Plant Sentient

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Jesse » Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:15 am

I just thought the link was relevant to the discussion, I'm not leaning either way really.. the scientist actually is not claiming sentience if you read the entire article, but he is claiming that plants have far more 'sentient' features than we previous thought.

6. Would you say, then, that plants “think”?
No I wouldn’t, but maybe that’s where I’m still limited in my own thinking! To me thinking and information processing are two different constructs. I have to be careful here since this is really bordering on the philosophical, but I think purposeful thinking necessitates a highly developed brain and autonoetic, or at least noetic, consciousness. Plants exhibit elements of anoetic consciousness which doesn’t include, in my understanding, the ability to think. Just as a plant can’t suffer subjective pain in the absence of a brain, I also don’t think that it thinks.
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:28 am

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?"
:namaste:


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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

As people may or may not know, I am comitted to the principles of deep ecology/biocentrism, and the denial of plant sentience not in keeping with those principles. If we deny plant sentience, as we do merely on the basis of zoomorphic orthodoxy, 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.


M


Very interesting, thanks for your thoughts. I have had some of the same questions and reservations about the Buddhist denial of plant sentience. As of yet, I am undecided either way, but I think it is certainly something to contemplate. As Greg K mentions, there are fruitarian ways to avoid taking the lives of plants and still eat a healthy meal. I believe this was Gandhi's conduct towards the end of his life. Probably, if one was really concerned one could make use of ethically (non-harm) produced dairy products (I met some old lady goat caretakers at the West Hollywood Farmer's Market in LA who treat their goat as pets until they die of natural causes, never selling for slaughter).. and fruit and nuts and manage to avoid the outright destruction of any living organisms. As to the larger question of if everybody on the planet could eat like this sustainably, that doesn't really matter because hardly anyone proportionately (to be realistic) would probably be inspired to.

I think I mentioned this on this forum already in the last year or two- but I started thinking about this again with more fervor after reading this really interesting book which I highly recommend... it is an easy and entertaining read:

Intelligence in Nature http://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Nature-Inquiry-into-Knowledge/dp/1585423998

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby has altered how we understand the shamanic cultures and traditions that have undergone a worldwide revival in recent years. Now, in one of his most extraordinary journeys, Narby travels around the globe-from the Amazon basin to the Far East-to probe what traditional healers and pioneering researchers perceive about the intelligence present in all forms of life.

Intelligence in Nature offers overwhelming illustrative evidence that independent intelligence is not unique to humanity. Indeed, bacteria, plants, animals, and other forms of nonhuman life display an uncanny proclivity for self-deterministic decisions, patterns, and actions. The Japanese possess a word for this universal knowing: chi-sei. For the first time, Narby presents an in-depth anthropological study of this concept in the West. He not only uncovers a mysterious thread of intelligent behavior within the natural world but also probes the question of what humanity can learn from nature's economy and knowingness in its own search for a saner and more sustainable way of life.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
User avatar
Adamantine
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2680
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:09 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:31 am

Son wrote:
Awakened? No, I think they are inherently projections of awakening or primordial substratum consciousness. For something to reach nirvana, it's storehouse consciousness must be purified and ignorance unrooted from their mind, union with extremely subtle body and so forth. However plants don't have storehouse consciousness and taints to begin with, naturally. It is primordial consciousness taking the form of plants due to sense-sense object, creating contact. This contact consciousness is not awakened. It is likened to a projection or hologram, touch-sense that has contact through substratum consciousness. They don't have the opportunity to be awakened, the possibility of it, for Buddha Nature in them is default. So the question, "do plants have Buddha Nature," in order to achieve awakening one must destroy the fetters and cleanse the taints, but plants cannot do this and therefore lack the potential for awakening.

On the other hand, they are already experiencing Buddha Nature. What it boils down to is, although awakening is within the reach of all living beings including plants, plants do not need to reach awakening, due to the absence of storehouse consciousness. Secondly, plants don't have the ability to realize that they have Buddha Nature, so they can't achieve awakening. When the touch-sense-consciousness ends, it ends. When it begins, it begins. The substratum consciousness is present in any scenario, but an "individual plant" cannot achieve awakening, it is simply projected from it by means of contact. So they are projections of Buddha Nature.

The bush doesn't have a storehouse consciousness that can be purified, it is derived from primordial consciousness as it is. No, plants are not awakened. Plants have primitive sentience. They are born without taints, and die without taints. there's no delusion of self, or doubt, there are no fetters, there is no original ignorance that gives rise to mental formation. Essentially, to say that we have Buddha Nature, is to say that plants represent primordial consciousness, a suspended kind of Buddha Nature.

