Does phassa include saññā?

If you are willing to consider jhanas as without the five senses, it seems to me that the first jhana would be the first place one experiences the absence of 5 of them (out of 6 bases, the remaining one being the mind).

From there, it makes sense to me intellectually, that one could either infer that the mind base is of the same nature, i.e. subject to vanishing like the first 5 – or you could take meditation to the cessation of perception & feeling if you really needed to experientially verify it.

How can you say this when you haven’t even heard my opinion on this matter?

I assure you, I am much more inaccurate and mistaken than Pasanna and Mat!

Correct, but if we think of a simile as in a film where the rim of a car wheel is turning because of how the picture is filmed or captured, it looks like the rim and wheel is turning backwards while the car is moving forwards. This happens when the car is accelerating fast and the sampling frame of the filming is not fast enough to capture the rim before it has moved a great deal. I’m using this simile to explain how our experience is like without samadhi that is directed to seeing in detail the process of perceiving something. It can arise several times on the sweetness of the sugar as the initial object, and be coloured by the previous experience of sugar that arose immediately beforehand, so that the feeling subtly alters each time the process of perceiving happens. Even if we focus on the breath, some advanced meditators experience a fragmented breath, say twenty times a single (in or out) breath. Each fragment is the process of perception starting up again. Each of those fragments, like film frames, create a single breath.

So the transitioning of feelings takes a lot longer and the causal chains would have arisen repeatedly. It is not taking place in the original chain, and that’s why I would say there is a single type of feeling in a given chain.

With metta

Could you elaborate on what you mean by “the right method of samadhi”? Do you mean in the general sense of being concentrated enough to notice, or are you referring to a specific method to develop samadhi?

Samadhi can developed in different ways. It requires a mind free from the five hindrances (most of the time) and the an ability to wield mindfulness in a certain manner.

Monks, these are the four developments of concentration. Which four?

"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: ‘Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.’ AN4.41

See also MN148.

This is essentially the further development of the instructions given to bahiya.

In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.’ In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya. Ud1.1

Starting with each stimulus it is possible to determine each of the five clinging aggregates of each stimulus, in detail, as the example of the opening of the closed eyes show. To see vinnana arising we must let mindfulness pick up sights, sounds, sensations etc sequentially and try to focus in between two stimuli. With further development of concentration the arising of nama-rupa can be determined. Nama-rupa is an initial ‘signal’. It creates vinnana. This then is felt to ‘move’ towards the sense door in which the Nama-rupa arose. The merging of the three is contact (phassa). Feelings, identification and mental fabrications arise sequentially later.

With metta

I’m not sure what you mean by “in between” two stimuli. Could you give a practical example?

I’m not clear what you mean here by the “arising of nama-rupa”. Again, a practical example would be helpful.
I tend to notice fabrications ( sankharas ) arising based on the initial experience of vinnana/vedana/sanna. Is this the sort of thing you mean?

Watching --> Hearing

To go from watching something to hearing another thing (for example) watching has to stop and hearing to begin. For hearing to begin, hearing must arise at the ear, giving rise to ear-consciousness, and so on. This means there is a gap before ear consciousness has fully arisen (or at least before contact has fully arisen), after watching has ended. This is what I call the gap (or ‘mind the gap’ perhaps?).

Watching [stop]. sound+ear --> Ear consciousness --[experiencing of the sound in non-samadhi state of mind].

Practically this is done in the following manner:
The meditator starts being mindful in the following manner, observing sensory stimuli from all directions:

sounds – sights – sensations – smells etc. one after the next/ only one at a time. Its important not to get caught up with just one stimuli- this will lead into samatha meditation, and samatha meditators habitually do this. They need to shake it off and let mindfulness pick up stimuli naturally. Naturally the mind does this, without any mindfulness. Mindfulness slows down this natural process and allows us to see the details within. It stops this process at contact level with ‘bare awareness’, not letting us get caught up in too many feelings, identifications and fabrications- that would make us loose mindfulness.

With some skill with letting the mindfulness ‘drift’ with the flow of stimuli it starts seeing another phenomenon:

sounds – movement of focus–> sight. movements of focus–>sensation. movement of focus–> sound etc.

This is contact. vinnana fusing with sense base–> contact. fusing with sense base–>contact. etc

At the next level (but much harder) it is possible to see another layer of experience:

Visual stimuli–>movement of focus–>seeing. Sound stimuli–>movement of focus–>hearing. Skin stimuli–> movement of focus–> skin sensation

this is rupa x2 (stimuli+sense base) --> specific consciousness–> specific contact.

However even seeing the vinnana level is adequate to make progress in the meditation as it shows the basic pattern of any of these steps.

with metta


Yes, I regularly switch attention from one sense-base to another, foccusing on that initial “bare” experience and then noticing reactions to it ( though with strong mindfulness it seems like the reactions diminish significantly ).

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This sutta just describes how a diversity of feelings arises in dependence upon a diversity of contacts via the sense bases:
"It is in this way, householder, that in dependence on the diversity of elements there arises the diversity of contacts, and in dependence on the diversity of contacts there arises the diversity of feelings.”

