Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

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Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:18 am

Greetings,

Over the last few years, I've come across some vastly different explanations for the term nāmarūpa.

I thought it might be worthwhile discussing what we think the Buddha was referring to when he used the compound term nāmarūpa.

I'm happy for us to explore this term from whatever angle suits you (sutta, abhidhamma, meditation experiences etc.)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby cooran » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:50 am

Hello all,

nāma-rūpa
(lit. 'name and form'): 'mind-and-body', mentality and corporeality. It is the 4th link in the dependent origination (s. paticcasamuppāda 3, 4) where it is conditioned by consciousness, and on its part is the condition of the sixfold sense-base. In two texts (D. 14, 15), which contain variations of the dependent origination, the mutual conditioning of consciousness and mind-and-body is described (see also S. XII, 67), and the latter is said to be a condition of sense-impression (phassa); so also in Sn. 872.
The third of the seven purifications (s. visuddhi), the purification of views, is defined in Vis.M. XVIII as the "correct seeing of mind-and-body," and various methods for the discernment of mind-and-body by way of insight-meditation (vipassanā, q.v.) are given there. In this context, 'mind' (nāma) comprises all four mental groups, including consciousness. - See nāma.
In five-group-existence (pañca-vokāra-bhava, q.v.), mind-and body are inseparable and interdependent; and this has been illustrated by comparing them with two sheaves of reeds propped against each other: when one falls the other will fall, too; and with a blind man with stout legs, carrying on his shoulders a lame cripple with keen eye-sight: only by mutual assistance can they move about efficiently (s. Vis.M. XVIII, 32ff). On their mutual dependence, see also paticca-samuppāda (3).
With regard to the impersonality and dependent nature of mind and corporeality it is said:
"Sound is not a thing that dwells inside the conch-shell and comes out from time to time, but due to both, the conch-shell and the man that blows it, sound comes to arise: Just so, due to the presence of vitality, heat and consciousness, this body may execute the acts of going, standing, sitting and lying down, and the 5 sense-organs and the mind may perform their various functions" (D. 23).
"Just as a wooden puppet though unsubstantial, lifeless and inactive may by means of pulling strings be made to move about, stand up, and appear full of life and activity; just so are mind and body, as such, something empty, lifeless and inactive; but by means of their mutual working together, this mental and bodily combination may move about, stand up, and appear full of life and activity."
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/n_ ... _ruupa.htm

and

Various uses of the term nāma-rūpa highlighted in red
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... splay=utf8

metta
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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:59 am

Greetings Chris,

Thank you for the definition - I like it. I feel it captures a lot of the subtleties that are missed when it is grossly (though not incorrectly) used as a proxy for a person, "mind" and "body", or the five aggregates.

There's a couple of sutta references I want to include if I have time over the next day or two.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby cooran » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:27 am

Here's a likely one:

SN 5.9 Sela Sutta: Sela
translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Setting at Savatthi. Then, in the morning, the bhikkhuni Sela dressed... she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Sela, desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:
By whom has this puppet been created? Where is the maker of the puppet? Where has the puppet arisen? Where does the puppet cease?
Then it occurred to the bhikkhuni Sela: "Now who is this...? This is Mara the Evil One... desiring to make me fall away from concentration."
Then the bhikkhuni Sela, having understood, "This is Mara the Evil One," replied to him in verses:
This puppet is not made by itself, Nor is this misery made by another. It has come to be dependent on a cause, When the cause dissolves then it will cease. As when a seed is sown in a field It grows depending on a pair of factors: It requires both the soil's nutrients And a steady supply of moisture. Just so the aggregates and elements, And these six bases of sensory contact, Have come to be dependent on a cause; When the cause dissolves they will cease.
Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, "The bhikkhuni Sela knows me," sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html

metta
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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby Pannapetar » Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:28 am

The shortest most accurate translation for nāmarūpa is probably "psychophysical".

