Plants ~ Borderline Beings?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Re: Plant Life

Postby Paul Davy » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:29 am

Greetings Hanzze,

It's obvious you wish to expand the scope of discussion well beyond "General Theravada" boundaries... would you like us to move this to the Dhammic Free For All, so you can speculate on the sentience of plantlife beyond what the Buddha and subsequent Theravada masters have said?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"Whether I were to preach in brief, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach in detail, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach both in brief or in detail, Sāriputta, rare are those who understand." (A I 333, Sāriputtasutta)

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:39 am

Dear retrofuturist,

did we use to less sutta? Plants are a very important issue and that was also pointed out by Buddha. I do not understand your motivation, but it will have its cause. Suttas, from a traditional view are protected by monks. If you make them in that form available it is very important to make them understandable also from a scientist view. There is still a view that plants are a lower form of beings, what is causing our biggest problems on earth.
Theravada is about peace and not about an other victim. I would wish it will stay a very important General Theravada discussion. If it is a attachment to my person or my kind of argument, just tell it, I make my step back.

_/\_
with loving kindness
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:42 am

budo wrote: Do plants have sex? Are there female and male plants?

For some species of plants, yes.

budo wrote:As for humans, at one point in the womb does the spermed egg become sentient? When the brain forms? Where is the brain of the plant? When does it form? If a human birth fails before the brain is developed, is it still death because the human was yet to be born? If sentient means consciousness does that mean humans die if they become brain-dead or a vegetable state, but their bodies are still alive? At one point is one considered born and at one point is one considered dead? If in the future one is able to replace their whole bodies but keep the brain, are they a different person or the same person?

That's a separate but equally interesting question. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Paul Davy » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:43 am

Greetings Hanzze,

What I'm saying is that if you and other people keep bringing in sources which are not of Theravada origin, or even blatantly contradict suttas, this topic ought to be moved to another sub-forum if you want those things to be legitimately included within the bounds of discussion.

For example, I'm referring to the resources brought forward earlier to dispute the one-facultied nature of plant-life, Wikipedia entries on plant sexuality, and so on.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"Whether I were to preach in brief, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach in detail, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach both in brief or in detail, Sāriputta, rare are those who understand." (A I 333, Sāriputtasutta)

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:00 am

Moving it to DFFA seems like a good idea to me
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:55 am

Dear retrofuturist,

from my view of point modern man is not able to understand thinks like they have been told, as modern man don't know nature at all. So the only way to explain things is the way of scientist and there is no different in what the Buddha taught and "knowledge". Modern man has never lived with nature and knows plants from the flower-shop. He do not know that his laptop was nature before and he do not know where his food is coming from. Therefore I guess the only way to explain things is scientist, everything else is so far away and we know that Theravada is a big industrial engine in Building and "developing". It is real sad, but there is a lot of war in the name of the Dhamma. Even it is not seen as this. It is important to see the victims as it is important to point on collective illusion of a possible material way to solve our problem.
I know that it is a very new issue in the US and maybe also on other parts on the earth as this engine keeps a lot of stuff alive.

As to see it from a Vinaya view, it is not a good way to select and recite suttas for the explanation of Dhamma. Scientific views makes it better possible to explain while keeping it on a layman level. The general information/knowledge as the silas and the eightfold path are quite enough to walk on a better way. Modern man can not easy see the victims and to understand the precept of abstain from killing and harming of living things is easily overseen.

Man has a talent to find a back door and the concentration on the precepts is one of the first steps to come to the understanding that real practice is the only way out of suffering. If we keep it in that way that science is science an Theravada is Theravada then we uproot a very important resource to explain the meaning of not harming in a modern man thinking way. As for the teachers it is also very important to use this tool and not Devas as they have been respected in older times by anyone. Simply nobody today would take care of them, and also not as protector of plants.

The public use of Suttas also needs the public discussion with the tool of science and there is nothing to fear as there the technique of the Buddha and the technique of modern scientist is not different and reaching the same point. We can not make it undone to publish the suttas, it was decided more than 50 year ago and it is a big chance to bring it in the right position for our all well fair. The heart of the Dhamma is the Eightfold Path which is walkable for everyone as soon as he realize that suffering and its causes exist. Jumping between two ways will not bring us further, and that for a protection that is already gone.

Understanding kamma and cause and effect even on a low level will lead to the path. If there is something to believe between, or something that does not fix to our scientific education it keeps us on the wheel as we are searching always the "easy" way.

