I really wanted to avoid a full-fledged exposition here, but this has gotten to the point where I'm being accused of "holding my own private version of Dharma and using it to bash
other Buddhist views." For me, this is not a quarrel, it's a complicated discussion. And before I explain my view, I'm going to point out that several people are reacting to "recognizing doctrine" as being sectarian, prejudiced and defensive against other views? You know, it's really childish to paint people in a bad way just because they're trying to challenge your opinions. Why turn a beneficial, friendly discussion into something negative...?
Now, I'm going to put all my expressed opinions together into my summarized view on sentience in plants, focusing on plants + sentience, and my view on the matter. From that I'd be happy to have some more discussion, and possibly an established viewpoint from someone else, and not just opinions here and there along with a reference to Dzogchen or books or something, and some real thought and opinion. Who wants to argue for the sake of arguing? I'm here to discuss positively.
Yes, this simply means they are not aware of the themselves; likewise, unconscious gods and so called formless realm gods have no self-awareness.
It most certainly is true --according the Abhidharmakosha (something I am a little expert in) formless realm beings for example have only one thought and have no awareness outside of that thought, i.e. the thought that propels them into that ayatana. Why? Because they have no physical sense faculties. Hence they have no self-reflexive cognition of any kind. But, like plants, they are a birth, albeit, one without self-knowledge.
Actually, the beings dwelling in the Sphere of Infinite Space have consciousness and perception. The beings dwelling in the Sphere of Infinite consciousness also have consciousness--(how did you miss that in your expert study?). In the Sphere of Nothingness, there is also perception. In the Sphere of Neither Percepton nor Non-Perception is where dwell the beings without perception, who are thus cut off from other existences. However, it is very clear and obvious that these beings do not have form and thus can't be sentient plants. In other words, beings who are self-aware with the form of plants.
The beings dwelling in Asannasatta
, the Mindless Sphere are also clearly not "plants." Here is canonical:
These beings are unconscious and experience nothing (A.iv.401). As soon as an idea occurs to them they fall from their state (D.i.28). Brahmin ascetics, having practiced continual meditation and attained to the fourth jhāna, seeing the disadvantages attached to thinking, try to do away with it altogether. Dying in this condition, they are reborn among the Asaññasattā, having form only, but neither sensations, ideas, predispositions nor consciousness. They last only as long as their power of jhāna; then an idea occurs to them and they die straightaway (DA.i.118).
As living beings, are these beings "separate" from plants? Nope, they are not separate from anything. However, their body is not that of a plant. Their "form body" is derived from their karma, and regardless of how many plants you kill, even if you destroy an entire planet
of plantlife, they will not fall from their state. They fall from their state once thoughts begin to arise and are in no way dependent on plants. Having no sensation, perception, or consciousness, they cannot possibly be sentient plants with non-self-awareness. Therefore not all living beings should be regarded as "sentient," a WORD which here means: ?
Asannasatta Brahmas are those divine beings without any consciousness or mind... While concentrating on the fault of consciousness, "Citta is loathsome. Citta is loathsome", they develop a kammatthana called sannaviraga bhavana - disgust for [memory].
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 kappas long.
Their body is a result of their meditative attainments, and is not based on being a plant. Again, I do not deny that plantlife is "part of sentience," that it is projected from substratum consciousness and is therefore sentient in a way that is unlike beings with karma. The difference between plants and sentient beings is that plants do not have volition, suffer from ignorance or achieve nirvana, and that their sentience is projected from substratum consciousness (the basis of all consciousness and that which carries karmic seeds like a torrent of water). But it is like saying, "yes these living beings are sentient but they have no derived levels of consciousness of their own, " Thus I evoke the term "sub-sentience," to denote a stratum of "existence" that is derived from the primary stratum. They don't feel, and their non-mental existence does not change. As with asannasatta beings, they do not have "memory" or consciousness, but their body comes from jivitanavaka-kalapa
. The body is formed by the karma of their previous life and gives them rebirth in a body without mind, memory, and once this karma is counteracted, thought does again arise and this existence immediately ends.
We observe that plants, "one-facultied" or sub-sentient living beings, come and go without volition and are essentially and by all conventions one-facultied. Call them sentient if you want, but they can neither inherit karma nor pass karma on to further births, they cannot become self-aware. Their suffering is PROJECTED
, it is derived from the substratum consciousness as a projective stratum of sentience. Perhaps this is not in the language that a Dzogchen or Japanese Buddhist would "prefer," but this is not about preferences, it's about understanding. Buddhism
, is about understanding.
My view:To put what I just stated above into a simple term, plants do not have storehouse consciousnesses of their own, as demonstrated theoretically, but rather any given plant has sentience that is derived from the substratum consciousness of sentient beings, but without storehouse consciousness. Therefore living beings such as plants are not subject to storehouse consciousness, and are only projectively sentient.
If you think of this graphically, it clearly describes why I am using the epithet sub-sentient, and designating plantlife within the projected stratum which is derived from our storehouse consciousnesses. Basically, all living beings are "sentient" VIA their derivation from substratum primordial consciousness; however, those beings without storehouse consciousness (ergo plants-fungus), have their sentience projected from storehouse consciousness... And while it is no less real than indefinitely conscious sentience, it lies in a borderline-sentient stratum, because the sentience is projected from the living beings of storehouse consciousness, and are not able to develop storehouse consciousnesses of their own, due to their nature. In conclusion, projective living beings have derived sentience from substratum consciousness, but are incapable of self-awareness, being on a projective borderline. Hence, the derived living of plants is sentient by projection of storehouse consciousness and not fruition of it. The distinction between fruition of consciousness (karma) and projection of consciousness is thereby defined.
Once framed into this terminology, I think it becomes theoretically apparent that the borderline stratum is always and everywhere present within samsara, and that when sentient beings expand their "storehouse consciousnesses" to such lofty existences, they manifest this stratum (Mindless Sphere
and Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception
The mindless beings clearly dismantle their mental faculties by karmically generating an animate yet mindless body--because storehouse consciousness was not purified, eventually other karma emerges and produces thought.2.)
The beings of neither perception nor non-perception have reached the absolutely most subtle state of existence possible, yet without removal of the fetters and purification of storehouse consciousness, eventually new storehouse consciousnesses will unleash the karmic fruit of beginningless past lives.
On the other hand, plants have beginningless past lives, but they are without storehouse consciousness and have only projected sentience according to that of the storehouse consciousness. Hence, they endlessly and beginningless circle around the borderline of sentience throughout the infinity of samsara. This would thus place plantlife on the rims of the Wheel of Suffering, or if you will, in the center depending on your model. Projective living beings are therefore not intrinsically subject to dukkha, but should be treated as living beings. Lo and behold, the Buddha dictated that we should respect all living beings including plantlife. However, because of these founded opinions, I'm of this view that the derived life of plants is sentient by projection of storehouse consciousness and not fruition of it. The distinction between fruition of consciousness (karma) and projection of consciousness is thereby defined. This is all of course just conventional terms and is meant for literal use. This isn't something most people can just pick up and grasp easily.
P.S. hope that can fuel some discussion and provoke some views form other people--if there are any...?
Also, most if not all jellyfish have a "nerve-net" with electricity, through which they experience touch, and some species of jellyfish, such as the deadly Box jelly, have primitive eyes that actually allow them to see. Jellyfish are most certainly conscious, sensitive, sentient beings.