May 14, 2016; Revised November 25, 2016 (#3)
1. Rūpa in Buddha Dhamma cannot be translated to English as “matter”. Our minds can make very fine rūpa (energy in our thoughts or mano rūpa); the mind can also detect such mano rūpa that are in the mind plane or the mental world.
- In Buddha Dhamma, those very fine rūpa are called “dhamma” (of course the word “dhamma” is used in other contexts too, like in Buddha Dhamma). They are called “anidassanan, appatighan“, meaning they cannot be seen or detected by our five physical senses; see, “What are Dhamma? – A Deeper Analysis“.
- Those rūpa that can be detected with the five physical senses are made of the smallest “unit of matter” in Buddha Dhamma, called suddhāshtaka. (A suddhāshtaka is a billion times smaller than an atom in present day science). The 28 types of rūpa consist of these “dense types of rūpa“; see, “rūpa (Material Form)” and “The Origin of Matter – suddhāshtaka“.
- In fact, the fine rūpas (dhamma) are normally not called rūpa but are called mano rūpa to make the distinction; they are the rūpa are grasped only by the mana indriya or dhammayatana: “anidassanan, appatighan, dhammayatana pariyapanna rūpan“. Thus, they can also be called nāmarūpa as well.
2. It is also important to note that nāmarūpa come in at least two varieties:
- When written as two words, nāma rūpa, nāma refers to mental attributes and rūpa refers to matter. There, nāma rūpa refers to mind AND matter.
- With our viññana, nāma combines with rūpa and creates nāmarūpa — imprints for future rebirths — which eventually lead to fully-formed living beings (This will be discussed in the near future). Nāmarūpa are very fine rūpa which are below the suddhāshtaka stage, and are part of dhamma. Thus they are distinct from the rūpa that we experience with the five physical senses.
- But here we talk about nāmarūpa referring to visuals in our minds; these are of course related to above nāmarūpa.
3. Our “human world” is made of two types of worlds: Material world (living beings and inert objects, sounds, smells, tastes, and body touches) that we experience with the five physical senses and the mental world (dhamma, which includes concepts, memories, etc in addition to kamma beeja with energy) that we experience with our minds.
- These two worlds co-exist; all 31 realms share the mental world. The mental world is like a fine fabric that connects all living beings. It is just that we cannot “see” the mental world, while we can see most of the material world. There are many things that we cannot “see” but we know exist. For example, we know that radio and television signals are all around us, but we cannot “see” them. Mental world is just like that.
- In the four realms of the Arūpa lōka, matter formed by suddhāshtaka are absent (except for the hadaya vatthu of the arūpa brahmas). Beings in the arūpa lōka experience only näma dhammä (or simply dhamma); they do not have any of the five physical senses and have only the mind (hadaya vatthu).
Click to open in pdf format: Two Types of lōka
- Thus the “material world” is accessible only to living beings in the kama lōka and rūpa lōka.
- Arūpa lōka means there are no “condensed rūpa” (like those in kama lōka and rūpa lōka), but of course dhamma are there (those arūpa beings can think and recall past events just like us).
4. Let us briefly discuss the main points depicted in the above chart. Everything in this world is made of 6 dhatu: patavi, apo, thejo, vayo, akāsa, and vinnana. Five of them constitute the “material world” and the vinnana dhatu represents the “mental world”.
- By the way, akāsa is not merely “empty space”. We will discuss this later.
- The basic building block for the material world is suddhāshtaka. Not long ago, scientists thought that atoms were the building blocks, but now they say that even those elementary particles have structure. A suddhāshtaka is much more finer than any elementary particle.
- In the mental world (or the mental plane), there are the mental precursors to suddhāshtaka: dhamma, gathi, and bhava. Based on our gathi, we make suddhāshtaka in our javana citta; see, “The Origin of Matter – suddhāshtaka“.
5. We have five sense faculties to experience the material world: eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and the body. They pass down the sense inputs to the five pasada rūpa located in the gandhabbayā or the monomaya kaya, that overlaps our physical body); see, “gandhabbayā (Manomaya Kaya)“.
