The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena

Chapter 6

Intimation through Body and Speech

Citta is one of the four factors which produces rupa. We look different when we laugh, when we cry, when we are angry or when we are generous. Then we can notice that citta produces rupa. Bodily intimation (kayavinnatti) and speech intimation (vacivinnatti) are two kinds of rupa, originated by citta. They are not produced by the other three factors which can produce rupa, by kamma, temperature or nutrition. 

As to bodily intimation, this is movement of the body, of the limbs, facial movement or gestures which display our intentions, be they wholesome or unwholesome. The intention which is expressed through bodily intimation can be understood by others, even by animals. Bodily intimation itself is rupa, it does not know anything. We read in the “Dhammasangani” (§ 636):

What is that rupa which is bodily intimation (kayavinnatti)? That tension, that intentness, that state of making the body tense, in response to a thought, whether good or bad, or indeterminate (kiriyacitta), on the part of one who advances, or recedes, or fixes the gaze, or glances around, or retracts an arm, or stretches it forth – the intimation, the making known, the state of having made known – this is that rupa which constitutes bodily intimation. 
According to the “Atthasalini” (I, Book I, Part III, 82, 83), in the case of bodily intimation citta produces the “eight inseparable rupas” (The four Great Elements of solidity, cohesion, temperature and motion, and visible object, odour, flavour and nutrition.) and among them the element of air (wind, oscillation or motion) plays its specific part in supporting the body and strengthen the postures. We read:
... But there is a certain peculiar, unique mode of change in the primaries (four Great Elements) when set up by mind, through which, as a condition, mobility (the element of wind or motion) is able to strengthen, support and agitate the coexistent body. This is intimation. 
... Because it is a capacity of communicating, it is called “intimation”. What does it communicate? A certain wish communicable by an act of the body. If anyone stands in the path of the eye, raises his hands or feet, shakes his head or brow, the movement of his hands, etc. are visible. Intimation, however, is not  so visible; it is only knowable by mind. For one sees by the eye a colour-surface moving by virtue of the change of position in hands, etc. (Because of sanna, remembrance, one can notice the movement of a colour surface. Seeing sees only colour, it cannot see movement of colour.). But by reflecting on it as intimation, one knows it by mind-door-consciousness, thus: 
“I imagine that this man wishes me to do this or that act.”...
The intention which is being expressed through bodily intimation is intelligible to others, not through the eye-door but through the mind-door. Knowing, for example, that someone waves is cognition through the mind-door and this cognition is conditioned by seeing-consciousness  which experiences visible object or colour. The meaning of what has been intimated is known after reflection on it, thus it can only be cognized through the mind-door.

The “Visuddhimagga” (XIV, 61) defines intimation in a similar way and then states about its function, manifestation and proximate cause:

... Its function is to display intention. It is manifested as the cause of bodily excitement. Its proximate cause is the consciousness-originated air-element. 
As to the proximate cause, as we have seen, the element of wind or air has its specific role in the intimating of intention by bodily movement or gestures.

We are inclined to take intimation as belonging to self, but bodily intimation is only a kind of rupa, originated by citta. There is no person who communicates by gestures. Are we aware of nama and rupa when we gesticulate? Are there kusala cittas or akusala cittas at such moments? Most of the time there are akusala cittas, but we do not notice it. Do we realize which type of citta conditions the bodily intimation when we wave to someone else in order to greet him, when we gesticulate in order to tell him to come nearer, when we nod our head while we agree with something or shake it while we deny something? Such gestures are part of our daily routine and it seems that we make them automatically. Perhaps we never considered what types of citta condition them. Akusala citta conditions bodily intimation, for example, when we with mimics ridicule someone else or show our contempt for him. In such cases it is obvious that there is akusala citta. We should remember that bodily intimation is more often conditioned by akusala citta than by kusala citta. There may be subtle clinging which is not so obvious while we are expressing our intention by gestures. When there is mindfulness we can find out whether there is kusala citta or akusala citta. There may also be the performing of akusala kamma through bodily intimation, for example when someone gives by gesture orders to kill. There may be kusala cittas which condition bodily intimation when we, for example, stretch out our arms to welcome people to our home, when we stretch out our hand in order to give something, when we point out the way to someone who is in a strange city, when we by our gestures express courtesy or when we show respect to someone who deserves respect. However, there may also be selfish motives while we are doing so, or we may be insincere, and then there are akusala cittas which condition bodily intimation. More knowledge about citta and rupas which are conditioned by citta can remind us to be aware of whatever reality appears, also while gesticulating. Then there is at such a moment no opportunity for akusala citta. 

Our intentions are not only communicated by gestures, but also by speech. Speech intimation (vacivinnatti) is a kind of rupa, originated by citta. The “Dhammasangani” ( Ch II, § 637) states:

What is that rupa which is intimation by language (vacivinnatti)? That speech, voice, enunciation, utterance, noise, making noises, language as articulate speech, which expresses a thought whether good, bad, or indeterminate - this is called language. And that intimation, that making known, the state of having made known by language - this is that rupa which constitutes intimation by language. 
When someone’s intention is intimated through speech it is then intelligible to others. The meaning of what is intimated is known after reflection about it, thus, it is cognizable through the mind-door. Speech intimation itself does not know anything, it is rupa. 

