Question: According to Buddhism, “a human body is difficult to attain,” and “once we lose our human form, we won't gain it back in ten thousand eons.” Then why is the current world population increasing rapidly? Apparently, people being born outnumber those have died. How does Buddhism explain this?
The Venerable Master: Although the current birth rate is high, how do you know that living beings that are dead doesn’t outnumber people who are alive? This number can’t be accurately calculated or proven by science; it can only be expressed with an analogy. When the Buddha was in the world, one time he grabbed a handful of sand and said: “Those who have gained their human bodies are like the amount of sand in my palm, while those who have lost their human bodies are like the amount of sand on earth.” The number of people living in the world seems measureless and limitless. However, how do you know that the number of people who have lost their human form is not countless times more than that?
The number of people who died in the past is less than that of the present. Nowadays, it is hard to estimate the number of people who died due to tornados, fire, car accidents, plane crashes, wars, and nuclear explosions. In addition, it is most likely that once these people lost their human form, they won’t be reborn as human. They could be reborn as ants, mosquitoes, or wild beasts. How can we prove this number scientifically?
After a baby is born, how can he or she suddenly have consciousness and feelings? These are fundamental questions that ordinary people ignore and fail to research for the answers. Although there is a great increase in human population now, living beings that have lost their human form are more than before. In the past, there were not so many ants, mosquitoes, bugs and other pests. How do you know that these living beings born from moisture, by transformation or from eggs are not human beings in their prior lives?
After a person loses his human body, his nature will change and his spirit will be divided. For example, the spirit of one human being can be transformed into many kinds of animal, even eighty-four thousand mosquitoes. Because his wisdom is being divided into many bodies, the resulting beings are dull and stubborn. If he wants to regain his human body, he would need to be “transformed and re-smelted” as if in a chemical factory, the process of which probably would take a long time.
Another point is, every time a person gets married, his spirits will be divided into one more piece after his death. For instance, depending on how many times a woman marries during her life, after death, her spirit will be divided into as many pieces as if by an electric saw and shared among her ex-husbands. The retribution is the same if a man has married many times. Another big problem is abortion. When fetuses are aborted, they lose their human bodies. Nowadays, people who died because they were aborted exceed the number of people who are alive!
Regarding insentient beings, are they able to recover their spirits? Yes, if they meet an appropriate person who speaks the Dharma to them. Such was the case “when Master Dao Sheng spoke the Dharma, the stone nodded in agreement.” However, only when the insentient beings encounter sages or Arhats, can they have such an opportunity.