What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

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retrofuturist
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What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Often the phenomenological approach to Dhamma practice is misconstrued by those who practice in different ways as a path of philosophical over-thinking, disconnected from actual meditative practice, that distracts and leads one away from the goal of seeing things as they really are.

With the view of countering such misconceptions, I note (with due thanks to Ven. Gavesako) that Bhikkhu Cintita has compiled an excellent series of five blog posts entitled Name and Form: nāmarūpa in the suttas.

The fourth of these five blog entries is titled What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice and does a very good job at explaining both how the Buddha's Dhamma is indeed a phenomenological one, and how maintaining the phenomenological lens with specific reference to nama-rupa is invaluable for understanding, insight, wisdom, and progress along the path.

The purpose of this topic then is to open the door to discussion on nama-rupa, and explore the practical implications of an accurate sutta-based understanding of name-and-form, and its relationship to the practice and cultivation of liberating insight and wisdom.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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katavedi
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by katavedi »

Bhikkhu Cintita wrote:
Mindfulness is particularly important as an instrument of insight, to tease apart the roles of name-and-form, consciousness and fabrications in the process whereby the world is fabricated. Mindfulness itself has the power to stop at will perception at bare perception, that is, at inner name-and-form, – “contemplating the body in the body” – or to let it proceed step by step, or to bring perception-thought-proliferation under perfect control. Composure sharpens mindfulness and, as it deepens, may bring certain mental processes implicated in fabricating the world to a sudden halt with an equally sudden shift in the nature of that world. Proliferation is the first to shut down, but also it will become possible to halt perception at name-and-form, even failing to attribute what we experience to reality “out there.”
I have found the Mahasi Sayadaw's method of noting the occurrence of sense contacts at each sense door to be an effective way to practice what Bhikkhu Cintita describes in the quote above. I've met some people who associate this method only with the mental labeling that is taught as an initial technique, but once mindfulness has got some continuity, the labeling is to be dropped so that one just experiences the contacts and other mental processes at each of the sense doors. The way I was trained, it was emphasized to only pay attention to the raw sense data, and to let the conceptualizing drop away. If this is practiced with some continuity over an extended period (especially in a retreat setting), one can, as in the quote above, "stop at will perception at bare perception, that is, at inner name-and-form", to the point that one can experience a sound without the recognition of what the sound is designating. With external name-and-form temporarily suspended, one can experience the sense contacts at the sense door, rather than projecting them "out there".

With continued practice in this way, sensitivity increases and the factors of nama and the roles they play in constructing experience become more easily discerned.

In more recent years, I've also found that accessing a jhana, particularly those characterized by equanimity, leads to roughly the same place, i.e., experiencing only bare perception and increased sensitivity to the activities of various mental factors involved in name-and-form. But the jhana must be deep enough and sustained long enough to allow the grosser activities of the mind to remain suspended after emerging. The advantage of using the jhanas for this purpose is that the resultant investigative mind state tends to be more stable than with the other method described, and, if one is fairly skilled in accessing the jhanas, the mind can be brought to this state in less time than with the other method. But this is based on my own experience, and may not match others' experiences. Of course, the disadvantage to the jhanas is that, for most people, they require a fair bit of time and effort to learn and some discipline and regular practice to maintain them.

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by mikenz66 »

That's my experience too, though I still use labelling as a way of directing the attention.

The post about practice https://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/20 ... d-form-45/ is very much how I was taught, and how one creates concrete concepts when one doesn't pay enough attention to the raw sense data.
Primary evidence that our conceptualizations of reality “out there” are in error is that they simply do not keep pace with how things really play out. We fabricate a reality “out there” of relatively fixed entities and relations mistakenly assuming them to be relatively independent of our inner experience. Whereas subjective experience is in constant flux, when we objectify elements of experience we abstract away from what we actually experience. For instance, our immediate experience of a bird is from a particular angle and has a limited duration. We objectify the bird into something that remains the same bird no matter what angle we see it from, or even whether or not it is visible at a particular time. We seem to go too far in attributing an unrealistic degree of permanence.


