Can a person be reborn as an animal or insect and what determines when and where a person is reborn? (Keysa Williams)

Yes, a person can be reborn as any kind of life form, based on the causes that this person made while he or she was alive. But we, common mortals, do not know when or where anyone will be reborn. Only the Buddha knows this. The Expedient Means (Hōben; second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads:

The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas.
(Hokekyo, p. 89)

It is said that there are approximately seven to ten million kinds of species on earth, including 1,367,555 animals. As we view these numbers, we can understand how difficult it is to be born into this world as human beings.

Nichiren Daishonin stated in his Major Writings:

Truly, it is more difficult to be born as a human being than it is to lower a thread from the heavens above and pass it through the eye of a needle at the bottom of the sea, and it is rarer for one to be able to hear the Law of the Buddha than it is for a one-eyed turtle to encounter a floating log [with a hollow in it that fits him exactly.]
(Gosho, p. 402, MW-5, p. 101)

He went on to say:

Now I have already obtained birth in the human realm, something difficult to achieve, and have had the privilege of hearing the Buddhist teachings, which are seldom encountered. If I should pass my present life in idleness, then in what future life could I possibly free myself from the sufferings of birth and death and attain enlightenment?....Though I may have to cast aside my life and destroy this body of mine, I am determined to hold life lightly and to enter the path of the Buddha’s teachings, to assist in bringing about the enlightenment of my father and mother and to save my own person from the bonds of hell.
(Gosho, p. 402, MW-5, p. 101)

As the Daishonin stated, since we were born as human beings in this world and were able to encounter true Buddhism, we should not idle away the precious time in our daily life. Let’s practice consistently and assiduously in order to attain our own enlightenment and teach true Buddhism to our friends for the sake of their happiness.
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