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Sentience means "having sensory perception". However, sentience is often equated to sapience or equated to "having consciousness"; i.e., saying that something is sentient indicates that it is aware in an approximately human-like manner of what it is sensing.

The sentience or non-sentience of animal species is a matter of debate, especially among animal rights activists and philosophers. The issue of sentience also frequently arises in science fictional contexts, in particular when considering the sentience of aliens who are not human or the sentience of robots or artificial intelligences, which are not biological.

In the Mahayana form of Buddhism, sentience is traditionally considered a requirement for a being to possess buddha nature. Buddhists are expected to show compassion to all sentient beings, which include worms, as illustrated in an episode in the film Seven Years in Tibet in which the Dalai Lama organises the building of a cinema in Lhasa. Whilst the foundations of the new building are being laid the builders sift the earth in the ground to remove worms and other creatures in order that they are not harmed by the building work.

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