Pre-buddhist or non-buddhist sources that talk about nama-rupa

Lankaputra, just a quick observation here, I have not thought about this deeply. Since you prompted me to ask if there is any connection between nama-rupa in Buddhism and information in physics, I said there is no natural connection that I see. I prefer to let the connection jump at me rather than to construct one to fit in both sides. Now I got a bit of a feeling of that connection, but haven’t think it through, so it’s most likely wrong. And definitely the following counts as more fabrications, not helpful towards enlightenment.

This seems to me that the forms, rupa can be mapped to quantum information.

Quantum information is basically the information that is encoded in quantum systems. As everything is made up of quantum systems fundamentally, we all are encoded by quantum information. Theoretically, it means that if we apply Schrodinger’s equation to the wave function of the world, we can see it evolves. And by the requirements of the math in quantum mechanics, to maintain probability for evolution to be 100% evolves to 100% probability (technical term for this is unitary), quantum information of the wave functions can never be lost. This is why the black hole information paradox caused such an uproar in theoretical physics a few years ago. It ended with most physicist now think quantum mechanics is safe, quantum information is never lost, they change by evolution, can be teleported from one location to another, but can never be erased and cannot be cloned (cannot copy and paste, unlike classical information).

So quantum information can represent what is out there as it is, rupa, forms. As things are made up of the same stuffs like atoms, molecules, and the one giving variation to them is quantum information; physicists are now inclined to think that information matters more than matter. In other words, information is physical.

Nama is the label we give to those forms. It can correspond to classical information.

Classical information is like the bits we use on computers. We are familiar with storage, MB, GB etc… we know how to manipulate them, erase them (and caused heat to be released as the second law of thermodynamics requires), clone them, etc. It can be created too as we learn more about the universe, as our computers churn out new models, simulations, data is gathered from experiments, data generated by users online. Data needed to feed into AI of deep learning, all these are classical information. Including information in books, memory etc.

If nama is just labels, concepts, things we can create, it is like classical information. For we can create new stuffs, stories, concepts and write a fiction novel, it’s like producing classical information and using labels and concepts. A criticism here can be that classical information is seen now as physical (as we can have mathematical laws describing them), yet nama is seen as part of the mind. Maybe the boundaries blur here?

The tricky part is I am assuming new properties for nama-rupa which corresponds to the properties of the classical-quantum information above by just seeing one tiny link of possible interface link. This might not be permissible or even true.

This brings out another connection. This one is more involved and more flimsy, I am absolutely not sure about it at all. See this as more of a parallel connection and not the ultimate truth thingy. It might not even be internally consistent. So here goes.

I assume here that consciousness can perform quantum entanglement with rupa, maybe via nama. That maps to the dependent arising. (In the 12 links model, consciousness conditions nama-rupa directly.) I am also mapping craving to quantum entanglement here. It’s crude, and likely inaccurate as one is mental, another physical. Only the name might be similar.

Nibbana is described as timeless, unchanging, untangled, unbounded. So in physics terms it seems to require no quantum entanglement with the rest of the world and no time as well.

Just nice there come along the experiments in physics that says time emergence because of quantum entanglement with the world.

A more layman article is here: Change for a Paradigm? New Experiment Shows How Time May Emerge From Quantum Entanglement - Resonance Science Foundation

A few properties of quantum entanglement maybe good to clarify here. Quantum entanglement is non-local connection between two or more particles once they interacted. Non-local means it does not matter how far apart they are, the connections acts instantly (we dunno what instantly means in light of special relativity). It also cannot allow us to transfer information faster than light. We can also create quantum entanglement between two particles which never interacted via quantum entanglement swapping with other quantum entangled particles. Quantum Entanglement is not conserved, it can be created and in quantum information science acts like a resource for quantum computing. Quantum entanglement is needed for quantum teleportation (transfer of quantum information from one location to another limited to light speed, without that information existing anywhere else in between). Quantum entanglement produces correlations between particles which cannot be explained by using classical means. None of these seems to suggest any natural connection to craving or attachment, other than the name (which is merely a label) and the neat experiment above and requiring a lot more tentative mapping.

So seen from this angle, the task of meditation is to see clearly how we entangle with the world to create nama-rupa and craving keeps it moving on and on. With mindfulness, we might learn how this process happens and see that it’s not worth entangling with the world and thus letting go of craving and timelessness appears. I have no idea how to map this to living arahants. I haven’t got any good mapping of the role of mindfulness and wisdom in physics too. Largely because I am not super familiar with what stops quantum entanglement from being created.

