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Semchen is typically defined as a sentient being. What does this mean? What is sentience?

This question about killing bacteria indicates bacteria are not sentient, but I distinctly remember a guru say dust mites are sentient. Am I imposing my evolution-based viewpoint onto a ladder of sentience?

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It depends on the school. Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

The Diamond Sutra teaches us that it is impossible to distinguish between sentient and non-sentient beings... In Buddhist monasteries, we chant, "Both sentient and non- sentient beings will realize full enlightenment." The First Precept is the practice of protecting all lives, including the lives of minerals.

(Source: http://dharma.ncf.ca/introduction/precepts/precept-1.html)

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