Nama, as in namarupa, the designation of 'feeling, perception, attention, intention & contact', why do they call these 'Nama'?

Some clues or points to keep in mind;

  • intention (cetana) is kamma

  • six classes of intention are sankhara

  • sankhara fabricates the conditioned

  • contact has 6 sense media as cause

  • feeling, perception and sankhara are 'aggregates', are conjoined & are conjoined with 'consciousness' aggregate

  • 4 aggregates have objects

  • 3 aggregates always accompany consciousness

  • consciousness arises as one thing and ceases as another

  • same consciousness doesn't go from one life to another

  • consciousness is said to be inbetween two ends, 'form' on one end and 'name' on the other end

  • both 'the eye' and 'the form visible by the eye' are included under 'form [rupa]'

  • consciousness meeting rupa is a meeting of the three, is 'contact'

  • feeling is born of contact

  • feeling is requisite for craving

  • everything comes into being through attention

  • with consciousness as condition, name-and-form comes to be

  • with name-and-form as condition, consciousness comes to be

  • from sankhara as a requisite condition comes consciousness

  • sankhara has ignorance for cause

  • rupa isn't always generated as in arupajhana, formless perception attainment

  • What a exellent collection to contemplate togather
    – enRaiser
    Nov 18, 2023 at 12:50

4 Answers 4


Name refers to mind and form refers to body. Together, name-and-form refers to the mind-body system, according to SN 12.2.

The body is called form because it is a form and also because it is the form-sensor.

The mind is called name because it is the name-assigner or namer. It assigns name to the sensed form and then forms intentions on it.

So name(-assigner) and form(-sensor) describe mind and body by their functions.

Of course, this is my deduction and I don't have sutta references to support this.


It's a difficult question that i'll sleep on for a while but i do have some thoughts as well

  • it seems to me that 'nama' names as consciousness cognizes, it names things therefore it is called 'name'.

  • If we have 'vinnana' & 'rupa [eg eye & visible form]' on one side and 'nama' on the other side, then we can see that one side does the meeting and the other side names this meeting 'contact', it names 'feeling' born of contact as 'feeling' & etc.

  • I can see a person's form with the eye, i can hear their voice with the ear, iow i can know a person's form by means of my form.

On the other hand i can only know by 'name' due inference the feelings, contact, perception, intention & attention of another, these things are invisible & untangible to me, like a person's name eg 'Adam' is not tangible like the visible form of the body.

In this sense a person is then merely that which one knows by name and that which one knows otherwise.

As to why those exact terms for 'nama' and why cetana & manasikara instead of sankhara. I think this should be possible to deduct but i haven't gone that deep and it's not essential obviously.


In my opinion, it is called 'nama-rupa' because it was a certain term from the Samaveda (later called the Chandogya Upanishad) the Buddha decided required debunking & redefining.

In the Chandogya Upanishad, there is the great deity that exercises their will/intention to multiply the three basic deities of earth, fire & water into a multitude of names & forms. The impression is the Buddha took this superstitious notion & used it to describe a certain reality when intention gives attention to the basic three sankharas (in Dependent Origination) and decides to multiply their presence & impact by pursing them via the six sense bases.

The Buddha was not concerned with literal 'name' or 'naming'. The Buddha was concerned with ending craving. Too many Buddhists, such as Katukurunde Nyanananda, engage/d in too much papanca about 'nama-rupa'.


nama = name

nama (following) = mental element which could tend to do it's duty on an object.

nama (is followed by) = nibbana

  • Could you explain what is meant by 'follow' in this sense
    – user23681
    May 2, 2022 at 10:19
  • 1
    It's tending to the object to do it's duty on an object like a boy follow a butterfly to catch it. But Nibbana is tended by Nama to done Namas' duties on Nibbana-object. Because Vinnana is Mano, which is like the leader and the Nama is a follower of that Vinnana, Mano. tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=001
    – Bonn
    May 2, 2022 at 11:40

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