Oh and if you are attached to this flimsy parallel, remember that even the Dhamma is to let go of, what more these mental fabrications?

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Thanks. i will try to digest this but very slowly. :exploding_head:

Going a bit off rails in analogies here are some interesting parallels between quantum entanglement and Buddhism.

Quantum entanglement between two particles is such that if we measure the spin of one particle and spin can only give two answers to the measurement: up or down. So if we measure the spin of one of two particles entangled, if one is up, the other must be up, if they are prepared in the spin up, up or down, down state. If one is down the other must be down. The results are random, but we can choose when to measure it, or collapse the wave function of the quantum entangled particles as in Copenhagen Interpretation.

Once we measured one, and get the results, we immediately know the result of the other if we choose to measure the other one. This holds true regardless of however far apart the particles are, even at opposite ends of the observable universe. That’s the non-local part. As the results of up or down is random, we cannot use this to communicate faster than light. However, many other uses has been thought about the uses of quantum entanglement to do calculations in quantum computers which cannot be done by classical computers.

The quantum entanglement only exist between two particles in their quantum state. Once measured, they become classical and is no longer entangled. So quantum entanglement is sort of fragile and can be destroyed.

One may think of mindfulness as the measuring device. To collapse quantum entanglement (craving) as they arise. Quantum entanglement is also created when two particles are created together, or interacted together in some ways. So that interaction seems to be like contact in Buddhism.

Contact in Buddhism means the sense object (light), sense base (eye), and sense consciousness (eye consciousness) comes together. Contact in dependent origination conditions feelings, which conditions craving.

Interaction in quantum mechanics gives rise to quantum entanglement. It seems like a nice fit. Unknown how feelings can fit in, or maybe it shouldn’t and this parallel is a joke.

Anyway, by being mindful of our contact with the world, including mind objects, we can observe how craving arises. We can control to a certain extend to minimize harmful ones. And I still dunno what wisdom maps to in physics.

But please don’t take all these as established truth, there are a lot of plot holes, details, etc. And it sounds very hand waving.

This discussion seems to imply some quantum entanglement is rare, some are everywhere!


Have you taken a look at

Nama-Rupa and Dharma-Rupa: Origins and Aspects of an Ancient Indian Conception By Maryla Falk ?

Its the first thing that comes up on google

Warning, its unmercifully verbose

Here’s some interesting bits:


Actually, AI and image recognition may be closer. Image recognition systems are trained by giving them many many many different images both “good” and “bad”. Interesting right? Because there is choice and “delight” (i.e., positive feedback). Within the AI, there automatically arises name and form (we train the neural net). In other words, through delightful contact with chosen images, the AI comes to know them, be conscious of them. Once trained, the AI now sees the world through the lens of its trained desires. One of the things we are teaching AI right now is to tell us about its conceived forms so that we can improve the AI. In essence, we ask the AI to name its forms for us, so name and form arise together with consciousness. Consciousness is independent of name and form and is the basis required for action. “Oh that’s the picture of a burglar in the house! Call the police!”.

Reading the suttas for me is actually a bit eerie because the sensing/conceiving part of the DO chain is reminiscent of some AI concepts I have worked with. I have no idea what nama-rupa is since I just read this thread today. But the “name and form” in the suttas is very real to me as an engineer working with name and form all day. Raveena and Amy require endless work to get them to pronounce things correctly. Yes. Raveena and Amy are also AI neural nets. And yes, just like DN33 says, consciousness grows when sprinkled with relishing. :scream::rofl:

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Oh, this is definitely true. What we call AI is essentially getting a computer to deal with “name and form”. It is, lest we forget, a mere simulcra of the real thing, because there is no consciousness. A pretend ghost in the machine, if you will.


Thank you for that cheerful assertion!:heart:

In the course of meditation I find myself disassembling my own reactive delusional (i.e., not present, genuine and real) internal AI trusting that there will be something universal and aware (?) left over. When I was very very young, I delighted in a thought that I could pre-think and be prepared. That Baden Powell preparedness served well. But now, much much later, I find myself reversing that self-programming–having found that it was always, always, at least one step behind any present need. So I read about the dimension of infinite space, consciousness, nothingness and beyond. And I wonder how all this relinquishment will unfold…


Can we apply dependant origination to this example?

