Matt J wrote:
There is no reason to grant living beings the privilege of sentience and to deny it to non-living energies.
The point is that living beings are composed of non-living components.
Specifically, the human brain is composed of:
Water 77 to 78 %
fats 10 to 12 %
Soluble organic substances 2%
Inorganic salts 1%
...and using your previous example, all of these can be found in the ocean (which is also why they are found in creatures whose ancestors crawled out of the ocean).
So, of course, one could
argue that this only shows that an ocean is or can be sentient.
But it would not be a sound argument. Just having those elements is not enough.
If it were, corpses would be sentient as well.
I like to use the analogy of a typical flat glass mirror with reflective silver paint on the back side.
Here , the correct physical properties are arranged so that when you look into a mirror,
you see your reflection, accurate, although reversed.
Now, if you bend that glass, you get a "fun house" reflection, a distortion.
So, by altering even one component, the result is different.
Likewise, pouring silver paint onto a table and tossing a handful of broken glass into it will not give you any reflection, even though its physical component parts are identical to that of a functioning flat glass mirror.
So, the point of this analogy is that while the components of the human brain, when arranged perfectly,
provide a suitable environment for a series of neurochemical events to occur,
Just as a mirror does not see its own reflection, none of those chemicals, the fats and salts and water and so forth,
none of them, combined or separately, witness their own activity.
A human brain, when arranged imperfectly, results in cognitive errors.
The brain doesn't know that it is thinking, because it isn't thinking. It is only relaying electrical signals.
It functions like your phone does, but it doesn't have the conversation
(well, some phones act like they do, with a responding voice).
The physical brain is only providing the environment,
just as the mirror only provides the environment for the perfect reflection of light.
It is mind which arises with, and influenced by the structure of the brain,
which experiences the activity of witnessing these chemical and electric activities
as such things as fear, anger, empathy, and so on.
When you are angry, for example, anger is not happening in your brain.
Yes, there is a mappable area of the brain which is very active when you are angry,
but the physical brain itself is not angry.
That physical area is just a bunch of turned on juice that is experienced as a mind of anger.
But who is experiencing it?
When mind arises as awareness, along with, say, the brain structure of a dog's brain,
the result is dog's awareness (and in all likelihood you are at this point, in fact, a dog)
and the way the brain processes smells and sounds, for example, will be different from a human's
and the mind that arises as the awareness of the dog's brain activity
will experience that.
In the case of my dog, it is an amplified awareness of any squirrel withing a 100 ft. radius.
So, the reason why, for example, all carbon based objects (trees, people, dogs charcoal, etc.)
do not all have awareness is that the structure is just not there for every different thing.
This is why "precious human birth' is regarded as essential, or at least very good, for practice of dharma.
Its rare get all that carbon-based chemistry set up just right.
It is believed by some that the mind can mistakenly thing that another object, perhaps a tree, is its body.
In Thailand, I am told, people put little 'spirit houses' in trees for this very reason.
Likewise, a lama explained to me that when we die, that for a short time
the mind still clings to the corpse and is still aware, in a somewhat distorted way (naturally)
of events regarding that corpse. The mind that has arisen over and over again with that body,
over a long lifetime, can have some separation anxiety. "What is happening to my body?" and so forth.
In many cultures it is thought that mind can arise with (I prefer this term rather than 'inhabit') rivers, rocks, mountains and so on. But this is not the same as saying the rocks or trees have awareness.