Son wrote:This seems to be comfortable canonically.
In scholastic Buddhism this debate came about because Buddha's teachings were more or less silent on the issue, and there are a couple of passages where the Buddha clearly included plant life as a kind of birth.
This raised a question, and because Jains and Hindus already supported the notion of plant sentience, arch-contrarians that they are, Buddhist scholastics rejected this point of view.
You can for example, rationalize that there are devas that inhabit plants as houses (standard Indo-Tibetan view), but as far as I am concerned this is merely a way of articulating the sentience of plants. It may be the case that plants acheive sentience only in communities, just like our body is not wholly sentient -- to use your example of a branch which can be propagated, also cells from our body may be propagated etc., and we certainly would not necessarily call either sentient in a conventional way.
Likewise, we do not have sentience apart from our embodiment, the community of organisms that make up our body. I think the Buddhist basic view -- the sutrayāna view -- is that we are embodied because we are sentient. Underlying the whole Buddhist rejection of plant sentience is a hard substance dualism.
Dzogchen rejects this substance dualism.
... I, also
, reject this substance dualism... But that doesn't mean I'm going to pretend that there's evidence supporting that when enough plants "get together" a consciousness appears. Again, if it's a deva then it's a deva. And in regards to your reference that the Buddha never said anything clear on the matter--hey, since almost everyone seemed to believe that plants were sentient, if the Buddha agreed he would have been very clear
about their sentience. Instead, we hear him say, "they do not have self-awareness."
The fact that he didn't say anything definitive is really evidence against
the notion that he thought plants were sentient. Who was he protecting by not admitting plant sentience--the thousands upon thousands who believed in it? How do we know they the reason it's omitted from textual sources is because of early Buddhist groups not wanting to have contradictions in their doctrine. You can't say, "because the Buddha was silent, I'm allowed to take his words out of context."Why
does the Buddha not refute plant sentience? The real question is why he never supported it, why he didn't say "yes you're right, plants are sentient." It's called Occam's Razor. And just because he said plants were "alive" doesn't mean he was calling them sentient. It's common knowledge to anyone that plants are alive, even 3,000 years ago. Everyone on this thread can go on and on in samsaric circles about how the Buddha did or didn't say this or that, but there is no canonical statement, period. I do not understand why people keep trying to play the canon card, it leads nowhere.
You can for example, rationalize that there are devas that inhabit plants as houses (standard Indo-Tibetan view), but as far as I am concerned this is merely a way of articulating the sentience of plants.
... ... ... Rationalize?
The Buddha admits to these beings, talks with them, releases them from samsara, on and on in the Buddhist canon. You don't find him saying, "so and so was reborn as a plant due to this, behold bhikkhus, therefore do not harm him." It's not a way or articulating plant sentience, it never was. You're purposefully taking it out of context and interpreting it in your own way, to support your own leaning.
It's okay to have leaning, but do you think it's right
for you to contort and misconstrue original doctrine so you can validate your own leaning? How is that not slanderous? Who are you to say, "the Buddha used devas as a rationalization of plant sentience?" Is there any evidence that he was just using devas as a facade to rationalize plant-sentience for others? No... Since the devas are similar to higher devas who don't rely on "groups of plantlife." You say Dzogchen rejects this substance dualism as though you have somehow "changed" the canonical evidence... I don't know what kind of approach that is, but it doesn't seem Buddhistic.