Dependent Origination & Namarupa?

I would like to ask if there is any explanation for the striking parallel between some elements of namarupa+consciousness and some of those listed separately within the twelve links?

Nama: Feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention + consciousness.

The above ‘seem’ to be the same as some of those in D.O. (albeit arising simultaneously in namarupa, rather than sequentially).

In D.O. namarupa has its very own slot. Given that namarupa seems to already incorporate some of the other 12 links, is it duplication or are there differing designations in the Pali originals?

Apologies if this is a dumb question, but I’ve never seen any explanation for this anywhere, and I strongly suspect there’s a conceptual shortfall on my side, so I would appreciate any input.

This is similar to the third link, consciousness.
The definition of contact features the arising of sense consciousness. But consciousness occurs earlier in the chain as well. After contact, there is also feeling (found in name-and-form). We would assume from other examples in the sutta that along with the feeling link also arise other mental activities such as perception, intention, etc.

This is because the third and fourth links, that is consciousness and name-and-form, refer to general faculties, not specific instances. That is to say, they refer to the aggregate of consciousness in a new state of existence, which includes all specific instances of consciousness that may arise, along with the form aggregate and the aggregate of feeling, perception, etc.

With the general faculty or aggregate of consciousness and feeling present, it is possible for there to be contact, in which individual instances of consciousness, feeling, perception, etc. arise.

You can basically think of consciousness plus name-and-form as the “sentient being” which develops six senses, and which then experiences individual instances of contact. In order for specific instances of feeling to arise, the being has to have the basic faculty of feeling. Dependent Arising is not a simple, linear, momentary sequence. Thinking of it like that will cause many difficulties.

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That make a lot of sense.
I was playing with the idea (not with any great conviction) that certain links may arise simultaneously, rendering their sequential considerations obsolete. Birth, ageing and death etc. being obviously exceptions.
Your explanation is way more in line with the presentation found in the suttas.

Greetings, Saru,

You may find Bhikkhu Analayo’s fourth lecture on Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda’s Nibbana Sermons useful.

One of the participants made this diagram after a previous lecture and Bhikkhu Analayo used it in this lecture (it’s in the transcript)

Starting at about 2:00 minutes, there is a discussion about the diagram at the beginning of the Transcript, which helpfully points out how DO is not necessarily something linear.

Starting about 7:30 minutes, there is an illustration of time vs timelessness in DO, using Ven Analayo’s cup and ruler (so you need to watch the video, not just listen to the audio). He points out that the later links (contact, feeling, craving, clining, etc…) can be interpreted as a temporal sequence, but the early parts are hard to intrepret temporally.

Ven Analayo points out that Theravada and other sects had both a three-lives and a one-mind-moment interpretation co-existing in their texts. He also relates to the Vedic sequence, as discussed by Jurewicz and others.


Thanks mikenz66,
Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda is one of my personal favourites, so I’m sure I’l benefit from it. The diagram looks helpful too. I’ll have a good look over the next few days, and let this all sink in.

SN 12.39 reads to indicate there is feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention towards sankhara & underlying tendencies and at a later time there are feelings towards sense contact.

Feeling does not occur only once; just as intention does not occur only once. Intention is occurring at sankhara, namrupa and craving.

Mendicants, what you intend or plan, and what you have underlying tendencies for become a support for the continuation of consciousness. When this support exists, consciousness becomes established. When consciousness is established, name and form are conceived. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields. The six sense fields are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. … craving … grasping … continued existence … rebirth … old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress come to be. That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

SN 12.39

If I intend to perform an action, this may not lead to me performing that action. I may change my mind. To eat food there must be the intention to eat food, then an intention to eat a certain type of food and then the intention to put the food into my mouth. When we change our mind, intention only happens twice (the intention to do something and the intention to not do that something). If we do not change our mind, intention happens three times: the intention to do something (sankhara), the approval intention to do that something (namarupa) and the intention (craving) to actually do that something.


Mutual dependence of namarupa and consciousness is just the fundamental general description of dependent arising, it is what constitute samsara:

Thus far, Ānanda, may one be born or age or die or fall or arise, thus far is there a way of designation, thus far is there a way of language, thus far is there a way of description, thus far is there a sphere of understanding, thus far the round proceeds as manifestation in a situation,—so far, that is to say, as there is name-&-matter together with consciousness.

From Digha Nikaya

Everything what follows after (in 12 exemplification of DO) are more particular descriptions which together cover all aspects of puthujjana’s experience, so in fact they are all contein already in the most fundamental description implicitly, in the same way as consciousness and namarupa are both sankharas and their mutual dependence is possible in the presence of ignorance.

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