The time when man is able to see death and harming will soon be gone, there are less people who even had seen there near relatives dying and suffering. The dirt is managed, the wast water never seen. Understanding suffering just from TV?

There is a kind of fear that is kusala and a kind of fear that is unkusala. If we work on the unkusala fear also the other fear will disappear as it will be simply wisdom without any feelings.

A Bhikkhu keeping the vinaya in its whole is not easy able to explain and teach in a way that it is acceptable and understandable. Many may also not have the scientist background so it is more that a kusala deed to make some thinks clear from layman to make the real teaching hear and understandable.

I know my lack of communication, therefore I wish that the meaning will be seen from those who can explain. The sutta battle is not really mine.
Let me end this monkey post with a optimistic :-) as my laptop will collapse soon again :jumping:

_/\_
with loving kindness
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:02 pm

budo wrote:To answer Individual's question about inhibition vs birth,

Perhaps because plants are not born? Do plants have sex? Are there female and male plants? Perhaps this is why in Noah's arc, as Ron brought up earlier, God did not mention plants. Perhaps because they are not born, they are not considered sentient. If plants are born, at what point are they no longer a seed but a plant? As for humans, at one point in the womb does the spermed egg become sentient? When the brain forms? Where is the brain of the plant? When does it form? If a human birth fails before the brain is developed, is it still death because the human was yet to be born? If sentient means consciousness does that mean humans die if they become brain-dead or a vegetable state, but their bodies are still alive? At one point is one considered born and at one point is one considered dead? If in the future one is able to replace their whole bodies but keep the brain, are they a different person or the same person?

Ron can you answer any of those questions?



Hi, Budo.

The answer to your final question is " Yes ". I can answer all your questions. I will also point out that all of your questions have already been answered. But, you have to read the previous posts, and the links provided where you will find the answers to all your questions.

_/\_Ron
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:11 pm

Retro,

Are you saying that The Theravada is a dead practice? That no modern understanding, in light of modern scientific discovery of what Buddha taught is to be allowed into any conversations/posts? Are you saying that there will never be any new information presented in commentaries written in respected Buddist literature such as Access to Insight by learned Buddhist scholars? If so, what is the point of The Commentaries by Buddhist scholars?

With deepest respect for a very old and honored friend in The Dhamma.

_/\_Ron
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

chownah
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Re: Plant Life

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:18 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Chowna, et al.

My assumption is, that you already agreed that plants were alive in your first response that you will agree in the second response.

So, let's define "sentience":

sen·tience   
[sen-shuhns] Show IPA
–noun
sentient condition or character; capacity for sensation or feeling.
Also, sen·tien·cy.

Origin:
1830–40; senti(ent) + -ence


Plants can "feel" the presence of the sun. Therefore they have sight consciousness.
Some plants can "feel" the presence of pressure, and move their limbs out of the way to avoid damage to their limbs and leaves.
Many plants "feel" when their leaves are being eaten, and respond by producing poisonous toxins to kill the feeding herbovores.
Some plants "feel" the presence of insects and rodents and when detected move their appendages closed quickly to entrap these creatures, then dissolve and absorb their nutrients in order to live.
Some plants "feel" the pain and suffering of other plants and communicate with others of their same species in some cases other species of plants to warn of danger.
Plants smell and taste, and therefore possess these consciousnesses. They can sense hundreds of chemicals in the soil with their roots. They respond to the presence of insects by emitting sweet chemical odors, or a stench to attract them, and after insects have done their job, they can change their odor to repel the insects as does the tobacco plant with a well known chemical compound, nicotine.

In the previous article provided I supplied examples of each one of these.

Second question to you: Can plants feel? Can they sense and respond to danger by protecting themselves by moving out of the way, by secreting poisons to kill the animals eating them? Can plants sense (feel) the presence of living animals, trap, kill and eat them?

If you answer is yes, and it must be, because these are all facts, then you will agree that plants are alive and sentient as are animals.

