A philosophical zombie is defined as follows,

Zombies in philosophy are imaginary creatures used to illuminate problems about consciousness and its relation to the physical world. Unlike those in films or witchraft, they are exactly like us in all physical respects but without conscious experiences: by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie. Yet zombies behave just like us, and some even spend a lot of time discussing consciousness.

Few people think zombies actually exist. But many hold they are at least conceivable, and some that they are possible. It is argued that if zombies are so much as a bare possibility, then physicalism is false and some kind of dualism is true. For many philosophers that is the chief importance of the zombie idea. But the idea is also of interest for its presuppositions about the nature of consciousness and how the physical and the phenomenal are related. Use of the zombie idea against physicalism also raises more general questions about relations between imaginability, conceivability, and possibility. Finally, zombies raise epistemological difficulties: they reinstate the ‘other minds’ problem.

Using this definition, would a being which is "not conscious" have Buddha-nature?

I ask because I want to know if the Buddha is dead and inanimate matter, and inanimate matter has Buddha nature, that means that the Buddha senses what inanimate matter does?

Moreover, I want to know if a non cognition of emptiness is "like" a cognition.

  • The Question is invalid! Zombies don't exist! Jan 25, 2015 at 14:01
  • it's a thought experiment :)
    – user2512
    Jan 25, 2015 at 14:47
  • 1
    Meditate "thinking.. thinking..." whenever you get that thought ;) Jan 25, 2015 at 15:23
  • hahahaha, maybe
    – user2512
    Jan 25, 2015 at 15:24
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    @user3293056 Re your last question, "I want to know if a non cognition of emptiness is 'like' a cognition", the quote "by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie" suggests that the answer is "no" or "mu": because 'qualia' is defined as (and cannot exist without) 'introspection' and 'conscious experience'.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 26, 2015 at 11:41

5 Answers 5


This question may seem speculative, but I think it actually has a basis in Buddhism. There is a class of beings called nonpercipient beings that don't have any consciousness at all. However, they are basically just a body that doesn't do anything, not a zombie per se.

Such a being would have Buddha nature because by the Tathagatagarbha Sutras teach that all beings have Buddha nature.


Yes.. Even plants have been argued to have Buddha nature... after all Buddha nature is all-encompassing, the root of existence and non-existence..

My perspective:

Nothing has Buddha-nature! Nothing but "Buddha-nature" exists.

Buddha nature is the Universe. The world, items and conscious beings are just constantly changing interdependent items bobbing around within it...

Bodhisattvas thus identify themselves as the whole universe and not just as a person.


If we start differentiating conscious and non-conscious entities, and ask which one has Buddha nature, that would be implying that conscious entities have a permanent self and non-conscious entities have no permanent self. This conflicts with Buddha's statement that "all phenomena is not self".

If "Buddha Nature" refers to Nirvana, then Nirvana's nature is that it is something that is uncreated, not-destroyed, permanent and non-changing. It has nothing to do with being conscious or not. But without consciousness, mind and sufficient intellect, such entities cannot escape from suffering.

But are such entities actually suffering? That follows the statement that "all conditioned things are suffering", which means "continuously changing existence is suffering", rather than "life is suffering". So, yes.


Zombies?? They are one kind of lives In our religion, we call them ghosts. We frighten them but they don't want us to frighten. They want us to donate something for them. Because their positions are lower than us. In our religion, the last time in our lives is very important for us because when we feel the evil things we know it that we are going to reach the evil where such as hell, lives of the animals. So that is the important time for us. Moreover we can also reach the zombies lives. When we have any donations, we can't change the other lives. So we can also call them interval lives between changing from one to another due to the last time. Therefore I want to tell you the zombies also exit. That is my thought.

  • The question is about a different kind of zombie. It's a shame that the philosophers even use the word because people often confuse it with the other kind. The philosophical zombie is simply an aspect of a thought experiment where the relationships between brain, mind, and consciousness are explored.
    – tkp
    Jan 27, 2015 at 6:56

I have never seen a zombie. Is this an invention of human fear? If I told you that I have dreams about flying cows, would flying cows have a Buddha nature?

What keeps us from seeing Buddha nature is the concept of self that we entertain in our hearts and mind.

If the cup is empty, it can be filled. If the cup is full of muddy water, you can put nothing in it till you empty out the muddy water and wash the glass.

A koan in Zen is "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" Some masters say yes and some say no. It is unanswerable unless one uses it as a koan. More on this here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative)

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