Plant Sentient

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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:30 pm

Isn't sentience = experiencing, or being capable of experiencing, dukkha?
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:59 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Buddha includes "grass and trees" among "birth" i.e. jati.

    Know first the grass and trees:
    Though they lack self-awareness,
    Their birth is their distinctive mark;
    For many are the kinds of birth.
-- Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, pg. 800

Here, Buddha clearly includes plants among the "born". He continues next with moths up to ants, and so on. But if you read this without bias, he says later, on pg. 806:

    Who knows his manifold past lives,
    And sees the heavens and states of woe,
    Who has reached the destruction of birth,
    He is the one I call a bhramin.

Since plants are included among birth here, I see no reason not to understand that they are possible rebirths though lacking self-knowing (na cāpi paṭijānare), also so called formless realm beings lack self-knowing.
Isn't a lack of self awareness a description of non-sentience? Of course plants are "born" but, like I said before, let us not confound living with sentience.
:namaste:


Precisely. The Buddha always speaks in this way. He is conforming to common conception among the people of his time, as is the way of the Tathagata. Notwithstanding he still manages to harmonize with scientific understanding--this is not referring to "whatever 21st century scientists believe, but rather science as a perspective, in other words pure scientific thought. He describes that there are many kinds of birth, and that plants are distinguished by their own birth, and that they're very basic. And yet he designates them clearly as NOT being self-aware. Right then and there, if a plant has no self-awareness, it matters not if they're sentient beings, because they have no awareness of being sentient and therefore can't experience anything. I mean, at some point you have to realize--wait, I'm trying really hard to prove my belief that plants are sentient beings... but why?

By your definition unconscious gods would then be non-sentient, as would people in comas.

People in comas do have self-awareness... Are you saying that when we enter a deep sleep and don't recall our dreaming, we are not self-aware? Wow.
Also,the unconscious brahmas:

Asannasatta Brahmas are those divine beings without any consciousness or mind. As human beings they discover the faults of citta (mind) and sañña (memory). They see that all forms of greed arises because of citta, they also see that life would be so peaceful had there been no citta. While concentrating on the fault of consciousness, "Citta is loathsome. Citta is loathsome", they develop a kammatthana called sannaviraga bhávaná - disgust for sañña.
When they die they are reborn as Brahmas, in the Asannasatta Brahma realms and live like golden statues, standing, sitting or reclining without consciousness. Their life span is 500 kappa’s long.


They are still subject to consciousness, they're just in a suspended state. That's like saying if a person is completely suspended by cryogenics they have no consciousness. They are unconscious but they still remain with awareness. This is not something you can just use for whatever reason you want, you need to use the experience of meditative insight, or at least refer to someone's experience. Asannasatta brahmas are not "plants," they also have bodies. If you were to reach this jhana and practice the halting of memory, you would see that it is like when one focuses strongly on thought, one stops recognizing what one's thinking about and it seems like you aren't thinking anymore. Anyone can do this. Breathe, look at something or at nothing, and simply focus on "thinking," focus on your ability to "think," and memory will start to skip, and it feels like observing the sense objects (noises, TV, people talking, a butterfly) without thinking about any of them at all. This is a sort of primitive experience of non-memory. To work, the "nama" part of existence needs all the dynamics of the interdependent aggregates united. Without sanna, recognition and marking of the object for recognizing it again, everything mental becomes subdued, halted, dispensed, null, and so forth. And again, if a plant is a sentient being who has this sort of existence, there's no way to influence them. What it boils down to is the question, what about a plant leads you to believe it's a sentient being without sanna...? What is your answer?


Seriously, what personal spiritual gain do you think is going to come out of this? Do you think you're going to help other people by convincing them of plant sentience? If not that, then if you're so confident in plant sentience, where does this self-knowledge come from? If you want others to understand this knowledge, point the way to this self-knowledge. Tell us all: where does one find the self-knowledge that plants are sentient beings...? With an open mind, many are listening. We are Buddhists, after all.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:02 pm

Son wrote:They are still subject to consciousness, they're just in a suspended state.


Specious-- one could make the same argument for plants.

Just admit it -- the Buddha includes plants as a kind of jati, a kind of birth, right along side all the other births.