The “Visuddhimagga” (XIV, 62) gives the following definition of speech intimation (See Dhammasangani Ch II, 636, 637, and also Atthasalini I, Book I, Part III, Ch 2, 86,87, and II, Book II, Ch III, 324.):

Verbal intimation is the mode (conformation) and the alteration (deformation) in the consciousness-originated earth-element that causes that occurrence of speech utterance which mode and alteration are a condition for the knocking together of clung to matter (According to the commentary to the Visuddhimagga, the “Paramattha Manjusa” (452): “The function (knocking together) of the vocal apparatus (clung to matter)”.). Its function is to display intention. It is manifested as the cause of voice in speech. Its proximate cause is the consciousness-originated earth element....
The proximate cause of bodily intimation is the element of wind or motion which is produced by citta, whereas the proximate cause of speech intimation is the element of earth or solidity which is produced by citta. According to the “Atthasalini” (I, Book I, Part III, Ch 2, 87), in the case of speech intimation, citta produces the eight inseparable rupas and among these the element of earth or solidity (hardness) plays its specific role when there is impact producing sound and there is a “certain unique change” among the great elements by which speech intimation is conditioned.

Bodily intimation and speech intimation are rupas conditioned by citta, but these two kinds of rupa are not concrete matter. As we have seen, they are a “certain, unique change” in the great elements. The eight inseparable rupas on which the two kinds of intimation depend are produced by citta, according to the “Atthasalini” (II, Book II, Part I, Ch 337). In the case of bodily intimation the element of wind and in the case of speech intimation the element of earth plays its specific role.

Do we realize whether speech intimation is conditioned by kusala citta or by akusala citta? We may know in theory that we speak with akusala citta when our objective is not wholesomeness, such as generosity, kindness or the development of understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, but do we realize this at the moments we speak? Even when akusala kamma through speech, such as lying or slandering, is not committed, we may still speak with akusala citta. We may find out that often our speech is motivated by akusala citta. We speak with cittas rooted in attachment when we want to gain something, when we want to be liked or admired by others. With this objective we may even tell “tales” about others, ridicule or denigrate them. We are attached to speech and we often chatter just in order to keep the conversation going. We tend to feel lonely when there is silence. Usually we do not consider whether what we say is beneficial or not. We have to speak to others when we organize our work in the office or at home. Do we realize whether there are at such moments kusala cittas or akusala cittas? When we lie there is the committing of akusala kamma through speech.

Speech intimation is produced by kusala citta when we, for example, with generosity and kindness try to help and encourage others in speaking to them. When we speak about the Buddha’s teachings there may be kusala cittas, but at times there also tend to be akusala cittas, for example, when we are conceited about our knowledge, or when we are attached to the people we are speaking to. Many different types of citta arise and fall away very rapidly and we may not know when the citta is kusala citta and when akusala citta. There can be mindfulness while speaking, but we may believe that this is too difficult since we have to think of what we are going to say. Thinking is a reality and it can be object of mindfulness. There are sound and hearing and they can be object of mindfulness when they appear. We are usually absorbed in the subject we want to speak about and we attach great important to our speech. We live most of the time in the world of “conventional truth”, and we are forgetful of ultimate realities (paramattha dhammas). In the ultimate sense there is no speaker, only empty phenomena, conditioned namas and rupas. 

When we gesticulate and speak there are only nama and rupa. Hardness, pressure, sound or hearing may present themselves, they can be experienced one at a time. At such moments understanding of the reality which appears can be developed. 

The “Visuddhimagga” (XVIII, 31) uses a simile of a marionette in order to illustrate that there is no being in the ultimate sense, only conditioned phenomena. We read:

Therefore, just as a marionette is void, soulless and without curiosity, and while it walks and stands merely through the combination of strings and wood, yet it seems as if it had curiosity and interestedness, so too, this mentality-materiality is void, soulless and without curiosity, and while it walks and stands merely through the combination of the two together, yet it seems as if it had curiosity and interestedness. This is how it should be regarded. Hence the Ancients said:
“ The mental and material are really here, 
“ But here there is no human being to be found, 
“For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll-- 
“ Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks. 
When one sees a performance with marionettes, it seems that the puppets have lives of their own: they exert themselves, they are absorbed, attached or full of hatred and sorrow, and one can laugh and cry because of the story which is being enacted. However, the puppets are only wood and strings, held by men who make them act. When one sees how the puppets are stored after the play they are not impressive anymore, only pieces of wood and strings. When we study the Abhidhamma it helps us to understand more that this marionette we call “self” can move about, act and speak because of the appropriate conditions.

