What is the meaning of Nama in Nama Rupa?

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No, it can’t!


So what is the meaning of Vinnana paccaya Nama-Rupa?


Note that these are rationalizing definitions, i.e. they are intended to distance nāmarūpa from magical/mystical thinking and show that they are amenable to rational, psychological analysis. They are part of a discourse, an argument spread over many centuries about the nature of the mind, the soul, the body, and how all these things are related. It is critical to understand the dialectical nature of such teachings, so that they are not reified into any so-called “ultimate reality” beloved by the Abhidhammists.

Compare with how we use language in modern times. Say someone is suffering from paranoid delusions. They believe that the government is spying on them through their television. Oh, wait, that’s neither paranoid nor deluded. Okay, so they think I’m spying on them through their television. (I’m not, I promise!) So you say to them, “Don’t worry, that is not real. It’s just in your head; it’s all just thoughts and fears, making you see things that aren’t there.”

The point of saying this is not to make some definitive, final, and absolute list of everything that is, in fact, going on; it is to eliminate the delusion that is creating suffering. The Buddha’s re-definition of nāmarūpa is similar. This is why we find it treated differently in different places: it is not to define some underlying thing, but to address the specific kinds of misunderstandings and delusions that the Buddha encountered.

This all has a rather interesting implication. If nāmarūpa is a dialectical term, then the Buddha would assuredly not have used it if he was alive today. Rather, he would have addressed the actual misunderstandings that he encountered, such as the mind/body problem, the Turing test, and so on.


In brief, the station of your consciousness in your next life will depend on the kamma you have made in this and previous lives. The nature of the other four aggregates (nāma-rūpa) in turn depends on the station of your consciousness.


Ok then what it the meaning of Nama Rupa Paricheda Nana?


This is an Abhidhamma term, which means “the knowledge of distinguishing between mind and body”.

It relies on the strictly Abhidhamma interpretation of nāmarūpa as “mind and body,” which is not found in the suttas at all.

Warning: using the Abhidhamma to understand the suttas will only lead to weariness and vexation! You will have to learn a bunch of complicated stuff, and then spend years unlearning it! Like I did! :sweat:

Duality: Mind & Matter?

It’s so lovely to see you advocating for the Abhidhammic equation of the four khandhas with nāmarūpa!


Did Buddha (Sutta) teach the five aggregate?
Did Buddha (Sutta) teach Nama and Rupa as two distinctive elements.


If you’re asking that question, I would suggest that you start by reading the suttas! :smile:


I have read 80% of the Sutta (English translation) and Abhidhamma (Narada) at least twice.

In my opinion there are no difference between the Sutta and the Abhidhamma teaching when it come to five aggregate and the distinction of Nama and Rupa.
So I wonder why you oppose to Abhidhamma.


Thank you Bhante
Can you brows through the following link and see whether you have any objection to it.


Greetings Banthe Sujato. I too do not understand in what way does your understanding differ from A.Brahmali on the problem. I am no fan of Abbhidhamma, but I see nothing wrong in this particular case. Can you detail your opinion and get a little more technical ?

Suttas do say that nama is different than rupa. Suttas say it is called “namarupa” because they are always found together, conjoined. Nama is described as “attention, feeling, perception, volition”. And rupa is described as material form, the form making up this body (blood, bones, liquid of the joints etc.) and external form.

The aggregate of consciousness is always found together with namarupa, it can not be found apart from namarupa. But it is not the same as namarupa.


There is one little trick about the aggregates that might cause misunderstandings. They can be seen in 2 ways:

Consciousness + namarupa = contact. From contact we get: feeling, volition, perception. These 3 depend on contact.

But we know that feeling, volition, perception are part of the “nama” from namarupa. This is because consciousness can be consciouss of all the 5 aggregates, including consciousness itself.

From a technical point of view, feeling-perception-volition technically depend on contact between consciousness and namarupa.(witch includes them in “name”) But things do not happen in a cronological order because the 5 aggregates exist at the same time since beginingless times. It is more like descring how an engine already built functions, not like how an engine is built in a chronological order.

In a way we can say that consciousness + the other 4 aggregates = contact, on witch 3 of these “other 4” aggregates depend on.

Aggregates can be described in multiple ways because they are like an engine already built. We see interactions between them described in different ways in the suttas.