Dependant on what does this equivalent of nama-rupa arise ?

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Hmm, names and forms , naming the forms . What is your verdict ? Do you think delving into the view of Pre buddhist / Non buddhist on namarupa is getting us closer to the picture ? Any luck ?

well, i think some traditions do speak about these things from a certain experiential understanding. Anyway it doesn’t hurt to investigate.

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Given Bhante Sujato’s admonishment about the nature of consciousness, I would hesitate to map DO to AI in its entirety. I was simply struggling to understand feeling, contact, name and form. From DN15 we have:

name and form are conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for contact. Contact is a condition for feeling.

By listening to the suttas, name and form arise in me, gradually over time. Consciousness arises out of those new names and forms and contacts the world, linking perceived and conceived. I perceive my sleepy neighbor returning from work about to run me over walking meditation in the street. A feeling of resentment arises, a violated self-identity. Yet consciousness reflects on the relinquishment of resentment, of identity view (ah, how useful these new names and forms) and a new thought arises. “Just turn aside”.

Over time, an awareness grows that all this cogitation prior to action is just wasted energy. One could simply turn aside in peace and metta. And one understands from this that suttas are a raft to be discarded.

Right now, they are keeping me alive and not run over.


On a side note. I’m working on the newest version of search for SuttaCentral Voice. A question for all in the context of this thread:

Is the following acceptable for search results on namarupa?



@sujato :anjal:
I came across this new scientific theory of consciousness. It’s axioms are positively abiddhamma like.

Integrated information theory (IIT) attempts to identify the essential properties of consciousness (axioms) and, from there, infers the properties of physical systems that can account for it (postulates).

The axioms of IIT are intrinsic existence, composition, information, integration, and exclusion

Intrinsic existence
Consciousness exists: each experience is actual—indeed, that my experience here and now exists (it is real) is the only fact I can be sure of immediately and absolutely. Moreover, my experience exists from its own intrinsic perspective, independent of external observers (it is intrinsically real or actual).

Consciousness is structured: each experience is composed of multiple phenomenological distinctions, elementary or higher-order. For example, within one experience I may distinguish a book, a blue color, a blue book, the left side, a blue book on the left, and so on.

Consciousness is specific: each experience is the particular way it is—being composed of a specific set of specific phenomenal distinctions—thereby differing from other possible experiences (differentiation). For example, an experience may include phenomenal distinctions specifying a large number of spatial locations, several positive concepts, such as a bedroom (as opposed to no bedroom), a bed (as opposed to no bed), a book (as opposed to no book), a blue color (as opposed to no blue), higher-order “bindings” of first-order distinctions, such as a blue book (as opposed to no blue book), as well as many negative concepts, such as no bird (as opposed to a bird), no bicycle (as opposed to a bicycle), no bush (as opposed to a bush), and so on. Similarly, an experience of pure darkness and silence is the particular way it is—it has the specific quality it has (no bedroom, no bed, no book, no blue, nor any other object, color, sound, thought, and so on). And being that way, it necessarily differs from a large number of alternative experiences I could have had but I am not actually having.

Consciousness is unified: each experience is irreducible to non-interdependent, disjoint subsets of phenomenal distinctions. Thus, I experience a whole visual scene, not the left side of the visual field independent of the right side (and vice versa). For example, the experience of seeing the word “BECAUSE” written in the middle of a blank page is irreducible to an experience of seeing “BE” on the left plus an experience of seeing “CAUSE” on the right. Similarly, seeing a blue book is irreducible to seeing a book without the color blue, plus the color blue without the book.

Consciousness is definite, in content and spatio-temporal grain: each experience has the set of phenomenal distinctions it has, neither less (a subset) nor more (a superset), and it flows at the speed it flows, neither faster nor slower. For example, the experience I am having is of seeing a body on a bed in a bedroom, a bookcase with books, one of which is a blue book, but I am not having an experience with less content—say, one lacking the phenomenal distinction blue/not blue, or colored/not colored; or with more content—say, one endowed with the additional phenomenal distinction high/low blood pressure.[2] Moreover, my experience flows at a particular speed—each experience encompassing say a hundred milliseconds or so—but I am not having an experience that encompasses just a few milliseconds or instead minutes or hours.

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@sujato :anjal:

Composition = rupa?
Information = nama?