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:45 am

My teacher, Madawela Punnaji prefers to translate and call it as "image" and "label." I think this is due to the importance of anatta so that people don't confuse the "form" with a self or even an "impermanent self."

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby kannada » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:53 am

Nama(h)/Rupa

Superimposition of Name on Form

Ironically 'rupa' is also nama(h)

k
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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby Rhino » Fri Aug 14, 2009 3:06 pm

"And what is name-&-form? What is the origination of name-&-form? What is the cessation of name-&-form? What is the way of practice leading to the cessation of name-&-form?

"Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are called name-&-form.

"From the origination of consciousness comes the origination of name-&-form. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. And the way of practice leading to the cessation of name-&-form is just this very noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.


Majjhima Nikaya 9
With best wishes

Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching.
Nanavira Thera - Notes on Dhamma

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby gavesako » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:11 pm

The main problem arises because the commentaries confuse things by including consciousness under nama, thus resorting to a kind of mind-body dualism, whereas the Buddha's philosophy was much more sophisticated than that.

I made some video clips about this subject:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yiem_H4tpgM
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:40 pm

My teacher, Madawela Punnaji prefers to translate and call it as "image" and "label." I think this is due to the importance of anatta so that people don't confuse the "form" with a self or even an "impermanent self."




A very important thing to remember, thanks for the reminder

Sadhu!


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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:06 pm

Hello all,

I understand the term to refer to subject and object. Reality is in a state of constant change so that an object clarified into a category other than the direct flow of change implies a subject which isn't really there. It also implies an object which is existent in some form of sustained way which is also not the case.

Far out!


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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby Macavity » Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:33 pm

gavesako wrote:The main problem arises because the commentaries confuse things by including consciousness under nama,


Only in certain instances do they do so. For the commentators nama-rupa is to be understood contextually. There are some suttas where the term clearly does stand for something like "the whole person", and is therefore functionally synonymous with all five khandhas. Examples would be those in which arahants are spoken of in terms of "nama and rupa ceasing without remainder" (SN. i. 13, 35, 60, 165; Sn. 1043 etc.).

On the other hand, in commentarial accounts of dependent origination, consciousness is not understood to be included in nama (see, for example, Path of Purification xvii. 187).

Kind regards,
Ciarán

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby Rhino » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:42 pm

The definition of Nanavira:
Notes on Dhamma :: Shorter Notes :: NÁMA
Notes on Dhamma :: Shorter Notes :: RÚPA

For me the best description of nama-rupa was given by R. G. de. S Wettimuny and his book "The Buddha's teaching: its essential meaning", which was based on correspondence with Nanavira. Unfortunately it seems to be out of print in english language. A print is available in german language as book and pdf-file.
Who is interested: http://www.dhamma-dana.de/buecher.htm#wettimuny

In short I found a description by Samanero Bodhesako in his essay "Change":http://pathpress.wordpress.com/bodhesako/change/Change-9-the-second-noble-truth/
After feeling the next more general level is name-and-matter. Since this is a category unknown to Western thought it seems unavoidable, if we are to say anything at all about it, that we begin with a brief explication. For our purpose we can understand name-and-matter as approximating with “things-as-they-appear(-in-experience):

Code: Select all

And what, monks, is name-and-matter? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the matter taken up by the four great elements: this is called matter. This which is name and this which is matter: this is called name-and-matter. – S. XII,2: ii,3-4, etc.

Matter exists, whether or not it is cognized. (I don’t need to look at my clock in order for it to function.) But experience of matter always involves a context which, though not the matter itself, is part of the experience of it. This context is how matter appears, or is characterized, or identified (as “This thing”), or named. Such an orientation is describable in terms of contact (involvement in experience), perception (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, conceptual), attention (direction of emphasis), intention (what it is for), and — feeling. “Name-and-matter together with consciousness” (D. 15: ii,64) is a way of specifying experience-in-general.
With best wishes

Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching.
Nanavira Thera - Notes on Dhamma

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby adosa » Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:21 am

..
Last edited by adosa on Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby appicchato » Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:48 am

Check out Bhikkhu Nanananda's Sermon #1 (Page 3) at:

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... rmon_8.htm

Thank you Tilt...

