Malcolm wrote: gregkavarnos wrote:
If you look back over the past 7 pages you will find that I have been involved in a discussion on the sentience of plants and not an ideological war on the righteousness of Buddhism and the Buddhist view. This only occured after you threw out the "heresy watch" accusation. So can we put it to rest now and get on with the point at hand please? ie "Are plants sentient?"
There is nothing intrinsically non-Buddhist about the idea of plant sentience. However the scholastic tradition made it clear that it was uncomfortable with the idea precisely for the same reason you are: what about the karma of eating and killing plants? Thus, the resulting judgment that plants are insentient is truly just a utilitarian claim meant to ease the consciousness of Buddhist scholastics. Because it is certain that common people in India continued to regard plants as sentient, and do so up to the present.
Well that is not like anything that I
said. Regarding a plant as sentient is equivalent to regarding them as "living beings." There's no way of splitting that hair. I don't care about the karma of eating and killing plants. Seriously, do you read the posts of people your discussing with, or are you really just presuming that I think that way? When I
, the expression of THIS MEMORY
says in a conventionally way that plants aren't "really" sentient, it has nothing to do with any of those opinions or the view. But, that's obvious, as I already expressed my view.The use of me saying that plants aren't "fully" sentient is because I think it is very wrong, and very bad for people to walk around looking at plant life and--beyond understanding that it is LIVING--think and act as though that plantlife feels, perceives, cognizes, or forms volition in any way, and that it wasn't reborn from sentient beings, and that if you kill it it's not going to "be aware" it's dying, or pass into another life. Because there's no storehouses consciousness or any consciousness, it's just a projection of that, derived from primordial consciousness. It's like saying, if I kill this statue of Buddha, he will be aware of it and be sad and then be reborn somewhere else. That's false view.
Since you have a background in biology, Matthew Hall suggests that the problem in adressing plant sentience is a function of entrenched zoocentrism in cognitive modeling which begins with Aristotle. When the question gets brought up, the immediate response is "where is the nervous system, where is the brain, etc." It does not occur to people to ask "If plants are sentient, how might plant neurobiology differ from zoomorphic neurobiology?" In particular, in Hall's book on page 147 he discusses the issues of plant brains.
Again, I didn't express these silly Aristotlish ideas. Who did? I don't think anyone has said specifically that, "plants are not sentient because they lack brains." They have only been asserting that insects are sentient in the way that humans are, by their obvious cognition.
The conceptual problem, as I see it, is that in Buddhism we have substituted "consciousness" for a soul, or a living being (jiva). But Buddhism no more moves away from a decentralized notion of sentience that does Aristotle. Truthfully, there really is not much difference between the idea of a transmigrating consciousness as the irreducible fact of a sentient being and a soul (despite the chorus of protests this will raise). A transmigrating consciousness transmigrates precisely because of the delusion of selfhood. We take rebirth because we are deluded about I-ness. The only difference between the early Buddhist anatman and the Hindu atman is what is taken as identity. The Hindus understand all persons and phenomena as lacking identity, but suppose that underneath all these illusory appearances, there is a permanent sat-cit-ananda, whose definition is very much like the Mahāyāna definition of tathagatagarbha i.e. permanent, self, blissful, and pure.
Yes, that's very true. And plants are definitely included in this theory, rightfully so. However, plants don't have awareness, cognition, or karmic activity based on delusion of self-hood. Their "self-hood" is derived from primordial substratum consciousness--or as you would put it, it is a function of rtsal.
You would also admit that everything is a display of rtsal. Calling them a display (i.e. in my terms a "projection") of rtsal is the same thing as saying, "yes, they are derived from primordial consciousness," and, "yes, they are being displayed by rtsal." What gives them the appearance of sentience as we have it, is projective storehouse consciousness. Herein, as everywhere else in this thread, I'm relating storehouse consciousness to sentience.
The issue, as I see it, is that the substance dualism implicit in the way scholastic Buddhists treat namarūpa make a systems theory of consciousness impossible. This is not an issue in Dzogchen (and to a lesser extent, in Vajrayāna), because consciousness itself is a product of systems interactions i.e. the interactions of the five elements in the body and so on.
Hey, that's not in issue in Buddhism at all, not just Dzogchen. The Buddhists didn't describe namarupa being dualist, they described it as being completely, utterly, centrally interdependent and that one is both, fundamentally. Does Dzogchen say there is neither nama nor rupa in living beings? Or does it say that namarupa does not apply to living beings? This is a very BIG distinction. Also I haven't argued against these Dzogchen concepts you've proposed.
What I propose is that the language of plant devas in Buddhist literature is used as a device to ameliorate karmic responsibility for using plants as food.
What you're actually saying is not that "it is used" in that way, but that you
are choosing to use it in that way. You make it sound like "it's generally used that way," or, "it's supposed to be used that way." But that's not coming from anything evident.
Certainly, in animist traditions where plant spirits are considered, it is not like that. We consult with the spirit of the plant before using it, just as we consult with the spirits of animals we hunt. When we kill a plant, we do not necessarily kill its spirit, just as when we hunt we do not necessarily kill the spirit of the animal we are hunting. This model is still grounded in a naive substance dualism, but it has the benefit of making us recognize that all our actions of eating involve taking life and the life of one living being is not held to be more important than that of another.
And so, therefore... ... ...?
Of course in the East Asian Traditions of Buddhism, plant sentience is also accepted in some quarters. The Shingon views of Kukai are very close to my understanding predicated on Dzogchen teachings:
If plants and trees are devoid of Buddhahood,
Waves would then be without humidity.
This clearly elucidates the view that I posted earlier. Both plants and animals are derived from primordial substratum consciousness, but the former lacks storehouse consciousness of its own, hence karma of its own, awareness of its own, volition of its own, and so forth. The point using "sentience" in terms of this or that living being, FOR ME
and most people, is that this living being cognizes and carries karma and storehouse consciousness (the thing that moves through rebirth), and this other living being does not have these qualities, by nature cannot have these qualities.
As people may or may not know, I am comitted to the principles of deep ecology/biocentrism
So am I, but "sentient being" is a convention and all that matters is what you're referring to when you use it.
and the denial of plant sentience not in keeping with those principles.
My denial of it was explained, and it IS in keeping with those principles. Keep in mind that, "my belief is easier," is not an argument or an explanation.
If we deny plant sentience, as we do merely on the basis of zoomorphic orthodoxy,
which I didn't... as I clearly denied it on the basis of: "lacks storehouse consciousness of its own, hence karma of its own, awareness of its own, volition of its own
we deny the intrinsic value of the great preponderance of biomass on our world and reduce it, in bibical terms, as something merely for our use, biological automata, without sense, without feeling, without intelligence. For many centuries, we regarded animals as mere automata too. Now we understand better. In time, I am certain, we will understand this kind of thinking is a mistake when we consider anything that lives.
That kind of thinking is
a mistake when considering anything that lives. They're living beings, so that way of thinking is false. More importantly, it's wrongful thinking. If that's what you're arguing against, you won't find any "denial of the preponderance of biomass on our world and reduction into Biblical terms." I never even insinuated that. This has become less of an argument of "is a plant sentient," to "what do we mean when we say this or that is sentient, and why?"