The advantage of name and form is that they are monosyllabic and understood by all. A circle is a form but not a composition. An essay is information but the title of an essay is its name, not the essay itself. When I see something round, the circle form appears in my mind along with its name, “circle”. Since AI does that without consciousness already, I would say that consciousness is other.

oh! I was not trying to redefine the translation. i was just referring to the axioms of IIT. They seem very similar to the definition of namarupa in buddhism.

The value of the sutta definitions is in establishing the connection between perception and suffering. It actually really amazed me at how detailed the Buddha’s teachings are on this very connection. I can actually write programs that use DO concepts in exactly the way the Buddha set out. I can write programs that create and name forms, programs that assign value to them and eventually create new names and forms according to desire and delight as defined by the program. However, when I think about the DO chain and AI, I have the rather unsettling feeling that we are working hard to automate the creation of suffering.


your words strike me as poetry, that holds a wealth of meaning.
I just see how in the Arahant something else is in play. Yes there are names and forms, but it is as if they were not there, for the Arahant.
Think of the advice to Bahia. “In the seen is the seen, you are neither here nor there nor in the in between” briefly.
Contacts the world If by world you meant the ‘sensory world’ does it exist for the Arahant? S/he has gone beyond the sense bases according to the EBT. I cannot think of the exact sutta number right now.
Or by ‘world’ did you mean the underlying tendencies which Arahant has done away with?
You wrote linking perceived and conceived
There is no such linkage in the Arahant. The Arahant does not conceive.
You have just put into one sentence a riddle I have almost solved in my mind. And of course this has worked its way into my understanding of DO, and elsewhere I remember giving voice to it.
I just don’t know how to express it, better. Since you are a Master at words, perhaps you can.
With love


I defer to the eloquence of the Buddha himself in his discussion of the origin of contact, cessation of contact and contact.

AN6.61:11.1: ‘The sage has known both ends, and is not stuck in the middle. He is a great man, I declare, he has escaped the seamstress here.’
AN6.61:12.1: Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”
AN6.61:12.2: “Yes, sir,” they replied.
AN6.61:12.3: The Buddha said this:
AN6.61:12.4: “Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle. And craving is the seamstress, for craving weaves one to being reborn in one state of existence or another. That’s how a mendicant directly knows what should be directly known and completely understands what should be completely understood. Knowing and understanding thus they make an end of suffering in this very life.”

In other words, arahants are not limited by or restricted to the cessation of contact. One might understand this to mean that perception, cessation and contact are therefore all available to them yet not clung to.


@karl_lew Thanks for bringing in Parayanavagga via Middle sutta AN 6.61, Tissa Metteyya’s Question, Sn 1040. Seamstress here, is a euphemism for craving. Craving stitches the eye to the object seen, hence called seamstress.

In the original sutta, the Brahmin student asks the Buddha.

Who in the world is happy? Isn’t there anyone who isn’t full of agitation, who knowing the sense and its object, does not cling to the middle, and create a fetter in the mind, binding the two.

he asks

who has gone beyond the seamstress?

Buddha answers:

One who lives the holy life,
amidst sense pleasures, is not agitated, whose actions in a sensuous world are pure and good, mind of the jhanic, never losing mindfulness, knows how to handle the sense and its object, without getting caught in the middle.

Arahant, fits the description, or one who is absorbed in 4th jhana.

(This reminds me of one of Buddha’s dreams, where the Arahant walks in a field of sewage without being smeared by the sewage)
One who lives the holy life amidst sense pleasures untouched by the sensual, is like this.

AN 6.61 is an elaboration of this sutta. It’s Chinese parallel has only 5 explanations. Perhaps the author of the sutta added one to make it fit the Sixes of Anguttara.

I am not saying contact is missing in the Arahant, the contact made is not infiltrated by underlying tendency. All contacts (I mean with the six sense bases) happen in the Arahant, I think of it more like a housekeeping activity.

These contacts do not lead to mental proliferation, or papanca, or sinful tendency, or origination of suffering,
we tend to suffer through what we contact, because our contacts are influenced by the seamstress.

When I wrote regarding linking perceived and conceived, that there is no such linkage I meant in the Arahant perception is not linked to conception, since the arahant does not conceive.

Bhikkhus, if wanderers of other sects ask you: ‘For what purpose, friends, is the holy life lived under the ascetic Gotama?’—being asked thus, you should answer them thus: ‘It is … for the uprooting of the underlying tendencies SN 45.42

One can say holy life is lived for the sake of doing away with the seamstress, craving is lodged within underlying tendency.
With love