Animals and humans have atman. killing animals is a sin because it has a soul. Do plants have Souls? Is the killing of Plants Sin or not?

  • 2
    My question is more focused on whether plants have souls or not. No about vegetarianism
    – Keerthi S
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 6:32
  • i think they have souls. But they feel less pain when compared to animals.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 8:00
  • Oh. can you give me references.
    – Keerthi S
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 8:06
  • 3
    yes, they have jivas, like all living things. As a living organism your body needs to feed on something to live. Whatever sin there is in eating a plant is very minor. As Swami Vivekananda points out, we breath in bacteria all the time and our very act of breathing kills multitudes of living organisms. I think there are some verses in the Brahma Sutras and in the Chandogya Upanishad that speaks to this. Will take a look. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 4:59
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    I edited the question to use the word atman for soul. Soul is a Christian concept and is technically present only in humans. Atman/jivas on the other hand is a part of Brahman and is present in everything animate and inanimate. Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


Going to the question: Do plants have souls?

Yes, many scriptures discuss the birth of Jiva as a tree. Example:

Chhandogya Upanishad 5-10-6:

अभ्रं भूत्वा मेघो भवति मेघो भूत्वा प्रवर्षति त इह व्रीहियवा ओषधिवनस्पतयस्तिलमाषा इति जायन्तेऽतो वै खलु दुर्निष्प्रपतरं यो यो ह्यन्नमत्ति यो रेतः सिञ्चति तद्भूय एव भवति ॥ ५.१०.६॥

Having become mist, he becomes a cloud, having become a cloud, he rains down. Then he is born as rice and corn, herbs and trees, sesamum. and beans...

Note: Quoted Sanskrit verse from sanskritdocuments and English translation from sacred-texts.com

Chhandogya Upanishad 6-11-1 & 6-11-2:

प्राचीनशाल औपमन्यवः सत्ययज्ञः पौलुषिरिन्द्रद्युम्नो भाल्लवेयो जनः शार्कराक्ष्यो बुडिल आश्वतराश्विस्ते हैते महाशाला महाश्रोत्रियाः समेत्य मीमाꣳसां चक्रुः को न आत्मा किं ब्रह्मेति ॥ ५.११.१॥

ते ह सम्पादयाञ्चक्रुरुद्दालको वै भगवन्तोऽयमारुणिः सम्प्रतीममात्मानं वैश्वानरमध्येति तꣳ हन्ताभ्यागच्छामेति तꣳ हाभ्याजग्मुः ॥ ५.११.२॥

1.If some one were to strike at the root of this large tree here, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living Self that tree stands firm, drinking in its nourishment and rejoicing;

2.But if the life (the living Self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers; if it leaves a third, that branch withers. If it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree withers . In exactly the same manner, my son, know this.

The commentary of Adi Shankaracharya on second verse ends with saying that :

...That the tree is ensouled by the' Living Self' has been indicated by the phenomena of the flowing of juices and withering of-as shown by the illustration also vouched for the Vedic text; which means that immovable (apparently inanimate) objects (like the tree) are endowed with sentience; and this also shows that there is no truth in the Bauddha and Vaisheika view that' immovable objects are insentient.' -(2)

quoted from archive.org

Kath-Upanishad 2-2-7:

योनिमन्ये प्रपद्यन्ते शरीरत्वाय देहिनः । स्थाणुमन्येऽनुसंयन्ति यथाकर्म यथाश्रुतम् ॥ ७॥

Some of those who have born with bodies (the human beings), requiring other bodies reach the entry point again (the womb). Some others reach the state of plants (or other stationary objects). All these happen according to their actions, thoughts and knowledge.

Note:Above English translation quoted from vedarahasya.

Adi Shankaracharya's commentries on this verse also interprets as वृक्षादीस्थावरभावम् means trees/plants etc. stationary aspects/objects.

Therefore, as it is mentioned that Jivas take birth as trees/plants, they have souls.

अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः।

अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च ॥१०- २०॥

I am seated in the heart of all living entities. ... The ātmā or eternal soul is enthroned in the etheric heart of all living beings. ... Hence, Shree Krishna declares that he is situated in the heart of all living beings.

In Hinduism trees and plants have been adored not only with devotion but have been affectionately fondled and almost treated as members of a family.

Kalidasa mentions kindly spirits like Vanadevatas who had been companions of Sakuntala in the forest, almost shedding tears when she left her sylvan home for her residence in the palace of her husband, the king, and hastened to give her presents of silken garments and jewels worthy of a princess.

