Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:
In any experience (leaving out of account arūpa) there is a phenomenon that is present (i.e. that is cognized). The presence, or cognition, or consciousness, of the phenomenon is viññāna (q.v.
). The phenomenon has two characteristics, inertia and designation (patigha and adhivacana). The inertia of a phenomenon is rūpa ('matter' or 'substance'), which may be seen also as its behaviour; and this presents itself only in the passage of time (however short). (These four mahābhūtā are the general modes of behaviour or matter: earthy, or persistent and resistant, or solid; watery, or cohesive; fiery, or ripening, or maturing; airy, or tense, or distended, or moving. See RŪPA
.) The designation of a phenomenon is nāma ('name'), which may be seen also as its appearance (the form or guise adopted by the behaviour, as distinct from the behaviour itself).[a]
Nāma consists of the following (Majjhima i,9 <M.i,53>
): whether (the experience is) pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral (vedanā or 'feeling'); shape, colour, smell, and so on (saññā [q.v.
] or 'perception [percepts]'); significance or purpose (cetanā [q.v.
] or 'intention[s]'); engagement in experience (phassa [q.v.
] or 'contact'); and (intentional) direction of emphasis (manasikāra or 'attention'). 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 (see RŪPA
). Manasikāra is included in nāma since, whereas rūpa precedes manasikāra (logically, not temporally: behaviour takes place whether it is attended to or not—the clock, for example, does not stop when I leave the room), nāma involves manasikāra: experience is always particular or selective, one thing to the fore at once and the rest receding in the background. Rūpa, in other words, in order to appear—i.e. in order to be phenomenal as nāmarūpa—, must be oriented: a phenomenon cannot present all aspects at once with equal emphasis, but only in a perspective involving manasikāra. (Manasikāra is involved as an intentional modification of the perspective or direction of emphasis that is given at the most immediate level. Cf. CETANĀ [e]
& Bradley, op. cit. (Logic) , III/I, vi, §13.)
To be present is to be here-and-now; to be absent is to be here-and-then (then = not now; at some other time) or there-and-now (there = not here; at some other place) or there-and-then. Attention is (intentional) difference between presence and absence, i.e. between varying degrees of presence, of consciousness ('Let this be present, let that be absent!'). Consciousness is the difference between presence (in any degree) and utter non-presence (i.e. non- existence). (An image may be present or absent, but even if present it is always absent reality. Mind-consciousness, manoviññāna, is the presence of an image or, since an image can be absent, of an image of an image.) Intention is the absent in relation to the present. Every present is necessarily accompanied by a number of absents—the present is singular, the absent is plural. Each absent is a possibility of the present, and the ordered total of the present's absents is the significance of the present (i.e. what it points to, or indicates, beyond itself), which is also its intention. (In general, no two absents—even of the same order—are of exactly the same 'weight'.) Volition (which is what is more commonly understood by 'intention') is really a double intention (in the sense used here), i.e. it is intentional intention. This simply means that certain of the absents (or possibles) are intentionally emphasized at the expense of the others. When, in the course of time, one absent comes wholly to predominate over the others (often, but not necessarily, the one preferred), the present suddenly vanishes, and the absent takes its place as the new present. (The vanished present—see ANICCA [a] —is now to be found among the absents.) This is a description of action (kamma) in its essential form, but leaving out of account the question of kammavipāka, which is acinteyya (Anguttara IV,viii,7 <A.ii,80>), and therefore rather beyond the scope of these Notes. See also a definition of action in RŪPA , and an ethical account in KAMMA.
The passage at Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,62-3> is essential for an understanding of nāmarūpa, and it rules out the facile and slipshod interpretation of nāmarūpa as 'mind-&- matter'—rūpa is certainly 'matter' (or 'substance'), but nāma is not 'mind'.[c] The passage at Majjhima iii,8 <M.i,190-1> makes it clear that all five upādānakkhandhā, and therefore viññāna with nāmarūpa, are present both in five-base experience and in mental experience. Thus, a visible (real) stone persists (or keeps its shape and its colour—i.e. is earthy) visibly (or in reality); an imagined stone persists in imagination. Both the actual (real) taste of castor oil and the thought of tasting it (i.e. the imaginary taste) are unpleasant. Both matter and feeling (as also perception and the rest) are both real and imaginary.[d] See PHASSA [a]. Nāmarūpa at Dīgha ii,2 <D.ii,63,§21> may firstly be taken as one's own cognized body. Cf. Nidāna/Abhisamaya Samy. ii,9 <S.ii,24>: Avijjānīvaranassa bhikkhave bālassa/panditassa tanhāya sampayuttassa evam ayam kāyo samudāgato. Iti ayam c'eva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpam, itth'etam dvayam. ('A stupid/intelligent man, monks, constrained by nescience and attached by craving, has thus acquired this body. So there is just this body and name-&-matter externally: in that way there is a dyad.') This passage distinguishes between nāmarūpa that is external and one's own body. Together, these make up the totality of nāmarūpa at any time. The body, as rūpa, is independent of its appearance; but together with its appearance, which is how we normally take it, it is nāmarūpa. Nāmarūpa that is external is all cognized phenomena apart from one's own body. Cf. Majjhima xi,9 <M.iii,19>: ...imasmiñ ca saviññānake kāye bahiddhā ca sabbanimittesu... ('...in this conscious body and externally in all objects...') Though, as said above, we may firstly understand nāmarūpa in the Dīgha passage as one's own cognized body, properly speaking we must take nāmarūpa as the total cognized phenomena (which may not be explicitly formulated), thus: (i) 'I-[am]-lying-in-the- mother's-womb'; (ii) 'I-[am]-being-born-into-the-world'; (iii) 'I-[am]-a-young-man-about-town'. In other words, I am ultimately concerned not with this or that particular phenomenon in my experience but with myself as determined by my whole situation.