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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:33 pm

Malcolm wrote:By your definition unconscious gods would then be non-sentient, as would people in comas.
Well, the people in comas bit, no. I imagine there is more to sentience than outward/physical function. Again, by unconscious do you mean incapable of/unwilling to experience sensation? That would only refer to the sense consciousnesses, not to any "deeper" level of consciousness. I imagine at a "deeper" level there would still be some subtle grasping to a sense of self.
treehuggingoctopus wrote:Isn't sentience = experiencing, or being capable of experiencing, dukkha?
Doesn't one "need" a self that suffers?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:37 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:Isn't sentience = experiencing, or being capable of experiencing, dukkha?


Yes. It is. Plants do not experience. They don't have the storehouse consciousness, they don't have the element of consciousness but are only form. Indeed, the Hindus called them "one-facultied life." In Buddhism, life cannot have one faculty, that of body.

Interestingly, animals have their own type of cells and own body functions that are completely different from plant cells. Even primordial single celled organisms differ in this regard. Cells either photosynthesis or they do not. Is a single celled organism sentient because it grows and reacts to stimuli? Sentient beings such as animals and humans, as we observe, have a completely different biological system of needs. Plant life is "psychically sterile." If you're a tantric or vajrayanic student, you should apply your practical means to plantlife, I'm talking subtle wind and what not.

Another idea: Cut the branch from a tree and plant it, in time it will grow a trunk and form a tree of its own... If a tree is sentient, when does this branch develop into a sentient being itself? Also, plants do not react mentally to pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain. No reaction in their behavior to external stimuli indicates mental experience. Plants do not "act in some way" that shows their experience or emotions. For example, when cutting and binding, watering and nourishing a bonsai tree, one sees that the growth and nature of the tree relies utterly on the caretakers actions. Plants cannot think, "I intend to look this way," or, "I intend to take as much sunlight as I want, not caring if I harm the plants below me by blocking the sun." No matter what, in any circumstances, every plant will react exactly as it has to according to Biological Law. They have no way to experience good fruit, bad fruit, both good and bad fruit, or neither good nor bad fruit, they are utterly at the mercy of Biological Law and Seasonal Law. They are without self-awareness, as the Buddha says.

Is a coconut self-aware? hahaha! A baby tree in an egg.

When looking for something that is absolutely not there, that is when it is most easy to believe you're seeing it.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:55 pm

Son wrote:
treehuggingoctopus wrote:Isn't sentience = experiencing, or being capable of experiencing, dukkha?


Yes. It is. Plants do not experience.


You mean they aren't conscious of experiencing? It's just speculation - scientifically speaking, we just don't know. And we can't know in the strong sense.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:05 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
Son wrote:
treehuggingoctopus wrote:Isn't sentience = experiencing, or being capable of experiencing, dukkha?


Yes. It is. Plants do not experience.


You mean they aren't conscious of experiencing? It's just speculation - scientifically speaking, we just don't know. And we can't know in the strong sense.


With the right practice, we can know. To say that it is impossible to know whether a being is sentient or not, is against Buddhist teaching. It is absolutely possible to know for sure. When I say "experience," I don't mean in any general sense. I mean in the sentient sense of dharma, experiencing. For example, a rock may experience breaking apart, but the "being" does not experience this, because rocks do not have consciousness, perception, volitional formation, or sensation. Hindus believed that they had the one sense-faculty of touch. Well sure you can say that but does a sentient being experience this touching sense? No. Touching is touching, but contact of touch and touch-object requires sensations which comes from body which comes from consciousness. Where does plant consciousness begin?
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:37 pm

Son wrote:Yes. It is. Plants do not experience. They don't have the storehouse consciousness, they don't have the element of consciousness but are only form. Indeed, the Hindus called them "one-facultied life." In Buddhism, life cannot have one faculty, that of body.


They are talking about sparśendriya, the faculty of touch.

Also in this Jataka, a tree deva clearly identifies his tree as his body, which when cut down, will end his life:

http://jathakakatha.org/english/index.p ... &Itemid=99
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:08 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Son wrote:Yes. It is. Plants do not experience. They don't have the storehouse consciousness, they don't have the element of consciousness but are only form. Indeed, the Hindus called them "one-facultied life." In Buddhism, life cannot have one faculty, that of body.


They are talking about sparśendriya, the faculty of touch.

Also in this Jataka, a tree deva clearly identifies his tree as his body, which when cut down, will end his life:

http://jathakakatha.org/english/index.p ... &Itemid=99


Really?

The Deva went to the Lord Buddha to complain. At that time another Deva staying near the Lord Buddha’s hut had left for another place so the Lord Buddha let this Deva stay at this tree near him.
Lord Buddha made the rule that monk should not cut down trees.

