Translations of Pāḷi 'avakkanti' (particularly with nāmarūpa)

Hello, all! :smiley: Hope everyone is well.

I’m curious about the possible translations of the term ‘avakkanti’ (and its equivalent form, ‘okkanti’) in the suttas, in particular in reference to nāmarūpa.

It is defined from the PTS dictionary as: "entry (lit. descent), appearance, coming to be. "
New Concise Pali dictionary: 1. coming down (into); entering (the womb), conception

In DN 15 (Mahā Nidāna Sutta), viññāṇa is that which is said to ‘descend’ into the womb. However, in other suttas, we see this verb in relation to nāmarūpa. For example:

In the same Nidānasaṁyutta, we get a quote similar to that of DN 15 and in reverse:

We also see the word coming up in relation to conceit:

Avakkanti clearly can and does mean descent or conception in the sense of birth (such as in DN 15 where it’s specifically mentioned to refer to the beginning of a being’s life, or when used as one possible synonym for jāti in the definitions of jāti), but contextually it seems also to not necessarily be limited to those meanings. In the first passage for instance (SN 12.64), I find it strange that this would be referring to something occurring across 3 lifetimes when it much more naturally would read as something across 2: Consciousness is established upon something, and as such nāmarūpa becomes established in that; saṅkhārās go on creating and propelling that establishment further, and as such when the body breaks up, there is renewed existence based on the nāmarūpa that was conceived/established in.
We see this also in the context of consciousness coming to growth/fertility (viruḷha) which relates to the “kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture” simile.
Consciousness, being established and watered with delight, establishes itself on nāmarūpa, sustained and paired with saṅkhārās, which make for the renewal of those things in conjunction with the state of them in the current (or previous) existence (field of corresponding kamma).

The other way of interpreting it would be to read it as across three lifetimes: consciousness becomes established, and because of that a renewed existence is formed with the conception of future nāmarūpa, and then that pairs with saṅkhārās in that existence which make for yet another renewed future existence after that. This seems odd. It stretches things out in a way that isn’t exactly complete: the saṅkhārās aren’t mentioned in the first “life,” there’s no mention of a renewed future existence except for after the conception of nāmarūpa in the established consciousness paired with saṅkhārās, and it seems somewhat impractical to say that because consciousness is established on nutriment now, there’s going to be a renewed existence 3 lifetimes from now.

EDIT: One such passage (thanks to @CurlyCarl for bringing it to my attention!) in MN 121 also uses the word metaphorically:

This also seems to point to an establishment, manifestation, etc. of emptiness (here the perception of emptiness) in one’s experience.
Do hose more skilled in Pāḷi (perhaps Venerable @sujato has insight into this and his choice of translation) have any insight into this? Could avakkanti/okkanti also mean the establishment or appearance/manifestation/conception of something beyond the conception of embryos? Thank you! :pray:

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In SN12.64 the order of the factors may be non-standard, which is a tiny bit unusual, but nothing to analyze too deeply, imo. They should just be read as happening alongside one another. Notice that it uses the word ‘where’ (yattha). I.e. where consciousness is reborn, there a body and immaterial aspects (namarupa) are formed (conceived), that is where karma (sankhara) comes to fruition, and that is where there is rebirth. It doesn’t mean to say, as far as I understand, that they succeed one another in time.

Because otherwise the cessation sequence, where the factors are also out of place, would also span three lifetimes, and that would of course be silly! This cessation happens at the end of the life of an arahant.

I think ‘conceived’ is a good translation, much more explanatory than the overly literal “descent”. Thanks for the dictionary references! I didn’t know the Concice dictionary suggested it. I was already using it myself before Sujato opted to use it too.

Another good reference is AN3.61.

Supported by the six elements, an embryo is conceived. When it is conceived, there are name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields.

I wrote something related to this before:

avakkanti also found in MN 121


My apologies for what will turn out to be a decidedly anti-climactic post, but this topic is very important to me, I want to hear what others have to say, but I’m travelling right now and will need a day or two to respond. I have some very insightful articles by one or two Japanese scholars dealing with just this topic. One thing I remember offhand is that avakkanti pertaining to the womb can refer to any point in the in-dwelling process, not just the initial descent or entry.

I was actually looking for a thread on the meaning of namarupa: specifically, how we classify it as a compound. Any old threads like that?


Greetings @Sunyo :slight_smile: Thanks for the reply.

As a heads up, I edited my post to include the reference to MN 121 where the avakkanti of emptiness is said to be established in someone who does the meditation on emptiness, which could be of relevance to the subject matter.

In SN 12.64, it says that consciousness is established on one of the nutriments/its objects, and it is in that place/there ‘tattha’ that it is established and grows. The where/place is referring to the particular object of consciousness (nāmarūpa) on which it has become established and grown within one’s current existence, it seems.

In that same vein, the reduction of nāmarūpa to something like ‘mind and body’ misses one of the essential points in my personal opinion. One’s nāmarūpa is their particular chunk of all of the 10,000 things, i.e. all of the nāmarūpa of the world. Consciousness must be conscious of something, and that thing is nāmarūpa, which is then also where it ends up ‘planting’ itself in the field of kamma for a more permanent residence: into the world of nāmarūpa, in one particular ‘piece.’ The whirlpool (vaṭṭa) of saṁsāra is always between viññāṇa and nāmarūpa, neither can stand independently (see SN 12.67, etc.). So when consciousness becomes established on nāmarūpa and that relationship is watered with delight and the saṅkhārās related to it, it is making way for viññāṇa to replant itself in the world of nāmarūpa that is utterly dependent upon it in a new chunk of nāmarūpa. Seeing through that interdependent relationship (aññamaññapaccayatā as the commentaries sometimes call it) with full insight would make it impossible for nāmarūpa to become established in consciousness and propelled with saṅkhārās, and as such consciousness will not re-plant itself into the world of nāmarūpa that entirely depends upon it.

I think this relationship and the understanding of it is essential for the full depth of these passages to come out, and it seems that the passage is pointing to that given the fact that it mentions the punabbhava as the result of this established cyclical relationship. The reference to the AN also points to this to degree. Once the embryo is conceived, there is nāmarūpa. There, the embryo is not equated to nāmarūpa, but rather is the condition for there to be nāmarūpa. That is, once the embryo is conceived and the seed of consciousness planted, that particular piece of nāmarūpa and the world of nāmarūpa it finds itself in has been established.

As for the saṅkhārā, I would agree that in this case saṅkhārās are related to kamma and activate it, but not that this is referring to the field of kamma into which consciousness is born in the future existence. Rather, they would be those saṅkhārās that construct, prepare, and till that field of kamma into which consciousness will be reborn (i.e. they are related to present kammma as consciousness is established upon nāmarūpa), as is mentioned in the following part of the sutta:

It still seems most plausible to me that this is referring to the establishment of consciousness on nāmarūpa, its object, which makes way for the growth of the related saṅkhārās one makes and so on in relation to that establishment and which maintain it, and which then make way for the renewed existence into the field of kamma that has been saṅkhata accordingly. The cyclical nature of this—where saṅkhārās propel the establishment of consciousness on nāmarūpa, and yet the corresponding saṅkhārās come to grow and increase only once consciousness is established on more particular things in the domain of nāmarūpa (here we have reference to the four nutriments)—is really interesting and profound. It reminds me of a passage in AN 6.61 (Majjhe Sutta):

Let me know what you think :smiley:
With mettā!

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Hi KYG. I agree with you above. It seems the contextual uses of avakkanti & okkamati are so diverse in the suttas that I think our consideration of these words must be extremely broad and flexible.

The use of the various words in the various suttas you quoted is very interesting for me; even the use of similar words such as ‘virūḷhaṁ’ & ‘vuddhi’.

In SN 12.64, SN 12.59 and SN 22.47, there seems to be an arising occurring before the avakkanti.

  • In SN 12.64, desire, relishing and craving have arisen before the patiṭṭhitaṁ & virūḷhaṁ of consciousness and the avakkanti of nama-rupa.
  • In SN 12.59, there has arisen dwelling pondering/contemplating the gratification about things that fetter (saṁyojaniyesu dhammesu assādānupassino viharato) before the avakkanti of consciousness.
  • In SN 22.47, the conceit “I” is arising before the avakkanti of the five sense faculties.

Based on my limited reading, at this time, I think any inference that patiṭṭhitaṁ (from SN 12.64) is synonymous with avakkanti should be avoided.

Patiṭṭhitaṁ is particularly notable in SN 22.53, where it seems to simply refer to consciousness becoming established/fixed with delight (nandi) upon certain sense objects. Also, both vuddhiṁ (grow) & virūḷhiṁ (increase) are used in SN 22.53. Therefore, in SN 12.64 & SN 22.53, first the consciousness becomes ‘established’ (‘patiṭṭhitaṁ’) and then it proliferates (grows & increases). Then from this, there is the avakkanti of nama-rupa.

SN 12.59 seems similar because it seems the consciousness is already established in a gratifying fettering object via the use of the words “ānupassino viharato”. Although the word ‘patiṭṭhitaṁ’ is not found here, “ānupassino viharato” (“dwelling contemplating”) has a similar meaning. Therefore, in SN 12.59, there is dwelling contemplating the delightful object; then from this there is the avakkanti of consciousness.

In SN 12.64, after the patiṭṭhitaṁ of consciousness & avakkanti of nama-rupa there is the vuddhi of sankhara. The vuddhi here is similar to the same word (vaddha) in MN 149, which says:

Mendicants, when you don’t truly know and see the eye, sights, eye consciousness, eye contact, and what is felt as pleasant, painful, or neutral that arises conditioned by eye contact, you’re aroused by desire for these things.

“Cakkhuṁ, bhikkhave, ajānaṁ apassaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, rūpe ajānaṁ apassaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhuviññāṇaṁ ajānaṁ apassaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhusamphassaṁ ajānaṁ apassaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, yamidaṁ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṁ sukhaṁ vā dukkhaṁ vā adukkhamasukhaṁ vā tampi ajānaṁ apassaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhusmiṁ sārajjati, rūpesu sārajjati, cakkhuviññāṇe sārajjati, cakkhusamphasse sārajjati, yamidaṁ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṁ sukhaṁ vā dukkhaṁ vā adukkhamasukhaṁ vā tasmimpi sārajjati.

Someone who lives aroused like this—fettered, confused, concentrating on gratification—accumulates the five grasping aggregates for themselves in the future.

Tassa sārattassa saṁyuttassa sammūḷhassa assādānupassino viharato āyatiṁ pañcupādānakkhandhā upacayaṁ gacchanti.

And their craving—which leads to future rebirth, mixed up with relishing and greed, looking for enjoyment in various different realms—grows.

Taṇhā cassa ponobbhavikā nandīrāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī, sā cassa pavaḍḍhati.

Their physical and mental stress,

Tassa kāyikāpi darathā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi darathā pavaḍḍhanti;

kāyikāpi santāpā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi santāpā pavaḍḍhanti;

and fever grow.

kāyikāpi pariḷāhā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi pariḷāhā pavaḍḍhanti.

And they experience physical and mental suffering.

So kāyadukkhampi cetodukkhampi paṭisaṁvedeti.

MN 149

My conclusions: … START AGAIN :slightly_smiling_face:

SN 12.64 is similar to the Dukkhavagga, which contains the following suttas:

  1. SN 12.51; a questionable sutta containing Abhidhamma principles. We can ignore SN 12.51.
  2. SN 12.52, which is about there are things that are prone to being grasped. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  3. SN 12.53, which is about there are things that are prone to being fettered. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  4. SN 12.54, which is about there are things that are prone to being fettered. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  5. SN 12.55, which is about there are things that are prone to being grasped. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  6. SN 12.56, which is about there are things that are prone to being grasped. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  7. SN 12.57, which is about there are things that are prone to being fettered. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.
  8. SN 12.58, which is about there are things that are prone to being fettered. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, name and form are conceived.
  9. SN 12.59, which is about there are things that are prone to being fettered. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, consciousness is conceived.
  10. SN 12.60, which is about there are things that are prone to being grasped. When you concentrate on the gratification provided by these things, your craving grows.

SN 12.63, which is in the Mahāvagga, is the first sutta about the Four Nutriments, explaining what the Four Nutriments are.

