Is there such mention in the Sutta about Microbes being predicted by the Buddha?

I have to look it up as I’m merely parroting a Nyingmapa löppon. Please give me a day, and I’ll get back to you with a source, bhante, but don’t expect it to be an EBT.


That idea of rudimentary detecting and reacting was what the scientists also thought going into the investigation of these creatures. But that’s not how it has turned out so far. What they found was memory, learning, volition, etc… Then they uncovered the nano brain organelle. They are right at the start of these experiments, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it progresses.

Yes. With each passing experiment, that assumption that we need a nervous system for consciousness looks increasingly shaky. And of course that fits in very well with the Buddhist idea of consciousness … With sense-organ(elle) and sense-object, sense-consciousness arises.


Biochemical processes are not the ones keeping the life (sentience?) going. It is the mind that creates rūpa accordingly as said in suttas; Cittena nīyati loko
Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā;

I don’t understand your comment or how it relates to what I said. Could you expand what you meant or what you thought I meant? :anjal:


Yes, that was what I was thinking when I thought of the formless realm example (i.e., form isn’t required for consciousness). Modern biology assumes consciousness arises from form (biochemistry, essentially), but Buddhist thought considers consciousness as what organizes form into a being. Usually either model works to explain the creatures we see everyday.

With microbes, I can imagine they have form, sensation, and perhaps action, but not perception and consciousness. Tiny little bits of sattva?


It relates to the way that paper explains memory and volition. There are scientific assumptions that water also has a sort of memory. Is there a eukaryotic analogue of the bacterial nanobrain memory mechanism - a mechanism to essentially provide a continuous trace of the past that can be used to monitor and evaluate changes in outcome and effect appropriate responses? One imagines that without altered environmental conditions, memory input of the bacterial type would be minimal( Stock and Zhang, 2013: the paper)

This is an assumption drawn according to the similarities between eukaryotic systems and E. coli biochemistry.
They cannot be certain about this reaction being the process of memory.

So the view science always have is that the michanism which drives lives is the chemical process; materialism.
This is just a theory to believe that E. coli has memory mechanism. What if this is just a chemical process driven as a response to the environmental changes which includes signaling mechanisms.

Evidence of absence

If one’s standards of certainty leads them to say “there is never ‘proof’ of non-existence”, then they must also say that “there is never ‘proof’ of existence either”. Hales argues that there are many cases where we may be able to prove something does not exist with as much certainty as proving something does exist (Steven Hales).

So there is no way to claim the existance of the memory or the absence with a significant certainity.

We got only our assumptions and theories. We cannot come into a conclusion about this. Eventhough microbes (unicellular) have some signalling mechanisms we cannot claim that they are sentient. They may be or not.

However, complex organisms (multi-cellular) have huge bodies, and it is hard to communicate between all the tissues and organs with simple biochemical process. So they need a better signaling mechanism. Thats why they are having a nervous system.

When we talk about the senses:
Some microbes which do not have nervous systems also have some responses towards chemicals l, toxins, and light, so do plants. Plants and microbes have interchangeable molecular mechanisms to survive harsh conditions; a miracle of evolution, one would say. a coinsidance(?). As explained in molecular evolution it is indeed.
On the other hand complex organisms have some organs that can sense taste, light, sound, heat, pressure, etc. This can be compared with buddhist view about senses. Senses are built of form and name(mental part). There is no proper way to ditect mental part to modern science however they can identify the changes in chemical and physical nature.
Ex: Brain activity images, detecting gama, infrared etc.
Biochemical reactions are predicted using radiation markers and other methods such as spectroscopy.
Some of these mechanisms are yet to be discovered.

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Ah right. I think I understand. Yes. That’s just the way scientists talk. Don’t worry too much about that. That’s just their convention. I would normally recommend doing some of the experiments and seeing if you think that you perceive sentient beings. But I realise that you may not have the resources or inclination for this.


