There are dense toxic gases and bacteria the size of buses, but apart from that, unless you’re able to see in the tenth dimension, there’s not much on Venus. Some call it the ninth dimension, some the eleventh, some the first, some say it isn’t a dimension at all. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, except to the Venusians for whom it’s very definitely the tenth dimension, and they get quite offended if you suggest it isn’t.
There was a Tibetan monk sitting outside my guest house this afternoon. He was sleeping when I looked out of my window but he was awake when I got outside and sat down. He talked in a very quiet voice about emptiness and compassion and how you should spend time studying and meditation rather than of partying. Impermanence – we waste too much time. If you’re forty you may only have another twenty years. I could barely hear what he was saying. An Israeli with a loud voice was talking to an Irish woman about Buddhism. When I got the chance I asked him one of the questions that has been bothering me about Tibetan Buddhism: What do they mean by sentient beings? They say may all sentient beings be happy. Animals are sentient beings? Yes, of course. But are plants sentient beings? No. Why not? Because they don’t have a mind. How do you know? He said that plants can react to sunlight, to the four elements: wind, fire, water and earth, but they can’t think. But isn’t the border between plants and animals quite blurred? Corals and sea anemones are animals. No all animals have a head, a body and legs, particularly the ones that live in the sea. There it’s not so easy to tell the difference between plants and animals. Things that cling to rocks and may never move throughout their lives may be animals. Plants are just things that photo-synthesize. And aren’t these distinctions we make between things, dividing life into animals and plants, sentient and non-sentient beings, illusory? They’re categories we impose on the world, which is what the Buddhists mean by reality being illusory. And emptiness is about the emptiness of reality once you strip away our arbitrary discriminations. Basing your concept of rebirth on concepts that you argue are illusory undermines your concept of rebirth.