SN 12.64, is the next sutta, applying the principles in the Dukkhavagga to the Four Nutriments. SN 12.64 says if there is desire, relishing and craving for the Four Nutriments of solid food, contact, mental intention &/or consciousness, then consciousness becomes established there and grows (patiṭṭhitaṁ virūḷhaṁ); name and form are conceived (avakkanti) and there is the growth (vuddhi) of mental formations/proliferation (sankhara).

In conclusion, about SN 12.64, since consciousness as one of the Four Nutriments is potentially an object of craving, here, it seems what is subject to avakkanti is nama-rupa because, similar to solid food, as a Nutriment, consciousness is something a Buddha must also use. For example, MN 43 says wisdom & consciousness are co-joined therefore there cannot be wisdom without consciousness. In other words, in SN 12.64, it seems consciousness is treated as something ‘neutral’ rather than as inherently unwholesome. So in SN 12.64, when the problem of defilement emerges (avakkanti), it is because of nama-rupa. In other words, nama-rupa is giving inappropriate attention to the Four Nutriments (rather than using the Four Nutriments with wisdom).

If you do not understand what I am concluding above, we must return to SN 12.63, which is difficult yet also simple to understand. SN 12.63 points out the problem of defilement (in bold text) that can occur (when there is ignorance) in relation to the Four Nutriments, as follows:

  • When solid food is completely understood, desire [rago/lust] for the five kinds of sensual stimulation is completely understood.
  • When contact as fuel is completely understood, the three feelings are completely understood.
  • When mental intention as fuel is completely understood, the three cravings are completely understood.
  • When consciousness as fuel is completely understood, name and form is completely understood. When name and form are completely understood, a noble disciple has nothing further to do, I say.

In summary, SN 12.63 instructs:

  • When solid food must be eaten, eat it like you are eating your own son’s flesh. Do not eat it with lust. Just eat enough for the journey across the desert.
  • When contact must occur, be mindful to endure the “biting/nibbling” of feelings, so to not generate craving.
  • When intention must be used, ensure the intention is Noble Intention rather than craving.
  • When consciousness is experienced, ensure nama-rupa does not generate wrong intention & inappropriate attention towards consciousness. Keep in mind SN 12.2 defines nama-rupa as feeling, perception, intention, contact & attention.

Therefore, to conclude about SN 12.64, my personal theory/working hypothesis :smile: is the avakkanti of nama-rupa occurs because nama-rupa is the potentially problematic active dhamma here (because consciousness is passively rendered as one of the sense objects/nutriments). :dizzy:



  • In SN 12.58, an unskillful problem (of assādānupassino viharato) arises at nama-rupa when you concentrate on the gratification provided by things. Thus nama-rupa is avakkanti.
  • In SN 12.59, an unskillful problem (of assādānupassino viharato) arises at consciousness when you concentrate on the gratification provided by things. Thus consciousness is avakkanti.
  • In SN 22.47, an unskillful problem arises at the five sense faculties when the conceit “I am” is not abandoned. Thus the five sense faculties is avakkanti.

:surfing_man:t2: :saluting_face: :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

Assuming, for now, the above hypothesis is correct, namely, avakkanti is applied to the primary active emergent dhamma, we can now consider other uses of these words:

  • MN 121 - That’s how emptiness is born [emerges; enters] in them—genuine, undistorted and pure. Evampissa esā, ānanda, yathābhuccā avipallatthā parisuddhā paramānuttarā suññatāvakkanti bhavati.
  • DN 15 - If consciousness were not conceived [entered] in the mother’s womb, would name and form coagulate there? Viññāṇañca hi, ānanda, mātukucchismiṁ na okkamissatha, api nu kho nāmarūpaṁ mātukucchismiṁ samuccissathā”ti?
  • AN 3.22 - Some people can enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities, but only if they get to see a Realized One, and to hear the teaching and training that he proclaims, and not when they don’t get those things. Idha pana, bhikkhave, ekacco puggalo labhantova tathāgataṁ dassanāya no alabhanto, labhantova tathāgatappaveditaṁ dhammavinayaṁ savanāya no alabhanto okkamati niyāmaṁ kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṁ.
  • SN 12.2 - The rebirth, inception, conception [emergence; entry], reincarnation, manifestation of the aggregates, and acquisition of the sense fields of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. Yā tesaṁ tesaṁ sattānaṁ tamhi tamhi sattanikāye jāti sañjāti okkanti abhinibbatti khandhānaṁ pātubhāvo āyatanānaṁ paṭilābho.
  • AN 5.158 - “Mendicants, a mendicant with five qualities is overcome by timidity. Pañcahi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu sārajjaṁ okkanto hoti.
  • AN 7.61 - So, Moggallāna, don’t focus on or cultivate the perception that you were meditating on when you fell drowsy. Tasmātiha, moggallāna, yathāsaññissa te viharato taṁ middhaṁ okkamati, taṁ saññaṁ mā manasākāsi, taṁ saññaṁ mā bahulamakāsi.
  • Iti 83 - Their flower-garlands wither; their clothes become soiled; they sweat from the armpits; their physical appearance [falls into; enters into deterioration] deteriorates; and they no longer delight in their heavenly throne. mālā milāyanti, vatthāni kilissanti, kacchehi sedā muccanti, kāye dubbaṇṇiyaṁ okkamati, sake devo devāsane nābhiramatīti.
  • Snp 2.7 - This unnatural violence has been passed down [descended from; emerged from] as an ancient custom. Okkanto purāṇo ahu;
  • SN 51.22 - Sometimes the Realized One submerges his body in his mind and his mind in his body. He meditates after sinking [entering] into a perception of bliss and lightness in the body. Yasmiṁ, ānanda, samaye tathāgato kāyampi citte samodahati cittampi kāye samodahati, sukhasaññañca lahusaññañca kāye okkamitvā viharati;
  • AN 3.61 Supported by the six elements, an embryo is conceived [emerges; develops; enters]. Channaṁ, bhikkhave, dhātūnaṁ upādāya gabbhass āvakkanti hoti;

Therefore, for now, I maintain my hypothesis that ‘avakkanti’ is used for the primary active dhamma (whether wholesome or unwholesome) that is emerging/emergent (avakkanti). It follows, in SN 12.64, consciousness is not the primary active dhamma but instead is a secondary passive dhamma. The primary active dhamma in SN 12.64 is namarupa. :slightly_smiling_face:

Note: for me, SN 12.58, SN 12.59 & SN 12.64 are not related to DN 15 or AN 3.61. DN 15 seems certainly about consciousness entering into the mother’s womb while SN 12.58, SN 12.59 & SN 12.64 seem about the consciousness & namarupa in relation to sense objects.


Oh, as per Nyanananda’s interpretation, is it? I prefer to interpret ‘where’ just like the commentary, as the realm in which one is reborn.

The objects of consciousness in the suttas is not namarupa (with perhaps one exception which mentions external namarupa, and not in the ordinary sequence of factors either). The objects are the six sense objects: form, sound, etc.

For one reason, because of the clear link with namarupa with an embryo in various suttas, which is not an object of consciousness of course. Also, more analytically, because nama includes contact (phassa) as one of the factors (see e.g. SN12.2) and contact is not an object of consciousness. It is the process which gives rise to consciousness, so it can’t be an object.

I appreciate you looking for various contexts, which is something people should do more often. :smiley: Still, one word can have multiple meanings, and if the contexts are not clearly related, there is no reason to think the two are related conceptually. It’s the same with ‘conception’ in English, of course, which in some contexts means what goes on on the womb, in other contexts something more abstract. So avakkanti also doesn’t have to mean one thing throughout the suttas. I think there is clear indications that it doesn’t, like the “conception of an embryo” that I mentioned, which is clearly more directly related to SN12.64 and such than the other contexts you mentioned.

Haven’t got the time to read your whole post now, but just because the things are mentioned sequentially doesn’t mean they are seperated in time. Also, even if they were, that one would happen “before”

The cessation sequence in all these suttas clearly is analogous to the standard cessation sequence of dependent arising. And there it refers to the cessation of consciousness and namarupa, which happen when the enlightened one passes away. The “non-conception” of namarupa and “non-establishing” of consciousness refer to this as well, to the cessation. Technically they are not 100% synonomous, but clearly this is the main point of these texts. What happens with consciousness while alive is not important to the cessation sequence. What matters is how consciousness comes to cease. Which is, when it is no longer established in a next life, a next namarupa.

Greetings :slight_smile:

I’m on mobile this time around so I may not be able to put together a clean presentation. Thought I’d share some thoughts though!

Nāmarūpa as the object of consciousness is the historical context of the word and is found throughout the suttas—it’s not only Ven. Ñānananda’s interpretation. In that specific reference though, I was referring to how the sutta specifically says that the place that consciousness lands is the object it’s established on (in this case, the place was the physical food nutriment). I used nāmarūpa generally as the term for the object, but the sutta itself said that the place that consciousness lands is on the nutriment of food, and the other nutriments, in this context.

Consciousness is established there, and where it is established is where there’s the ‘avakkanti’ of namarupa.

As for nāmarūpa being the object, this is the pre-Buddhist meaning of the word and the context in which the Buddha used it. It is kind of the given, understood meaning that wasn’t questioned. The Buddha gave an analysis of the factors involved in each side rather than nāma being a symbolic and formal name. This is explained in the Mahā Nidāna Sutta itself in some detail. Without the constituents of nāma, there could be no recognition of rūpa (adhivacanasamphassa)—rūpa being the thing itself. But without rūpa, there could be no resistance or ‘thing’ to designate via the nāma-factors (patighasamphassa). When we see a table, for instance, that would be impossible if there were no saññā of it (which comes with a respective vedanā), without its respective cetanā, without attention to the phenomenon itself (manasikāra), and without there literally being the contact and meeting of the things which the designation is based upon. There would be no ‘table’ to designate without the rūpa itself, however (defined in nāmarūpa as the 4 great elements themselves, and any form that is derived from them).

Some more on why phassa is included in nāma is because rūpa (the four elements and forms derived from them, as per the definition) must be engaged with via contact (and subsequently manasikāra, hence them being listed next to each other), as the mahābhūta stand on their own to be ‘discovered’ by nāma. This also implies the need of consciousness in which is what makes present the phenomena within contact, just as saññā and vedanā implie viññāna. I think in the context of nāmarūpa it refers not to phassa of paticcasamuppāda but more to the phassāyatanāni-bases with the coming together of these things being designated. In brief, the mahābhūta must be ‘discovered’ by nāma for designation of a rūpa which entails phassa.

I believe I recall learning that in Tibetan Buddhism they still go from the Abhidhamma definition of nāmarūpas as the 5 khandhas, but interestingly they have the same list as the definition of nāmarūpa in the Pāli suttas which they use to refer to the same thing: the factors of all the empirical world / the sense objects. Below are some suttas referencing this that make it a bit more clear, but like I said, nāmarūpa as the empirical world of all sense objects and individual things was just the understanding of the word itself at the time. The Buddha broke that down and analyzed the real way we recognize the things in the world, rather than it being a form and a formal name, but it still referred to the same thing that everyone understood it as in their daily lives (particularly Brahmins, maybe not lower class people unfamiliar with philosophy). The Buddha’s analysis of this is actually fascinating though and way ahead of his time—the fact that an object is really a percept with feelings and attention and so forth, and not matter itself, is genius (and true) — very intriguing!