Everyone has their own way of understanding and accepting things. I just do not accept theories without proper reasoning or proof. Thats all, I am not someone who hates science. I kind of like science, and use it to make some theories. :slightly_smiling_face:


Yes. Of course. If you do the experiments then you don’t need to accept any theory - you can see for yourself. Most of them are quite straight forward (could easily be done in a school/home lab), but you will need to put in the time to learn the methods and source some equipment and materials for yourself.

That’s April mop from Google lmao

I want to know how monk can live without killing any being as I note that in each second many microbes die in our gut and sometimes we eat them alive during water drinking so buddha really confuses me about what the limit is against no killing, I mean can we purely achieve no killing in mind, speech and bodily action especially concerning small organism?

Is there a sutta where buddha recognizes that small organism even exists ?

I hope you enlighten me bhante


This discussion covers what you are asking.


I discovered recently a YouTube channel called “Journey to the Microcosmos” that offers some fascinating footage and background info about micro-organisms. There’s definitely senses at work. They are aware of their environment, whether another cell is the same species or not, etc. There’s even a cell that spends it’s time “fishing” with an arm that has a sting that paralyzes any hapless prey that it encounters. There are amoebas that build shells around themselves like hermit crabs, sometimes from bits of stuff they find. It really does reach the point that a person scratches their head and wonders.

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And when they scratch their head, tiny organisms are disturbed!


That reminds me of a Mahayana parable of a bodhisattva who’s body is so large, he has whole cities of people living in his skin pores. He has such skillful means that they are never disturbed when he moves. I think it’s in the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra, if memory serves. Bodhisattva Mahakaya. I guess even without microscopes, people could still imagine things that matched reality.


Thought that this light speculation from a consciousness scientist might be quite interesting to some. I think that I’ve noticed a shift towards considering mind and matter as an indivisible whole over the last few years in science. That seems like a quite positive development.



I think plant is sentient atleast according to this below sutta

If these great sal trees were to be converted by this, for giving up unskillful qualities and embracing skillful qualities, it would be for their lasting welfare and happiness—if they were sentient. How much more then a human being!”

So I’ve been reading Bhante’s essay here: On dependent origination, grasping, and developmental psychology and I was reminded of this thread. Bhante’s essay opens up a lot of possibilities around when it is correct to say that in front of us we have a ‘being’ and when that ‘being’ can be considered ‘sentient’ from a Buddhist perspective. I guess that we all go through periods when we are microscopic, the difference in that case I guess is ‘potential’? :woman_shrugging:

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did you find the origin??

as I googled in Vietnamese myself, the text is from 毘尼日用切要 (Tỳ ni nhật dụng thiết yếu, 1644 -1661) - author 读体律师 (Luật sư Độc Thể, 1601-1679), and the book was originated from Avatamsaka Sutra (kinh Hoa Nghiêm); but i couldn’t find this specific text in Avatamsaka Sutra

furthermore, the microscope was likely invented in 16xx in Europe (wikipedia) so i’m not sure if people knew about microorganism at that time or not

anyway, if you found any more details about this topic, please let me know, much appreciated

(i don’t think the text is from the Tipitaka, it’s more likely from Mahayana Sutras; but i haven’t searched in the whole Tipitaka so not sure)

SN56.36 seems to be very suggestive of microbes, or at least tardigrades.

Suppose a person was to strip all the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in India, gather them together into one pile, and make them into stakes. Then they’d impale the large creatures in the ocean on large stakes; the medium-sized creatures on medium-sized stakes; and the small creatures on small stakes. They wouldn’t run out of sizable creatures in the ocean before using up all the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in India. There are far more small creatures in the ocean than this, so it wouldn’t be feasible to impale them on stakes. Why is that? Because of the small size of those life-forms. That’s how big the plane of loss is.

A person accomplished in view, exempt from that vast plane of loss, truly understands: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’.

That’s why you should practice meditation …”