Does phassa include saññā?

Does phassa ( contact ) include sanna ( perception )?

In the suttas phassa is described as the “meeting of the three”, ie sense-base, sense-object and sense-consciousness. So it seems to describe something arising at one of the sense-bases. But does phassa include a recognition of what has arisen? Does it include sanna?

To ask the question in a different way: In suttas on DO, vedana arises in dependence on phassa. Would you associate sanna with phassa, or with vedana?

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AN 6.63 states that contact is the source/cause of perceptions. The same is stated for feelings. So I’d say that these phenomena are separate but have the same source of origin.

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Thanks. AN 6.63 seems to describe sanna ( and vedana ) arising in dependence on phassa.

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Within the Sanskrit pre & post close Buddhist era texts (ChUp. & MBh.), the root meaning of phassa (sparśa), has the following meaning:

  • Fall to the lot of, a.k.a. escheat - viz. a transfered possession (possession whose ownership changes).
  • Come upon >> take possession of.
    (Root spṛś)

It has also the meaning found in the usual extract (with parallel):
Tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso
Saṅgati (from saṅgacchati [saṁ+gacchati] [saṃ-gam] : come together).
Union, combination.

√ गम् gam
to cause to go to any condition, cause to become (RV AV TS. SBr.).

I see no reason why phasso which has this underlying meaning in pre-Buddhist Vedic text, as above cited in the first occurence, would not be this becoming condition; viz. A tranfer of property.

We deal with the same problem with vedana, sanna & vinnana.
When one translates (as it appears in the Vedic texts), vedana with its underlying meaning of “experience with a wish to know more” ; then sanna as “inquiry with assumptions” ;then vinnana as the resulting (personal) final knowledge, derived from these assumptions - then things become clearer.
This is not my personal conjectire on these meanings; but a lexicographic fact.
By the way, Sujato’s translation of sankhara as “choice”, makes a lot of sense; particularly when it comes to the internal.
MN 44 abides in this sense - for there is not the usual triad involved in this case (viz. contact= external & internal ayatanani + sense-conciousness)
"Having emerged from the cessation of perception and feeling, friend Visākha, three contacts touch that monastic: emptiness contact, desirelessness contact, signlessness contact.”

Contact is therefore more than the usual meaning that is generally given to it. It has also the underlying meaning of a “transfer of property”.

Now, if in the same way, you take the Vedic underlying meaning of vedana as “experience, with the wish to know more” - (in other words: the wish to inquire); then the Vedic underlying meaning of sanna as “inquiry, with its assumptions” it makes more sense in a sutta like MN 43:
“That which is feeling, your reverence, and that which is perception and that which is discriminative consciousness, these states are associated, not dissociated, and it is not possible to lay down a difference between these states, having analysed them again and again.”

In other words, the wish for an inquiry (which is a part of vedana) and the inquiry (which is a part of sanna), are associated, not dissociated. And the assumptions (which are a part of sanna) - (with the “choices” taken among these assumptions, viz. sankhara) - and the discriminative knowledge (vinnana) derived from these (chosen) assumptions, are associated, not dissociated."
Note that Sujato’s translation of sankhara as “choice”, makes a lot of sense; particularly when it comes to the internal.

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Phassa arises first, then it gives rise to sanna down the line. Interestingly this means that phassa is a kind of ‘bare recognition’ without a clear idea of what is being observed- you could almost say ‘without the sign or the details’, as mentioned in the EBTs. It would be mean that the colour and shapes might be visible, if it was at the eye door, but not much more. Curiously this is a nama component, though we are aware of a signal which arose from a physical image. It is pretty much ‘mind made’ at this level.

with metta

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This passage from MN18 suggests that phassa leads to vedana and then to sanna:

"Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. What you feel, you perceive. What you perceive, you think about. What you think about, you proliferate…"

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So does phassa represent the arrival of “raw data” at the sense doors?

With the arising of the eye and the image, the raw data has arrived. It is an infinitesimal blip of experience.

This then gives rise to consciousness at the eye. This is an event in its own right, not related to content of the visual stimulus- apart from visual stimulus causally giving rise to it.