As we have seen in the definitions of the two kinds of intimation by the ‘Dhammasangani” (§ 636, 637), these two kinds of rupa can be conditioned by kusala citta, akusala citta or “inoperative” citta (kiriyacitta). When we realize that intimation through body and speech is very often conditioned by akusala citta, we come to see the danger of being forgetful of nama and rupa while we make gestures and speak. Then we are urged to remember the Buddha’s words as to the practice of “clear comprehension” (sampajanna) in the “Satipatthana Sutta” (Middle Length Sayings no. 10, in the section on Mindfulness of the Body, dealing with the four kinds of clear comprehension [See the translation in “The Way of Mindfulness” by Ven. Soma.]):

And further, o bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, in going forwards (and) in going backwards, is a person practising clear comprehension; in looking straight on (and) in looking away from the front, is a person practising clear comprehension; in bending and in stretching, is a person practising clear comprehension; in wearing the shoulder-cloak, the (other two) robes (and) the bowl, is a person practising clear comprehension; in regard to what is eaten, drunk, chewed and savoured, is a person practising clear comprehension; in defecating and in urinating, is a person practising clear comprehension; in walking, in standing (in a place), in sitting (in some position), in sleeping, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silence, is a person practising clear comprehension. 

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena

Chapter 7

Rupas Originating from Different Factors

The study of rupas which are produced by kamma, citta, temperature or nutrition is beneficial for the understanding of our daily life. When we study the conditions for our experiences and bodily functions, we will better understand that our life is only nama and rupa. This again reminds us to be aware so that realities can be directly experienced as they are. In this human plane of existence there are time and again experiences through the senses such as seeing and hearing, and these could not occur without the body. The sense-cognitions have as their physical places of origin their appropriate sense-bases (vatthus) and these are produced by kamma throughout our life. All other cittas have as their physical base the heart-base (hadaya-vatthu) and this kind of rupa is produced by kamma from the first moment of life. In the planes of existence where there are nama and rupa citta needs a physical base, it could not arise without the body. The rupa which is life-faculty (jivitindriya) is also produced by kamma from the first moment of life.

Moreover, it is due to kamma whether we are born as a female or as a male. The rupas which are the femininity-faculty (itthindriyam) and  he masculinity-faculty (purisindriyam) have a great influence on our daily life. They condition our outward appearance, our behaviour, the way we walk, stand, sit or lie down, our voice, our occupation, our place and status in society. All these kinds of rupa arise in groups, in which the eight inseparable rupas and also life-faculty are always included. Some kinds of rupa are produced solely by kamma, some are produced solely by citta, such as bodily intimation (kaya-vinnatti) and speech-intimation (vaci-vinnatti). Some kinds of rupa can be produced by kamma, citta, temperature or nutrition. The eight inseparable rupas of solidity, cohesion, temperature, motion, colour, odour, flavour and nutrition can be produced by either one of the four factors. If kamma produces them, they always arise together with life-faculty, and in addition they can arise with other rupas produced by kamma. Citta produces groups of the eight  inseparable rupas from the moment the bhavanga-citta (life-continuum) which succeeds the rebirth-consciousness arises.

The following three kinds of rupa are sometimes produced by citta, sometimes by temperature, sometimes by nutrition. They are: 

buoyancy or lightness (lahuta) 
plasticity (muduta) 
wieldiness (kammannata) 
Because of lightness, our body is not heavy or sluggish. Because of plasticity it is pliable, it has elasticity and is not stiff. Because of wieldiness it has adaptability. The “Atthasalini” (II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 326) gives the following definitions of these three kinds of rupa (See also Dhammasangani § 639 - 641.Visuddhimagga XIV, 64.):
... buoyancy of matter has non-sluggishness as its characteristic, removing the heaviness of material objects as its function, quickness of change as its manifestation, buoyant matter as its proximate cause. Next “plasticity of matter” has non-rigidity as characteristic, removing the rigidity of material objects as function, absence of opposition in all acts due to its own plasticity as manifestation, plastic matter as proximate cause.
“Wieldiness of matter” has workableness suitable or favorable to bodily actions as characteristic, removal of non-workableness as function, non-weakness as manifestation, workable matter as proximate cause. 

The “Atthasalini” also states that these three qualities “do not abandon each other”. When one of them arises, the others have to arise as well. They never arise without the eight inseparable rupas. Although the qualities of lightness, plasticity and wieldiness arise together, they are different from each other. The “Atthasalini” (in the same section) explains their differences. Buoyancy is non-sluggishness and it is like the quick movement of one free from ailment. Plasticity is plasticity of objects like well-pounded leather, and it is distinguished by tractability. Wieldiness is wieldiness of objects like well-polished gold and it is distinguished by suitableness for all bodily actions. When one is sick there is disturbance of the elements of the body, and then the body is sluggish, stiff and without adaptability. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (VIII, 28) about the disturbance of the elements:

... But with the disturbance of the earth element even a strong man’s life can be terminated if his body becomes rigid, or with the disturbance of one of the elements beginning with water if his body becomes flaccid and putrefies with a flux of the bowels, etc., or if he is consumed by a bad fever, or if he suffers a severing of his limb-joint ligatures.
When one is healthy, there are conditions for lightness, plasticity and wieldiness of body. The “Atthasalini” states that these three qualities are not produced by kamma, but that they are produced by citta, temperature or nutrition. This commentary states (in the same section, 327):
... Thus ascetics say, “Today we have agreeable food... today we have suitable weather... today our mind is one-pointed, our body is light, plastic and wieldy.”
When we have suitable food and the temperature is right we may notice that we are healthy, that the body is not rigid and that it can move in a supple way. Not only food and temperature, also kusala citta can influence our physical condition. When we apply ourselves to mental development it can condition suppleness of the body. Thus we can verify in our daily life what is taught in the Abhidhamma. Lightness, plasticity and wieldiness condition our bodily movements to be supple. When we are speaking they condition the function of speech to be supple and “workable”. Whenever we notice that there are bodily lightness, plasticity and wieldiness, we should remember that they are qualities of rupa, conditioned by citta, temperature or nutrition. Rupas always arise in groups (kalapas) which consist of at least eight rupas, the eight inseparable rupas. There are rupas other than these eight and these arise together in a group together with the eight inseparable rupas. Our body consists of different groups of rupa and these groups are delimited by the rupa space (akasa) (Space, akasa, is called pariccheda rupa, the rupa which separates or limits.). This rupa is the infinitesimal space intervening between the groups of rupa. The “Atthasalini” (II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 326) states that space is that which cannot be scratched, cut or broken. It is “untouched by the four great Elements.” Space cannot be touched. The “Atthasalini” gives the following definition of space (See also Dhammasangani, § 638 and Visuddhimagga XIV, 63.):
... space-element has the characteristic of delimiting material objects, the function of showing their boundaries, the manifestation of showing their limits, state of being untouched by the four great elements and of being their holes and openings as manifestation, the separated objects as proximate cause. It is that of which in the separated groups we say “this is above, this is below, this is across.” 
Space delimits the groups of rupa which are produced by kamma, citta, temperature and nutrition so that they are separate from each other. If there were no space in between the different groups of rupa, these groups would all be connected, not distinct from each other. Space comes into being whenever the groups of rupa are produced by the four factors and therefore it is regarded as originating from these four factors.

We read in the “Discourse on the Analysis of the Elements” (Middle Length Sayings III, no 140) that the Buddha explained to the monk Pukkusati about the elements and that he also spoke about the element of space. We read: 

... And what, monk, is the element of space? The element of space may be internal, it may be external. And what, monk, is the internal element of space? Whatever is space, spacious, is internal, referable to an individual and derived therefrom, such as the auditory and nasal orifices, the door of the mouth and that by which one swallows what is munched, drunk, eaten and tasted, and where this remains, and where it passes out (of the body) lower down, or whatever other thing is space, spacious, is internal, referable to an individual and derived therefrom, this, monk, is called the internal element of space. Whatever is an internal element of space and whatever is an external element of space, just these are the element of space. By means of perfect intuitive wisdom this should be seen as it really is thus: This is not mine, this am I not, this is not myself. Having seen this thus as it really is by means of perfect intuitive wisdom, he disregards the element of  space, he cleanses his mind of the element of space.
As we have seen, the “Atthasalini” mentions holes and openings as one of the manifestations of space. Space in the ear is one of the (Atthasalini II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 314.) conditions for hearing. We may take holes and openings in the body for self, but they are only space, a quality of rupa.

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena

Chapter 8

Characteristics Inherent in all Rupas

There are four characteristics which are inherent in all rupas. These four characteristics have been classified as different rupas, the “lakkhana rupas” (lakkhana means characteristic), and they are the following:

integration (upacaya)
continuity or subsistence (santati)
decay or ageing (jara)
destruction or impermanence (aniccata).
We do not notice that the rupas of our body fall away and that time and again new rupas are produced which fall away again. So long as we are alive kamma, citta, temperature and nutrition produce rupas and thus our bodily functions can continue.

The “Atthasalini” (II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 327) states that integration and continuity are synonyms for the production of matter, but that these two terms are used so as to make clear the difference in the mode of the production of matter. There is the arising of groups of rupa at the first moment of life, initial arising or “integration”, and there is the subsequent arising of groups of rupa, “continuity”. Throughout our life there is continuity of the production of rupa. When we read the definitions of  integration and continuity, given by the “Atthasalini”( See Dhammasangani § 642, 643, and Visuddhimagga XIV, 66.), the difference in the mode of production will be clearer. The text states:

... integration of matter has the characteristic of accumulation (Accumulation (acaya) is initial arising at birth.), the function of making material things arise at the beginning, leading them, or the fullness of matter as manifestation, integrated matter as proximate cause.
Continuity has the characteristic of continuous occurrence, the function of linking or binding without a break, unbroken series as manifestation, matter bound up without a break as proximate cause. As we see, the function of integration (upacaya) is production of rupas at the beginning of life, whereas the function of continuity (santati) is linking without a break. The seemingly lastingness of the body is only an appearance due to the continuous production of new rupas which replace the ones which have fallen away.