DN 15 almost forgot to put this one in the list which itself discusses how the objects of contact are a combination of nama and rupa
SN 12.63 for instance describes how nāmarūpa is the object of consciousness, just as vedanā is the kind of object/result of phassa and so on.
SN 1.23 makes reference to nāmarūpa and how it relates to rūpasaññā (the percept of an individual object/rūpa, dependent on the nāma of saññā) and patigha (the rūpa’s impact, known via nāma, such as the feelings it evokes, the contact with it, and so on). The tangle within is presumably one’s individual nāmarūpa, and the tangle without the external nāmarūpa. This could also be interpreted to be the tangle within as viññāna and nāmarūpa generally, and then nāma vs. rūpa. Both make sense to me.
SN 1.27 makes reference to namarupa and the four elements not finding footing
SN 1.61 talks about how everything comes under the sway of nāma (contrasted with citta and craving and some other things in the chapter)and
SN 1.20 makes reference to this less directly, about people caught up in the things known by naming
(of course nāma in Buddhist terms is the more analytical approach of all the mental factors that make up the percept and recognition of something).
AN 6.61 has a Thera analyzing one of the verses in the Pārāyanavagga, and says “Nāma is one end. Rūpa is the second end. Viññāna is the middle.”
Snp 4.11 talks about nāmarūpa and the rūpasaññā again, and also connects it to papañasankhā
SN 12.19 of course makes mention of nāmarūpa externally (as mentioned); similarly
SN 22.91 refers to ‘this conscious body’ and all external stimuli via referring to nimittas. The word nāmarūpa is not used but the context is the same, and the internal element is the body with consciousness rather than namarupa, which is identical with the phrasing of the Agama parallel for SN 12.19 above
MN 109 says that the nāmarūpa is the source for consciousness to be recognized (i.e. what can only recognize consciousness by its object because it does not appear). This is common for the consciousness nutriment as mentioned above and throughout the suttas, as well as for the consciousness aggregate itself. This related as well to:
SN 22.95 in which we get similes for the aggregates. We know that consciousness arises with nāmarūpa as per the above/suttas that discuss the origin of the aggregates. Here consciousness is described as a magical illusion, presumably nāmarūpa being the ‘show’ (considering consciousness cannot be seen, only nāmarūpa, part of its illusive nature). This relates to—
Snp 3.12 in which, under the section on the noble ones’ truth, it is said that beings within the world of nāmarūpa conceive/imagine it to be true.
Khp 4 actually has nāma and rūpa as “the two” in its questions for a novice interestingly as well
SN 47.42 nāmarūpa is the nutriment/basis for the arising of citta, and thus the two cannot be the same but are related. Citta is often within the similar domain of viññāna + takes on a more emotional and intentional role. Here too nāmarūpa is its basis like that of viññāna. It would seem that the ‘mind’ is not so much nāma but rather nāma are those mental factors that are what make rūpa recognizable (literally name it, designate it) and rūpa are what give nāma a thing to name. The mind (citta) is what reacts and responds to all of that, without it there could be no citta. Nothing to feel, perceive, etc.
AN 10.58 is interesting. Less related, but there it talks about how all phenomena originate from manasikara, identical to how any object (rupa) includes the attention to it from nāma. And without rūpa to give attention to, nāma is inconceivable. They’re inseparable.

Those are some of the suttas that come to mind and help elucidate this :slight_smile: I think the most important thing, too, is the fact that this was an extremely common term in the day of the Buddha that meant this. His picking it apart and turning it into a deeper teaching is fascinating and must be understood in context in my opinion for getting a full reading of these references. It’s also profound because it shows that, unlike what many Brahmins at the time thought, consciousness be conscious of something, and that is nāmarūpa according to their terminology. The goal was consciousness without any namarupa: pure consciousness. Suttas such as DN 15, DN 14, SN 12.67, etc. the fact that consciousness and nāmarūpa must go together is something that really hits home a point for Brahmins at the time: there is no objectless-consciousness (using terms they would understand and used, i.e. nāmarūpa).

The fact that the latter has been forgotten of today has led to some strange views in Buddhism (like an objectless, deathless consciousness), which if people were properly informed of contextually, they would know that that is exactly what suttas such as DN 15 are rejecting and demonstrating is impossible.

With much mettā!

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Nāmarūpa as the object of consciousness seems only found in the suttas which omit sankhara & avicca. :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

omits & alternately defines a number of conditions. Personally, I avoid doing what Nanananda did, which was to impute DN 15 onto SN 12.2. DN 15 seems not found in the Patisambiddha Magga or the Abhidhamma. It seems DN 15, during that era, did not have the same esteem as Theradava has given to it in more recent times. I suggest to consider Sujato’s introduction to the DN. The Long Discourses: Dhamma as literature and compilation :slightly_smiling_face: If DN 15 is emphasized, then the six-fold consciousness is overlooked. :grimacing:

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Greetings, CurlyCarl :slight_smile:

I think you may have overlooked my point. Emphasizing the six-fold consciousness and their object, nāmarūpa, rather than the idea of a rebirth-linking-consciousness and “mind-and-body” is precisely my point.

I wouldn’t agree that DN 15 is problematic. I just think it tends to be misread with an overemphasis on unavoidable details. Just because it references the descent of consciousness doesn’t mean viññāna means that, it just means it references the descent of consciousness. Similarly, just because it refers to a particular nāmarūpa in one section doesn’t mean the preceding section should be ignored which describes nāmarūpa as the objects of contact/viññāna. Viññāna is planted in the domain of nāmarūpa, taking as its support a the particular manifestation of nāmarūpa according to one’s kamma.
Understanding it in this way not only fits with the usage of the word in the sutta in relation to contact, but also to the other places in the canon where mind-body are irreconcilable, and to the time/context/language of the Buddha and the dialogue his teaching was in with the other traditions of the time (and shortly after his passing). Trying to force nāmarūpa to mean something that the disconnected Abhidhamma understood it as and reading it into the suttas just misses the entire point and also turns the language not into a normal, culturally-loaded web, but rather into a dry manual of technical terminology and clean definitions.

As for the absence of avijjā and sankhārā: they are implied and this is made clear throughout the sutta. Again, a case of reading too much into something (like absence of sankhara) and coming to iffy conclusions. But not a problem with the sutta itself.

The fact that it could be later is a good point though. I’m not denying that, but I do think it’s a valuable sutta and not one to be afraid of.

Also, @CurlyCarl , I’m wondering if perhaps avakkanti could be similar to gādhati here. Consciousness is what is said to be established, and an established consciousness = rebirth. Unestablished consciousness = no more rebirth / cessation of consciousness. I wonder if nāmarūpa here is in a similar spot but reverse (because it cannot be said to be established like consciousness is) in that it is what consciousness is established on, i.e. it emerges, gains footing, enters into consciousness. This then, with the growth of sankharas, leads to rebirth just as an established consciousness does. It’s the reverse order. There can also be considerable overlap because one’s rebirth is determined, besides kamma, by the establishment of the mind which entails both nāmarūpa and viññāna. The growth of sabkharas would account for that other part of the equation where the sutta mentions consciousness being established and nāmarūpa entering in. The 3 elements combined = renewed existence in the future (sankhārā water and prepare that relationship, maintaining it for future renewed existence).

With mettā! :pray:

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Hey again Kaccayanagotta,

Got some more time now, sorry for a rushed post yesterday. Sometimes when I wait a day or two the whole discussion has already derailed, so I thought I’d get in some thoughts quickly. But here are some more worked out thoughts.

You use some terminology I am not very familiar with, which makes it a bit hard to respond without possibly misrepresenting you. So if I do, I apologize. But, like, what is a whirlpool of saṃsāra to you? Saṃsāra always refers to rebirth in the suttas, not some awareness of objects. It means ‘wandering on’, wandering on through the rounds of births, hence it is also often called jatisaṃsāra. I’m sure you are familiar with SN15 which talks about having had endless mothers in saṃsāra and so on.

As to AN3.61:

The reference to the AN also points to this to degree. Once the embryo is conceived, there is nāmarūpa. There, the embryo is not equated to nāmarūpa, but rather is the condition for there to be nāmarūpa.

But interestingly the Pali for this phrase is actually different than that for the conditional relations that follow. Okkantiyā sati nāmarūpaṁ, “when there is a conception [of the embryo], nāmarūpa.” Except for a literal statement “embryo = nāmarūpa” (which would be false because the embryo also includes consciousness), this is as close as it could get to an equation. Unlike all the following links, it does not have the word paccayā (‘condition’), so it is more readily read as an actual equation of the two—or at least it is a much closer equation than all the following links. Which of course aligns with DN15 where nāmarūpa clearly refers to the embryo, would you agree? If so, why would it not do here? Also consider the sequence here in AN3.61, conception of embryo > nāmarūpa > six senses, and compare it to MN39 which has (though not as compact) conception of embryo > child in the womb and birth > six senses.

As to SN12.64 again:

It still seems most plausible to me that this is referring to the establishment of consciousness on nāmarūpa, its object.

But why is that most plausible to you? The sentence you quoted literally says, “Where saṅkhārās grow, there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future”. Plus the word ‘there’ (tattha) is clearly referring to the place of rebirth in this sentence, not to some object of awareness, hence the relative ‘where’ (yattha) must do so too, it seems to me.

Also, the term ‘grow’ is directly related to the seed of consciousness simile which is also implied by ‘planted’ (patitthita) and ‘sprout’ (virulhi) in the same sutta. The sutta is full of metaphors and such, so it’s dangerous to focus too much on single lines. The simile of this sutta for example is very descriptive, which I’ll talk about in my next post. Spoiler: I don’t think it’s about awareness of objects. :wink: :smiley:

As to AN6.61:

Name, reverends, is one end. Form is the second end. Consciousness is the middle. And craving is the seamstress.

The bhikkhus all disagreed on what the two ends and the middle are, though. But they all agreed on why craving is the seamstress. “For craving weaves one to rebirth in this or that state of existence.” In other words, craving is the seamstress because it leads to rebirth. So whatever they meant by the cryptic ends and middle (and clearly it is cryptic because they already disagreed back then), the essential point is that it leads to rebirth. The matter at hand is death and birth, not a momentary awareness of objects. This of course aligns very well with the idea of a conception of consciousness and nāmarūpa at birth, which is what this particular bhikkhu was likely aiming at with his ends and middle.

As to the mutual dependency of consciousness on nāmarūpa: I think it can be better appreciated when we have an idea of the brahminical ideas to which this is clearly a response (in the opinion of scholars like Wijesekera, who imo wrote the best book on comparative studies between Brahmanism and Buddhism, Buddhist and Vedic Studies). Put very briefly, the brahmins thought that by shedding their “name and form” (i.e. personal aspects and body) they could be reborn at the universal objectless consciousness called Brahma. This could only happen at death, of course, with ‘form’ referring to their body. To the Buddha this was all nonsense. Wherever consciousness is reborn, it is always alongside nāmarūpa, never in isolation. So when he says the two are dependent, it refers to them being reborn together, not to objects of consciousness while alive.

And this is exactly how the mutual dependency is explained in DN15, the sutta in which this mutual dependency is most prominent. You already know the passage of the womb and so on, which explains how nāmarūpa is dependent on consciousness, which describes rebirth quite unambiguously. It follows with the other dependency: "Ānanda, I said consciousness is dependent on the being’s immaterial aspects and body, which you should understand as follows. If consciousness would not be planted in any immaterial aspects and body, would there an origination of suffering, of future birth and old age and death? […] It is to this extent that beings can get born, age, die, pass on, and get reborn; to this extent life in the cycle of rebirth can manifest […]—namely, the immaterial aspects and body along with consciousness.”” Similar in SN12.65: "Consciousness can’t exist beyond the immaterial aspects and body. That is what it always turns back to. It is to this extent that beings can get born, age, die, pass on, and get reborn—namely, consciousness which is dependent on the immaterial aspects and body along with the immaterial aspects and body which are dependent on consciousness.’” Surely it is about rebirth, no? In SN12.67 which you mentioned it is not so clearly the case, but then, again, we have to use the clear references to interpret it. Surely it is not talking about momentary objects of consciousness here.

An appreciation of the “ancient” concept of ‘name’ is also helpful. I can’t do it justice here, but essentially people believed their names to be a part of themselves, and before a brahmin child was given a name he wasn’t considered to really exist yet. That helps us understand how the admittedly awkward term “name” refers to parts of the being and not to external objects.

Generally, it’s not a great idea to focus too much on single lines, which I get the feeling you are doing. Because surely back in those days single lines like this were interpreted in terms of more descriptive passages and definitions, such as DN15, which people may not have memorized word by word, but they would know the general ideas. Even the default sequence of Dependent Arising is just a shorthand for sake of memorization.

Now, having said all that, I do agree the dependency of consciousness on objects is a deep and important topic. But momentary changing objects is not so much what the dependency on nāmarūpa is about. This is instead what the factor of phassa is explains, where it is always described as a dependency of consciousness on the internal and external sense bases, not as a dependency on nāmarūpa. (Again, with one exception of external nāmarūpa in SN12.19, which as Bodhi notes is a unique way of using the term.)

Sorry @CurlyCarl also, for responding very quickly yesterday, admittedly without even having read your whole post! :smiley: I generally have just 20min or so of internet. (This is also, fyi, why my posts may sometimes be a bit rough and direct, my apologies for that as well.) And I wanted to respond in that timeframe, so you’d know I wasn’t ignoring you after I already replied to koccayana. But I should just have saved my reply as a draft and finished it another day, as I often do. Part of me intended to, because as you can see, one of my sentences wasn’t even finished! :smiley:

Anyway, to clarify what I was getting at, take SN12.58–59 which you mentioned:

When one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there will be a conception of nāmarūpa/consciousness.