Sorry for the delay in answering.
I do agree that plants are living.
I don't like your definition of sentience......all the definitions I have seen include a reference to "consciousness" or similar.
I disagree with your assertion that plants can feel the radiation from the sun. There is (as far as I know) no activity associated with the response to sunlight except for the bare mechanical like change in shape of the stem and flower parts required to make the change....plants will change shape to catch artificial light as well as sunlight...it is quite mechanical....the explanation for this phenomena is well described...it does not require any thought or awareness or consciousness....I believe that the same can be said for all of the other abilities that plants exhibit.
There is as far as I know no tissue or organ or discernable regular pattern of impulses associated with plants activities except for the bare mechanical ones required to produce the activities.....there is nothing a plant does which is not explained by chemo-hydraulic-mechanical process as far as I know....there is nothing that indicates there is any thought or consideration or decisions made...a venus fly trap does not "know" that there is an insect in its jaws....you an tickle it the right way and it will snap shut as well....the sensitive plant does not consider when to collapse its leaf structure...it does not know if there is an herbivore present....you can just touch the plant or devise a mechanical device which touches it occasionally and it will collapse just the same....the mechanism is automatic...no thought required........by the way....we have a relative of the sensitive plant which grows all over the place as a wild plant here in northern Thailand and I'm still amazed when it colllapses when touched even though I've seen it so many many times.....and did you know that the cows eat it anyway....the plant had better think of another way to protect itself I guess.
Of course all of this is just my views since we all know that sentience is (like all dhammas) empty....nothing is sentient....it all just happens....
chownah
Last edited by chownah on Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:24 pm

Of course all of this is just my views since we all know that sentience is (like all dhammas) empty....nothing is sentient....it all just happens....
chownah


Exactly! We are in agreement.

Plants do have a brain, and they do communicate. Plants form complex interneural networks beneath the ground and communicate threats from one plant to another. My suggestion to you is the same as to all the others. Read what is written in each link. The problem is too complex to repeat over and over and over and over. ( My fingers get tired.)

There was an excellent video lecture which explained plant neural networks. I believe that the lecturer was an Italian plant biologist.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:30 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:
Of course all of this is just my views since we all know that sentience is (like all dhammas) empty....nothing is sentient....it all just happens....
chownah


Exactly! We are in agreement.

Plants do have a brain, and they do communicate. Plants form complex interneural networks beneath the ground and communicate threats from one plant to another. My suggestion to you is the same as to all the others. Read what is written in each link. The problem is too complex to repeat over and over and over and over. ( My fingers get tired.)

There was an excellent video lecture which explained plant neural networks. I believe that the lecturer was an Italian plant biologist.

OK, I don't have time to read all that stuff although I have read "The secret lives of plants"....quite awhile ago though.....so let's stick with one thing....let's take your assertion that plants have a brain....can you give me a reference for this and I'll check it out.....I would rather take one thing at a time as I use most of my time to tend my small organic farm.

chownah

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:02 pm

chownah wrote:OK, I don't have time to read all that stuff although I have read "The secret lives of plants"....quite awhile ago though.....so let's stick with one thing....let's take your assertion that plants have a brain....can you give me a reference for this and I'll check it out.....I would rather take one thing at a time as I use most of my time to tend my small organic farm.

chownah


Watch this first: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/stefa ... gence.html

Then read this:

http://www.enotes.com/topic/Plant_Neurobiology


And this:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/d000j73757880886/

Also this may be helpful as to background for Prof. Stefano:

http://www.mindpowernews.com/PlantsThink.htm

And finally this:

http://150.217.147.94/linv/pdf/publications/27.pdf
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:14 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Some plants "feel" the pain and suffering of other plants and communicate with others of their same species in some cases other species of plants to warn of danger.

Is this the same type of sensation as what sentient beings sense, however?

The problem I see here is that the definition of "sentient being" is wrapped up with ethical considerations and differing interpretations arise dependent on particular preconceptions. If you're not familiar with it, it's worth looking at the Is-Ought\Fact-Value distinction.

Now in the absence of particular ethics and particular interpretations, you'd be a crazy person ("Everything is empty! Everything is a non-distinct, blurry unity in which the divisions are arbitrary!" :rolleye: Deindividuation, depersonalization, in a way that's not pleasant or stable, unless you're an Arahant or Buddha). But that doesn't mean we should take for granted our current ethics and interpretations.

I do not think we would have much difficulty agreeing on the facts of what a plant, animal, and human are, provided we have a well-established source, like scientists doing research. However, the notions of "similarity" and "differentiation" are self-reflexive judgments we add to the otherwise neutral observation, as an unnecessary layer of thought. You might ask, "Similar and different -- with regard to what?" This or that. This or that what? The mind could attend equally to the differentiation or non-differentiation of things, and on that basis, establish a self-conceptualized view, a view that's an aspect of personality, in which from one's own point-of-view plants are regarded or not regarded as sentient beings (as other "selves" who, because they are selves, have to be provided for in certain ways). In either case, a view is created, but what does it actually change? You can choose to be nicer to plants or not; you could choose to starve yourself or not. This could be a neat motivation for scientific research, but it also could cause suffering and insanity. Hence pondering the specifics of kamma is an imponderable.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:31 pm

Individual wrote: You can choose to be nicer to plants or not; you could choose to starve yourself or not. This could be a neat motivation for scientific research, but it also could cause suffering and insanity. Hence pondering the specifics of kamma is an imponderable.


