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Paticca Samuppada - Nama-Rupa

subject - object

its a deal
Dependant on viññana arises nama-rupa.
We earlier looked at the mutual dependancy of viññana, and nama-rupa and saw that one can not exist without the other. Additional to the example of the mutually supportive "two sheaves of reeds" we can consider another simile: 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.
Nama is literally 'name.' The principle or distinguishing mark (of an individual), the label (by which one is known). In personal use it refers to the non-material attributes; what we might think of as mentality, personality.
Rupa is: form, figure or appearance. It is contrasted with what is unseen (primarily nama) so is often translated as matter. In a personal context it refers to our physicality, our body.
      In the context of P.S. the two terms are inseperable and together are translated as: name-form, mentality-corporeality or mind-body.

We have already looked at various 'loops' within paticca samuppada [P.S.] and nama-rupa contains several such loops, or perhaps inter-woven 'layers.' Our first condideration in this respect is the five khandhas [  ] - the primary Buddhist definition of being human: rupa, vedana, perception (sañña), sankhara and viññana. Four of the five are part of P.S. which makes sense if you see that P.S. is also about 'coming into being' - or birth - as a human. Khandha and nama-rupa are considered synonymous with nama being equal to the four mental states. The main difference is that the khandhas are presented as the objects of grasping (upadana) where P.S. is the process of grasping. The distinction - in the context of P.S. - is that nama-rupa is still being formed, with sankhara as the formative agent. Khandha is free of avijja.

Nama-rupa is the pivotal point where we begin to evolve "a seperate sense of being" beyond the simple, nascent consciousness that is viññana. We now have the beginnings of a duality - body and mind - where the mind (grounded in avijja) begins to cognise reflectively on its 'environment.' In the "falling out of the tree" example: Initially there was just falling. Now we have an evolving sense of 'me' falling - and the tree. The 'me' has now become a subject (nama) which is aware of an object (rupa). This object awareness is still vague, a bit of a blur, and what is needed for the subject-object relationship to come into focus is ayatana - the six sense bases. Because the whole process is rooted in avijja, nama is driven to this further self-becoming. The compulsion for relationship (subject-object) is irresistable. So, dependant on nama-rupa arises ayatana. This duality is deepened at phassa.

It can be seen how nama-rupa contains the whole chain and is in effect a 'hinge point' for the whole structure. Rupa is both the body itself (including the senses) and the sense objects. With either of these absent there can be no contact. Nama is feeling, perception, sankhara (contact, attention, and intention) and viññana - in effect, the five khandhas. It is viññana that provides the catalyst for physical birth, the coalescing of the khandhas, without which foetal conception would fail. In terms of momentary mental birth, without nama, especially viññana, there would be nothing to activate experience of the khandhas - no feelings, perceptions, etc. - as there is no intermediary between rupa (as body, with sense bases) and the sense objects. There might be contact but zero resultant cognition. Duh!

wise attention
We see nama-rupa presented as a synonym for the five khandhas and so see sañña introduced for the first time. The development of perception is the formation of a value system, a structure of ideas, which usually includes memory. [see: emotion, in vedana] What we have, at this point in the flow of P.S., is my existance beginning to take on "meaning," to have some relative value. The evolved form of viññana we now have means we can move on from basic conscious awareness to cognition. We have the seeds of an ability to reason, to consider. This is certainly part of the dualistic "seperate sense of being" we looked at earlier but it includes the beginning of a question - the question - who am I? Perhaps a bit like waking up in the morning. With the earlier viññana we were awake but it was mostly "scratch and grunt." Now we wake up and go: "huh? - what's happening?" There is a clear sense of me - and me falling out of the tree - along with: "I am not sure this is a good idea!" In relation to the examples on the previous page we see that there is now a strong sense of 'me' - and my hair - and the relative value or idea of untidiness. Or, there is 'my' nose - my bogey - and my shame - and, in both examples - my dukkha.

We also saw sankhara, included as part of nama, sub-divided into three: contact (phassa), attention (manasikara) and intention (cetana). The second two factors provide the (potential) spring-board for liberation. We will look more closely at the idea of a 'break point' in vedana-tanha but it is at this point in P.S. that we set the scene for that break. There has clearly been earlier contact but it is not until now that we have a cognitive perspective on that contact. Manasikara can be translated as: pondering, thought, attention, reflection. It is the mind's first 'confrontation' with an object (as an object) and it correlates the various associated mental factors. So, someone yells an insult. There is contact and manasikara is what confronts - like a bouncer at a club entrance - the object (or process). There is some reflection, invesitgation and evaluation and from this there is some basic intention - what to do with the 'applicant.' Bouncers are more renowned for their muscle so the level of intelligence and discrimination we have here is not terribly complex. The 'mano' of manasikara goes on to form the sixth sense-base of ayatana.

Manasikara is commonly encountered as yoniso-manasikara: wise (or reasoned, methodical) attention or, wise reflection.
"When a monk attends (manasikara) inappropriately, unarisen effluents arise, and arisen effluents increase. When a monk attends appropriately (yoniso-manasikara), unarisen effluents do not arise, and arisen effluents are abandoned." Majjhima 2
It is the combination of sañña (with its memory component) and yoniso-manasikara that provides us with the possibility of escape from the seemingly endless cycles of P.S. We have an ongoing variety of 'confrontations' in, or with the world and some we let into the 'club' (that is our life) and some we don't. We register the results - and we learn. Nama-rupa is not so much a point where we change course but where there is contact, where there is (wise) attention, and this is followed by an intention (to change course).