In my opinion, what is important is to get the idea about no-self by seen how this “sense of self” is just a phenomenon, a feeling, a thing that has arisen in that moment based on conditions. Like the smoke produced by a car, or a new window that popped up on a computer screen, or the sound produced by a musical instrument. One of my favorite suttas is about this feeling of “this body is mine” that arises at a particular moment been just a feeling, just a phenomenon arisen like the sound from a musical instrument dependent on conditions present at that particular time. (like being human, attention directed at that in that particular moment etc. ) If someone would say “enough with the instrument, bring me just the sound” that would be impossible.
The main idea about the aggregates is not to get ultra-technical (like abbhidhama tries to do most of the time with everything and fail) but to get the idea, to get familiar with how the complicated instrument/machine works so we can eventually understand how a particular feeling that has arisen such as “this thought is my thought” is just like the sound of an instrument arisen dependent on conditions. It is not “my thought” any more than a window popping on a computer is “mine” or the branches and leaves scattered in a forest. (to quote suttas). That feeling of something being mine is just a feeling dependently arisen like a window popping up on a computer.




Feeling, perception, volition, contact and attention (Vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro - idaṃ vuccatāvuso nāmaṃ).

The four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements — these are called materiality (Cattāri ca mahābhūtāni catunna — these are called mentality). MN9

Note that the Buddha doesn’t include consciousness (vinnana) or Nibbana under Nama. These are added to Nama only in the commentaries like Abhidhamma (not to say that everything in the commentaries is wrong but in this case is not in line with MN9).

With metta



This means that Nama, Rupa and Vinnana arise at the same time (i.e. Co-dependant origination). Buddha says a mind, body and consciousness exists in dependence on each other:

“‘From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.’ Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother’s womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?”
“No, lord.”
“If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?”
“No, lord.”
“If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-and-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?”
“No, lord.” DN15

With metta



Every act of seeing, hearing, thinking etc involves giving rise to the five aggregates. We usually cannot tell them apart. However when the right meditation method is used it is possible to see the aggregates as distinct from each other:

At Savatthi. “For a monk practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, what accords with the Dhamma is this: that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to form, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to feeling, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to perception, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to fabrications, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to consciousness. As he keeps focusing on inconstancy with regard to form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. As he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he is totally released from form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness…” SN 22.40

While seeing them apart doesn’t have a specific name (yathabhutha nana may be close) like Nama-rupa pariccheda nana, the act of seeing them distinctly is stated in the EBTs.
With metta



In MN9, the definition of nama is “feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention”.

In dependent origination (e.g. SN12.1), we have:

… with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact …


… with [feeling, perception, volition, contact, and attention], the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact

My guess here would be that the contact in namarupa is mental contact, and with the six sense bases you get the sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch contact as well.

Is this explained anywhere in the suttas?


This is correct, but to be fair, the Visuddhimagga specifically states that in the context of dependent origination, nāma excludes vinnana—a distinction not often noted.[quote=“SarathW1, post:14, topic:4600”]
I have read 80% of the Sutta (English translation) and Abhidhamma (Narada) at least twice.

My apologies, I was feeling mischievous. :pray:

But note that your answer reveals one of the basic problems here. You equate Narada with Abhidhamma. But of course, this is a 20th century summary and explanation of a 12 century Burmese text, the Abhidhammatthasangaha, a text whose interpretation was heavily disputed for centuries in Theravada, and which is full of concepts, terms, and ideas that are not only not found in the Suttas, but are not found in the canonical Abhidhamma either.

So if you want to step beyond generalities and discuss the relation between the Abhidhamma and the Suttas, you have have to begin by asking what, exactly, do you mean by Abhidhamma?

Who said I was opposed to abhidhamma? “Abhidhamma” just means “about the dhamma”, and it is what we do here, have discussions “about the dhamma”. But in modern Theravada, abhidhamma is used in a much more pregnant sense. It has come to mean a specific body of teachings, primarily those found in the Abhidhammatthasangaha, which constitute the “Higher Teachings”.

So what I’m opposed to is misusing the abhidhamma by using it as a lens through which the suttas are seen. That’s not what it was meant for: it was meant as an advanced study for those who have already mastered the suttas and want to put their study on a more systematic basis.

The problem is that, as used in modern Theravada, the abhidhamma has come to be seen as authoritative, and rather than explaining the suttas, it explains them away. For practical purposes, in modern Theravada, when the abhidhamma (i.e the Abhidhammatthasangaha and its commentaries) and the suttas disagree, the suttas are interpreted so as to agree with the abhidhamma.

