Mutual conditioning of vinnana and namarupa

Can someone explain how the mutual conditioning of vinnana and namarupa works in the DO? I would like to understand how this fits in with sankhara? Any similes or materials that can explain this would be helpful.
Thanks.

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The following suttas may be helpful:

“And which name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are called name-&-form.

“And which consciousness? These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness. This is called consciousness.
SN 12:2

‘Consciousness is a condition for name and form’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not conceived in the mother’s womb, would name and form coagulate there?”

“No, sir.”

“If consciousness, after being conceived in the mother’s womb, were to be miscarried, would name and form be born into this state of existence?”

“No, sir.”

“If the consciousness of a young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name and form achieve growth, increase, and maturity?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and reason of name and form, namely consciousness.

‘Name and form are conditions for consciousness’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not to gain a footing in name and form, would the coming to be of the origin of suffering—of rebirth, old age, and death in the future—be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and reason of consciousness, namely name and form. This is the extent to which one may be reborn, grow old, die, pass away, or reappear. This is how far the scope of labeling, terminology, and description extends; how far the sphere of wisdom extends; how far the cycle of rebirths proceeds so that this state of existence may be be found; namely, name and form together with consciousness.
DN 15

In other words, their relationship is intimately tied because of the rebirth process

I think you have explained how namarupa and vinnana are mutually dependent, but I don’t think you have answered his question about how sankhara fits into the equation.

Samkhara is one of the things that conditions and is conditioned by vinnana by virtue of being a component of namarupa, but how does that work while someone is alive and when someone dies?

I think that is more the issue @Mowo is looking to get resolved.

Here’s my basic understanding.

Rupa: The material side of experience; what is experienced by the sense doors in terms of objects, sounds, odors, etc.

Nama: The functions of the mind that form mental concepts from rupa. Nama consists of five factors: feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. With these five factors in conjunction, subjective mental concepts are formed.

Namarupa is what the aggregate vinnana is aware of, the conceptual and material aspects of all experience.

Vinnana and sankhara are found within the 5 Aggregates and the 5 Aggregates are where one’s sense of self is generated.

Sankhara is more of the conditioned reactive and purposeful striving aspect of the mind, somewhat ruddering the mind based upon the subjectivity of vendana and sanna.

Vinnana in the context of the 5 Aggregates is the subjective “I, me, mine” self producing aspect of the mind. It relies upon namarupa for what it’s conscious of and is further conditioned by the aggregates of feeling, cognition, and volition.

Namarupa and vinnana are mutually dependent upon one another, cannot exist without the other (the two bundles of reeds).

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The sutta explains that name-and-form includes intention. One needs consciousness to have intention, so it would be dependent on consciousness. On the other hand, one needs to have acted previously to generate that rebirth, so consciousness depends on previous intention as well. I hope this is more precise than my previous answer.

Edit:

In the same way, if there is desire, relishing, and craving for solid food, consciousness becomes established there and grows. Where consciousness is established and grows, name and form are conceived. Where name and form are conceived, there is the growth of choices. Where choices grow, there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future. Where there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future, there is rebirth, old age, and death in the future. Where there is rebirth, old age, and death in the future, I say this is full of sorrow, anguish, and distress.
SN 12.64

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The relation between Vinnana and Namarupa in terms of DO and how it leads to Sankhara is covered in SN12.65 .

IMO, Vinnana is treated in two ways in the EBT. In some suttas such as SN12.65, MN38, MN28 etc it is treated as an emergent function mutually codependent on Namarupa and arising based on Ignorance, Sankhara and Craving and Clinging to the aggregates in the cycle of rebirth. In others such as SN12.64, MN115, MN140 etc, an independent (?) Consciousness element (Vinnana dhatu) is hypothesized. This causes much friction in Buddhist circles as many people feel that the second interpretation implies the survival of the Arahant’s Consciousness (IMO an oxymoron!) in some way after parinibbana.

Actually, it doesn’t matter does it? :grimacing: :thinking: Whatever it is or is not, its the ‘I, me and mine’ making of it that needs to be let go of.

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For the looong answer, see:

:wink:

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Here is another long answer but a well crafted one.

Buddhadhamma - Buddhadhamma

Hi,

Not sure how an “independent” consciousness is seen in these suttas.

In SN12.64, viññāna is listed as a conditional “food” (kabaḷīkāro āhāro), for the maintainance of beings – all conditional and interdependent, from food to beings.
From there, consciousness is included in a short version of DO: "Where consciousness is established and grows, name and form are conceived. Where name and form are conceived, there is the growth of choices. Where choices grow, there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future. "
Conversely, “If there is no desire, relishing, and craving for solid food, consciousness does not become established there and doesn’t grow.”
So: all conditional and not independent.

MN115 uses the word "dhatu" very broadly, including for clearly conditional things like "…the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. pathavīdhātu, āpodhātu, tejodhātu, vāyodhātu, ākāsadhātu, viññāṇadhātu. Earth, water, etc. are clearly conditional and the use of dhatu with viññāna is clearly along the same lines as with the other conditional .elements.
Dhatu is a word with broad meanings and connotations in different contexts.

The same applies to MN140: "There are these six elements: the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. pathavīdhātu, āpodhātu, tejodhātu, vāyodhātu, ākāsadhātu, viññāṇadhātu.
The context, again, is one of interacting conditions and processes, not “independent” entities.

Peace and respect

Consciousness is the basic determination, (no consciousness no experience). But any consciousness is consciousness of something (in other terms we can say observer and observed field are inseparable).
And so staring from consciousness, - it is sankhara and namarupa is sankhata dhamma. But it goes also the other way round and in this mutual dependence namarupa also can be seen as sankhara and vinnana as sankhata dhamma. All items of dependent arising are connected by relation sine qua non, where the first one is sankhara, and the next one sankhata dhamma, but this sankhata dhamma is sankhara or determination for the next one. Some descriptions of dependent arising end up with the mutual determining of consciousness and namarupa, and do not mention sankharas and ignorance. But of course they are there implicitly since this chain of dependently arisen things ultimately depends on ignorance.

DO starts with Vinnana and Namarupa in some suttas.
In some other suttas DO has started from Avijja and Sankara. This is to show a different aspect of Vinnana conditioning.

Vinnana occurs when it is directed towards an end goal or aim. When we are ignorant( avijja) we are always directed towards something.

This is Sankara or Cetana. Sankara is described as six Cetanas- intention regarding sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts( SN 22.56). These intentions are the aims towards which the Vinnana is directed due to our ignorance.

Without the push given by ignorance , Vinnana has no intention or Choice.

Choice or Sankara or Intention is a product of Avijja.

The function of a name is to get the attention of the individual (constituted of mind, body and awareness, the triad modalities of consciousnes in which consciousness is apprehended, born of the contact of aggregates).

The function of a word or name is to communicate across meaning from one mind to another.

It is exactly in this way that name conditions mind. The mind or thinking modality of consciousness (aliveness) can also devise names for objects witnessed through the senses and ascribe a set of symbols for the sake of communication as well as for contemplation.