In line with Venerable Bodhi’s footnotes to both suttas this can be understood as:

When [at death] one dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a conception of nāmarūpa/consciousness.

In other words, you are interpreting the latter phrase in terms of the former (i.e. you interpret ‘conception of consciousness’ relying on ‘when one dwells’) but it can just as well be done the other way around. Which seems more sensible given the clear meaning of ‘conception of consciousness’ in DN15 for example.

But the Pali is also interesting to consider, for it leans much more heavily towards the latter. I actually prefer to translate the sentence a bit differently, in line with how Bodhi translates the phrase -anupassino viharato at AN5.30, namely using “for one who dwells contemplating” instead of “when one dwells contemplating”. (See Wijesekera Syntax of Pali Cases §159a, the genitive absolute of “whom it concerns”, which is surely what we have here.) So we get:

For one who dwells contemplating gratification in things that can fetter, there is a conception of nāmarūpa/consciousness.

This small difference gives a very different nuance to the whole phrase. The present tense “feel” that we get with the English word “when” is now lost. It has become more of a dependency: There is only a conception (a rebirth) for those who “dwell contemplating gratification”, and rebirth only ends for those who stop doing so.

(Which I think is a good illustration of why, in general, we should be careful of overly relying on English translations if we want to make very subtle points of dhamma. Especially when we go by a few single sentences here and there,s rather than clear passages such as the conception of in the mother’s womb, where it doesn’t really matter if we translate a few words differently. Because for such passages the overall meaning is still clear even if there are some mistakes—which is why nobody really argues much over such passages in the first place!)

The phrase can also logically not refer to any kind of “contemplating gratification”, because otherwise whatever “contemplating gratification” the enlightened ones did before they got enlightened also still would have set in motion the whole chain of factors, including birth (jati). Of course this doesn’t happen. It is specifically that “contemplating gratification” which leads to rebirth that matters here, the kind that happens around death.

This is the same with SN12.64 which talks about “if there is desire” and so on. It doesn’t mean any kind of desire, only that which leads to a conception, only that which leads to rebirth. Otherwise there would be no escape from the whole sequence of factors. Because we’re all born with desire! But that kind of desire doesn’t really count. It’s only desire that leads directly to rebirth which is meant here. This is why the origin of suffering is “the craving that leads to rebirth”, not any old craving. (I hope this makes sense.)

In conclusion, about SN 12.64, since consciousness as one of the Four Nutriments is potentially an object of craving, here, it seems what is subject to avakkanti is nama-rupa because, similar to solid food, as a Nutriment, consciousness is something a Buddha must also use.

The four nutriments are said to “sustain those who are born, and assist those who are to be born”. This sutta, and its reference to the conception of nāmarūpa, are about the latter, about rebirth. It’s not about someone like the Buddha, who is still sustained by the four nutriments to stay alive (like, he has to eat food). Because, as the sutta title itself says, this conception only happens “If There Is Lust”. This passage is therefore not about something karmically neutral (if I understand you correctly). It only applies to those who still have craving, to those who need “assistance” to be reborn. Not to those who are merely sustained by the nutriments in this life, like the Buddha.

for me, SN 12.58, SN 12.59 & SN 12.64 are not related to DN 15 or AN 3.61. DN 15 seems certainly about consciousness entering into the mother’s womb while SN 12.58, SN 12.59 & SN 12.64 seem about the consciousness & namarupa in relation to sense objects.

At least you are not ignoring or otherwise somehow brushing aside DN15, which happens a lot when people have momentary interpretations of Dependent Arising and the conception of consciousness and nāmarūpa, so I really appreciate that. :slight_smile: But the texts you mention here are all about Dependent Arising, unlike the other references for avakkanti you gave, which are about very different topics. I agree, of course, in those references avakkanti has different connotations. But they don’t even mention nāmarūpa or consciousness, let alone the rest of Dependent Arising, so surely these are not the right contexts to decide the meaning of avakkanti in SN12.58–59 & 64, which are about Dependent Arising. Wouldn’t you agree the clear texts on DA itself, where the factors are actually explained (like DN15, SN12.2), should be in the back of our minds when we read the much more vaguer references such as SN12.58–59 and SN12.64, where we basically just have the isolated word “conception”? Do you see what I mean? Instead of having two totally different ways to interpret the “conception of nāmarūpa”, it’s better to have just one. And it’s best to base that interpretation on the much clearer contexts, not the vague ones. That means on the definition of birth (‘conception’) in SN12.2 (among many others) and on the conception of an embryo in DN15, AN3.61, MN39, and such suttas, rather than single lines in obscurer suttas.

Also, in SN12.58–59 the conception of consciousness/nāmarūpa is still said to lead to the six sense bases. This of course aligns much better with taking this conception referring to rebirth. It doesn’t make much sense that being conscious of sense objects would lead to the senses themselves. It is only after you have the six senses, that you can have contact. That is, only after you are born, basically. See also SN12.12: “The nutriment consciousness [i.e. the stream of consciousness that gets reborn] is a condition for the production of future rebirth. When the being is born, the six sense bases come to be; with the six sense bases as condition, contact.” Or MN38 where the conception of an embryo in a womb is directly followed by the child having the six senses. This is what SN12.58–59 describe in more abstract terms. You agree the conception of consciousness in DN15 is about rebirth. Why would in these suttas, which mention the very same links in the very same topic, ‘conception of consciousness’ be about something different? To me, that would be odd.

SN12.58–59 should also be compared also to SN12.57 where the conception of nāmarūpa/consciousness is replaced by craving that leads to birth. The links between ignorance-sankhāras-consciousness-nāmarūpa are roughly parallel to those between craving-upādāna-existence-birth. In other words, rebirth is described twice from different angles, as the traditional understanding of DA has it. Ignorance and craving are the root defilements, from which rebirth follows. This parallel description of rebirth is clear from various other suttas too, which I won’t go into now.

And SN12.64 even mentions “the production of future renewed rebirth” almost directly after the conception of nāmarūpa, without the intervening factors in the usual chain of factors, which also makes it clear enough what the main theme of the text is: rebirth.

Also in SN12.64 the simile of the painter that describes the conception of nāmarūpa is about rebirth. To quote Bodhi’s translation of the commentary:

The painter represents kamma with its adjuncts; the panel, wall, or canvas represents the round with its three realms [sensory, form, and formless]. As the painter creates a figure on the panel, so kamma with its adjuncts creates a form in the realms of existence. As the figure created by an unskilled painter is ugly, deformed, and disagreeable, so the kamma performed with a mind dissociated from knowledge gives rise to an ugly, deformed, disagreeable figure. But as the figure created by a skilled painter is beautiful and well shaped, so the kamma performed with a mind associated with knowledge gives rise to a beautiful and comely figure.

There are other references in the simile as well, which this footnote doesn’t mention, such as the word for ‘create/produce’ (abhinibbatti) being a synonym for rebirth as well, as can be seen in the definition of birth at SN12.2, which includes it. And the word for ‘figure’ is rūpa, of course a direct reference to nāmarūpa. And surely it is also no coincidence that the figure which is painted is not a house or whatever, but a man or woman, i.e. a being! Because it refers to rebirth, that’s why! :smiley: Compare it also to SN22.100 where the same simile occurs to describe “saṁsara without discoverable beginning” and the production of rebirth. And because the simile refers to rebirth, so does the conception of nāmarūpa which the simile illustrates.

The tree and sapling similes in SN12.57–59 are also illustrations of life. Just like a sapling lives when given water, beings live on in a next life when there is craving. When there is no water, the plant dies. When there is no craving, existence ends. These botanical similes are directly connected to the seed simile I explained in the post I referenced earlier, where consciousness is planted in a next rebirth. How would these similes of chopping down a sapling or tree relate to the momentary “no conception” of no longer being aware of objects? Isn’t it clearly a reference to life?

Also, the “no conception” of consciousness and nāmarūpa are called their cessation in those texts. Consciousness and nāmarūpa, just like existence (bhava), only permanently cease when an enlightened being passes away, not when they are no longer aware of objects—or however I am to understand that. Therefore, since the cessation sequence is about the moment of death, so is the origination sequence.

I went into this great depth because this is an interesting discussion for me. I have been writing something about this very topic on-and-off for years and I picked it up more seriously lately. Both of you gave me some good ideas for it. It was good to sum up some of my ideas here, so thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I still remain unconvinced, though, about any momentary conception (avakkanti) of nāmarūpa/consciousness, about any conception of objects of consciousness, being implied in any text.

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Thanks. I’m not going to wait until ‘death’ before I practice. Who knows? At/before death, our brains may have dementia. Take care. :pray:t2:

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Greetings Sunyo :slight_smile: I hope this message finds you well.

I think there have been a few misunderstandings. Forgive the un-explained whirlpool terminology—I was referring to vaṭṭa which is a whirlpool/vortex used sometimes to describe saṁsāra, particularly in the context of nāmarūpa and viññāṇa. Udāna 7.2 is a great reference to this: the arahant is said to have cut off the whirlpool and streams which now whirl and flow no more.
It’s also a reference from DN 15:

Anywho, I do not (at all) have a “momentary interpretation” of paṭiccasamuppāda, nor was I referencing “momentary objects of awareness.” I do understand the confusion though. To clarify:
This particular nāmarūpa—my form with its characteristics (the nāma)—is a chunk of nāmarūpa in the world of all things which are nāmarūpa. External nāmarūpa and internal nāmarūpa are both just nāmarūpa. They are just forms that are recognized via nāma-kāya (vedanā, saññā, etc.). This is not at all an uncommon, rare, or strange usage of the word. As I mentioned, this was the Brahminical understanding of nāmarūpa. All nāmarūpa—all things—have their shape and their name. The Buddha ingeniously re-defined and re-worked this term to turn nāma not into some kind of literal name by which we recognize a rūpa, but rather as the respective mental characteristics that designate (adhivacanasamphassa) the rūpa.

I think you may have overlooked the reference to DN 15 where this is most clearly spelled out from the Buddhist perspective, though it is discussed elsewhere in a handful of the suttas I listed with references to nāmarūpa. Many of these are not references to a “mind and body”, but to the understanding of general nāmarūpa. Anyway, the relevant section from DN 15:

A couple things to note here. The nāma factors are said to designate the rūpa factors for contact. And the rūpa factors are said to resist/be the ‘thing’ that the nāma factors designate. This is where the Buddha’s ingenious analysis of this is layed out in full (elsewhere it is only alluded to with the definition of nāmarūpa as a list). Again, every “thing” in the world—the entire world of invididual things—being nāmarūpa was the common understanding of this word. Here, it is referring to the exact same thing, but with an anlysis from the Blessed One.

The piece of nāmarūpa which consciousness settles in/is planted in is our body (saviññāṇake kāye, if I haven’t botched the Pāḷi). This was my main point. The entirety of our experience is one of nāmarūpa, all of which is just the combination of rūpa designated by nāma, and nāma resisted by rūpa. Some of the suttas in the list I gave also make this more clear in different ways and refer to it. Even this very chunk of nāmarūpa which consciousness inhabits: how do we recognize it? We do not see our physical body, we see perception. (saññā sañjānāti—perception perceives). The perception is what forms the rūpasaññā with its other nāma factors that are resisted from the paṭighasamphassa by which we come to know the body. We feel the body, perceive the body, but none of that is literal matter: it is the perception of matter—which the Buddha pointed out. In other words, it is nāmarūpa.

This is also why the saḷāyatana can be skipped if specifically analyzing nāmarūpa. The 6 types of consciousness within the domain of nāmarūpa are the domains of contact w/ respective internal and external sides.

The whirlpool of saṁsāra is consciousness constantly settling and establishing itself in nāmarūpa again and again, turning from a this to a that (itthabhāvaññathābhāva), being born and dying, etc. But the thing that propels this forward is our craving and ignorance in regard to the world of nāmarūpa in which we inhabit. This is the other part of the whirlpool within one life that is propelling the whirlpool of saṁsāra. The Jaṭā Sutta that I linked in the list refers to this as the “tangle within” and the “tangle without”. Consciousness is established in this particular chunk of nāmarūpa where it goes bumping into all other obects of external nāmarūpa: food, houses, people, places, etc. It gets attached to these, sustained by avijjā, taṇhā, and the saṇkhārās that maintain it, and so then with the break up of the body consciousness arises and plants itself in another nāmarūpa somewhere—either in this world or the other world.