I still think you are complicating something which is actually quite straightforward.

That must be it.

It’s best to stick to Pali terms to avoid confusion. Feelings for example could mean anything.

What “Pali terms”?
Translators or dictionaries’ terms !?!?
That’ pretty reductive to the sole EBTs, with common parallels (and much redundancies).
When that is not just plain subjective interpretation on the part of the translator.

Better look also, at what the roots of these terms meant in the texts across and around Buddha’s time.

I see no problem in doing that.

What confusion ?
Reducing the amount of suttas to parallels; and studying the lexical meaning of words, from the Indian philosophy of the time, is far from being confusing.

completely agree with you suci1, especially on that part. that’s, by the way, what i have been doing for a while now!

The problem is that you seem to be introducing interpretations which contradict and complicate what the EBTs actually say.
Your earlier Picasso painting interpretation of phassa is a case in point. The idea that Picasso’s personality is somehow “transferred” to us when we look at one of his paintings is not supported by the suttas. The suttas simply describe how eye-consciousness arises in dependence upon the eye and visible form.

Ah, ok !

So any response (emotional, moral, intellectual) I have when I see the visible form (colour, line, shape) of a Picasso painting according to the EBTs is a mental formation? And as such it is observable through mind-consciousness arising in dependence upon the mind and its formations?

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Yes, that is what the suttas seem to describe. There is an initial experience comprised of vinnana/sanna/vedana, then sankharas ( mental formations ) arise.


Meanings ought to be inferred contextually not (primarily) textually.

Buddha gave different meanings to words that were present at the time in other religions, therefore context is important.

The Buddha never said discard a text because it is rare, but only if it isn’t in line with the Dhamma-Vinaya.

With metta

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It was initially a greater challenge for me to see this 3-way relationship as it applies to mind than as it applies to the other 5 senses. I had to learn the difference between mind and awareness that modernist models don’t acknowledge.

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Indeed, and meanings really need to be based on their context and description in the EBTs, not on their usage in the texts of other religions.

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I was doing a search here and came across this very interesting somewhat old post by friend @Martin. I will share my understanding.

Please note that sañña is not a mere “recognition” of an object; this mere recognition is precisely what phassa itself is. For, if one did not recognise an object, then no consciousness of it took place and therefore no contact was established. phassa is established only in so far as the object has been recognised, and there is no meaning in talking about any phassa otherwise, and regardless of whether this recognising, along with our subsequent emotional responses, where self-conscious or otherwise.

Sañña on the other hand is that which produces the impression, the emotive tone if you will, that is associated with the object being recognised, and it does that by recourse to memory. Picture a lion appearing in the horizon of the steppes; because the monkey has encountered a lion before, and since then learned that it is deadly dangerous, it has now recognised it again, and recognised its danger again; this is what sañña is, a fundamental force or function which will cause the monkey to scream and crane its nick to alert other monkeys of the approaching danger. Sañña here is the fearful impression which the appearance of the lion (eye-contact) gives rise to in the psyche of the monkey. Fear, then, and agitation, will be the corresponding vedana; and the desire to escape the tanha, and the running away the upadana.

This recognising again (emotional memory) is precisely what sañña is; a fundamental evolutionary adaptive mechanism that is necessary for learning and for survival, and for the regulation of emotion (vedana). In a certain sense, sañña is what makes vedana an intelligent, effective, and also adaptable utility. So picture now our monkey to be rather inexperienced; a toddler perhaps! Having screamed and craned its nick pointing with it at the approaching danger, it finds that no other monkey responds with fear! “What is the matter?!” It wonders, “why is no one running?! Last time a lion just like this caught one of us and tore it to shreds!” Then it takes a closer look now that the stimulating object has come even closer! Behold! This is no lion! This is just a stag!! The inexperienced monkey has confused them, because they have the same colour and size and both walk on four. Now all fear is gone, vedana has changed. But why? Because the impression, the emotive tone a deer evokes in a monkey’s psyche is one mostly of indifference rather than fearfulness (having learned in the past that a deer is not dangerous). Sañña changes, vedana changes, and so on. Without sañña there is no survival for the sentient organism: either it will fail in recognising a lion, and the danger of the lion, a second time it encounters it, or it will never learn how to distinguish between a lion and a deer, thus fearing both and escaping both (and everything else that resembles them), hence living in constant escape and avoidance and unable to access limited resources.

So much happens between phassa and vedana, only, it happens so fast that, without meditation, we can barely notice it. However we can actually discern sañña taking place in between, and not only that, but it actually directly fashions the subsequent vedana. You could say that sañña is a cognitive phenomenon, where vedana is the emotional-behavioural manifestation or experiencing of that phenomenon. This is so important! Learning, prejudice, and habits, are formed and reinforced through that process.

I liked your question a lot and I have often thought that sañña deserved a place in the paticcasamuppada just as it appears in the pañcupadanakhanda; it’s kinda puzzling that it is missing in the earlier!