As regards decay, jara, this is defined by the “Atthasalini” (same section, 328) as follows (See Dhammasangani § 644 and Visuddhimagga XIV, 68.): 

... the decay of matter has the characteristic of maturity of matter; leading (to disruption) as function; the lacking of a fresh state (newness), though not devoid of its intrinsic nature (individual essence), as manifestation, like rotten paddy; the maturing matter as proximate cause.
The “Atthasalini” explains terms used by the “Dhammasangani” in reference to decay, such as decrepitude, hoariness, wrinkles, the shrinkage in length of days, the overripeness of the faculties: 
... By the word “decrepitude” is shown the function which is the reason for the broken state of teeth, nails, etc., in process of time. By hoariness is shown the function which is the reason for the greyness of hair on the head and body. By “wrinkles” is shown the function which is the reason for the wrinkled state in the skin making the flesh fade. Hence these three terms show the function of decay in process of time.... 
As to the terms “shrinkage in life and maturity of faculties”, these show the resultant nature of this decay. We read:
... Because the life of a being who has reached decay shortens, therefore decay is said to be the shrinkage in life by a figure of speech. Moreover, the faculties, such as sight, etc., capable of easily seizing their own object, however subtle, and which are clear in youth, are mature in one who has attained to decay; they are disturbed, not distinct, and not capable of seizing their own object however gross....
When we notice decay of our teeth, wrinkles of the skin and graying of our hairs, decay is obvious. However, we should remember that each rupa which arises is susceptible to decay, it will fall away completely. As to impermanence, aniccata, the “Atthasalini”, in the same section, states about it as follows (See Dhammasangani § 645 and Visuddhimagga XIV, 69.):
... Fully defined, impermanence of matter has the characteristic of complete dissolution, the merging of matter as function, destruction and evanescence as manifestation, matter undergoing dissolution as proximate cause.
As soon as rupa has arisen, it is led onward to its termination and it breaks up completely, never to come back again. Remembering this is still theoretical knowledge of the truth of impermanence, different from right understanding which realizes the arising and falling away of a nama or a rupa. When understanding has not yet reached this stage one cannot imagine what it is like. One may tend to cling to ideas about the arising and falling away of phenomena but that is not the development of understanding. Nama and rupa have each different characteristics and so long as one still confuses nama and rupa their arising and falling away cannot be realized. Understanding is developed in different stages and one cannot leave out any stage. First there should be a precise understanding of nama as nama and of rupa as rupa so that the difference between these two kinds of realities can be clearly seen. It is only at a later stage in the development of understanding that the arising and falling away of nama and rupa can be directly known. 

The “Atthasalini” (in the same section) compares birth, decay and death to three enemies, of whom the first leads someone into the forest, the second throws him down and the third cuts off his head. We read: 

... For birth is like the enemy who draws him to enter the forest; because he has come to birth in this or that place. Decay is like the enemy who strikes and fells him to earth when he has reached the forest, because the aggregates (khandhas) produced are weak, dependent on others, lying down on a couch. Death is like the enemy who with a sword cuts off the head of him when he is fallen to the ground, because the aggregates having attained to decay, are come to destruction of life. 
This simile reminds us of the disadvantages of all conditioned realities which do not last and are therefore no refuge. However, when understanding (panna) has not realized the arising and falling away of nama and rupa, one does not grasp their danger. We read in the “Dighanakhasutta” (Middle Length Sayings II, no. 74) that the Buddha reminded Dighanakha that the body is susceptible to decay, impermanent and not self:
But this body, Aggivessana, which has material shape, is made up of the four great elements, originating from mother and father, nourished on gruel and sour milk, of a nature to be constantly rubbed away, pounded away, broken up and scattered, should be regarded as impermanent, suffering, as a disease, an imposthume, a dart, a misfortune, an affliction, as other, as decay, empty, not-self. When he regards this body as impermanent, suffering, as a disease, an imposthume, a dart, a  misfortune, an affliction, as other, as decay, empty, not-self, whatever in regard to body is desire for body, affection for body, subordination to body, this is got rid of. 
Integration, continuity, decay and destruction are characteristics inherent in all rupas, they are not concrete matter, rupas produced by the four factors of kamma, citta, food and temperature. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (XIV, 79):
...But “matter as characteristic” is called not born of anything. Why? because there is no arising of arising, and the other two are the mere maturing and breaking up of what has arisen...
Rupas have been classified as twentyeight kinds, but not all of them are concrete matter, some are qualities or characteristics of rupa. Summarizing the twentyeight kinds of rupa, they are:
solidity (or extension)
nose (smellingsense)
tongue (tastingsense)
visible object
life faculty
bodily intimation
speech intimation
birth or integration
As we have seen (in chapter 4), twelve kinds of rupa are gross: visible object, sound, odour, flavour and the three great elements which are tangible object (excluding cohesion), as well as the five sense-organs. They are gross because of impinging; visible object impinges on the eyesense, sound impinges on the earsense, and each of the other sense objects impinges on the appropriate sense-base. The other sixteen kinds of rupa are subtle. What is subtle is called “far” because it is difficult to penetrate, whereas what is gross is called “near”, because it is easy to penetrate (Vis. XIV, 73).

