Support of consciousness in Arupadhatu

Do you know about any sutta which refers to the support of consciousness in the arupadhatu?

Usually nama-rupa is presented as the support of consciousness and consciousness as the support of nama-rupa. But since in arupadhatu there is no rupa (is there?), does it mean that consciousnesss support there is only feeling, perception and formations? Im looking for any explanation of it in the suttas but can`t find it.

Im asking this because Ive been trying to compare the early presentation of the interdependence of nama-rupa and consciousness and contemporary understanding that mind is an emergent property of the body. Can anyone shed some light on this?


Greetings @Luis and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

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I look forward to seeing what is offered in answer to your question :slight_smile:

Metta :dharmawheel: :revolving_hearts: :sunflower:


Yes. As you say viññāṇa is supported by nāma-rūpa. So even if you remove the rūpa part, there is still nāma to support vññāṇa. This is what happens in the immaterial realms.

This implies, of course, that consciousness is not an emergent property of matter or the body. According to Buddhism the mind can exist even in the absence of material phenomena.


Hi, Brahmali.
Do you have any sutta reference to show the Buddha taught as you say?

In the Anguttara Nikaya, Navakanipata, IV (the great chapter) sutta 37 (6th of the chapter), called Ānada, it is said:

"The eye itself as well as those forms will actually be present, and yet one will not experience that base. The ear itself as well as those sounds… "

And that sutta is about the formless concentrations. So I actually wonder if there is any sutta teaching saying that there is no rupa present (although not perceived) in the arupadhatu existence.

On the emergence of mind, I’ll start another topic about that in the Discussion section. For now, I’ll stick to the question about a sutta quote explaining if there is or there isn’t unperceived rupa in the arupadhatu.

Thank you, Viveka. :slight_smile:


The problem is that because you can emerge from these attainments you can argue that there is always a material substrate. The sutta you are quoting is saying just this: the sense spheres are still in existence in the sense that you will return to them after you emerge from the attainment. If you want to show that mental phenomena can exist entirely without a physical substrate, you will have to go beyond samādhi, which in practice means bringing in the idea of rebirth.

Rebirth, according to the suttas, occurs through states of existence that are equivalent to the various experiences you can have as a human, including samādhi experiences. This means that you can be reborn in an immaterial state. In this case there is no underlying body that you return to after the end of the experience, and so there cannot be any material support for the mind.


The Theravada view is that the body is a result of mind. The level of rebirth depends on the mind state, so if the mind has attained the immaterial absorptions rebirth can take place there. Rebirth with a body in the sensuous realm only occurs because there is still craving remaining, when that craving is eliminated then there is no cause for a body to arise, and rebirth takes place in a higher realm, or not at all.

“it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos.”—AN 4.45

Hi, @paul1.
Thank you for your response. Do you see that your quote goes in the opposite direction of what you said? “within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect”. It doesn’t talk about a body resulting from mind, but about a body endowed with a mind as being the whole cosmos.

I have created a new topic for discussing this issue. So here we can stick then to the question, which is if there any sutta explaining the support of consciousness in arupadhatu.

Thank you :slight_smile:

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No. “This fathom- long carcass:”

“World” or “cosmos” means in Buddhist terms the three realms of conditioned experience, the sensuous, fine-material, and immaterial which are subject to impermanence (SN 35.82).

But what is the significant difference if it is translated as “body” or as “dead body” or “carcas”? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

The difference is that with the living body as support for mind, there is the valuable opportunity to practice (SN 56.48). For example those in the immaterial planes have no sense faculties so cannot take in dhamma.

That’s exactly what I’m still waiting for, which is the original question: is there any sutta in which the Buddha says if the beings in arupa realms have or don’t have bodies?

I’m aware there are teachings saying they can’t learn Dhamma, of course, since they can’t have the experience of hearing from anyone, or reading any texts, etc. They simply don’t experience any external form, sound, etc. But that doesn’t respond the question if they have the 5 kandhas or not.

Hello, @Brahmali.
I’ve finally found a sutta which seems to agree with what you are saying.
In it, the Buddha quotes a “sensible person” reflecting about the “gods who are formless and made of perception”.
This really seems to be the only indication in the four main Nikayas, and is not quite assertive. The whole section is very instructive, so I’ll put it in full here for whoever ends up having this question and reading this topic:

A sensible person reflects on this matter in this way: ‘Some ascetics and brahmins say that there are no totally formless meditations, but I have not seen that. Some ascetics and brahmins say that there are totally formless meditations, but I have not known that. Without knowing or seeing, it would not be appropriate for me to take one side and declare, ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are silly.’ If those ascetics and brahmins who say that there are no totally formless meditations are correct, it is possible that I will be guaranteed rebirth among the gods who possess form and made of mind. If those ascetics and brahmins who say that there are totally formless meditations are correct, it is possible that I will be guaranteed rebirth among the gods who are formless and made of perception. Now, owing to form, bad things are seen: taking up the rod and the sword, quarrels, arguments, and fights, accusations, divisive speech, and lies. But those things don’t exist where it is totally formless.’ Reflecting like this, they simply practice for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding forms.


Yes. In the suttas you find gods made of mind (manomaya), as well as gods made of perception (saññāmaya). In either case there is no good reason for thinking they are supported by a physical basis.


The reason it is difficult to find information on a subject like this is because it goes in the opposite direction to the aim of the path, which is the reduction of vexation.

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world (three realms) is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.”—- AN 4-77

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with renunciation arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with renunciation has arisen in me; and that leads neither to my own affliction, nor to the affliction of others, nor to the affliction of both. It fosters discernment, promotes lack of vexation, & leads to Unbinding.”—-MN 19

That is not to say the exemplary achievement of the devas shouldn’t be recollected.

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In the theravadin interpretation of the Sutta pitaka four aggregates are conjoined; vinnana, sanna, vedana & sankhara. Rupa ought not to be said to be conjoined precisely because it isn’t fabricated [conceived & perceived] as it [the perception & conception of form as form] is stilled as one enters the arupa states.

The explicit support for this [four aggregates being conjoined] is in the Vibhanga, section on the aggregates by Abhidhamma method.


“Stilled” is not the right word. The actual foundation of the perception of the immaterial states is achieved due to their contrast or reaction against form.

“The property of the dimension of the infinitude of space is discerned in dependence on form.”—SN 14.11

This is a standard technique used where the remnant of one element forms a foil which enhances the qualities of and forms a springboard for the next, for example in MN 121:

“He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.”

An evaluation, a feeling judgment is made of the relative peace of one subject compared with the preceding one.

When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of space, the perception of forms has been stilled.

Im out and back into my retirement, so i won’t respond to further discussion anytime soon.