At the end of the discourse the deva attained Sotapatti Fruition, and for her dwelling place
she was offered a tree near the Perfumed Chamber of the Buddha.
After this incident, the
Buddha forbade Bhikkhus to cut vegetation, such as grass, plants, shrubs and trees.


An abode is not the same thing as a body or the aggregate of form... It's an abode, a worldly housing. The deva actually goes to live with another tree, what's more that tree was left vacant by a deva who went to another abode. They have their own body. Do you consider your HOUSE to be a sentient being...? Sounds like it. If I destroyed your house it would cause you pain, but I'm not destroying your body. To put it simply, the real flaw here is that you're trying to turn devas into sentient plants, but the plant itself is not sentient.

Here is a very simple way to refute this reference for your point: Not all trees have devas. Therefore, according to any canonical reference you might make such as these, it is not the plant that is sentient but the deva. GOOD NEWS, the Buddha DID say that devas were sentient beings. You can't say that plants are sentient because wildlife devas are sentient. That's using sematics to support an unfounded idea.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:14 pm

Son wrote:Really?


Really:



Since thou art bent to tear my body from me, cut me small,
And cut me piecemeal limb from limb, O King, or not at all.

“Cut first the top, the middle next, then last the root of me:
And if thou cut me so, O King, death will not painful be.”

...

“The reason (and a reason ’tis full noble) why piecemeal
I would be cut, O mighty king! Come listen while I tell.

“My kith and kin all prospering round me well-sheltered grow:
These I should crush by one huge fall,–and great would be their woe.”
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:04 am

Son wrote:it is not the plant that is sentient but the deva.


This is just like saying that your body is not sentient but your mind is. Of course, those who subscribe to Buddhist substance dualism will be happy with this pov.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:15 am

So, let me get this straight...

You're saying you don't think that plants are sentient but that all of them are immediately the bodies of devas, and that by harming any plant you are harming devas...

See, that doesn't sound like an argument that plants are sentient beings. It's not like saying my mind is sentient but my body isn't. Because devas are not called "plants." They're called devas. If that's what you mean, you should say plants are the bodies of sentient beings... However, if you're going to say that allow me to ask: If the plant is the sentient beings form-body, than that means the deva can't move or touch anything that doesn't touch the plant...

Canonically, this is not the case. Since devas can move from one tree to another. Still, higher devas have abodes that are not plants at all. Are you just ignoring all this?
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:31 am

Son wrote:If the plant is the sentient beings form-body, than that means the deva can't move or touch anything that doesn't touch the plant...


I am not advocating substance dualism at all. That is a Buddhist trip. I am saying that plant sentience is articulated through the language of plant "spirits" in the jatakas. And that there is a very clear relationship between the body of the plant and the life of the plant "spirit" in question. Harm one, harm the other.

Likewise, when your body is harmed, also your mind experiences harm.

My point of view is not informed by the early Buddhist tradition -- it is merely that in this period there was no hard and fast doctrinal position about it and even the Abhidharmika Samghabhadra recognizes that in the earliest sources there is no firm opinion to back up the Buddhist rejection of non-Buddhist assertions about plant sentience.

So therefore, when Buddhists such as yourself claim "Plants are not sentient" -- it is actually far more ambiguous than is comfortable for you.

As for my position, everything is made of five elements, and that is permeated with wisdom. Therefore, plant sentience, etc., is perfectly reasonable from my perspective and I don't agree with the scholastic arguments against it.

M
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:40 am

Malcolm wrote:
Son wrote:If the plant is the sentient beings form-body, than that means the deva can't move or touch anything that doesn't touch the plant...


I am not advocating substance dualism at all. That is a Buddhist trip. I am saying that plant sentience is articulated through the language of plant "spirits" in the jatakas. And that there is a very clear relationship between the body of the plant and the life of the plant "spirit" in question. Harm one, harm the other.

Likewise, when your body is harmed, also your mind experiences harm.

My point of view is not informed by the early Buddhist tradition -- it is merely that in this period there was no hard and fast doctrinal position about it and even the Abhidharmika Samghabhadra recognizes that in the earliest sources there is no firm opinion to back up the Buddhist rejection of non-Buddhist assertions about plant sentience.

So therefore, when Buddhists such as yourself claim "Plants are not sentient" -- it is actually far more ambiguous than is comfortable for you.

As for my position, everything is made of five elements, and that is permeated with wisdom. Therefore, plant sentience, etc., is perfectly reasonable from my perspective and I don't agree with the scholastic arguments against it.