Furthermore, other distinctions can be made. The twelve gross rupas and six among the subtle rupas which are: cohesion, nutrition, life faculty, heart-base, femininity and masculinity are “produced rupa” (nipphanna rupa); they are concrete matter each with their own characteristic which can be directly known. The other ten subtle rupas are “unproduced” (anipphanna); they are not concrete matter. They are: the two kinds of intimation, bodily intimation and speech intimation, which are a “certain, unique change” in the eight inseparable rupas produced by citta; the three qualities of lightness, plasticity and wieldiness classified as vikara rupas (rupa as alteration) (The two kinds of intimation, vinnatti rupas, are sometimes classified together with the three qualities of lightness, plasticity and wieldiness, as vikara rupas.); the rupa space (pariccheda rupa) which delimitates the groups of rupa; the four rupas which are characteristics of rupa, namely birth, continuity, decay and impermanence (For details see Visuddhimagga XIV, 73, 77. The two kinds of intimation produced by citta, the three qualities of lightness, plasticity and wieldiness produced by citta, temperature or nutrition and space which delimits the groups of rupa produced by the four factors and therefore originating from these four factors, are till called “unproduced”, anipphanna, because they are not concrete matter). The “produced rupas” which each have their own characteristic are, as the “Visuddhimagga” (XVIII, 13) explains, “suitable for comprehension”, that is, they are objects of which right understanding can be developed. For example, visible object or hardness have characteristics which can be objects of awareness when they appear, and they can be realized by panna as they are, as non-self. The “unproduced rupas” are not “suitable for comprehension”. If one does not know this distinction one may be led to wrong practice of insight; someone may imagine that he can be directly aware of “unproduced rupas” which are not concrete matter, such as lightness of matter

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena

Chapter 9

Groups of Rupa

Rupas do not arise singly, they always arise collectively, in groups (kalapas). Where there is solidity, the Element of Earth, there have to be the other three great Elements, and also colour, flavour, odour and nutrition. These are the eight inseparable rupas. A group of rupas consisting of only the eight inseparable rupas is called a “pure octad”. Pure octads of the body are produced by citta, temperature or nutrition, and pure octads outside the body are produced only by temperature. 

The groups of rupa produced by kamma have to consist of at least nine rupas: the eight inseparable rupas and life faculty (jivitindriya), and such a group is called a “nonad”. Eyesense, earsense, smelling-sense, tasting-sense, bodysense, heart-base, femininity and masculinity are other kinds of rupa produced by kamma and these arise together with the eight inseparable rupas and life faculty, thus, they arise in groups of ten rupas, decads. All rupas of such a decad are produced by kamma. Thus, one speaks of eye-decad, ear-decad, nose-decad, tongue-decad, body-decad, heart-base-decad, femininity-decad and masculinity-decad. As to the body-decad, this arises and falls away at any place of the body where there can be sensitivity.

Kamma produces groups of rupa from the arising moment of the rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi-citta). In the case of human beings, kamma produces at that moment the three decads of bodysense, sex (femininity or masculinity) and heart-base, and it produces these decads throughout our life. The eye-decad and the decads of ear, nose and tongue are not produced at the first moment of life but later on. 

Citta does not produce rupa at the first moment of life. The citta which immediately succeeds the rebirth-consciousness, namely the life-continuum (bhavanga-citta) (The bhavanga-citta arises in between the processes of cittas; it does not experience objects which impinge on the six doors, but it experiences the same object as the rebirth-consciousness. It keeps the continuity in life.), produces rupa. One moment of citta can be divided into three extremely short phases: its arising moment, the moment of its presence and the moment of its falling away. Citta produces rupa at its arising moment, since citta is then strong. At the moment of its presence and the moment of its dissolution it is weak and therefore it does not produce rupa (Visuddhimagga XX, 32). When the citta succeeding the rebirth-consciousness, the life-continuum, arises, it produces a pure octad. Later on citta produces, apart from pure octads, also groups with bodily intimation, with speech intimation and with the three rupas of lightness, plasticity and wieldiness which always have to arise together. These three kinds of rupa also arise in a group together with bodily intimation and speech intimation. In the case of speech intimation also sound arises together with speech in one group. 

Throughout life citta produces rupa, but not all cittas can produce rupa. As we have seen, the rebirth-consciousness does not produce rupa. Among the cittas which do not produce rupa are also the sense-cognitions of seeing, hearing, etc. Seeing only sees, it has no other capacity. Some cittas can produce rupas but not bodily intimation and speech imtimation, and some cittas can produce the two kinds of intimation. Among the cittas which can produce the two kinds of intimation are the kusala cittas of the sense-sphere (thus not those which attain absorption or jhana and those which realize enlightenment), and the akusala cittas (For details see Visuddhimagga XX, 31, and Atthasalini II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 325).

Temperature (heat-element) can produce groups of rupas of the body as well as groups of rupas of materiality outside. In the case of materiality outside it produces groups which are “pure octads” and also groups with sound (Sound can be produced by temperature or by citta.). Rupas which are not of the body are solely produced by temperature, they are not produced by kamma, citta or nutrition. When we see a rock or plant we may think that they last, but they consist of rupas originated by temperature, arising and falling away all the time. Rupas are being replaced time and again,but we do not realize that rupas which have fallen away never come back again.As regards groups of rupa of the body, temperature produces pure octads and also groups with lightness, plasticity and wieldiness (Temperature and nutrition, rupas which produce other rupas, do not do so at the moment of their arising, since they are then weak, but during the moments of presence, before they fall away. Citta, however, produces rupas at its arising moment since it is then strong).

