Thich Naht Han talks nonsense

Subform : Traditions > East Asian Buddhism > Chan/Zen/Seon General Forum
Thread title: Right View… the Beginning of the Path…, what is it? and who’s is it?
Page no: 36
Date and time: 1st April 2008

Forum member:

I was just reading something about the enlightenment of non-sentient things. it is an idea advocated by Pureland’s founder and which Tung-shan the (nominal) founder of Soto struggled with before his final awakening. You might ask, how could such things gather wisdom or merit? In the record of Tung-shans and Yun-yens discussion I think they make it clear how it is about obstacles to hearing the ‘turning words’ so to speak, the causes of enlightenment, rather than about attainment (or it simply being the natural state or ‘Buddha nature’ of things – an idea later reviled by Dogen)

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

Right, it’s completely impossible. No mind, no awakening.

Forum member:

All beings are Buddha. This means all beings.

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

The last I checked, trees and so on are not sentient. They are therefore not Buddhas, never will be, never were.

Forum member:

Thich Nhat Hanh in No Fear, No Death says that we have all lived as trees, probably through many lifetimes

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

Sorry, this assertion by TNH is completely and utter nonsense.

Forum member:

Sorry, if I don’t take your word over his.

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

His assertion is merely that– an assertion that has no backing in any sutra, or any commentary at all.

As far as you taking his word over mine– it seems that it is popular to accept the words of some famous teacher, even when those words totally violate common sense and the Buddha’s Dharma. In this case it is a trivial issue, but it is amazing the extent to which people follow things on blind faith with no investigation of sources for assertions.

Trees, grass, algae, seaweed, are not sentient beings, they never have been, they never will be. They do not engage in action, they do not think, and so on. They are part of the container universe, but they are not sentient beings since they do not have minds. In other words, trees, etc., are only made out four elements, they do not have any of the mental aggregates.


8 Responses to “Thich Naht Han talks nonsense”

  1. Simon Says:

    I share many misgivings about E Sangha , but in this case the comments from the mod seem perfectly reasonable to me.

  2. esangareport Says:

    For many people Thich Naht Hahn is a revered and precious teacher.

    E-sangha is a prominent Buddhist forum supposedly welcoming people from across the whole spectrum of Buddhist thought. These comments are made by one of the main moderators of that forum.

    Rather than say Thich Naht Hahn is talking nonsense, would it not be better to just say nothing at all.

  3. Simon Says:

    Probably it would indeed be better to say nothing. However TNH’s teaching departs from mainstream Buddhadharma at various important points. This is not merely an E Sangha view, it is actually widespread, although that view is expressed on E sangha with characteristic disregard for the spirit of Right Speech …

  4. Jundo Says:


    Or just to say “I personally disagree” or “my teacher’s understanding disagrees” with TNH on this point?

    That would be fine, would it not? Better than saying that TNH is “totally violating … the Buddha’s Dharma”.

    Gassho, Jundo Cohen

  5. Simon Says:

    A fair point Rev Jundo.

  6. Rodonn Says:

    As a comment, I would suggest that one examines plant (and algal) physiology before making blanket statements… The nature of sentience is a daunting one, since where does it end? Plants are certainly aware of their environment, just in a radically different time frame to the ape brains we live in. Where is the line of ‘sentience’? A mouse perceives time 14 times faster than a human… to a mouse, we are blind, deaf, no sense of smell, and move very slowly…
    To argue from a place of ignorance is no argument, simply a noise. To say that TNH is ‘wrong’ when one really one is applying a human centric view to define something that is incredibly nebulous, and, with study, harder and harder to completely localise is hubris.
    We know E-Sangha have their issues. There is no need to compound their ignorance by applying ones own presumed knowledge of the ‘facts’ when that too is at odds with what nature presents at the rate of one second per second at our scale…

  7. jonno Says:

    I would not presume to speak for Thai, but my interpretation of his words are that in terms of evolution and genetics we have all evolved from the basic origonal elements of life, therefore we all have been at one time animals algae trees etc. This ties up with his teaching on interbeing where he maintains that we are all part of the whole therefore we are inseperable from other life forms. I may be wrong in this but I think Buddha said that he could recall previous lifetimes as a deer etc. Maybe he was speaking of the same thing?. In any case Thais teaching concentrates on practice above all else which sounds OK to me. Sometimes we can become so tangled in intellectualism that we can suffer from spiritual constipation. love Jonno

  8. Nick Van Borst Says:

    um seriously people…

    Has a dog Buddha-nature?
    This is the most serious question of all.
    If you say yes or no,
    You lose your own Buddha-nature.

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