M



What you just described is that everything in the universe is sentient... Okay that's fine, all right.

But don't try to twist my statement that plants are not sentient into whatever you want. What I mean is:

A plant, an organism that grows from plantlife and uses soil water and sunlight to grow and reproduce, the plant itself, in other words any given plant organism. These any given plants are not in themselves sentient beings, beings who are self aware, and if you grow a bean stalk in a jar of water, this being is not self-aware and you can eat the bean without any karma resulting from killing.

Nothing to do with devas.

Is that clear enough on my position about plant sentience. If you say that a bean sprout grown in a jar of water is a sentient being--then we have a clear disagreement. If not, then we're not having the same discussion. All I'm saying is that this basic principle is my supported opinion. Beansprouts aren't sentient, and a tree without deva is not sentient.

So, what is your answer to that? Are you on my page or not?
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:43 am

Son wrote:So, what is your answer to that? Are you on my page or not?


My answer to that if it is alive, it is sentient. So we are not on the same page, since you clearly think plants are not alive, and I think they are.


:=)
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Virgo » Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:02 am

I think there is a definite argument for the sentience of plant life from a Buddhist POV (from Dzogchen POv too).

Which should reveal even more so how interconnected all beings are.

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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:27 am

Malcolm wrote:
Son wrote:So, what is your answer to that? Are you on my page or not?


My answer to that if it is alive, it is sentient. So we are not on the same page, since you clearly think plants are not alive, and I think they are.


:=)


So, then please explain what makes a bean sprout in a jar of water sentient...

EDIT, I did not say plants are not alive. Not at all.
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Virgo » Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:31 am

Son wrote:So, then please explain what makes a bean sprout in a jar of water sentient...

Well it has sort have been explained here already. And, I'm honestly too tired to at the moment. :) I am trying to unwind a bit from a long day, but after the teachings I'll probably feel energized and stay up for a couple of hours and then go to bed. I could do some excercises but I just ate (I know it's late!).

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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:05 am

This is how I have dealt with this in the past with others.

Officially, I would say this to all Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Plants should be considered borderline sentient, and what's important is to not get caught up in tangles of speculation to prove that plants are either sentient or not sentient. Chiefly, it is crucial to understand that plants are not self-aware, and therefore are not sentient in the way that humans, animals, or devas are considered sentient.

To go further in depth--with this hypothetical person--I would say that they might be considered sentient-projections, or manifestations of sentience but are not actually self-aware. Furthermore, while destroying plants is destroying life and should be avoided, it is not strictly killing as with self-aware beings. So it boils down to plants being sub-sentient or a projection of consciousness, a stratum of life that is not self-aware like ourselves and other beings. Really, that means that plants are conscious in a way, but they aren't ultimately "a living sentient being." Therefore we're related to them and they do have personalities in a sense, but again they are not self-aware. This is really in line with almost every philosophy and spiritual tradition in the world, including Hinduism, shamanism, animism, and paganism.

To put it simply, you can't exactly be "born" as "a plant." And plants should be regarded as sub-sentient, and exist on a projected stratum of life. For example, the enlightened Dharmakaya Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not sentient beings either, and belong to substratum consciousness. Hence, plantlife belongs to the borderline stratum of sub-sentience. What this really means philosophically speaking is that any apparent nature of sentience in plants is projected by fully sentient beings (ergo karma, consciousness, sense-faculty). That's why they're on the stratum of sub-sentience. And to be completely realistic, this means that both all sentient beings and sub-sentient or one-facultied plantlife really share the same substratum consciousness. Hence the distinction between sentient beings and non-sentient beings, although both beings are "living" and both are "animate," one is merely sub-sentient. In conclusion, plants are living but not really sentient. Plants are not really ambiguous, they are simply ALIVE without being sentient.

P.S. Please avoid the pitfall under the last two sentences, as they simply sum up the information in the paragraph into an empirical statement. Notwithstanding, calling plants "sentient" is acceptable to me because they are "life," but they are distinct from fully sentient beings and are only raw animate life.



http://www.khmerbuddhism.com/profiles/blogs/plants-in-buddhism-and-the-idea-of-the-buddha-nature-of-grasses
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Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:12 am

Son wrote:Chiefly, it is crucial to understand that plants are not self-aware, and therefore are not sentient in the way that humans, animals, or devas are considered sentient.


But, to raise yet another objection, shamanic traditions clearly are at odds with this view.
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