The heat-element present in a group which is produced by temperature, no matter of materiality outside or of the body, can in its turn produce a pure octad and in this way several occurrences of octads can be linked up. The heat-element present in groups of rupa of the body, produced by kamma or citta can, in its turn, produce a pure octad, and the heat-element present in that octad can produce another octad, and so on. In this way several occurrences of octads are linked up (Atthasalini II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 342, 343, and Visuddhimagga XX, 32-43). Temperature produced by nutrition can also, in its turn produce another octad.

Nutritive essence present in food which has been taken produces rupas and sustains the rupas of the body. It produces pure octads and also groups of rupa with lightness, plasticity and wieldiness. Nutrition, present in a group produced by nutrition, can produce another octad and thus link up many occurrences of octads. The “Visuddhimagga” (XX, 37) states that nutriment taken on one day can thus sustain the body for as long as seven days. Also nutriment smeared on the body originates materiality, according to the “Visuddhimagga” (Some creams, for example, nourish the skin.).

Thus we see that the groups of rupa produced by kamma, citta, temperature and nutrition are interrelated and support one another. If only kamma would produce rupas the body could not continue on. We read in the “Visuddhimagga” (XVII, 196):

Now although this kamma-born materiality is the first to find a footing in the several kinds of becoming, generation, destiny, station of consciousness, and abode of beings, it is nevertheless unable to carry on without being consolidated by materiality of triple origination (by citta, temperature and nutrition), nor can that of triple origination do so without being consolidated by the former. But when they thus give consolidating support to each other, they can stand up without falling, like sheaves of reeds propped up together on all four sides, even though battered by the wind, and like (boats with) broken floats that have found a support, even though battered by waves somewhere in mid-ocean, and they can last one year, two years,... a hundred years, until those beings’ life span or their merit is exhausted.
The “Atthasalini” (I, Book I, Part III, Ch I, 84)( See also Visuddhimagga XIV, 61.)in the context of bodily intimation, explains that groups of rupa produced by citta are interlocked with groups of rupa produced by kamma, temperature and nutrition. We read:
When the body set up by mind (citta) moves, does the body set up by the other three causes move or not? The latter moves likewise, goes with the former, and invariably follows it. Just as dry sticks, grass, etc., fallen in the flowing water go with the water or stop with it, so should the complete process be understood....
The study of the groups of rupa produced by the four factors of kamma, citta, temperature and nutrition and also their interrelation shows us the intricacy of the conditions for the bodily functions from birth to death. It reminds us that there is no self who can control the body.

Not all types of rupa arise in the different planes of existence where living beings are born. There is not only the plane of human beings, there are also other planes of existence. Birth in an unhappy plane or a happy plane is the result of kamma. Birth in the human plane of existence is the result of kusala kamma, but during life there are conditions for the experience of pleasant objects as well as unpleasant objects through the senses. In the human plane the decads of eye, ear, nose, tongue and bodysense which are produced by kamma arise, so that the different sense objects can be experienced. Those who see the disadvantages of enslavement to sense impressions cultivate calm to the stage of absorption or jhana. The result of different stages of jhana is birth in higher planes of existence where there are less sense impressions or none at all. In some of the higher planes (The rupa-brahma planes. Birth in these planes is the result of rupa-jhana, fine-material jhana.) the decads of nose, tongue, bodysense and sex are lacking, but the decads of eye and ear, the decad of the heart-base and the nonad of life faculty (life faculty and the eight inseparable rupas) arise. The rupas produced by nutrition do not arise. In these planes one does not need food to stay alive.

There is one higher plane of existence where there is no nama, only rupa (The “perceptionless beings plane” (asanna-satta plane) which is one of the rupa-brahma planes. Those who are born here have seen the disadvantages of nama.). Here the decads of eye, ear and the other senses, sex and heart-base are lacking. Sound does not arise and neither do rupas produced by citta arise, since there is no nama. Kamma produces the nonad of life faculty at the first moment of life and after that also temperature produces rupas. 

In some of the higher planes there is only nama and thus rupas do not arise in such planes (The arupa-brahma planes. Birth in these planes is the result of arupa-jhana, “immaterial jhana”)

The Buddhist Teaching on Physical Phenomena


The study of the different kinds of rupa will make us understand more clearly the various conditions for the arising of bodily phenomena and mental phenomena. Gradually we shall come to understand that all our experiences in life, all the objects we experience, our bodily movements and our speech are only conditioned nama and rupa. In the planes of existence where there are nama and rupa, nama conditions rupa and rupa conditions nama in different ways. The rupas which are sense objects and the rupas which can function as sense-doors are conditions for the different cittas arising in processes which experience sense objects.