Put simply, they have primordial consciousness but without Buddha Nature, because they can't have Buddha Nature. There are infinite ways to say this.


Very interesting thoughts too, Son!
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
User avatar
Adamantine
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2680
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:09 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:11 am

User avatar
Kunga Lhadzom
 
Posts: 290
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:01 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:56 am

Hmmmm

Okay heres my 3 cents

Is plants apart of the 5/6 transmigations in any buddhist text?do any say you can be reborn as a plant?

Is their a difference in being biologically alive and mentally alive?
And what i mean is,their are cases where their are humans who are biologically kepy alive but they are long beeb brain dead(zero mental activity)would it be killing to take this biologically alive body of meat off life support?would it be killing to end a biological alive plant?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Can that vessel attain enlightenment?
User avatar
Son of Buddha
 
Posts: 777
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:52 pm

Malcolm wrote: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.


In Tibetan medicine how does spirit possession work in this context? Do they externally provoke symptoms or do they "hijack and infiltrate" a being (like a deva inhabiting a plant as a house)?
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5563
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:01 pm

Huseng wrote:
Malcolm wrote: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.


In Tibetan medicine how does spirit possession work in this context? Do they externally provoke symptoms or do they "hijack and infiltrate" a being (like a deva inhabiting a plant as a house)?


Spirits do not have gross physical bodies, they lack visible form, according to Tibetan Medicine. In the case of an oracle like Nechung, the monk (and must be a monk) for example, will experience what we would call epilepsy. Then the monk in question will undergo years of training to make their channel system receptive to the various deities associated with Nechung. So effectively what happens is that entity seizes the prāṇa system of the body.

In terms of diseases caused by provocations, these manifest as different diseases depending on the type of provocation.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
Posts: 10165
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:23 pm

Malcolm wrote:Spirits do not have gross physical bodies, they lack visible form, according to Tibetan Medicine. In the case of an oracle like Nechung, the monk (and must be a monk) for example, will experience what we would call epilepsy. Then the monk in question will undergo years of training to make their channel system receptive to the various deities associated with Nechung. So effectively what happens is that entity seizes the prāṇa system of the body.

In terms of diseases caused by provocations, these manifest as different diseases depending on the type of provocation.


So strictly speaking there is no idea that spirits can "inhabit" a body otherwise normally under the control of the original of another sattva?
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5563
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:26 pm

Huseng wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Spirits do not have gross physical bodies, they lack visible form, according to Tibetan Medicine. In the case of an oracle like Nechung, the monk (and must be a monk) for example, will experience what we would call epilepsy. Then the monk in question will undergo years of training to make their channel system receptive to the various deities associated with Nechung. So effectively what happens is that entity seizes the prāṇa system of the body.

In terms of diseases caused by provocations, these manifest as different diseases depending on the type of provocation.


So strictly speaking there is no idea that spirits can "inhabit" a body otherwise normally under the control of the original of another sattva?


No, not really. And spirit possession is painful and taxing, from what I understand.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
Posts: 10165
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:31 pm

Malcolm wrote:No, not really. And spirit possession is painful and taxing, from what I understand.


Okay, that clarifies what I was curious about.

In the context of this thread I thought it might shed some light on the possible mechanism by which a plant could be "inhabited" by a deva or spirit as the Jataka literature suggests.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5563
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:41 pm

Huseng wrote:
Malcolm wrote:No, not really. And spirit possession is painful and taxing, from what I understand.


Okay, that clarifies what I was curious about.

In the context of this thread I thought it might shed some light on the possible mechanism by which a plant could be "inhabited" by a deva or spirit as the Jataka literature suggests.



As I opined before, there is little difference between presuming that our body is inhabited by an atman (popular Indian view) and the idea that a plant is inhabited by a deva. Certainly, there is plenty of evidence based on Jatakas and non-Buddhist sources that these tree devas regard their trees as their bodies.

Thus, I think it is basically a way of archaic method of talking about plant minds/bodies.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
Posts: 10165
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby LastLegend » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:08 pm

Plants, rice, water, and everything else react to our thoughts. Get two bowls of rice label one with BEAUTIFUL and one with UGLY...then say nice things to the BEAUTIFUL one, and say really horrible things to the UGLY one. Let them sit for a couple days or a week or whenever, and see which one goes bad first.

Everything reacts to our thoughts or mind...when mind changes, environment/bodies/forms also change. Enlightened beings have bodies that are different from those of unenlightened sentient beings. But I don't think plants, rice, water, and everything else has their own minds.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
User avatar
LastLegend
 
Posts: 1732
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Ogyen » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:07 pm

It has been shown that plants feel pain and reactively marshal up defenses for survival to repair their wounded parts. Ok, they don't have a 'brain' or a zoological nervous system as it were, but there is a phytological system of life and survival in place. And a plant will fight, in its own way, to not die.

