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sattva (P. satta; T. sems can སེམས་ཅན་; C. youging/zhongsheng 有情/衆生), or "sentient being," is any being with a mind, except for a buddha.[1]

Gyurme Dorje states:

In a Buddhist context, the expression 'sentient being' has a technical usage which contrasts with the concept of a buddha. The term refers to beings confined to cyclic existence (samsara) and also those who have attained liberation from it but who have not attained a non-residual or full nirvāṇa. Furthermore, in the Buddhist view, sentient beings partake of six classes: gods, antigods, humans, animals, tormented spirits and denizens of hell.[2]

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion (Vol 3) states:

The Buddha held that sentient beings basic nature is neutral and pure; it is not inherently defiled and sentient beings have the potential to become fully awakened. Afflictions and karmic seeds are adventitious and can be completely removed by the internal method of meditating with the wisdom of realizing emptiness. Each of us must cultivate this wisdom ourselves; it is not something another being, however divine, can do for us.[3]

In Buddhism, plants are generally not considered to be 'sentient'. However, this topic is a matter of debate, especially in East Asian Buddhism.[4]


  1. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018b, s.v. Glossary entry for "sentient being".
  2. Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg Sentient_Being, Rangjung Yeshe Wiki
  3. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018b, s.v. Chapter 4.
  4. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. sattva.