In order to develop understanding of nama and rupa it is necessary to learn to be mindful of the nama or rupa which presents itself at the present moment. Only one object at a time can be object of mindfulness and in the beginning we may find this difficult. The study of rupas can help us to have more clarity about the fact that only one object at a time can be experienced through one of the six doors. Visible object, for example, can be experienced through the eye-door, it cannot be experienced through the body-door, thus, through touch. Seeing-consciousness experiences what is visible and body-consciousness experiences tangible object, such as hardness or softness. Through each door the appropriate object can be experienced and the different doorways should not be confused with one another. When we believe that we can see and touch a flower, we think of a concept. We can learn to see the difference between the direct experience of one reality at a time and the thinking of a concept. A concept or conventional reality can be an object of thought, but it is not a paramattha dhamma, an ultimate reality with its own inalterable characteristic (See my Preface.).

It may seem complicated to be mindful of one reality at a time, but realities such as visible object, hardness or sound are impinging on the senses time and again. When we have understood that they have different characteristics and that they present themselves one at a time, we can learn to be mindful of them. We should remember that at the moment of mindfulness of a reality understanding of that reality can be developed. Right understanding should be the goal. There is no self who understands. Understanding is a cetasika, a type of nama; it understands and it can develop. 

Right understanding is developed in different stages of insight and it is useful to know more about the first stage. When the first stage of insight has been reached, panna, understanding, distinguishes the characteristic of nama from the characteristic of rupa. In theory we know that nama experiences something and that rupa does not experience anything, but when they appear there is in the beginning not yet direct understanding of their different characteristics. We may, for example, cling to an idea of “I am feeling hot”. What is there in reality? There is nama which experiences heat and there is rupa which is heat, but we tend to think of a “whole”, a conglomeration of different phenomena: of a person who feels hot. Then nama cannot be distinguished from rupa. It is true that, when there is the experience of heat, also the rupa which is heat is present. However, only one reality at a time can be object of mindfulness. 

Sometimes there can be mindfulness of nama, and sometimes of rupa, and this depends on mindfulness (sati) which is a cetasika arising because of its own conditions. When one reality at a time is object of mindfulness, there is at that moment no thinking of “self” or “my body”. Gradually understanding can develop and then clinging to self will decrease. 

Rupas which impinge on the five senses are experienced through the sense-doors as well as through the mind-door. Namas cannot be experienced through a sense-door, but only through the mind-door. Each of the sense-objects which is experienced through the appropriate sense- door is also experienced through the mind-door. We may understand that seeing sees visible object, but the experience of visible object through the mind-door is covered up. The processes of cittas pass very rapidly and when understanding has not been developed it is not clearly known what the mind-door is. At the first stage of insight panna arising in a mind-door process clearly realizes the difference between the characteristic of nama and the characteristic of rupa, and at that stage it is also known what the mind-door is. When understanding develops it will come to that stage.

The study of nama and rupa can clear up misunderstandings about the development of understanding and about the object of understanding. Reading about nama and rupa and pondering over them are conditions for the development of right understanding of the realities which present themselves through the six doors.

We read in the “Therigatha” (Psalms of the Sisters) about people in the Buddha’s time who were disturbed by problems and could not find mental stability. When they were taught Abhidhamma they could develop right understanding and even attain enlightenment. While one studies the elements, the sense-doors, the objects, in short, all ultimate realities (paramattha dhammas), the truth that there is no being or self becomes more evident. We read in Canto 57 about Bhikkhuni (Bhikkhuni means nun or sister.) Vijaya who could not find peace of mind. After she had been taught Abhidhamma she developed right understanding of realities and attained arahatship (The highest stage of enlightenment.). We read:

Four times, nay five, I sallied from my cell,
And roamed afield to find the peace of mind
I lacked, and governance of thoughts
I could not bring into captivity.
Then to a Bhikkhuni I came and asked
Full many a question of my doubts.
To me she taught Dhamma: the elements,
Organ and object in the life of sense,
(And then the factors of the Nobler life:)
The Ariyan truths, the Faculties, the Powers,
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment (The ariyan truths are the four noble truths: the truth of dukkha, which is the impermanence and unsatisfactoriness of all conditioned realities, the truth of the origin of dukkha, which is craving, the truth of the ceasing of dukkha which is nibbana, the truth of the way leading to the ceasing of dukkha, which is the development of the eightfold Path. The  aculties, Powers, Seven Factors of Enlightenment are wholesome qualities to be developed for the attainment of enlightenment. Among them are mindfulness, energy, concentration and understanding.).
The Eightfold Path, leading to utmost good.
I heard her words, her bidding I obeyed.
While passed the first watch of the night there rose
Long memories of the bygone line of lives.
While passed the second watch, the Heavenly Eye,
Purview celestial, I clarified (The Heavenly Eye is the knowledge of the passing away and rebirth of beings.)
While passed the last watch of the night, I burst
And rent aside the gloom of ignorance.
Then, letting joy and blissful ease of mind
Suffuse my body, seven days I sat,
Ere stretching out cramped limbs I rose again.
Was it not rent indeed, that muffling mist?