When Sita was abandoned by Lakshmana in the forest at the command of Rama, Sita’s sorrow stirred the trees and plants, and along with animals and birds, they too expressed their grief by shedding flowers like large drops of tears.

Vishnusahasranama, Vishnu is mentioned as the very embodiment of imposing trees like Udumbara, Asvattha, Asoka and Nyagrodha.

Siva is himself conceived as a yupa, post fashioned in Khadira or Sami wood. Sami has fire inside it; Rudra is also the embodiment of fire.

Poets love to use the word Sthanu for Siva and Aparna (lit. leafless) for Parvati to suggest that even the dry tree trunk (sathanu) bears shoots in association with Aparna (saparna). Oshadhis or medicinal plants respond to the light of the moon as effectively as the humans in their joy for moonlight.

In the Vedic hymns the oshndhis have been conceived as sentient and in the puraana the Vanadevatas are described as lovable, sylvan deities.

Name of sages who received enlightenment under them, thus making the trees sacred. For instance Aswattha (Ficus religiosa) is the

Bodhi tree of Sakya Muni or Buddha; Nyagrodha (Ficus bengalensis) of Kasyapa;

Udumbara (Ficus glomerata) of Kanaka muni; Sirisa (Albizzia

labbek) of Krakuchhanda; Asoka (Saraca indica) of Vipaswi;

Pundarika (Nelumbium speciosum) of Sikhi.

The simple faith of the Cheta in MIC Mrihchhakatika assumes that the (watchful) eye of the vanadevata is as effective as that of the sun and moon that are witnesses of the good and bad deeds of people on earth.

So Hinduism strongly believes in concept of "The soul" in plants .

Source -: PDF paper by arvind gupte. www.arvindguptatoys.com › shaktigupta


Plants possess consciousness and experience pleasure and pain according to Manu Smriti.

These (plants) which are surrounded by multiform Darkness, the result of their acts (in former existences),possess internal consciousness and experience pleasure and pain.

Manu Smriti 1.49

The above shloka suggests that plants have Atman.


To experience pain, you must have the feeling of 'I', 'Me', 'My body' and then 'I experience pain'. Plants have life, but they do not have the differentiated identity of consciousness.


There is no real consciousness in plants and trees, although there is life in them. There is life in plants, sensation in animals, mentality in human beings and spirituality in sages. There is no Visesha Ahankara (ego) and reflection of Chaitanya ( pure consciousness) in plants and trees. Hence they cannot experience pain. The tree will not say, "I am experiencing pain". The mind in plants and trees is not developed. It is quite rudimentary. It is Jada (inert) and insentient.

They sure response to stimuli. Jagdish Chandra Bose, an Indian Scientist, did research in biophysics and found that the responses of the plants to stimuli can be electrical in nature, previously thought of as only chemical.

However, the key differentiating element of human existence is identity and consciousness about one's identity as can be seen even by latest questions explored by neuroscience. We even describe humans who have reached a certain medical condition as have reached as "vegetative" state.

Plants lack this consciousness. It's like touching a wire through which current is not flowing, and one through which current is flowing. Sans the current, the wire does not any more have it's core functionality of trasmitting current and is akin to any other piece of metal. Atma, or soul, is like the consciousness. The Chaitanya Shakthi that passes through Jada vasthus (objects) makes them become aware and alive.

The level of consciousness is different from animals from that of plants although their biological construct (tissues etc) may have the same structure. Just like the level of civilization, bonding, community, intellignence etc is different in humans from that of animals, although we share a great similarity in biological construct with them.

Animals can understand pain and pine for relief from it because of their awareness and identity. Plants do not. J.C.Bose did perform experiments that hypothesized that they may respond to stimuli as if they respond with feeling, affection etc but even then, there is no identity or awareness.

As to sin, in Hinduism, whether something is a sin or not, is dependent on the Dharma of the doer, the injunctions of the scriptures and the context/motive/attitude of the doer, rather than the bare act itself. The story of Dharma Vyadha is the greatest example of this.


In the normal parlance ( such as for gathering of food ), plucking from a plant is not a sin.

You must also note that Hinduism holds trees in great regard, and also regards respect and preservation of nature (pancha bhootas) as one of the essential duties of man. This has become all the more relevant in the modern context of environ preservation, a case where karmic consequences of one's wrongdoings (or sins) is seen in the short term itself. Therefore, that that context, that that interpretation of sin.

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