Ven Nananada's meditation instructions are also firmly based on the Mahasi approach and, to me, point out the same problems with conceptualisation:
Nanananda wrote: To take as real what is of a mirage-nature, is a delusion. It is something that leads to a delusion. It is an illusion that leads to a delusion. In order to understand deeply this mirage-nature in sensory perception, there is a need for a more refined way of mental attending. So the meditator, instead of attending to these objects as `form', `form' or `sound', `sound', moves a step further and notes them as `seeing' or `hearing'. Now he attends to these sense-percepts even more briefly, not allowing the mind to go far - as `seeing- seeing ', `hearing- hearing', `feeling-feeling',`thinking-thinking'.

In short, the attempt here, is to escape the net of `saññà' or perception and to limit oneself to the bare awareness. To stop short just at the bare awareness. This is an attempt to escape the net of language, the net of logic and also to be free from the duality of two ends which involves a middle. Everywhere one is confronted with a subject-object relationship. There is one who grasps and something to be grasped. There is a seer and an object seen. But this way of attending leaves room for delusion.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 64#p224927

:anjali:
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by SarathW »

Say I am hungry and there is an apple out there.
So I take it and eat it.
So how can I apply above instruction to this process?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by chownah »

SarathW wrote:Say I am hungry and there is an apple out there.
So I take it and eat it.
So how can I apply above instruction to this process?
apple apple bowl bowl table table apple apple bowl bowl apple apple fealing hungary feeling feeling apple apple feeling feeling apple apple grasping graping feeling feeling odor odor apple apple biting biting odor odor apple apple flavor flavor apple apple odor odor swallow swallow....etc.
chownah
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by SarathW »

This sounds crazy!!
:mrgreen:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by Dan74 »

I am sorry to butt in, Folks, but if we are to avoid reification and conceptualisation of experience, don't we have to drop all categories?

Take meditation, for instance. Before we even plonk our butts on the cushion, we've already anticipated what's going to happen to a large extent. We keep tabs on the happenings, filter and control every moment. If we manage to bring ourselves to relinquish this control, to truly accept that we do not know, isn't this the best chance for bare awareness to become visible?

Bare awareness, as far as I can tell, does not arise. It is already there. Very intimate, closer that what we usually perceive as awareness, which is mediated by an observer, concepts, etc - the knowing. Once we relinquish the knowing, we can aware. Until then, we experience in the habitual way.

No?
_/|\_
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by tiltbillings »

Dan74 wrote:I am sorry to butt in, Folks, but if we are to avoid reification and conceptualisation of experience, don't we have to drop all categories?
Yes; however, one simply cannot say: "I am dropping categories now" and expect the categories to be gone with the next breath. katavedi and mikenz66's msgs directly above do address this rather neatly.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by Mkoll »

Dan74 wrote:I am sorry to butt in, Folks, but if we are to avoid reification and conceptualisation of experience, don't we have to drop all categories?

Take meditation, for instance. Before we even plonk our butts on the cushion, we've already anticipated what's going to happen to a large extent. We keep tabs on the happenings, filter and control every moment. If we manage to bring ourselves to relinquish this control, to truly accept that we do not know, isn't this the best chance for bare awareness to become visible?

Bare awareness, as far as I can tell, does not arise. It is already there. Very intimate, closer that what we usually perceive as awareness, which is mediated by an observer, concepts, etc - the knowing. Once we relinquish the knowing, we can aware. Until then, we experience in the habitual way.