Wherever we turn, we just find more ‘things.’ More rūpa designated by nāma (that is, nāmarūpa) and known/cognized by viññāṇa. Our very own body is just a chunk of this world of nāmarūpa into which consciousness has planted itself, and on which consciousness depends. But most people, stuck in saṁsāra, do not realize that they are just chasing after nāmarūpa again and again, getting reborn into worlds of more nāmarūpa again and again, over and over. It’s a cycle.

In summary, I am not at all suggesting nāmarūpa only refers to what consciousness is aware of. I am referring to the fact that the whole domain of consciousness is just nāmarūpa. It gets born into nāmarūpa and then it runs into the nāmarūpa of that world, and then, attached to nāmarūpa and making kamma accordingly, it gets reborn into a new nāmarūpa with more nāmarūpa to chase. This is what I mean by the ‘whirlpool,’ the inner/outer tangle, etc. The Kalahavivāda Sutta says:

Ven. Anālayo has speculated that where they say ‘forms’ here they are actually referring to generally nāmarūpa, but due to the metrical limitations it was shortened/abbreviated. This is quite common in Pāḷi poetry (just to give some context here). Either way though, even as only rūpa we’re talking about the same thing. This is talking about relinquishing contact and being free from papañca via understanding the world of nāmarūpa. We spin up all kinds of concepts and identification with the objects around us, and as the Kalahavivāda Sutta discusses, this leads to all kinds of quaralleing and fighting. (I’d note that the commentarial reading of the passage on the saññā section is unlikely and not accepted by Ven. Anālayo. The sutta clearly is leading up to a description of Nibbāna, also clear from the closing verses/question. This is outside the scope of this topic though.) Point being, we run after nāmarūpa, creating papañca and fighting each other/quarelling, only to be re-born into more nāmarūpa. This is essentially the same usage of nāmarūpa as other sects, just with the genius analysis of the Buddha. We see also in the Sabhiya Sutta:

Again, here, nāmarūpa is quite clearly referring to the external things of the world and is connected to papañca once again. In the list of suttas about name and form (I forgot the above one), the Dvayatānupassanā Sutta (Snp 3.12) specifically says that people imagine/conceive nāmarūpa to be the truth. Here, twice again, it is connected to needing to be fully understood in relation to being papñc-ized, related to social conflicts and so on. Understanding rūpasaññā and paṭigha, as well as adhivacanasamphassa (nāma of rūpa) and paṭighasamphassa (rūpa against nāma) consistently comes up in different deep and subtle suttas, which connects to the Majjhe Sutta. But this, again, is clearly not a “mind and body” but rather the general meaning of nāmarūpa understood at the time and being analyzed profoundly by the Buddha to demonstrate how one comes to comprehend the nature of saṁsāra and the nets of papañca we spin within it. I’d like to continue stressing though that the individual nāmarūpa of a person is also encompassed in this definition: it is inclusionary rather than exclusionary; it covers all nāmarūpa, whether internal or external (which the sutta even says there above, though I think that may more be a reference to personal vs. social conflicts in context). All of which is dependent upon there being consciousness, whether planted in a particular individual nāmarūpa or the world of nāmarūpa that consciousness is aware of :slight_smile:

So it is not a question of momentariness, nor of dismissing anything. As for AN 6.61, I don’t agree with your analysis but I don’t think it’s too important here. Craving is related to rebirth in the sutta (and generally), but all of the similes are talking about things to understand here and now to attain Nibbāna and be free of craving. Craving is the seamstress that ties everything up and confuses the 2 ends with the middle, leading us on into new states of existence again and again. Essentially, the two ends themselves are actually significant because these are the proposals for what one understands to attain Nibbāna in this life, and the Buddha approved of all 6 analyses (despite originally referring to the first).

This paper I came across talks a bit about how nāmarūpa can be understood in both ways (similar to how the Mahā Nidāna Sutta and others in the canon make clear) based on the pre-Buddhist understanding and uses in the canon. It discusses how the early Upaniṣads, some of which were extremely influential and important in the Pāḷi literature, use nāmarūpa to be the objects of the world composed of (their version of the) primary elements, with few exceptions; it was also used to refer, as you pointed out, to the individuality of a person within that. There is precedent to understand nāmarūpa as a particular individual/being with their own nāmarūpa, but as in the suttas, they are within the world of all things/beings being nāmarūpa generally, it seems. Each understanding implies the other :slight_smile:

None of this is of any threat to consciousness being reborn together with nāmarūpa. It’s simply the broader context of the usage of the word in the suttas and in the time of the Buddha and the people he and his disciples were dialoguing with. It did not refer only to the person at all, but to all people and things—the individualization of the components of the empirical world.

As far as some special form consciousness not being aware of nāmarūpa, this is completely different from consciousness not being attached to/stuck on nāmarūpa and not what I was referring to (not the former, the latter yes, as should be clear: an arahant is not attached to anything in the world, be it the body or external items/people). In one of the suttas I listed, SN 47.2, the citta is said to arise in dependence on nāmarūpa. Viññāṇa or citta—sometimes used somewhat synonymously in the suttas, sometimes not at all—goes on desiring after X and Y nāmarūpa, angry at some, or sad, greedy, what have you. This is all what leads consiousness to be re-established/planted into a new nāmarūpa. The two understandings are actually one.
This is not really a controversy as far as scholarship in Buddhism and Brahmanism goes, from all I’ve seen. It’s really just the fact that Buddhism has been isolated for such a long time from its original context that we tend to forget and come up with new understandings of things, or don’t have all of the puzzle pieces—just some. It’s always possible to overlay different sectarian understandings of terminology into the texts and make it fit/work, especially when the cultural context and usage of the terms is not spelled out in the texts because it is assumed the audience is familiar. I think understanding this context really breathes a lot of air into how we relate to such profound suttas as DN 15 and how they relate to our daily lives and our existence in saṁsāra—the cycle of rebirths chasing after nāmarūpa.

Also: thought I’d add some thoughts on the cessation sequence, i.e. paṭiloma paṭiccasamuppāda to continue into this avenue of the conversation briefly :slight_smile:
I would say that the paṭiloma sequence is describing the experience of the arahant. This is a very deep topic, and it’s not going to be at all possible to go into all of this now, but it is somewhat relevant. First and foremost, before we adopt any sectarian or non-sutta-bases lenses, we have to look at what the suttas themselves say, which is: “With this being, this is; With this not being, this is not.” ‘That is:’
avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho… all the way up to jarāmaraṇasokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā. MN 11, MN 140, etc. make clear that the arahant does not die and is free from dukkha and all of the things listed in the last nidāna there. This should be more than obvious, since one of the main purposes of attaining of Nibbāna in this life is deathlessness. If one has relinquished all that can die, one has escaped death.
Similarly, the first noble truth is summed up and defined as just the pañc’upādānakkhandhā. The cessation of that—the 3rd noble truth—is the cessation of the pañc’upādānakkhandhā and thereby all dukkha generally for the arahant. Even bodily pain, while occurring and not agreeable, is just a feeling, which the arahant has nothing to do with (because there is no arahant to be found [see SN 5.10, SN 44.1-11, SN 22.85, SN 23.2, etc.]).
Similarly, we know that with the cessation of avijjā, all of the nidānas cease as per the early texts themselves. The early texts concern the arising of dukkha, particularly the pañcupādānakkhandhā (upādānapaccayā bhavo, bhavapaccayā jāti, jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā). It gives the conditions that underlie the clinging aggregates, and the phenomena that are dependent on there being clinging aggregates, namely, dukkha—primarily classified as jāti and jarāmaraṇa etc., and which MN 140 (for instance) says the arahant is free from, in truth.

Another way of discussing this is in relation to viññāṇa and the phrase paṭiloma itself. Ultimately, paṭiccasamuppāda is the law of reality: it is such, true, not-otherwise. Fully understanding paṭiccasamuppāda here-and-now means being free from the suffering on account of it, but paṭiccasamuppāda itself does not cease so long as there is viññāṇa of some sort. The presence of consciousnesss = the presence of experience, and the presence of experience entails conditionality. At the very least, nāmarūpa and viññāṇa together (as per SN 12.65, for instance). So long as there is awareness, there is something that its aware of, and so there are two things that are dependently arisen, and thus there is paṭiccasamuppāda. The na-upādisesā nibbānadhātu, however, is beyond the range of experience or language (as DN 15 even says; when there is no viññāṇa with nāmarūpa, there is no way to designate, use language, etc. No phenomena are present. See also Snp 5.7). As such, when consciousness ceases, all experience ceases, and there being no experience, there is no paṭiccasamuppāda. The cessation of consciousness is the cessation of paṭiccasamuppāda itself. This is different from paṭiloma paṭiccasamuppāda, though, which is quite literally a type or mode of paṭiccasamuppāda, which means that there is consciousness involved (and nāmarūpa, by definition).

So knowing that paṭiloma paṭiccasamuppāda is described as that mode of paṭiccasamuppāda which comes with the cessation of avijjā (vs. the cessation of the aggregates, and therefore consciousness, which would not be a mode of paṭiccasamuppāda at all but rather the cessation of paṭiccasamuppāda itself) I would say that the links there must be understood in light of the 4 noble truths and in light of the “living arahant”. In other words, it’s the cessation of the paṭiccasamupannā dhammā which are saṅkhata particularly due to avijjā and all the saṅkhārās that non-arahants go on fabricating and making, reinforcing the cycle of saṁsāra and dukkha.
Their experience is such that there is experience, and yet they are not within, of, outside, or found anywhere in relation to that conditioned experience, and as such, one could just as well say that it has ceased as far as the arahant is concerned. It is outside of the made-up dhammās but not outside of the law of paṭiccasamuppāda itself as applies to all phenomena—whether with or without avijjā. For almost all sentient beings, though, they are ignorant of the workings of paṭiccasamuppāda and thus they make saṅkhārās and go with-the-grain of it rather than against-the-grain of it by knowing it (as is the case of the arahant). It is the mode of being where the cessation of being (bhava) is known. In other words, it is just sa-upādisesā nibbānadhātu essentially, and this culminates in the cessation of all phenomena whatsoever as well as paṭiccasamuppāda itself when all consciousness ceases. The cessation links have to be understood in light of the cessation of dukkha and the pañcupādānakkhandhā because they still fall within the range of paṭiccasamuppāda itself—it is just “against the grain”. The name is quite telling in and of itself.

I think it’s also good to reflect: The Buddha said that the Dhamma—especially dependent arising—is visible here-and-now, that it is accessible at any and all times, that it invites us to come and see what he says for ourselves, and that it is to be known. It is also all merely for the sake of the cessation of dukkha in this very life and freedom from all future states of existence—to be experienced for ourselves. The Buddhas awoke to the 12 links (and both mention specifically the connection between viññāna and nāmarūpa) and attained stream-entry via it, and then full liberation after pursuing that same liberation. Everything is to be seen for ourselves; everything is to lead to the cessation of dukkha. If we simply take a text at face value as an explanatory hypothesis for how transmigration works, all that does is accumulate views and opinions without direct insight and without offering freedom from dukkha here and now based on vision of those principles. While embryos and some details of rebirth certainly do come up and can be relevant to have a basic understanding of how this all works theoretically, the main point is realization. Anything short of that, in my opinion, is not using the teaching as a raft to cross over to the far-shore. We have to use our insight into the teaching and launch a full-fledged inquiry into our being, existence, craving, and the nature of experience as a whole in relation to dukkha. Understanding the world of nāmarūpa which we form a part of, the way we divide objects up and papañc-ize them, and the dependency of these things and our own bodies on viññāna are extremely practical teachings, not just dusty anti-Brahminical propaganda with a better rebirth theory. (I stress that understanding rebirth is also essential and of extreme relevance to dependent arising, though. The difference is in understanding it vs. an explanation of it, which are separate phenomena entirely, each with a place in the Dhamma. P.S. is almost always concerned with the former though, and can be used to exemplify the latter when needed).

