Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

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Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby smokey » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:37 pm

What would be the Abdhidhammic view regarding this matter?
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:22 pm

It's mentioned in the suttas that plants are "one-facultied" life. The discussion of plants serving as homes for tree-divas is another hot topic altogether. :juggling:

From the Buddhist Monastic Code I
Chapter 8.2
Pācittiya: The Living Plant Chapter
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Object. The Pali term for living plant — bhūtagāma — literally means the home of a being. This the Sub-commentary explains by saying that devatās may take up residence in plants standing in place by means of a longing on which their consciousness fastens (at the end of their previous lives) as in a dream. This rule is justified, it says, in that the etiquette of a contemplative precludes doing harm to the abodes of living beings. As the origin story shows, though, the reason this rule was laid down in the first place was to prevent bhikkhus from offending people who held to the animist belief that regarded plants as one-facultied life having the sense of touch.



If they do have some form of sentience, I sure do feel sorry for them.
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby Ben » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:38 am

Hi all
Just a reminder:
Please answer from the Abhidhamma or Abhidhamma commentaries.
Thanks

Ben
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby cooran » Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:22 am

Hello all,

These extracts may be of interest ~ especially the one from Ven. Dhammanando:

This is the key point. The belief that plants and the earth possess one
faculty (either kaayindriya or jiivitindriya) was held by the
Niga.n.thas (Jains) and acelakas (non-affiliated naked ascetics); since
these were the largest and oldest sama.na groups at that time, their
beliefs had passed into common lore and so any sama.na worth his salt
was expected to conform to them (by keeping the rains retreat so as not
to tread on growing crops, by not digging the earth or damaging plants,
and by taking various precautions when building a hut). But nowhere
does the Buddha actually concede that these beliefs were correct and in
the Vinaya commentaries they are dismissed as "mere imagining".

Best wishes,
Dhammanando

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/69259
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Apparently there is reference to ekindriya jiva in Vin. IV, 183
(Oldenberg I, 137). This singular faculty is the sense of touch (from
another source referenced as being Vin. A. 575)

C: A = Commentary. I don't have it. But see See

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe17/sbe17005.htm --
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From the Patimokkha, suddhapaacittiyaa, The Section about plant beings,
11:

"In causing damage to plant beings there is an offence entailing
expiation."

From SuttaVibhanga (Horner transl), the account leading up to this rule is
given:

"....at Alavi in the chief shrine at Alavi. Now at that time the monks of
Alavi, making repairs, were cutting down trees and having them cut down;
and a certain monk of Alavi cut down a tree, and the devata living in that
tree said to this monk:

"Do not, honoured sir, desiring to make an abode for yourself, cut down my
abode."

This monk, taking no notice, cut it down, and in doing so, struck the arm
of that devata's son. Then it occurred to that devata:

"What now if I, just here, should deprive this monk of life?" Then it
occurred to that devata:

"But this would not be suiting in me, that I were, just here, to deprive
this monk of life. What now if I were to tell this matter to the lord?"

Then this devata approached the lord, and having approached she told this
matter to the lord.

"Very good, devata, it is good that you, devata, did not deprive this monk
of life. If today you, devata, had deprived this monk of life, you,
devata, would also have produced much demerit. You go, devata; in a
certain place there is a solitary tree, go you into it."

People looked down upon, criticised, spread it about, saying:

"How can these recluses, sons of the Sakyans, cut down trees and have them
cut down? These recluses, sons of the Sakyans, are harming life that is
one-facultied." Monks heard these people who looked down upon, criticised,
spread it about. Those who were modest monks looked down upon, criticised,
spread it about, saying:

"How can these monks of Alavi cut down trees and have them cut down?"....

"Is it true, as is said, that you, monks, cut down trees and had them cut
down?"

"It is true, lord," they said.

The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying:

"How can you, foolish men, cut down trees and have them cut down? Is it
not, foolish men, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased.....And
thus, monks, this rule of training should be set forth:

For destruction of vegetable growth there is an offence of expiation."

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/66737
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

with metta
Chris
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby smokey » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:46 pm

Thank you all. This certainly helped. I too have a view that plants are alive.
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby Wind » Wed May 05, 2010 3:11 am

smokey wrote:Thank you all. This certainly helped. I too have a view that plants are alive.