Don’t underestimate the scope of the problem. When I taught a sutta course in Jakarta, I was told that that was the first time anyone had taught the suttas in Indonesia. Is that true? I find it hard to believe, but maybe it is. But nevertheless it is telling. Modern Theravada is all Abhidhamma, all the time. My first Dhamma lesson was not, “Here’s what the Buddha said in the suttas”, but, quite literally, drawing 17 circles on a blackboard to represent the 17 mind-moments, and go from there.

It’s not uncommon to find monasteries, even major ones, where they do not even have the suttas, but only the Abhidhamma. Or if the suttas are there, they are left in the cabinet because they’re too sacred, and only the “abhidhamma” is read. In the Thai academic system of Dhamma study, Suttas are not taught in any of the 9 years. That’s right: you get the equivalent of a Phd in Buddhsim without having ever read any suttas. This problem is hardly limited to Thailand. Ignoring the suttas in favor of later texts is, of course, normal in all the schools of Mahayana, and common in Western academic courses, too.

Sorry, I’m too busy.

Again, I don’t really want to spend too long on this, as I have written extensively on this problem elsewhere. But the basic problem is that the Abhidhamma treats the nāma as “mind”, which it never means in the suttas, and then rūpa becomes “body”, which it sometimes means in the suttas, but not here. (Rūpa is broader than “body”, as it includes the objects of the five sense, and even the objects of the sixth sense that have material properties such as color and position).

This then creates a dualistic mind/body analysis. The primary mode of analysis is to distinguish between the mind and the body, and again, this is never found in the suttas. The suttas are much too sophisticated to fall into this kind of trap. They never treat the mind and the body as separate entities, or posit them as primary forms of analytical categories.

This mind/body dualism lies at the heart of much Western philosophy, such as Descartes, and has been responsible for many of the most insoluble and damaging implications of western philosophy. Indeed, I believe that the reason we are subject to such an influential extremist materialism today, with its far-reaching and devastating consequences in terms of divorcing fact and value, lies precisely because the West has never escaped the dysfunctional abyss of mind/body dualism.

When the Buddha discussed the mind and the body, he always placed their relation foremost, not their separation. This is apparent in the commentarial attempt to justify the so-called nāmarūpapariccheda. This means the “cutting between, complete separation of mind and body”. But this is not found anywhere in the EBTs, so to support it they use a passage on meditative vision. But that passage speaks not of the separation between these things, but quite the opposite: that they are bound together, dependent on each other.

Anyway, I could keep going for quite some time on the many, many ways the modern Abhidhamma teachings neither represent the EBTs, nor are philosophically coherent, nor offer a realistic map of experience, nor provide an adequate basis for addressing the problems that we, as a species, encounter today. We should focus on bring the Buddha’s teachings alive, not on worshiping the bones of ancient scholastics.

Duality: Mind & Matter?

For Buddhists, nama-rupa is ‘mentality-materiality’, as defined in SN 12.2, MN 9, etc.

For Brahmans, nama-rupa is ‘name-form’ or ‘naming-forms’, as used in DN 11, SN 7.6 & DN 15.

The term ‘namati’ is found in MN 19 & SN 6.1:

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination (nati) of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, he has abandoned the thought of renunciation to cultivate the thought of sensual desire, and then his mind inclines (namati) to thoughts of sensual desire. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of ill will…upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty.

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of renunciation, he has abandoned the thought of sensual desire to cultivate the thought of renunciation, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of renunciation. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of non-ill will…upon thoughts of non-cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of cruelty to cultivate the thought of non-cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of non-cruelty.

MN 19


Itiha bhagavatobhagavant paṭi­sañcik­khato appossukkatāya cittaṃ namati, no dhammadesanāya.

As the Blessed One reflected thus, his mind inclined to dwelling at ease, not to teaching the Dhamma.

SN 6.1


The above sounds similar to MN 19, however, when examining contextual usage, it appears questionable that ‘nama’ (‘mentality’) has the same meaning as ‘namati’ (‘inclines’) because it is the ‘nama’ (‘mentality’) which ‘bends’ or ‘inclines’. While ‘namati’ may mean to ‘bend’ or ‘incline’, what dependent origination is emphasising is whether or not nama (i.e., the various mental faculties) are tainted & thus ‘bent’ by ignorance.

Since ‘nama’ is used together with ‘rupa’ in ‘nama-rupa’, ‘nama’ obviously appears to refer to the mental aggregates & faculties rather than their ‘bending’; even though they are ‘bent’ by ignorance.

That said, to say: 'The four immaterial aggregates are called “name” ’ does not really make any sense in the English language. At least, for me, it is attachment to words. I think the translation ‘name’ should be discarded, except in suttas where discussions with Brahmans occur.