Apologies for the long post! Time to cut it short here—just thought these would be some relevant things to consider in relation to this discussion. This has been a fruitful discussion so far and I hope that some of these ramblings are relevant and of value to the larger discussion as a whole! Be well, everyone! :smiley: :pray:

With much mettā! :yellow_heart:

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Peace and greetings to all.

A Study on Rebirth Expressions - Gabhassa avakkanti and gandhabba.pdf (413.1 KB)

This is an article I had by a Japanese scholar who has done extensive investigation into avakkanti (ava−√kram). This is the only article I have of his in English, however. At first glance, this would appear to be slightly off-topic, as the OP asked specifically about avakkanti with regard to nāmarūpa, but nāmarūpa, viññāṇa, and gabbha with avakanti generally all point to the same phenomenon, so I think the understandings are transferable.

If there is interest, I could do my best to introduce some of what appears in the other articles as well. One is actually on the phrase “nāmarūpassa avakkanti” specifically; the other is a look at viññāṇa and the different occurrences of ava−√kram (avakkanti, okkanti and different derivatives from them) in the Pāli canon in the context of rebirth.

Thanks to all for all their insightful comments. I’ve learned a lot from them.

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I can no longer edit my post it seems, so I wanted to add a couple of other passages real quick to consider in case you reply :smiley: Just to save any of your time / prevent miscommunications.

This is another good passage found at Snp 4.13 about nāmarūpa:

Here as in some of the other cited passages, several in the Sutta Nipāta and throughout the saṁyutta nikāya (one the Nidāna Saṁyutta), one DN 15, etc. we see nāmarūpa is explicitly the objects of consciousness. Here too it is related to it being “limited” or somehow not a way to purity, closely related to how it was connected to papañca in the Kalahavivāda Sutta and Sabhiya Sutta, or how worldlings believe nāmarūpa to be ‘the truth’ in the Dvayatānupassanā Sutta and so forth. There’s also the following passage from AN 9.14:

So here too, people form thoughts about the nāmarūpa they encounter via contact with the world. This all of course fits with our understanding of the pre-Buddhist usage of the term, but the support and mention it throughout the suttas is not at all a rare exception.

Interestingly, DN 21 talks about papañcasaññāsankhā in relation to vitakka as well. In several of the suttas cited, papañcasaññāsankhā is intimately tied with nāmarūpa—the various things we papañcize. Nāmarūpa are now also said to be what thoughts are about, and DN 21 says thoughts come from papañcasaññasankhā as well. The profound analysis in DN 15 on nāmarūpa and how they are inter-dependent for experiencing sense objects, and the above about only seeing nāmarūpa + Dvayatanupassana saying worldlings take nāmarūpa to be truth, seems like in early Buddhism, the concept of nāmarūpa and papañca were closely related and also of extreme importance for understanding social dynamics, how we deceive ourselves chasing after and thinking about these things, and so forth. The jatā sutta also compares this to a double-tangle and SN 1.20 + SN 1.61 talk about how oppressive the things that are named and the ‘names’ are, coming from the Buddhist perspective. Really interesting how they all connect, and cutting the whirlpool (Ud 7.2) and untangling the tangle seem to be of prime importance revealed throughout some of the deepest suttas in the canon! :smile:

These just seemed like some more additional ones to add. I’m sure in a day or so I’m going to come across another lol :laughing: We always find stuff when it’s too late. But by now there should be plenty of passages.

Best wishes and be well!
With mettā

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Hello again! :slight_smile: I hope you are well too. I also apologize for a long post upcoming. But we’re getting dragged all over the place, I’m afraid! :smiley: I’ve said the main things I wanted to say already, but I still wanted to reply once more, because, as I said, I’m writing something about this, and it’s very helpful to engage in some other perspectives. You’re being very civil too, which helps! :slight_smile:

Sorry, I will seem to disregard things you’ve said, because I download the topic and later type my reply offline, and then post it the next day or whenever. (Because I’m a monk and only have limited access to internet.) In the meantime new posts will have been made, which I seem to ignore. So my previous post was only a reply to your first posts in this topic, not to the one just before my post, which I hadn’t yet read while I wrote that post. Likewise, this post will probably be preceded by your replies which I haven’t read as I type this.

I must apologize also for saying earlier that I felt like you focused too much on single sentences. I got that feeling based on the earlier post where you quoted just a few lines. I made that statement before I read your later post, where you give much more references. Which is the post I’ll be replying to now. I won’t discuss all of these references, because it will take forever. Suffice to say, those haven’t convinced me either, which probably won’t surprise you. :wink: Most references seem very loosely connected to Dependent Arising, if at all, and when they are, can easily be interpreted in a more “traditional” way as well.

And, also, I’m still confused. You explained yourself a bit, but still use some terminology with which I am very unfamiliar, and which I feel is very alien to the suttas. I think people who may be reading along will be even more unfamiliar. So I think you may have to put it all in more ordinary language, if you want a more focused discussion. I mean, for example, “This is talking about relinquishing contact and being free from papañca via understanding the world of nāmarūpa.” I have no clue what this means. What even is “relinquishing contact”? An enlightened being still has “contact”, i.e. sense impressions. They relinquished desire for it, if that is what you mean.

So again I will probably be misunderstanding you here and there! I think I get the gist, though. It’s all too much to reply to, though, as you’re bringing up a wide variety of new ideas too. So I’ll just pick a few points to emphasize my main point. I think you’ll understand. I may repeat myself a bit.

Kaccayanagotta: nāmarūpa generally as the term for the object, but the sutta itself said that the place that consciousness lands is on the nutriment of food, and the other nutriments, in this context. Consciousness is established there, and where it is established is where there’s the ‘avakkanti’ of namarupa.

Avakkanti aside (on which my ideas should be clear by now), I think this is much better interpreted in line with the simile of consciousness as the seed for rebirth, as I explained in the topic I linked to earlier. Whatever you desire, that is where you will generate rebirth—that is the essential point being made. We have to consider SN12.38 in this too, where we clearly see that the planting/establishment of consciousness refers to the production of a next life, i.e. rebirth:

What you intend, what you prepare, and what you have a tendency towards, that is a foundation for the continuation of consciousness [after death]. If there is a foundation, there will be a support for the planting of consciousness.* If consciousness is planted, it will sprout*, and then continued existence in a future life is produced. If continued existence in a future life is produced, future birth

So the planting of (the seed of) consciousness leads to rebirth. See also SN5.9 where Sela compares the sowing of a seed to rebirth.

The point of the four nutriments is not that they are “the place that consciousness lands” or something (another example of terminology that I don’t follow). The point is that they “assist those to be reborn”, which means the desire for them makes consciousness continue after death. This continuation in a next life is what the planting of consciousness refers to. For example, if you no longer desire the nutriment of food—which represents all the five sense objects—you will no longer be reborn in the sensual realm, as the Child’s Flesh Sutta says (SN12.63). But if you do have such desires for the five senses, then the sensual realm is where the seed of consciousness will be planted and where it will create continued existence in a future life. Then the sensual realm is where you will be reborn.

“Ānanda, would existence in the sensual worlds occur if there were no deeds that ripened in the sensual realm?”

“No, Venerable.”

“So with deeds as the field, consciousness as the seed, and craving as the moisture, the consciousness of beings who are obstructed by ignorance and chained by craving is planted in the lower realm. That is how continued existence in a future life is produced." (AN3.76)

The Seeds Sutta (SN22.54) should be considered here too, because it also mentions this “planting of consciousness”, and in the same context of the four nutriments. So it represents the same idea as SN12.64. And what this idea is, should be clear, for it mentions the passing on and rebirth of consciousness. Here is my translation of part of the sutta:

“Mendicants, the four supports of consciousness [i.e. the other four aggregates] should be seen as the soil. Enjoyment and desire should be seen as the water. Consciousness with its nutriments should be seen as the five kinds of seeds.

Consciousness would continue to exist [after death] if it is attracted to form. Founded on form, planted in form, and sprinkled with enjoyment, it would develop, sprout, and mature. [This means its rebirth, see next paragraph.] Consciousness would continue to exist if it is attracted to feeling … perception … will. Founded on will, planted in will, and sprinkled with [the water of] enjoyment, it would develop, sprout, and mature.

Someone might say he will describe a development, sprouting, and maturation of consciousness—its departing and arriving, its passing on and rebirth—apart from form, feeling, perception, and will. But that is not possible. If you have abandoned desire for the elements of form, feeling, perception, will, and consciousness, there will be no support for the planting of consciousness, because when desire is abandoned, its foundation is destroyed. Not planted, consciousness will not sprout [in a next life].

(The terms ‘departing and arriving’ also refer to rebirth, I’ll add a reference later.)

This describes the same idea as consciousness’ dependency on namarupa, namely that consciousness can’t be reborn on its own. But instead the dependency is on the other four aggregates. This may explain why the Abhidhamma started equating nāmarūpa to the four non-consciousness aggregates, which I would agree is a bit too analytical and misses some of the Brahmanical ideas that were being addressed (i.e. an objectless consciousness after death). But the general idea is the same.

The seed simile is of course a great way to depict rebirth. Plant a seed and water it, and a plant will be born. The plant produces another seed, which in term gets planted and produces yet another plant. And so on. Likewise, we get reborn again and again because we “plant” consciousness in a next life.

I mentioned it before, but we find similar plant life similes in suttas that mention the conception of nāmarūpa (SN12.57–59). The idea is this: You water a plant, it stays alive. You “water” existence through craving, and you’ll stay alive through rebirth. I mean, it’s obviously referring to life, no!? Even the metaphor of the four nutriments is about existence. Stop eating, and you’ll die. Stop “eating” the four nutriments through craving, and your existence will end.

Can you explain how such similes relate to what you are proposing, with the recognition of objects? Probably it has been done before. But I can already guarantee it will not be half as direct and clear as taking plant life to be a metaphor for conscious life, i.e. taking the link of consciousness to refer to rebirth, rather than something to do with the world in general, with external objects.

Kaccayanagotta: As for nāmarūpa being the object, this is the pre-Buddhist meaning of the word and the context in which the Buddha used it

I don’t deny that this was a pre-Buddhist meaning, but not the meaning. It’s what the suttas call external nāmarūpa. Objects were indeed distinguished by their name and form. But so where people! Here is an example of nāmarūpa referring to people, from Br̥hadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.7, translation by Olivelle:

This world is distinguished just in terms of name and visible appearance [rūpa], as when we say, ‘He is so-and-so by name and has this sort of an appearance.’

When we talk about a “conception” (avakkanti, which is in the definition of birth, how more clarity do we want?) we are surely talking about this type of nāmarūpa: about people, not about external objects. Because objects aren’t born. And tables don’t exist in the mother’s womb.

I suggest also to read The Golden Bough on the topic of name. The ‘name’ was not just a symbolic reference. People considered their names to be part of themselves. It was considered a part of their being. Here is an extract of that book (written in the 19th century, so has some old terminology):

Primitive man regards his name as a vital portion of himself and takes care of it accordingly. Thus, for example, the North American Indian regards his name, not as a mere label, but as a distinct part of his personality, just as much as are his eyes or his teeth, and believes that injury will result as surely from the malicious handling of his name as from a wound inflicted on any part of his physical organism. This belief was found among the various tribes from the Atlantic to the Pacific […] A Brahmin child receives two names, one for common use, the other a secret name which none but his father and mother should know. The latter is only used at ceremonies such as marriage. The custom is intended to protect the person against magic, since a charm only becomes effectual in combination with the real name.

Kaccayanagotta: This is explained in the Mahā Nidāna Sutta itself in some detail. Without the constituents of nāma, there could be no recognition of rūpa (adhivacanasamphassa)—rūpa being the thing itself. But without rūpa, there could be no resistance or ‘thing’ to designate via the nāma-factors (patighasamphassa). When we see a table, for instance, that would be impossible if there were no saññā of it (which comes with a respective vedanā), without its respective cetanā, without attention to the phenomenon itself (manasikāra), and without there literally being the contact and meeting of the things which the designation is based upon. There would be no ‘table’ to designate without the rūpa itself, however (defined in nāmarūpa as the 4 great elements themselves, and any form that is derived from them)

But this passage doesn’t speak of avakkanti, which is what we wanted to figure out the meaning of, didn’t we? Also, it’s one of the most cryptic non-verse passages of the entire canon as far as I’m concerned (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, as the awkward English translations show). As such it can easily be understood in multiple ways. I read it like this: because we have mental/immaterial aspects (nāma), we can recognize things (“designation contact”). And because we have a body (rūpa), we can feel things (“impingement contact”). In other words, nāmarūpa stills refer to the parts of the being rather than the objects. But it’s a vague passage, so let’s interpret it your way. Then still, I can’t understand why you prefer to use this passage to interpret the conception of nāmarūpa, and not the passage that actually mentions the word conception and literally explains the mutual dependency of consciousness and nāmarūpa—namely the passage on the conception in the womb. This passage on contact is not about that link, however we interpret it.