No?
I think we always experience in the habitual way. We can change our habits, but then we experience in that new habitual way. That's just the nature of our conditional existence and the way our nervous system works. I think even an arahant would still act on habit. Habits aren't bad or good per se—they're inescapable. It's what constitutes a habit that we call bad or good.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by SarathW »

chownah wrote:
SarathW wrote:Say I am hungry and there is an apple out there.
So I take it and eat it.
So how can I apply above instruction to this process?
apple apple bowl bowl table table apple apple bowl bowl apple apple fealing hungary feeling feeling apple apple feeling feeling apple apple grasping graping feeling feeling odor odor apple apple biting biting odor odor apple apple flavor flavor apple apple odor odor swallow swallow....etc.
chownah
I think we have to see the impermanence nature of the hunger, apple and the feeling etc.
So we should train ourselves to not take them as I me or myself. (selfless nature)
We should observe whether any attachment aversion or delusion associate with the process.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by mikenz66 »

SarathW wrote:
chownah wrote:
SarathW wrote:Say I am hungry and there is an apple out there.
So I take it and eat it.
So how can I apply above instruction to this process?
apple apple bowl bowl table table apple apple bowl bowl apple apple fealing hungary feeling feeling apple apple feeling feeling apple apple grasping graping feeling feeling odor odor apple apple biting biting odor odor apple apple flavor flavor apple apple odor odor swallow swallow....etc.
chownah
I think we have to see the impermanence nature of the hunger, apple and the feeling etc.
So we should train ourselves to not take them as I me or myself. (selfless nature)
We should observe whether any attachment aversion or delusion associate with the process.
In my experience, it is useful to do what Chownah, Ven Nananada, and numerous other practitioners suggest, i.e. maintain attention on the phenomena. This allows the development of an experience of impermanence via observation. That's very different from thinking "this apple is impermanent", which is just conceptualising, not experiencing.

Of course, it is useful to have the background Dhamma knowledge about impermanence, etc, since that will guide how you eventually interpret the experience.

:coffee:
Mike
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by Mkoll »

mikenz66 wrote:This allows the development of an experience of impermanence via observation. That's very different from thinking "this apple is impermanent", which is just conceptualising, not experiencing.
Both are helpful. There are many examples of "conceptual" practices such as the recollections and some practices in mindfulness of the body. To have a derisive view of conceptualization (not accusing you) is to discard many of the teachings and practices in the suttas.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by mikenz66 »

Mkoll wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:This allows the development of an experience of impermanence via observation. That's very different from thinking "this apple is impermanent", which is just conceptualising, not experiencing.
Both are helpful. There are many examples of "conceptual" practices such as the recollections and some practices in mindfulness of the body. To have a derisive view of conceptualization (not accusing you) is to discard many of the teachings and practices in the suttas.
Certainly there are other techniques that can be very useful. I was addressing the particular technique that was being highlighted in this thread. However, I do stand by my statement that one should not confuse thinking about how impermanence with an actual experience of impermanence. This is one of the important points that Bhikkhu Cintita makes in his articles, that conceptualisation distorts our experience:
Whereas subjective experience is in constant flux, when we objectify elements of experience we abstract away from what we actually experience. For instance, our immediate experience of a bird is from a particular angle and has a limited duration. We objectify the bird into something that remains the same bird no matter what angle we see it from, or even whether or not it is visible at a particular time.
:anjali:
Mike
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by Mkoll »

mikenz66 wrote:However, I do stand by my statement that one should not confuse thinking about how impermanence with an actual experience of impermanence.
I agree that one should not confuse them. However, that is not to say that thinking about impermanence is unhelpful—you can even experience that thought's impermanence. And since we can't help often thinking anyway, it's good to bring those thoughts to Dhamma when possible.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: What name-and-form means for Buddhist practice

Post by SarathW »

mikenz66 wrote:In my experience, it is useful to do what Chownah, Ven Nananada, and numerous other practitioners suggest, i.e. maintain attention on the phenomena. This allows the development of an experience of impermanence via observation. That's very different from thinking "this apple is impermanent", which is just conceptualising, not experiencing.

Of course, it is useful to have the background Dhamma knowledge about impermanence, etc, since that will guide how you eventually interpret the experience.

:coffee:
Mike
Thanks Mike.
So what are the name and form in my example?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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