Yes. In the vegetarian vs. carnivore thread this dhamma comes to light. We have a choice to make. As our ignorance is lifted, we must then decide to act in light of our newly gained knowledge, otherwise, what would be the point of enlightenment.

My single point is that due to our ignorance in the past we made choices out of ignorance. Now we are somewhat less ignorant. Do we use the excuse that The Theravada suttas were written during a period of our ignorance and therefore we must ignore what we now have learned?

My response is no!
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:37 pm

A discussion of sentience:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby alan » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:41 am

Show us a Sutta that ascribes sentience to plants or forever hold your peace.

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Sherab
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Re: Plant Life

Postby Sherab » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:58 am

My speculation:
If a being has the ability of being conscious of its consciousness, it is sentient. If not, then not and any reaction to stimuli is merely automatic, like a computer program.

In Buddhism, it is only sentient beings that cycle through various existence as karma is only possible when there is consciousness of one's consciousness. Since plants are not said to accumulate karma and cycle through various existence, from the Buddhist point of view, plants are non-sentient.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Hanzze » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:20 am

Dear friends,

I would wounder if the Buddha had differenced between kind of living being. Where does the Deva has its brain? One have a higher developed consciousness one a lower. Would a Deva or a god call human lower kind of beings when understanding the Dhamma?

I would wonder if there is a original Sutta which classifies beings as worthier or to ignore. It is a poor way to make something acceptable for the sake of an other kind of let us stay in the circle of live.

Even from evolution we know where we are origin from. The man living with nature does not forget one aspect of his karma, also if it may be only a far far relative.

But please let us know the the perspective of Buddhist and then we may walk to that what was taught and the Dhamma as empty as it is and should be if we what to integrate as the path for liberation.

So what is the Sutta a Buddhist is revering to that there is something that divides beings?
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:13 am

alan wrote:Show us a Sutta that ascribes sentience to plants or forever hold your peace.


"Show us a sutta that mentions Global Warming or forever hold your peace."

First this thread was moved from General Theravada, so we are not held to that standard any longer. Plant sentience need not be mentioned in the suttas for us to discuss new discoveries.

However, there are several relevant suttas, which if you read the entire thread, you would see that sentience is not necessarily the standard. For example many of the suttas are translated: "Cause no harm to living beings.".....I am certain that you are familiar with those.

We all agree, and have agreed in this thread, that plants are living, which causes a conflict and forces a choice as to what to eat, which is discussed extensively in the vegan/vegetarian/vs. Carnivore thread.

Also, and most relevantly, ignorance is mentioned in many suttas as the underlying cause of all suffering (See Four Noble Truths). Since we have become aware of the true capabilities of plants, the only way that they cannot be considered sentient is if one is ignorant of their true capabilities, including consciousness. (See plant neurobioloby.)

If you wish to pretend that you are living in the 17-18th Century, then it is you who must hold your peace, because no one can hear you with your head stuck deep down in the sand. :coffee:
Last edited by Ron-The-Elder on Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:29 am

Sherab wrote:My speculation:
If a being has the ability of being conscious of its consciousness, it is sentient. If not, then not and any reaction to stimuli is merely automatic, like a computer program.

In Buddhism, it is only sentient beings that cycle through various existence as karma is only possible when there is consciousness of one's consciousness. Since plants are not said to accumulate karma and cycle through various existence, from the Buddhist point of view, plants are non-sentient.


Hi, Sherab.

Yep. Tis a problem. Next thing you know computers (supercomputers) will become sentient. With artificial intelligence, many argue that it has already happened. That is why I prefer the term "living". Star Trek already addressed this issue with the silicon people who existed on a planet that was being mined for Tri-Lithium Crystals.

Life is really tough when you have to stay current with the latest scientific findings. Buddhism must stay current if it wishes to remain a relevant practice. If we choose to stick with the past understanding of what life is relevant and which is not, then that is our kamma to bear.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.


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