Having studied proliferation and name & form inside and out—the root of disease; (Snp3.6)
Kaccayanagotta: Again, here, nāmarūpa is quite clearly referring to the external things of the world.

No, because it mentions internal and external (or inside and out), not only external. The internal is one’s own being with its name and form, the external is objects in the world. The former is what the factor of Dependent Arising is about. Because, as I said before, external objects don’t exist in the womb. Nor are they conceived, nor lead to continued existence in a future life, nor lead to having six senses, nor do they get born or die—all things that nāmarūpa are said to do.

Kaccayanagotta: turning from a this to a that (itthabhāvaññathābhāva)

?? Itthabhāvaññathābhāva means from a life here to another, not from this to that. For example Anuruddha says in the Theragatha (16.9) about his divine eye: “I see the passing on and rebirth of beings, their departing and arriving, going from one life to another (itthabhāvaññathābhāva).” (See here also ‘departing and arriving’, which I promised a reference to earlier.) All other contexts of the term itthabhāvaññathābhāva refer to rebirth about just as clearly, mentioning saṃsāra for example.

Kaccayanagotta: The Buddha’s analysis of this is actually fascinating though and way ahead of his time—the fact that an object is really a percept with feelings and attention and so forth, and not matter itself, is genius (and true) — very intriguing!

I don’t think phenomenology is that genius. It also has little to do with the insights the Buddha himself repeatedly said lead to his enlightenment. These insights were, of course, the three knowledges, which include insights into past rebirths and how karma leads to future rebirth. These were the insights are what made him fully understand Dependent Arising. Those are truly deep and fascinating and rightly called supernormal.

Now, the recognition that consciousness depends on an object of awareness is also profound. But by ‘objects’ I mean not physical objects like tables or whatever. But, as per the suttas on contact, in the case of sight-consciousness the whole sight itself, the whole field of vision. Not individual things within that field. And in case of hearing, it mean just the whole of sound, prior to any recognitions of individual sources or whatever. And likewise for the other senses. This dependency is more profound and difficult to see through than that of the kind of recognition of objects you seem to be referring to. Because everybody can stop thinking or proliferating about a table or a house, or look at them and still don’t recognize them as such or give them a name or identify with them. That’s essentially what babies do too. However, to see that if you take all the objects away (meaning the whole fields of consciousness), consciousness will fully cease, that there will be no more awareness, that is something very few people see. Especially with regard to the mind rather than the five senses (i.e. the cessation of perception and feeling, alongside consciousness).

Because our deepest attachments are not to the objects outside of us, but to the things inside of us, namely our own body, our own consciousness, especially of mental phenomena, and our illusion of control. In other words, for most people the sense of self exists for 99% with respect to their own being, not to external objects like tables or what have you. Therefore, by emphasizing external objects over the being itself, in my opinion you are actually making things more superficial. And that’s the major reason why I care: I feel this idea (which I know is quite prominent nowadays) doesn’t challenging people half as deeply as the Buddha intended with the links of consciousness and namarupa.

Kaccayanagotta: It’s also profound because it shows that, unlike what many Brahmins at the time thought, consciousness be conscious of something, and that is nāmarūpa according to their terminology. The goal was consciousness without any nāmarūpa: pure consciousness.

I’m very happy you agree with the reliance of consciousness on an object, of whatever sort. Because some people interpret these passages of an “unestablished consciousness” to refer to what happens after the death of an enlightened one. But although we agree consciousness relies on an object, to me this reliance goes way beyond mere “names” of things or recognizing external objects. In deep meditation for example you are not naming things, nor are you aware of the outside world, yet still consciousness relies on an object there, a mental object that exist inside. This is why the Buddha said “mind-consciousness arises dependent on the mind and mental phenomena”.

And it is these kind of teachings, those on contact, where the Buddha teaches the reliance of consciousness on objects, not with the factor of nāmarūpa. (Aside from an odd reference to external nāmarūpa, as I said, which is not the usual factor of Dependent Arising.)

Moreover, in these teachings on contact it is never said that the objects rely on consciousness. It is only spoken about the other way around, that consciousness relies on an object and a sense. Which makes sense, because surely the eyes exist even if you’re not seeing anything, and so do the objects that you would see. If I close my eyes the screen I look at now I can safely assume doesn’t suddenly totally disappear. I actually looked away and asked the monk sitting next to me! :smiley: He confirmed it’s still there, luckily. (Regardless, one could never possibly ever know anyway, whether the moon would still be there if you aren’t looking.) So to say the external objects (“nāmarūpa”) and consciousness are mutually dependent, does not fit this teaching on contact, where the dependency only goes one way.

(Although in case of the mind it is kind of true that if there is no object of awareness, the mind itself disappears too.)

Kaccayanagotta: It [nāmarūpa] did not refer only to the person at all, but to all people and things—the individualization of the components of the empirical world

Ah, so you do recognize nāmarūpa can refer to people, not just external objects! Sorry, so far I thought you only had the latter idea. With that recognition, do you not think it’s much less complicated to take the nāmarūpa in DA to only refer to the individual? Because how does my ignorance and karma lead to the existence of other people and external things? Other beings exist because of their own ignorance, not mine. Surely this is a much less convoluted way to understand it all. Even putting aside the clear references to an embryo and womb and so on.

And I’ve not even mentioned references where saṅkhara refers to rebirth too, like:

“So what are dark deeds (kamma) with dark results? Then someone performs harmful physical, verbal, and mental willful actions (saṅkhāras). As a result of these willful actions they get reborn in a harmful world. Being reborn in that world, harmful sense impressions impinge them. Being impinged by these, they feel exclusively painful feelings, as in the case of beings in hell." (MN57)

This is just a less technical way of putting the links saṅkhāras – consciousness – nāmarūpa – six senses – contact (sense impressions) – feelings.

How does in your interpretation physical saṅkhāras lead to nāmarūpa?

Kaccayanagotta: the arahant does not die […] This should be more than obvious

So the Buddha is still alive, then? :o

The point is that arahants won’t die again because they are not reborn:

Peaceful sages will not be born, will not age, will not die, will not be agitated, and will not long. As there is nothing in them by which they could be reborn, not being reborn, how could they age? Not aging, how could they die? (MN140)

In other words, they will no longer age and die after one last death. To say they don’t age and die in this life is just weird, sorry, I don’t know how else to put it. And either way, it is not something that should be obvious! The Buddha said: “Whether foolish or wise, all are under death’s sway, all are destined to die.” Now, that is obvious. Dependent on birth, there is death. Arahants were born, so they’ll die.

Arahants also haven’t gone beyond suffering yet, because life is intrinsically suffering. But that’s another topic.

Kaccayanagotta: The cessation of that—the 3rd noble truth—is the cessation of the pañc’upādānakkhandhā and thereby all dukkha generally for the arahant.

And they cease at death. See for example Ud8.9: “The body broke down [i.e. death], perception ceased, all feelings cooled off, will subsided, consciousness disappeared.” The living arahant still has the pañc’upādānakkhandhā. See SN22.122, AN10.28, MN122, SN22.85, all of which mention in some way or the other the five upādānakkhandhā, either directly mentioning the arahant or otherwise saying these five are no longer craved for, which implies they are those of the arahant.

I’ve said too much already, and this is getting off topic as you already indicated. But perhaps it all comes down to this, actually. Because if I understand correctly, you interpret “the cessation of consciousness” to happen while alive? To me the cessation of consciousness just quite naturally refers to the end of consciousness when it is no longer reborn (conceived) after the enlightened one dies. Of course, when consciousness ceases, nāmarūpa ceases too. Which means there is no more body and other aspects of the being. If I do understand you correctly and you are indeed saying the cessation of consciousness and nāmarūpa refers to something that happens while alive, just on that basis alone I couldn’t take your interpretation very seriously. Because to me, that makes no sense. Surely the arahant is still conscious!

It is even specifically said that the wise too have contact and feelings, so they still have consciousness too. (SN12.19) The difference is that the arahants have no sense of self and no desire with respect to consciousness, so won’t be reborn. But they are conscious just the same. Which means the cessation of consciousness can not refer to anything that happens while alive.

It is even specifically said that only when an enlightened one dies the aggregates including consciousness disappear:

"If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death?’—being asked thus, what would you answer?”

"If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is suffering; what is suffering has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.” (SN44.8)

Arahants don’t die and are not conscious…? I mean, with all due respect, really. But what am I even arguing against now? :confused: Nothing to do with real life, just ideas. So I’ll end my post here.

To sum it all up, so we can get to the main topic again: If we want to determine what avakkanti means, we should rely on the texts that actually use the word in context of Dependent Arising, and uyse those that are least likely to be misunderstood. Those texts make it very clear what the main idea is: the conception of nāmarūpa in the womb, the conception of an embryo, the conception and birth of beings in various realms. In other words, the idea is rebirth. And then we apply this understanding to the vaguer contexts, not the other way around.

In DN15 the Buddha even says “when I say nāmarūpa depends on consciousness (viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ) you should understand it as follows” and then he explains it with the conception in the womb. This is as clear of a definition of the phrase as we could ask for! He basically says, “whenever the phrase viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ is used (like in the standard sequence of factors), you should understand it as the conception at birth.” (Of course not all birth happens in a womb, but the idea is clearly not something to do with external objects.)

I agree with @CurlyCarl that Venerable Nyanananda’s “solution” to this passage, as far as I understand the venerable’s jargon, is not very satisfying. Venerable summed it up in his Nibbana Sermons as: “The point which the Buddha was trying to drive home into Venerable Ānanda by his catechism, is that the constant interrelation that exists between consciousness and name-and-form is present even during one’s life in the mother’s womb.” Really? Is that the point?.. Not very convincing, because the passage uses most of the terms present in the definition of birth (SN12.2), such as abhinibbatti (production of rebirth), avakkanti (conception), and even jati (birth) itself. Plus upapajjati (rebirth). And the arising of nāmarūpa is followed by the arising of the six senses, which I haven’t yet mentioned is also part of the definition of birth!

And to sum up the bigger issue I have with all these ideas, is that a recognition or “proliferation” of a table or whatever object doesn’t cause suffering. An arahant can still recognize and think about a table, surely. But rebirth does cause suffering. It’s rebirth that is the problem, because when you’re born, you suffer. That’s what the last two links of Dependent Arising tell us: “And what is the direct condition for suffering? Birth, you should answer.” (SN12.23) Also, DA is first and foremost an expanded explanation of the second noble truth (see AN3.61). And this truth says the origin of suffering is the craving that leads to rebirth, not craving that leads to the recognition/proliferation of objects or something like that.

Therefore, the traditional take on namarupa in DA is, though perhaps a bit too much analytical, still quite spot on. The meaning wasn’t just discoverered a few decades ago but has been known since the early days.

All the best!


Greetings, @Sunyo Bhikkhu :slight_smile:

Thank you for the reply. With all due respect, I think there has been some significant miscommunication. Maybe the majority of your reply was written to my older post rather than This main one which you only briefly had time to comment some on after the fact. If so, no worries, and quite understandable! :slight_smile:

I would say though that a lot of the points you raise in the above reply are a little baffling in light of that post where I thoroughly discussed how viññāṇa is like a seed that plants itself in our personal chunk of nāmarūpa—many of the same similes and themes you raise I had already discussed in the same way there. It doesn’t seem that there’s any disagreement here about consciousness being established in nāmarūpa according to kamma. These were all comparisons I made as well.