The eye-consciousness merges with the eye door+ image (‘the coming together of the three’ tinnan sangati) and gives rise to contact (phasso). What was experienced ever so slightly becomes experienced much better. However the additional detail has been supplied by the mind- ie the mind created 90% of the visual image, after consciousness merged with the initial stimulus. One could reasonably state that we became conscious, only after consciousness arose, in this causal process.

So phassa is 40-50% of the processing of the signal -its not quite raw data, but not the finished article either. Feelings, identification,and all manner of fabrications get added to it, in a causal chain to finish it.

Here’s a graphical representation: Process of perception.pdf (484.7 KB)

with metta,

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Contact can’t be just “raw data”.
There is eye-consciousness for instance, before it can be called “contact”.
There is the personal knowledge of this external ayatana.

As far as contact & feeling are concerned - that is to say, contact as “transfer of property (of the external to the internal ayatanani, and the sense-consciousness that ensues at the internal level” - (in this particular case of contact as the triad).
And feeling as “the experience that ensues” (“and the wish to know more about it”).
Then this extract from one of the most important sutta with parallels, will help understand the OP question:

"Contact can’t be just “raw data”.
There is eye-consciousness for instance before it can be called “contact”.

As far as contact & feeling are concerned - that is to say, contact as "transfer of property (of the external to the internal ayatanani, and the sense-consciousness that ensues at the internal level, in this particular case of contact as the triad -and feeling as the experience that ensues (and the wish to know more about it, then this extract from one of the most important sutta with parallels, will help understand the OP question:

"When the uninstructed worldling is contacted by a feeling born of ignorance-contact, ‘I am’ occurs to him; ‘I am this’ occurs to him; ‘I will be’ and ‘I will not be,’ and ‘I will consist of form’ and ‘I will be formless,’ and ‘I will be percipient’ and ‘I will be nonpercipient’ and ‘I will be neither percipient nor nonpercipient’—these occur to him.
SN 22.47

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Phassa is required for vedana
phassa is required for sanna
Vedana would arise before sanna,

However, if I maybe allowed to be a somewhat controversial, feeling doesn’t always arise, and isn’t a necessary condition for sanna to arise, if that makes sense. If feeling does arise then it would add to the sanna. After all this is merely a system of transferring information, and addition of information to the original signal at set points. Without awareness directed to this process it might seem seamless, but ‘bumps’ begin to show - for example if the eyes are closed and suddenly opened it takes a second to label what is being seen, or whether it is pleasant or not etc. This shows the steps in the processing of the visual stimulus.

Samadhi is an essential ingredient to see this process clearly.

with metta

This idea reminds me of the sort of “recognition”, perhaps, that facial recognition software uses to identity faces.

I think in your example of opening the eyes and the delay, the vedanna is at first neutral; in the form of ignorance. Then after the initial ignorance it changes to pleasant/painful.

This so nicely explained by Ven. Dhammadinna in MN44

We can see in the Honeyball sutta that this isn’t a static process either. It loops upon itself.

Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. What you feel, you perceive. What you perceive, you think about…

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“Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them.”

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html

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I’m not sure what you mean by consciousness “merging” with the initial stimulus. Isn’t consciousness in the suttas ( vinanna ) just a bare awareness of the initial stimuli arising at the sense bases? So for example eye-consciousness would just be the awareness of shape, colour and movement in the visual field at any given moment. Then there would be sanna ( perception ), the recognition and naming of objects in the visual field. And vedana of course, with all the associated sankhara activity.

Could you say exactly what you mean by “property” here, and give some examples? Are you talking about things like shape, colour and movement in the visual field?

The suttas quoted earlier in this thread suggest that it is. AN 6.63 describes sanna ( and vedana ) arising in dependence on phassa, and MN18 shows how phassa leads to vedana and then to sanna. So the function of sanna is not included in the function of phassa.

Sanna is the function of recognising and naming the initial stimuli arising at the sense-bases, which could be described as the “raw data” of experience. You could say that this raw data is “provided” by phassa, the meeting of the three.

Yes, and I think the function of sanna relies heavily on our “stored” memories.

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Could you say exactly what you mean by “property” here, and give some examples? Are you talking about things like shape, colour and movement in the visual field ?

