what is a sentient being?

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what is a sentient being?

Postby corrine » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:52 pm

I frequently read questions regarding sentient beings? Could someone please be kind enough to explain exactly what the term 'sentient' means. I had thought that it was a being capable of perceiving and feeling things. However, from what I am reading in response to some questions, is that amoebas and the like are included.

So I am confused. Could someone explain what the Buddhist view of sentient being is. I am trying to live as carefully as possible and I avoid taking life in any way possible, but what are the parameters? Thank you for any help you might give.

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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby Punya » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:11 pm

Hi corrine. Hopefully this helps viewtopic.php?f=66&t=1195
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby LastLegend » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:06 pm

Sentient being is a being that is sentient by conditions. All beings are conditions. To my understanding.
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby elfin » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:35 am

I once heard this term being discussed by a Tibetan translator.
And she said it is beings that have consciousness.
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby seeker242 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:14 pm

If you go by the precepts of the Brama Net Sutra, I think it makes it clears that, in the context of killing, it applies to animals and not plants. But that does not mean that you can go bulldoze a forest just because you can.

3. On Eating Meat
A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat. He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being.


I think it's clear that plants are not included in this, otherwise you would have nothing to eat at all! If it is applied to plants, then eating a carrot would be a precepts violation. But of course, eating carrots is not a precepts violation.

You could argue that amoebas and bacteria are, but in the context of intentional killing and keeping precepts, washing your hands or cleaning the counter, is not a precepts violation, even though bacteria may be killed in the process.

:namaste:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby undefineable » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:38 pm

I posted in yet another thread on this topic to mention the scientific understanding - that a conscious mind is associated with a functioning Central Nervous System. Still, nothing is (or is ever likely to be) fully proven, given the "first-person" dimensions of the subject.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby ground » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:48 pm

corrine wrote:I frequently read questions regarding sentient beings? Could someone please be kind enough to explain exactly what the term 'sentient' means.

It is a metaphor and stands for a phenomenon commonly called "living" that is driven by a thirst for affirmation (of self). "Is it this or is it that?" "Is this right or is this wrong?" "What do you think?" "Do you agree?" "I like you, do you like me too?" "What is the meaning of life?" and so on ... :sage:
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby Nosta » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:07 pm

We, humans, are sentient beings because we have the sense doors. We are like a receiver mecanism. We are just the seeing sensations, the touch sensations, the taste sensations and so on. So, I wonder if a computer or a robot, or a camera, etc, are sentient beings too, since they have their own "sensations", i mean, they receive and detect light and sound for example (like a cybershot, etc). Thats sounds stupid I know, but i cant see the counter argument to my own tought. :shock:
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby undefineable » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:21 pm

Nosta wrote:We, humans, are sentient beings because we have the sense doors. We are like a receiver mecanism. We are just the seeing sensations, the touch sensations, the taste sensations and so on. So, I wonder if a computer or a robot, or a camera, etc, are sentient beings too, since they have their own "sensations", i mean, they receive and detect light and sound for example (like a cybershot, etc). Thats sounds stupid I know, but i cant see the counter argument to my own tought. :shock:


As far as we know, there's no conscious awareness on their side to convert mere 'detecting' into 'sensing', but that's a whole other can of worms _ _
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:27 pm

Nosta wrote:We, humans, are sentient beings because we have the sense doors. We are like a receiver mecanism. We are just the seeing sensations, the touch sensations, the taste sensations and so on. So, I wonder if a computer or a robot, or a camera, etc, are sentient beings too, since they have their own "sensations", i mean, they receive and detect light and sound for example (like a cybershot, etc). Thats sounds stupid I know, but i cant see the counter argument to my own tought. :shock:
The body is like an empty village or house; senses are like soldiers and thieves. Although they live in the same village, they are unaware of each other.

[…]

Forms, sounds and likewise smells, tastes, tactiles and phenomena, the mind in motion, like a bird in flight, in all six, enters the sense faculties. In whatever sense it abides, it lends that sense its knowing nature.

The body, like a machine in an empty village, is without motion and completely without action. Lacking core essence, it arises from conditions; arising from concepts, it lacks inherent nature.