There is no doubt that plants are alive but do they have consciousness? Scientifically, it requires a brain to have consciousness but there are some plants that seems to defy that and exhibit some intelligence such as the venus fly trap, it learned to use nectar to lure flies and have a 2 trigger system to spring the trap effectively. A plant that intentionally kills living beings for survival, not sure if it earns any bad karma for it.
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby Pannapetar » Wed May 05, 2010 10:52 am

Wind wrote:A plant that intentionally kills living beings for survival, not sure if it earns any bad karma for it.


Yep. All the venus trap plants will become ugly weeds in their next round on the wheel of samsara. :tongue:

The thread starter's question obviously hinges upon the definitions of sentience and consciousness, which is not a trivial matter at all. We know that we are conscious and we assume the same of other human beings. You guys clearly behave as if you were conscious, so it is rational for me to make that assumption, though I can't be sure. My dog appears to be conscious as well (again judging from its behaviour) and since similarities in behaviour can be observed in all mammals the assumption must be extended to the class of mammals. Other vertebrates have nervous systems, and display some of the behaviour that we observe in mammals, so the let's extend the assumption to the vertebrates subphylum and ultimately to the entire chordata phylum, because fish also appear to be conscious in similar (albeit more limited) ways. However, at this point it becomes a little fuzzy, namely at the taxonomic level of the phylum. Even biologists are a little confused about the phylum rank, because there is no universally accepted set of classes and cladistics appears to contradict Linnaean taxonomy in some points. Other phyla include molluscs, sponges, flatworms, or anthropods (the creepy crawly phylum). Some of them have nervous systems, others don't. A mollusc has one, a sponge doesn't. Should we elect the presence of a nervous system as the criterion for being conscious or sentient? Perhaps that would be the obvious thing to do, but what if we are wrong? It gets even more difficult, because nervous systems vary greatly. Jellyfishes, for example, have a very simple nervous system. Do jellyfishes experience suffering? That question is almost impossible to answer unless you are a jellyfish. Clearly, the boundaries are fuzzy.

Now, plants do not have nervous systems in the conventional sense, so can we say that plants aren't conscious if we agree on this criterion? Well, not really. There are some plants with structures that resemble nervous systems. The previously mentioned venus fly trap is a good example. Another well-known example would be the mimosa. These plants have mastered tactile response and movement... quite an achievement for a life form without a brain! It is scientifically accurate to speak of neurobiological capacities in these types of plant life. Quote from the always helpful Wikipedia (plant neurobiology): "Plants respond sensitively to environmental stimuli by movement and changes in morphology. They signal and communicate within and among themselves as they actively compete for limited resources, both above and below ground. In addition, plants accurately compute their circumstances, use sophisticated cost benefit analysis and take tightly controlled actions to mitigate and control diverse environmental stressors. Plants are also capable of discriminating positive and negative experiences and of 'learning' (registering memories) from their past experiences." WOW! I bet you wouldnn't have expected that from your common garden plants. Now that's what I would call "signs of sentience".

Bottom line: there are no simple criteria, nor is there even a consensus for what constitutes sentience.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby Wind » Thu May 06, 2010 12:59 am

Interesting post, Pannapetar. I agree consciousness seems to get a little fuzzy when you go down to the lower forms of life. And plants seems to operate on a totally different manner. I remember back in e-sangha someone posted the reason why plants are not sentient is because the plant realm is not included in the cycle of rebirths; and that sentient beings are karma-driven while plants are environmentally-driven. It's too bad, I wouldn't mind being born a tree. :jumping:
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Re: Is it possible that plants have some sort of consciousness?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 06, 2010 1:12 am

Greetings,

This topic seems to have been exhausted from an Abhidhamma perspective, so this topic will be closed.

If anyone has further information specifically from the Abhidhamma Pitaka or its commentaries that relates to the topic at hand, then please advise a Moderator or Administrator and we will happily re-open the topic for you.

Feel free also to open a non-Abhidhamma specific topic if you wish to discuss the general matter of plant-life and sentience further.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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