I noticed the other day that the Śāriputra Abhidharma (ŚāA) has a chapter devoted to nāmarūpa. Given that there’s been a fair amount of interest in meaning of this concept in various sources, I thought it would be good to share. The chapter is not in a place that would suggest that it’s particularly old material. It’s placed in the last division of ŚāA with other add-on chapters. However, it does provide a witness to how the concept was understood outside of the dependent origination context.
Briefly on the origins of this source: ŚāA has been identified by scholars as being the Abhidharma collection of a Buddhist school known as the Dharmaguptakas. It was translated in the early years of the 5th c. CE (400 AD) by a pair of monks, Dharmayaśas and Dharmagupta, who had gone to China from Central Asian or northwest Indian regions (the former was said to be from Kashmir in particular). It was during a period of accelerated translation work by such monks. They often worked under auspices of a series of Buddhist kings who had invaded and occupied northern China at the time.
The entire chapter is very similar to the Vibhaṅga’s Dependent Origination chapter in format: A section defining terms is followed by a lengthy treatment placing nāmarūpa in context with a large number of technical categories, in that verbose combinatory fashion that’s common to Abhidharma texts. This second section forms the bulk of the chapter.
But the introduction takes the form of commentary on a sutra quotation (for which I haven’t found a Pali parallel), and it’s brief enough to translate in a sitting. I’ve added the punctuation, which is almost entirely lacking in the Taisho edition.
|「有人出世，名如來、無所著、等正覺。說名色、解射名色、斷名色。」||“A person appeared in the world called the Tathāgata, Arhat, and Completely Awakened One. He taught name and form, the release from name and form, and the ending of name and form.”|
|云何「名色」？若憶想、假稱、制(1)名，此謂名。何謂色？若法色，此謂色。||What is “name and form”? If it recognizes, designates, and makes names, then this is called name. What’s called form? If a thing is form, this is called form.|
|復次，由憶想、假稱生受、想、思、觸、思惟，此謂名。十色入及法入色，此謂色。||Furthermore, feeling, conception, intention, contact, and thinking that arises from recognition and designation is called name. The ten form senses and the idea sense that’s form are called form.|
|復次，觸首五法，此謂名。四大及四大造，此謂色。||Furthermore, contact that leads to those five things (above) is called name. The four elements and what’s made of the four elements is called form.|
|復次，若法(2)非色、有為，此謂名。色有三種：可見有對、不可見有對、不可見無對。此謂色。||Furthermore, if something isn’t form and conditioned, it’s called name. Form has three kinds: Visible and interactive, invisible and interactive, and invisible and not interactive. This is called form.|
|如是「名色」。是謂名色。||Thus is “name and form.” This is called name and form.|
|何故「說名色」？欲令此名色應正說、開解、分別、顯現、假稱。是故，說名色。||Why did he “teach name and form”? He wanted to ensure this name and form should be correctly explained, clearly understood, discerned, made plain, and designated. This was why he taught name and form.|
|云何「解射名色」？若於名色知見解射方便，是名解射名色。||What is “the release from name and form”? If someone knows and sees the methods of being released from name and form, this is called the release from name and form.|
|云何「斷名色」？若於名色調伏欲染、斷欲染，是名斷名色。||What is the “ending of name and form”? If one suppresses the defilements of desire and ends the defilements of desire for name and form, this is called ending name and form.|
There a few things I would note about the translation.
I translate 憶想 as “recognize,” but it seems to be a particular reading of S. saṃjñā that lit. means “recall concept.” I believe it refers to some recognition process of matching existing ideas to what one is perceiving. So, I translated it as “recognize.” It might also be a compound in the underlying (something like “smṛti-saṃjñā”?).
制 usually means to rule or decide, but often carries the meaning of 製, which means to make or manufacture, so I read 制名 as meaning “name making.”
The “idea sense that’s form” (法入色) is a category that’s defined elsewhere in the ŚāA as: “Physical and verbal [acts that are] not ethical (非戒) and unintentional (無教), contaminated physical and verbal [acts that are] ethical and unintentional, contaminated physical [acts that] advance and contaminated physical [acts that] withdraw, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right physical [acts that] advance, and physical [acts that] withdraw.”
Basically, it refers to physical and verbal actions, which the abhidharmika considered something perceived with the cognitive sense.
The “ten form senses” refers to the five physical senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body) and their objects.
I’ve translated 對 as “interactive,” which works for the Chinese readings, which can mean “to reply, to contrast, to oppose, to be an opposite or adversary, form a pair.” I think the underlying basically means that a thing can be detected with the senses.
The underlying for “defilements of desire” (欲染) is probably kāma-rāga. In a chapter about afflictions (at 650a12), this term is given a more expansive reading as shorthand for desire for existence in any of the three realms, so it could mean more than the usual gloss.