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby piotr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:19 am

Hi, :smile:

adosa wrote:Is it fair, Venerable Gavesako, to summarize your understanding of the term (from your youtube explanation) that rupa would encompass material form, nama would encompass feeling, perception, and mental formations? Or do these four always arise in concert plus consciousness and nama-rupa can't be separated? And consciousness is what observes these four khandas? :shrug:


Why do people always try to square different systems for the classification of phenomena, as if all of them were encompassing the same thing, in equall depth, and for the same purpose?
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby adosa » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:47 am

piotr wrote:Hi, :smile:

adosa wrote:Is it fair, Venerable Gavesako, to summarize your understanding of the term (from your youtube explanation) that rupa would encompass material form, nama would encompass feeling, perception, and mental formations? Or do these four always arise in concert plus consciousness and nama-rupa can't be separated? And consciousness is what observes these four khandas? :shrug:


Why do people always try to square different systems for the classification of phenomena, as if all of them were encompassing the same thing, in equall depth, and for the same purpose?


Hi Piotr,

I'm not sure I understand you point. Possibly its in an attempt to understand the meaning of a particular phenomena or term. Do you have an alternative?

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby piotr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:53 am

Hi, :smile:

adosa wrote:Do you have an alternative?


The alternative is to keep this different sets in their original contexts and to try to understand their purpose and range.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby cooran » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:33 pm

Macavity wrote:
gavesako wrote:The main problem arises because the commentaries confuse things by including consciousness under nama,


Only in certain instances do they do so. For the commentators nama-rupa is to be understood contextually. There are some suttas where the term clearly does stand for something like "the whole person", and is therefore functionally synonymous with all five khandhas. Examples would be those in which arahants are spoken of in terms of "nama and rupa ceasing without remainder" (SN. i. 13, 35, 60, 165; Sn. 1043 etc.).

On the other hand, in commentarial accounts of dependent origination, consciousness is not understood to be included in nama (see, for example, Path of Purification xvii. 187).

Kind regards,
Ciarán

piotr wrote:Hi, :smile:

adosa wrote:Do you have an alternative?


The alternative is to keep this different sets in their original contexts and to try to understand their purpose and range.


Thank you Macavity and piotr. One does get so tired of the constant all-encompassing (rather than targeted and fully explained) criticism of the Commentaries.

metta


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Re: Nāmarūpa - what exactly was the Buddha referring to?

Postby gavesako » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:59 pm

Macavity wrote:
gavesako wrote:The main problem arises because the commentaries confuse things by including consciousness under nama,


Only in certain instances do they do so. For the commentators nama-rupa is to be understood contextually. There are some suttas where the term clearly does stand for something like "the whole person", and is therefore functionally synonymous with all five khandhas. Examples would be those in which arahants are spoken of in terms of "nama and rupa ceasing without remainder" (SN. i. 13, 35, 60, 165; Sn. 1043 etc.).

On the other hand, in commentarial accounts of dependent origination, consciousness is not understood to be included in nama (see, for example, Path of Purification xvii. 187).

Kind regards,
Ciarán



There was probably a pre-Buddhist understanding of nama-rupa that is sometimes also used in the poetic passages mentioned above. But in all the prose passages where the Buddha actually defines the terms, vinnana stands clearly apart from the rest. That is most clearly apparent from the Mahanidana Sutta ("this round continues only as long as there is nama-rupa together with vinnana") and the Samyutta Nikaya where in one place the first 4 khandhas are described as the "homes" of vinnana.

Ven. Nyanamoli has one interesting passage in his Thinkers Notebook (somebody got a copy at hand?) in which he writes that the Visuddhimagga mistakenly attributes too many functions to vinnana that don't actually belong to it, and consequently does not have much to say about sanna (where these functions would properly belong).
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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