What if we were simply operating on a large gradient or primordial 'consciousness' that is not (as previously and extensively discussed above) quite at the point to where any 'self-awareness' is present, but is more like the step prior. Our systems of definition might be narrower than what reality actually is. Sentience after all, like life, happens on a gradient of complexity and therefore degrees of self-awareness. If there is no fear or hope because there is no system to maintain such conditions, it doesn't mean there isn't lower octave of the same resonance, i.e. a reaction to threat, death, and pain. Can you say the reaction to repair itself when damaged is not a low-grade desire for continued life? Plants clearly react the way all life does at its most basic form... This shows at least in common sense, a basic form of sentience, albeit, maybe not one accepted by the Buddhist canon.

just a thought..
Image Made from 100% recycled karma

The Heart Drive Word Press
Mud to Lotus

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." –Arundhati Roy
User avatar
Ogyen
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:36 pm

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Tara » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:16 pm

A recent New Scientist article which may be of interest "Plants may be able to 'hear' others"

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... thers.html

Though the research is at an early stage, the results are worth pursuing, says Richard Karban of the University of California-Davis. They do suggest that plants have an as-yet-unidentified means of communication, he says, though it is not clear what that might be.


Regards,
Tara

**********************************************************
Maybe you collect a lot of important writings,
Major texts, personal instructions, private notes, whatever.
If you haven’t practiced, books won’t help you when you die.
Look at the mind – that’s my sincere advice.

**********************************************************
from Longchenpa's 30 Pieces of Sincere Advice

Mors certa — hora incerta
User avatar
Tara
Site Admin
 
Posts: 3715
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:59 am
Location: Here.

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Ogyen » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:21 pm

Tara wrote:A recent New Scientist article which may be of interest "Plants may be able to 'hear' others"

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... thers.html

Though the research is at an early stage, the results are worth pursuing, says Richard Karban of the University of California-Davis. They do suggest that plants have an as-yet-unidentified means of communication, he says, though it is not clear what that might be.


Regards,


This is what I'm talking about...
Image Made from 100% recycled karma

The Heart Drive Word Press
Mud to Lotus

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." –Arundhati Roy
User avatar
Ogyen
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:36 pm

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:47 pm

This is why Jains, without modern science, chose many centuries ago to eat only the parts of plants which cause them no harm or cause them to die. Apples are therefore OK, potatoes not so.


Prince Charles is well known for talking to plants. Unfortunately we have no evidence that the plants appreciated it! LOL :)
Left
Blue Garuda
 
Posts: 2000
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:23 pm

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:01 pm

Is the Universe sentient ?
User avatar
Kunga Lhadzom
 
Posts: 290
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:01 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Son » Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:26 pm

Ogyen wrote:It has been shown that plants feel pain and reactively marshal up defenses for survival to repair their wounded parts. Ok, they don't have a 'brain' or a zoological nervous system as it were, but there is a phytological system of life and survival in place. And a plant will fight, in its own way, to not die.

What if we were simply operating on a large gradient or primordial 'consciousness' that is not (as previously and extensively discussed above) quite at the point to where any 'self-awareness' is present, but is more like the step prior. Our systems of definition might be narrower than what reality actually is. Sentience after all, like life, happens on a gradient of complexity and therefore degrees of self-awareness. If there is no fear or hope because there is no system to maintain such conditions, it doesn't mean there isn't lower octave of the same resonance, i.e. a reaction to threat, death, and pain. Can you say the reaction to repair itself when damaged is not a low-grade desire for continued life? Plants clearly react the way all life does at its most basic form... This shows at least in common sense, a basic form of sentience, albeit, maybe not one accepted by the Buddhist canon.

just a thought..


Very sensible thought.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:05 pm

Kunga Lhadzom wrote:Is the Universe sentient ?




http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... a_rem.html
User avatar
Kunga Lhadzom
 
Posts: 290
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:01 am

Re: Plant Sentient

Postby Kunga Lhadzom » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:23 am

Huseng wrote:you need to create negative karma just to survive.
But wouldn't the karma of those beings that died... so you could live, be positive ? You create something positive out the negative....we are dependent on other life forms to survive....and we can't survive without each other...so it is very compassionate to give your life essence. Plants probably have no sense of compassionate activity...it is spontaneous....selfless....
User avatar
Kunga Lhadzom
 
Posts: 290
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:01 am

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Lotus108, Thrasymachus and 15 guests

>