-King of Glorious Sutras, the Sublime Golden Light chapter six eng pg. 41-42


As undefinable and elfin said, sentient beings have mind, consciousness.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby Jesse » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:39 pm

A sentient being is any being which has the capacity for awareness. So obviously anything which is alive. A camera is not a sentient creature. If your looking for parameters on which beings to show compassion, just be respectful of everything.

The entire point is to cultivate compassion within yourself, not to enforce impossible standards on yourself. Obviously don't kill anything unnecessarily, and when you need to (eg. to eat) be thankful, and mindful.
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby KeithBC » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:45 pm

This is one of those topics, like the number of angels on the head of a pin, that people love to argue about just for the sake of arguing.

For all practical purposes, sentient beings are animals (in the biological sense, including humans). Yes, there are the four mythological groups of sentient beings, but on a practical level, we seldom encounter them. Bacteria aren't animals, so I don't worry about them. While New Agers love to discuss the sentience of plants, they are not on the radar in the traditionall groupings of sentientbeings.

Again, being practical, it is simple: be compassionate. If in doubt, be compassionate. Sometimes we have to make tough choices, the kind that debaters love to dwell on: the "what would you do if..." kinds of choices. Simple: be compassionate as best you can.

It is easy to get caught up in debate, and if that turns your crank, go for it. But applying Buddist ethics to daily life is simple: be compassionate.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby undefineable » Thu May 02, 2013 1:55 am

KeithBC wrote:It is easy to get caught up in debate, and if that turns your crank, go for it. But applying Buddist ethics to daily life is simple: be compassionate.

As you seemed to half-suggest, maybe someone engaged in an activity such as grinding fresh herbs (odd example, but I just watched a doc that gave tips on how to survive a medieval famine amongst other things :P ) needn't be feeling compassion specifically towards the plants involved, but the question 'is such-and-such a life-form sentient?' isn't purely of intellectual interest, and maybe even 'sport debaters' tend to focus on subjects they care about personally _

The link on this thread: viewtopic.php?f=40&t=12601 seems to sum up the problem of determining which beings are sentient in the light of all the accidental killing -of beings as closely related to us as other mammals (let alone other humans)- that we're not normally aware of, although the 'utilitarian' angle sounds as if it needs to be taken in context. The original question seems less relevant from these points of view.

While few of us will be in a position to pass judgement on the idea of purely 'karmic' links between sentient beings that's also covered in the talk, the problem highlighted is that we're generally unaware to one degree or another of the minds -let alone the suffering- of many beings around us even where we're involved with them. This will be particularly true if our beliefs as to which beings are sentient turns out to be more restricted than the reality, and I also speak from experience (as an autistic person). Especially in such cases, the problem with compassion for many people is that it can feel irrelevant; something that can only be fabricated rather than genuinely experienced. Or else -especially for fellow-mammals (like the mouse) whose living or dying they've witnessed- people dwell on the pointless misery of it all, and the talk hints, perhaps, that this also strengthens the walls around us as we react with aversion to the way things are.

Either way, all of us here likely aspire to develop our ability to identify with other beings :smile:
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby bryanskrantz » Wed May 22, 2013 1:44 am

a Sentient being can be anything. One can consider even the Crystal sentient.
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed May 22, 2013 2:10 am

I'm sure i'm missing something, but it seems like from a Buddhist perspective this is reasonably simple, anything that has the capacity for suffering and it's ending can be said to be a sentient being.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby bryanskrantz » Wed May 22, 2013 2:31 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I'm sure i'm missing something, but it seems like from a Buddhist perspective this is reasonably simple, anything that has the capacity for suffering and it's ending can be said to be a sentient being.



^^^ DING DING!
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby jeeprs » Wed May 22, 2013 2:53 am

I suppose trolls must be considered sentient beings as well, even if they do spring directly from mud.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed May 22, 2013 2:59 am

elfin wrote:I once heard this term being discussed by a Tibetan translator.
And she said it is beings that have consciousness.

Yea, the Tibetan word for being is "sempa" derived from the root "sems" which is the word for mind (dualistic mind, similar to 'citta' in Sanskrit). I've heard the word roughly transliterated as "mind possessor."
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Re: what is a sentient being?

Postby corrine » Mon May 27, 2013 4:01 pm

I wish to thank everyone for their input on this subject. As someone who is trying to follow the right path but is often confused, it helps to hear the opinions of those much more learned than myself. I appreciate the effort to help.

corrine :namaste:
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