I mean the properties of the external namarupa (as defined in SA 298 - https://justpaste.it/files/justpaste/d203/a8471798/patiman.png) and their corresponding (sensory) external ayatanani.
For instance, when you see a Picasso’s painting, you are becoming sense-conscious of the form + sight, feeling + dhamma, etc., of Picasso, through your internal ayatanani.
This contact is the transfer of property of Picasso’s external namarupa (through its external ayatanani), to your internal ayatanani.
You might call that “raw data”; as the dhatu (the resulting mix of the form, feeling, etc. of Picasso’s khandhas) are not yet clinging khandhas (aka considered as “yours”). But they are still feelings, for instance; and sensed as such.
Picasso’s feeling passes through your sense-consciousness (dhamma-consciousness), although you haven’t yet put a personal feeling on it. You might then be disgusted by that Picasso’s feeling, or you might be thrilled by it, and crave for it, and appropriate that to yourself, and ask for more. But Picasso’s feeling, for instance, is hardly to be considered “raw data”. It’s a feeling, and you sense it as such.

Phassa is just the transfer of properties of Picasso’s feeling to your internal sensory ayatana, in this instance.
It is not really “raw data”.


The suttas quoted earlier in this thread suggest that it is. AN 6.63 describes sanna ( and vedana ) arising in dependence on phassa, and MN18 shows how phassa leads to vedana and then to sanna. So the function of sanna is not included in the function of phassa.

I agree - yet vedana, sanna & vinnana are conjoined.
There is no inquiry (sanna) without experience (vedana) - and there is no personal knowledge without experience and inquiry.

Please refer also to this:
https://justpaste.it/1byws


Sanna is the function of recognising and naming the initial stimuli arising at the sense-bases, which could be described as the “raw data” of experience. You could say that this raw data is “provided” by phassa, themeeting of the three.

I shall continue to refer to sanna as “inquiry and its assumptions”, as defined in the Vedic texts, if you don’t mind. There will be less speculation on the matter.

Indeed phassa is the ‘meeting of the three’ where the context is saḷāyatana.

Because sense-perception (saññā) are with reference to the āyatana, contact (phassa) are connected to them as acquisition occurring within a sensate moment; see Loka Sutta SN. 12.44.

I’m still not clear what properties you say are being “transferred” in your example of looking at a painting. I would say it is just the colours and shapes of the image, which I have referred to as the “raw data” of experience. So everything else - sanna, vedana, sankharas - is “added”, subsequent to phassa.

You might like a particular painting, I might not. This means that we are reacting differently to the image, and experiencing different vedana and sankharas. We might even interpret the content of the image differently which would be different sanna.

I take this to mean that if you experience one then you experience all three, not that they cannot be understood as discreet activities.

" Bhikkhus, for the foolish man, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this body has thereby originated. So there is this body and external name-and-form (bahiddhā nāmarūpaṃ) thus this dyad. Dependent on the dyad there is contact. There are just six sense bases, contacted through which—or through a certain one among them—the foolish man experiences pleasure and pain.
SN 12.19

Once one understands that there is an external namarupa corresponding to the definition of SA 298 (viz. the khandhas), and a definition of the internal namarupa corresponding to the definition of SN 12.2 (https://justpaste.it/files/justpaste/d203/a8471798/patiman.png), then one understands the definition of contact as (also) a tranfer of properties of the external khandhas of namarupa, (through the external ayatanani), to the internal ayatanani.
The sense-consciousness is the sense-consciousness regarding these external khandhas and their related external ayatanani. It is the khandhas of Picasso (and the corresponding external ayatanani) that are “sense-conscioused” (sense-known).

Later on, because the idea of a continuous self exists (SN 22.47) - because the notion “I am” exists - one considers these external khandhas and ayatanani, as “this is mine”. That is to say, “Picasso is my kind of chew”, so to speak. Or “I don’t like Picasso”. One appropriates this feeling (experience) as one’ own. How one does inquire and make further assumptions (sanna) about this experience, comes later on.

We are here to be felt (experienced) (SN 12.37).
Contact is just the way to pass the experience from the external being (asmi), to the internal being (aham asmi - “I am”) .
We are just here to say: “pleasant, unpleasant, neither-nor”.
However, we shouldn’t even play that game, and certainly not inquire further (sanna), make (willful) choices (sankhara & cetana), and have a personal knowledge and opinion (vinnana). This is just the “maintenance of consciousness”.
This is the “vicious circle” in which we are caught in.
https://justpaste.it/1bzye
https://justpaste.it/16943

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