Sentient beings (Skt. sattva; Tib. སེམས་ཆེན་, sem chen, Wyl. sems can) — all inhabitants of the three realms of samsara who possess a mind and transmigrate within the six classes of beings. Animate things, such as plants, which do not have a mind, are generally not considered to be 'sentient'.
Daniel Getz (2004: p. 760) states:
Sentient beings is a term used to designate the totality of living, conscious beings that constitute the object and audience of Buddhist teaching. Translating various Sanskrit terms (jantu, bahu jana, jagat, sattva), sentient beings conventionally refers to the mass of living things subject to illusion, suffering, and rebirth (Saṃsāra). Less frequently, sentient beings as a class broadly encompasses all beings possessing consciousness, including Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Within Buddhist cosmology, six classes of beings are identified:
- Hell beings
- Hungry ghosts
- Sentient beings
- Getz, Daniel A. (2004). "Sentient beings"; cited in Buswell, Robert E. (2004). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Volume 2. New York, USA: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-865720-9 (Volume 2): pp.760