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In Ñanavira's book Notes on Dhamma:

Phassa is included in nāma since nāma, in specifying saññā, necessarily specifies the pair of āyatanāni ('bases') and kind of viññāna involved (e.g. perception of sourness specifies tongue, tastes, and tongue-consciousness), whereas rūpa does not (inertia or behaviour does not specify its mode of appearance, visual, auditory, and so on): nāma, in other words, entails (but does not include) viññāna, whereas rūpa is simply 'discovered' by viññāna.

I don't follow his reasoning here... why is it that Phassa is included in nama instead of rupa because nāma 'entails (but does not include) viññāna, whereas rūpa is simply 'discovered' by viññāna.'?

Also why is sañña given some kind of precedence in its inclusion within the category ahead of Phassa?

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Only when there is avijja such as touch arises, good householder. Whereas Not-knowing has been uprooted, consciousness would no more land.

May one 'be' touched by vijja!

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Ñanavira, similar to Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda, erroneously attempted to reconcile the definitions of namarupa in SN 12.2 and DN 15.

DN 15 appears to be a late text (as shown by the use of the late term mātukucchismiṁ) and its definition of namarupa is Vedantic, conforming to the later Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which the Buddha was not aware of.

The definition of namarupa in SN 12.2 is based on the earlier Chandogya Upanishad (originally part of the Samaveda, which the Buddha was aware of), which highlights the role of cetana (intention; the will). In the Chandogya Upanishad, the Great Deity exercised its Will to multiply the three basic deities/elements of earth, fire & water into a multitude of names & forms. In SN 12.2, the Buddha explains the human reality how the will/intention gives attention to proliferate & acquire externally the objects of the ignorant sankharas.

In summary:

  • Nama does not literally mean 'name' in the Buddha's Teaching therefore has no inherent relationship to sanna. Namarupa was obviously a term the Buddha took from the Chandogya Upanishad to redefine & debunk. The key elements of namarupa are cetana (intention) & manasikara (attention) rather than vedana, sanna & phassa.
  • Phassa is included within namarupa because it refers to the internal contact with the ignorant sankhara; as distinct from external contact via the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body & thoughts that become a preoccupation via inappropriate attention.

To understand how this internal phassa operates at namarupa, refer to MN 19, where the Buddha-To-Be had internal contact with various thoughts (sankhara) and then exercised his wise intention & wise attention towards abandoning & eradicating those thoughts (sankhara).

When the opposite of MN 19 occurs; when unwise intention & inappropriate attention are given to pursue the objects of the sankhara, this is the arising of dependent origination (towards suffering).

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I do not study these works but i believe he is making a reference to everything nama always being tied to vinnana whereas form isn't.

"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."

"Discernment & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It's not possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them. For what one discerns, that one cognizes. What one cognizes, that one discerns. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference between them."
MN 43

Likewise contact is always associated with either of 6 types of consciousness.

There are 3 aggregates that are conjoined with consciousnesses; perceptions, feelings and sankhara which generates consciousness as conscioussness or form as form & so on.

Forms aggregated are not conjoined with consciousnesses aggregated, because form does not always accompany consciousness, form is not always generated.

Four aggregates have objects. Forms aggregated do not have an object.

In nama you will also see attention & intention.

Attention attends to, it brings into being this or that, appropriate or inappropriate dhammā.

Intention refers to the 6 classes of genesis [sankhara].

why is sañña given some kind of precedence in its inclusion within the category ahead of Phassa?

In as far as there is anything, there contact can be delineated.

Where contact is delineated, there a particular consciousness implicated in that very contact can be delineated.

Where consciousness is delineated, it is said to be conjoined with percipience & feeling.

In short there are two types of contact, with form & without form, but there is always sanna in as far there is consciousness delineated, due to their semantic conjoinment.

The states where contact is without form is that which said to be known with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five [sense] faculties [form].

"Friend, with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five faculties the dimension of the infinitude of space can be known [as] 'infinite space.' The dimension of the infinitude of consciousness can be known [as] 'infinite consciousness.' The dimension of nothingness can be known [as] 'There is nothing.'
MN 43

When Ven. NV writes;

Phassa is included in nāma since nāma, in specifying saññā, necessarily specifies the pair of āyatanāni ('bases') and kind of viññāna involved

I believe he is referring to contact being a meeting of the three, eg;

1.Form which is the eye + 2.Form which is visible by the Eye + 3.Eye-consciousness.

Here 1 & 2 are bases which are form.

If intellect is divorced from form the contact is;

  1. Intellect + 2. Ideation + 3. Intellect-consciousness.

Ideation here must also be not such that is tied to form.

Here 1 & 2 are bases which are not-form.

Either way there are two bases and a respective consciousness.

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  • "states where contact is without form ..." - imo, this clarified why contact is categorized with name, i.e. contact with intellect/idea is not physical is nature, not related to form
    – blue_ego
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 17:23
  • can you explain: "Four aggregates have objects. Forms aggregated do not have an object."? or point to the text which has this?
    – blue_ego
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 20:26

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