Plant Life

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Plant Life

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

A discussion of sentience:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience
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-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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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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Re: Plant Life

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:41 am

Ron, this thread isn't making as much sense as you think it is.

If you can't get people to agree on what defines sentience, then there is no point in all the examples. Maybe start there. Is it feeling? Perceiving? Choice?
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Re: Plant Life

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:21 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:
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!

You may have a valid point, but I think there is a lot more to establish here before creating any new theories or ideas. For instance, if we can't establish a broadly accepted (and scientifically accepted!) notion of rebirth and devas, it doesn't seem all that important to focus on clarifying to people the sentience of plants.
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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:41 pm

andre9999 wrote:Ron, this thread isn't making as much sense as you think it is.

If you can't get people to agree on what defines sentience, then there is no point in all the examples. Maybe start there. Is it feeling? Perceiving? Choice?



Thanks for the suggestion andre. But sentience need not be the issue. We have already agreed that plants are alive, and the precepts respect all life. "Cause no harm to living beings."

Would anyone other than me and the two definitions already provided like to define sentience for us? :coffee:

When you who stand on "the other side" of this discussion decide, let me know and I will then chime in.

How's that?
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 12:51 pm

Individual wrote:
Ron-The-Elder wrote:
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!


You may have a valid point, but I think there is a lot more to establish here before creating any new theories or ideas. For instance, if we can't establish a broadly accepted (and scientifically accepted!) notion of rebirth and devas, it doesn't seem all that important to focus on clarifying to people the sentience of plants.


I don't think post-mortem rebirth, devas, gods or even Brahmas have anything to do with what Buddha taught. --- "Remember his analogy of the leafs he had in his hand versu the leaves in the forest as to what he taught." --- My guess is that story telling got mixed in with what Buddha himself taught over the centuries, much like in The Jataka Tales for Children.

I have had monks who divulged to me that they have even abandoned The Commentaries for the same reason. They stick purely to what Buddha taught and still we are stuck with iffy translations. For example one venerable said that instead of "Right View", etc......He instead uses the term "Harmonious View, etc." to describe The Noble Eight Fold Path. And his reason: It simply makes more sense and does less harm than identifying something as right, which leaves everything and everybody else to be wrong.

I like that term: "Harmonious!" So, with regard to Right Speech, it is better to speak and write only that which is harmonious, instead of that which is "right"....as in "I am right!" and therefore, you are wrong.

On that basis we probably should lock this thread at this point because it has identified so many attachments, which has made it anything, but harmonious.
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 andre9999 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:54 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Thanks for the suggestion andre. But sentience need not be the issue.


Nice try, but here's how you ended your first post in the thread.

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Therefore, I hereby submit my vote to allow plants to join the sentient community of life-forms on this planet.


The OP is about whether plants are in the rebirth cycle. The next post said they are not sentient. The third post, yours, says that they should be sentient.

So at this point, well... what is your point?
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Re: Plant Life

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:27 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:I don't think post-mortem rebirth, devas, gods or even Brahmas have anything to do with what Buddha taught. --- "Remember his analogy of the leafs he had in his hand versu the leaves in the forest as to what he taught." --- My guess is that story telling got mixed in with what Buddha himself taught over the centuries, much like in The Jataka Tales for Children.

I have had monks who divulged to me that they have even abandoned The Commentaries for the same reason. They stick purely to what Buddha taught and still we are stuck with iffy translations. For example one venerable said that instead of "Right View", etc......He instead uses the term "Harmonious View, etc." to describe The Noble Eight Fold Path. And his reason: It simply makes more sense and does less harm than identifying something as right, which leaves everything and everybody else to be wrong.

I like that term: "Harmonious!" So, with regard to Right Speech, it is better to speak and write only that which is harmonious, instead of that which is "right"....as in "I am right!" and therefore, you are wrong.

On that basis we probably should lock this thread at this point because it has identified so many attachments, which has made it anything, but harmonious.

Is it truly harmonious if it results in discussions like this?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Plant Life

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:00 pm

Individual wrote: Is it truly harmonious if it results in discussions like this?


Right! It is not harmonious, because ignorance causes dukkha. Whenever there is ignorance, and where ever there is one who seeks to alleviate the ignorance of others, when they don't want to know about it, there is dukkha.

So, we now have a quandry: "Do we tell folks that they are on a planet shaped like a globe or not?" "Do we reveal to them that bacteria and not demons are the cause of many diseases?" "Do we reveal to folks that burning wood, coal, and oil leads to toxins in the air that cause cancer, melt glaciers, raise water levels around the planet, and cause shoreline communities to disappear beneath the ocean or not?" None of these appear in the suttas.

What does appear in the suttas repeatedly is: "Cause no harm to living beings."

What to do? :popcorn:
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 3:10 pm

andre9999 wrote:
Ron-The-Elder wrote:Thanks for the suggestion andre. But sentience need not be the issue.


Nice try, but here's how you ended your first post in the thread.

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Therefore, I hereby submit my vote to allow plants to join the sentient community of life-forms on this planet.


The OP is about whether plants are in the rebirth cycle. The next post said they are not sentient. The third post, yours, says that they should be sentient.

So at this point, well... what is your point?


My point is that without a definition that all others agree on, there is little point in going on. As far as I am concerned plants meet all the criteria of sentience as posted in previous threads. But, others do not agree. So now what? You tell me. All we are going to do is play ping pong with each other. I'm not up for that and therefore see no point in going forward. Folks are welcome to their opinions, regardless of whether or not they agree with reality.

We will just have to agree to disagree.

To correct you if I may, the real issue is that plants are not included in The 31 Planes of Existence, just as they were not included in the Abrahemic God's list of living creatures to be given berths on Noah's Arc. A very dubious choice in both cases given the fact that we know that plants are living creatures, and without any doubt on my part sentient by modern understanding of the word sentience given the definition in each dictionary in which I have looked it up.

But, we are now going in circles. As was stated previously this thread is not harmonious. So the only way to stop is to stop.

Let's pretend the Earth is flat and the moon is made of Swiss Cheese.

Suggest that the board monitor close and lock the thread.
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 kirk5a » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:18 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:
What does appear in the suttas repeatedly is: "Cause no harm to living beings."

What to do? :popcorn:

While non-harm is an important and noble aspiration, it's not possible to continue to live and follow that with absolute purity. We cause harm by accident, unknowingly, such a stepping on unseen bugs. And we have to at least eat plant matter to survive, which requires we kill them. I have no problem accepting the difference between a live plant and a dead plant. I can see live trees in my yard, and dead trees, and there is a difference. I don't need to go to "sentience" to see they are alive and their life shares much in common with the life that goes on in my own body. But how am I only going to eat only non-killed dead plants and never accidentally harm anything? Not possible.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Plant Life

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:19 pm

I thought we should all just try to agree on what constitutes sentience, but I guess that would be another thread anyway.
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Re: Plant Life

Postby bodom » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:20 pm

*MODERATOR NOTE*

The thread has run its course and is going in circles. Time to shut it down.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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