My point was that the suttas consistently do in fact point to nāmarūpa not just being this “mind and body,” but rather all nāmarūpa as you also mentioned: this particular body, for instance, is just as “nāmarūpa-y” as an external nāmarūpa. The external nāmarūpa is also of extreme relevance not only in general but also to paṭiccasamuppāda, which I tried to show with mentions to it. In the Kalahāvivāda Sutta we get an analysis of paṭiccasamuppāda that shows the origin and cessation of dukkha particularly with regard to social quarrels and conflicts. The Dvayatānupassanā Sutta, a sutta about paṭiccasamuppāda, mentions the average worldling taking nāmarūpa to be “the truth” which is actually false according to the noble ones. This ties in with the extremely relevant and important Mūlapariyāya Sutta—where due to perceiving X thing, people take it to be a thing and that percept is automatically conceived of, appropriated, and so forth. DN 15 itself mentions external nāmarūpa in relation to the objects of contact much like most of the suttas that I listed, which seems to be where it most comes up (naturally/expectedly).

Point being, by contextualizing nāmarūpa in the suttas and in relation to phassa and so forth, we get a more complete picture. Viññāṇa establishes itself in nāmarūpa kind of “animating” us if you will. But that also entails viññāṇa encountering the entire phenomenal world of awareness which is all pure nāmarūpa. All of this is what we get attached to, desire over, fight over, conceptualize, make kamma in relation to, and as such the cycle of saṁsāra continues. I really think this is where the original post linked to above would just make this a lot clearer. It was all discussed there so no need to repeat it for the sake of the forum haha.

Also, as an aside: I’ve heard several teachings from Ajahn Brahm about nāmarūpa being the objects of consciousness discussing all of the same things I have done here. This understanding isn’t rebellious, it’s just a wider picture of the usage of the term and its relation to paṭiccasamuppāda :slight_smile: And as for mind-objects: Bhante Sujato pointed out that even mind objects are nāmarūpa in a talk, I recall once, as have some other venerables. Thoughts themselves less so, but imagining scenes and daydreaming and so on are all just mental nāmarūpa!

As for papañca not being related to dukkha and some of your other points (like the arahant having pañcupādānakkhandhā), I’d suggest MN 18 where the Buddha specifically connects the cessation of papañcasaññāsaṅkhā to the cessation of dukkha and it is how he sums up his entire Dhamma to a stranger. Also, the cessation of upādāna happens with the cessation of taṇhā. I assume this was maybe a typo and you meant the pañcakkhandhā and not the pañ’upādānakkhandhā which are defined as dukkha in the first noble truth and clearly said to cease throughout the discourses. The plain aggregates without upādāna themselves remain of course. As for the other points like the arahant not dying, I’d suggest reading SN 5.10, SN 22.85 or SN 44.1-11, etc. The arahant is not to be found in any of the aggregates, and the aggregates are what die. The arahant has escaped death, attained to the deathless (i.e. freedom from death). Physically the aggregates all must die, but Nibbāna is not some after-death reward where all the arahant’s agony is released. Things may be dukkha but the arahant is not to be found in, outside of, or in relation to those dukkha things. So in brief, in a conventional sense of course, the aggregates (and thus the arahant, in purely conventional terms) die, but in truth the arahant does not die because there is no arahant to be found. The above suttas are a handful of examples of this. Equating the arahant with the death of the body is like equating yourself with a bunch of random twigs laying on the lawn outside:

But anywho, no disagreement here on viññāṇa establishing itself in a new state of existence via nāmarūpa. I just think there is a core connection—and hence the mention of both meanings of nāmarūpa in DN 15 and throughout the other suttas—because in reality it all ends up being the same old thing: nāmarūpa, internal or external. By craving for the external nāmarūpa, consciousness continues to get established and planted into more nāmarūpa of different existences.

Be well and much mettā!
Apologies if the length of the posts is inconvenient

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Hey again! :slightly_smiling_face:

I read that post and considered it in my reply.

Sorry if I misunderstood you. I warned you that it was going to happen! But since you agree, then, that the planting/establishing of consciousness refers to rebirth, then you can see why ‘conception’ (i.e. birth) of nāmarūpa is a good translation for avakkanti. Because in that case this conception also happens at rebirth, at the planting of consciousness. (“Where consciousness is planted and sprouts [i.e. is reborn], there is a conception of the being’s immaterial aspects and body.” SN12.64)

Also, in that case, then why not carry this interpretation over into the factor of consciousness in the default chain, which this planting refers to? So that saṅkhāra - consciousness means rebirth. In which case it becomes more clear that nāmarūpa refers to the being and not objects.

(Ajahn Brahm interprets the links of consciousness in that way too. He doesn’t talk about these things at all like you do. I can know for he’s my preceptor. Although I would say he mistakes the mutal dependency of vinnana and namarupa a bit too, taking it to refer to this life. I think he’s not aware of the distinction of internal and external nāmarūpa. But the way he does explain it has little to do with how you interpret it. He just means the bare field of awareness, as I explained the idea of contact, not concepts or papanca of tables or houses or a landing of consciousnss, or those kinds of things. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks.)

The aggregates and upādāna aggregates almost always are merely synonyms. The common understanding is that the upādāna khandas are so called for one reason because they are the result of grasping/taking up in the past life. (I.e. could be translated ‘khandhas that were taken up’.) This remains true for the arahant, who is born because of craving and upādāna in the past life. That’s why I said an arahant still has the upādāna aggregates, that wasn’t a typo. Read the suttas I referred to, which say an arahant still has upādānakhandhas. I assumed you were aware of this understanding. It will take me too long to explain, but see e.g. SN22.22 where “the burden” is once called the upādānakhandhas and once just the khandhas, showing that they are synonyms. Or read Bodhi’s or Sujato’s introduction to SN22, which both explain this meaning of upādānakhanda.

Either way, the “bare” aggregates are also said to be suffering, so it doesn’t matter. E.g. Dhp202: “There is no suffering like the aggregates.” Or SN22.10: ““Mendicants, form of the past and future is suffering, let alone the present.” Or many, many other suttas that mention the aggregates to be suffering without any mention of upādāna.

The same with the six senses. We don’t have upādāna-six-senses, as you’ll know.

"And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering? It should be said: the six internal sense bases. What six? The eye base … the mind base. This is called the noble truth of suffering.” (SN56.14)

These senses are suffering regardless of craving or taking up (upādāna).

In that case everybody is deathless because nobody has a self. There also is no James to be found even if James is not enlightened.

When the suttas talk about death it just means conventional death. I mean, it’s even defined as the aggregates breaking up! (SN12.2 and may more) Nothing to do with not identifying.

Anyway, you’re mostly just repeating yourself without specifically replying to my central points, nor did you answer any of the specific questions I asked, so I think it’s time we end this discussion, which has been educative to me. Thank you for all your thoughts! :upside_down_face: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: (Also @CurlyCarl.)

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I think I know where our miscommunication occurred, and why you felt the need to clarify yourself rather than reply to specific points. So this may clear up my previous posts to you.

You said “The where/place is referring to the particular object of consciousness (nāmarūpa) on which it has become established and grown within one’s current existence” This you think can, if one doesn’t get enlightened in the meantime, at some point in the future lead to rebirth. Therefore you think avakkanti doesn’t always mean physical birth. Like the establishing of consciousness, avakkanti can also happen within the current life. (This “within the current existence” is what I meant earlier by “momentary”, for I assumed the particular object can change within a lifetime, perhaps even very quickly.)

But my understanding is that this establishing/planting and subsequent sprouting always implies rebirth, and that avakkanti always means birth too. To clarify with one example: “So with deeds as the field, consciousness as the seed, and craving as the moisture, the consciousness of beings who are obstructed by ignorance and chained by craving is planted [i.e. gets reborn] in the lower realm. That is how continued existence in a future life is produced." (AN3.76)

You must have missed this difference and thought I had a similar understanding to you, because you said it “was already discussed in the same way” by you. I hope it clears up how it wasn’t. How I was discussing something different.

That’s why I mentioned the word ‘rebirth’ till the point of nuisance :wink: ! And that’s also why I addressed itthabhāvaññathābhāva saying it refers to rebirth, insisted that avakkanti means conception at birth in all cases, kept referring to the passage about the womb which you agreed was about birth, mentioned how saṅkhāras lead to rebirth, said that the link of consciousness is about rebirth, why consciousness only ceases at death, etc. You see now why I said all those things? To show that the factors of consciousness and nāmarūpa in DA are about rebirth, including their “planting” and conception.

If you now understand my ideas, perhaps you can rearead my posts with it in mind and reply more to the point, perhaps answer some of my questions.

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ALso came back to thank for the linked articles, which I’ve now read.

@knotty36: Thanks for that paper on avakkanti. The other papers of the author are in Japanese, I presume? Or are they not open source? Because you say you can introduce the ideas, so I assume you can’t link to them for some reason.

Since you said this topics is important to you, definitely don’t forget to read Wijesekera’s Vedic and Buddhist Studies, specifically chapter 9 and 15, which are on the rebirth of consciousness and on avakkanti of the gandhabba respectively. You can find the book free online if you google. Let me know if you can’t find it.

@kaccayanagotta: “This paper I came across talks a bit about how nāmarūpa can be understood in both ways”

Thank you for this paper too. But I can’t help wondering why you quoted it to support the ideas of “designation”, for Olalde seems to lean very heavily towards another interpretation, even in the Brahmanical texts. And their references to the Buddhist canon are even only in terms of nāmarūpa meaning a being with its name and shape. They even specifically refer to the very texts we are discussing, including the one you opened the topic with, SN12.64, and say nāmarūpa should there be understood as the being with its name and body.

Here’s some interesting quotes for those who don’t want to read the whole thing (which would be very understandable, since parts of it were a bit too much for me too! :D)

In the last decades, however, nāmarūpa has attracted the attention of scholars of Buddhism who turn back to the “older” usage in order to elaborate alternative interpretations that aim to grasp the “original” meaning of the Buddhist term. […] They understand “name” as “designation” and neglect the fact that it also (or may I say actually) means “proper name;” in this manner they understand name as “naming” and assume that it always encompasses conceptualisation.

By saying “may I say actually” Olalde is very politely saying those scholars got it wrong. It is a brilliant observation. Because, indeed, nāma is sometimes understood as “naming” or “designation”, but that is not what the word means. It means one’s actual name (proper name); or in case of external objects, the name of those objects. It is not some process of recognition or designation but actually refers to the being or thing in and of itself. The rare reference to external nāmarūpa in SN12.19 means external objects with their names and forms. Here it can’t refer to designation of those objects also because designation happens inside oneself, not externally. That is, you can’t really have “external designation”, because designation happens in the mind.

To my view the relation between personal names and the name bearer expressed in these texts is not that between a sign and its referent, for nāman, as a personal name, is not different from the name bearer, on the contrary it is an essential part of it. […] I would agree with Gonda when he concludes that: “Nāma was […] supposed to be present in persons, things, and phenomena […] names are as essential a part of man’s personality as his physical strength, his organs, his life-breath” (emphasis mine)

This is what I was talking about when I referenced The Golden Bough on names being considered an essential aspect of the being, not merely a label. (By the way, the author Frazer was an anthropologist, not a linguist, which shows this idea of ‘name’ could well be understood without knowledge of Upanishads and such. Meaning ordinary people in the Buddha’s days would have had this idea.)

We can also interpret nāman and rūpa as essential constituents of a living being, that is, nāman as a personal name and rūpa as shape or perhaps even body

Exactly! That is the way rūpa is used in Dependent Arising. As Olalde concludes:

Thus, if we look at nāmarūpa from the latter perspective and interpret it as a shape or body that has a personal name, we could also explain the passages in the Pāli Canon where nāmarūpa is said to coagulate (samucchissatha) or to descend (avakkanti) into the womb.

On the same topic see Falk’s Nāma-rūpa and Dharma-rūpa, p.56, referring SN12.19 which mentions “external nāmarūpa”: “[In the suttas] the comparatively much lesser frequency of [nāmarūpa’s] occurrence in the latter sense [of external objects] is merely proportional to the uneven distribution of interest between the two unit-aspects of concrete existence, the individual, and the extra-individual.” Indeed. The Buddha wasn’t that interested in external objects. He was interested in suffering. And it’s people who suffer, not objects out there.

And this suffering is existence caused by rebirth. (Now no longer quoting the paper but the suttas.)

Where the immaterial aspects and body
cease without remainer:
they who understanding this teaching,
cut their bonds to existence. (SN1.50)

Look at the world and its deities:
devoid of understanding
they settle in immaterial aspects and bodies,
thinking they know the truth.

Understanding is the best thing in the world,
because it leads to penetration
by which you correctly understand
the complete ending of birth and existence.

Gods and humans envy them,
the awake ones, who mindful,
with joyous wisdom,
bear their final body. (Iti41)