.

I was referring to the most basic and crude level. The one in which one is able to listen, keep, understand and act upon the four Noble truths rediscovered by a Buddha and related other principles to awakening.

At the most basic level, it is summarising as taking onboard the ennobling tasks of:

. Fully understanding suffering
. Abandoning the dependent origination of suffering
. Verifying the end of suffering with the full abandoning of its causes
. Developing the eightfold path which allows the above tasks to be undertaken

The teaching is thus closed in a loop which in turn allows for the impersonal and dependently originated fruition of awakening - as presented in suttas like AN10.2, SN12.23 and MN117.

As far as I am concerned animals are not able to take on the above.

On the more subtle aspects of right understanding, I suspect the first loop through the eight factors of the path takes place with stream-entry, when some of the fetters are abandoned through some sort of very personal and private insight into the principle of dependent origination itself.

Mind that the threefold training framework only rearranges the eight factors under three baskets, but do not invalidate the order at which these factors are consistently found listed by the Buddha across EBTs.

There is a very beautiful little sutta which demonstrates how these factors come up gradually from good friendship which exposed one to the teaching and the path, always beginning with right understanding, as the light in the early morning:

“Mendicants, the dawn is the forerunner and precursor of the sunrise.
In the same way right view is the forerunner and precursor of skillful qualities.
Right view gives rise to right thought.
Right thought gives rise to right speech.
Right speech gives rise to right action.
Right action gives rise to right livelihood.
Right livelihood gives rise to right effort.
Right effort gives rise to right mindfulness.
Right mindfulness gives rise to right immersion.
Right immersion gives rise to right knowledge.
Right knowledge gives rise to right freedom.”



I would think there is a fair bit going on in the minds of more intelligent animals: elephants, great apes, pigs, birds like crows and parrots, dolphins etc. However, in human terms, they are usually cognitively understood to be approximately on par with human children of ages from about 2 to 3 (the exact age depending on the animal). The mirror test probably isn’t the be-all and end-all but human infants do start passing that from about 18 months with most seemingly pass it at about 2 years.

Even those gorillas living with humans who were able to talk in sign language were estimated to have cognitive abilities around that of a three year old.

Right and wrong has meaning to a three year old, even if their morality isn’t exactly very sophisticated. They can be encouraged to share etc. But I’m not sure how far you’d get teaching more sophisticated dhamma concepts to a three-year old! :slight_smile:

Many of these more intelligent animals are group animals (probably not a coincidence), there are relatively complex social relationships within the group, and some sense of fairness and right and wrong too I’d guess. On whether getting across a more abstract concept like the four noble truths would be possible, I’d have my doubts.


Thank you and agreed I guess the eight fold path is not like a ladder rather like a whirlpool or tornado where someone goes deeper and deeper to more refined states. The only most refined right understanding is when you reach to an understanding of Buddha not just by reading or listening to it but seeing, believing and experiencing this understanding like enlightened ones.

For animals they may not understand dhamma or rather dhamma is not only the monopoly of Buddha he just showed the path to be followed there, any animal who accidentally, or skillfully keep developing the right things the whirlpool is triggered and they also get further refined and may get birth in higher (human realms or even better) where this whirlpool progresses.

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MN43 says this:

“There are two conditions for the arising of right view:
the words of another and proper attention.

I could not find “the meows of another” anywhere in the EBTs.

Without right view, there is no right mindfulness. Cats can be mindful, but not in the Right View sense.


MN 129 might offer some indication:

Bhikkhus, I could tell you in many ways about the animal kingdom, so much so that it is hard to finish describing the suffering in the animal kingdom…

…there is no practicing the Dhamma there, no practicing of what is righteous, no doing of what is wholesome, no performance of merit. There mutual devouring prevails, and the slaughter of the weak.

The Chinese parallel, MĀ 199, offers a similar idea:

Among animals there is no practice of altruism and justice, no practice of the principles of moral conduct, no practice of what is sublime and wholesome. Those animals eat up one another. The strong eat the weak; the big eat the small.


What about this kitty? (YouTube video)


Edited, I am not belittling them, just according to lab tests I qouted. However, there may be rare cases. We can find some cases in Jathakas about animals being smart.
Note: There is a passionful (rāga) image of Maithree.

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Individual animals have been observed and documented mourning other individual animals.

As a human being, I hope to be able to observe, understand, and make right choices about my mental, verbal and physical behaviors. Whether other human beings do, or other living beings do, may be a mental comparison of limited value. But being kind and generous to all seems to have extensive beneficial effect. Not clinging to views or identities also seems to have extensive beneficial effects.

I do not mourn the Buddha.

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