- On the mental side, we have a mana indriya in the brain to sense the mental world; see, “Brain – Interface between Mind and Body“.
- Based on those five physical sense contacts with the material world and the contacts of the mana indriya with the mental world, our thoughts arise in the hadaya vatthu (also located in the gandhabbayā or the monomaya kaya); see, “Does any Object (rūpa) Last only 17 Thought Moments?“.
- That is a very brief description of the chart above. One could gain more information by clicking on the links provided and by using the “Search” button. Don’t worry too much if all this does not make complete sense yet. They will, with time, if one is interested in spending time reading the relevant posts.
6. Thus it is important to understand that there are two types of rūpa in our human world:
- Tangible matter in the material world that we experience with the help of the five physical senses.
- Unseen, intangible (anidassana, appatigha) thoughts, perceptions, plans, memories (which can be categorized as dhamma, mano rūpa, gathi, bhava, nāma gotta, depending on the case). These are experienced with the help of the mana indriya in the brain.
- Both types of rūpa are eventually detected and experienced by the mind (hadaya vatthu). The hadaya vatthu is not located in the brain but in the body of gandhabbayā and overlaps the physical heart region of the physical body; see, “gandhabbayā (Manomaya Kaya)“.
- Comprehending this “wider picture” may need a little bit of effort. The world is complex and most of the complexity is associated with the mind which not in the brain but in the fine body (manomaya kaya) of the gandhabbayā.
7. Another part of our nāma lōka or the mental world is the dream world.
- When we dream, we “see” people and material objects. But we cannot say where those are located. They do not have a physical location; they are in the mano lōka or the mind plane. And we do not “see” those dreams with our eyes, but with the mana indriya.
- When we sleep, our five physical senses do not function. But the mana indriya in the brain does. Scientists do confirm that our brains are active during sleep.
- What is experienced in Arūpa lōka is said to be somewhat similar to seeing dreams. Of course, one has the ability to contemplate in the arūpa lōka. However, since one is unable to learn Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) from a Noble Person (in kama lōka and rūpa lōka this is done by using eyes and ears), one is unable to attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana in the arūpa lōka. But if one had attained the Sotapanna stage prior to being born there, one is able to meditate and attain higher stages of Nibbana.
8. There is another way to look at our sense experiences. Living beings are attached to this world because they expect to gain pleasures from this world. These pleasures are obtained by making contact with rūpa. Those rūpa come at various densities.
- Bodily pleasures are achieved by the strongest contacts (touch). Then come taste, smell, vision, sounds, becoming less dense in that order.
- The softest contact is via dhamma. This is our mental world; we think, plan for the future, remember things from the past, etc: We do this all the time, and we can do it anywhere. Another way to say this is to say that we engage in mano, vaci, and kaya sankhara.
- Thus, contacts by the mana indriya with dhamma in the mano lōka constitute a significant portion of sense experience. That involve mano rūpa (dhamma, gathi, bhava, nāma gotta) in the mind plane or the mental world.
9. The way a living being experiences and enjoys (or suffers) sense contacts is different in the three main categories of existence: kama lōka, rūpa lōka, and arūpa lōka.
- Most “rough” or “olarika” sense contacts are available only in the kama lōka. Even here, they are roughest in the niraya (the lowest realm) and in general reduces in “roughness” as moving up to the human realm, the fifth. The 6 deva realms are significantly “softer” than the human realm; deva bodies are much more fine (like that of a gandhabbayā) and a normal human cannot see them.
- The roughest sense contacts (touch, taste, and smell) are absent in the rūpa lōka. Only visual and sound contacts are available for the brahmas in the 16 rūpa lōka realms, in addition to the mind.
- Those arupi brahmas in the 4 arūpa lōka realms have only the mind, with which they experience only the finest rūpa (dhamma) that are below the suddhāshtaka stage.
- Those brahmas in both rupi and arupi lōka have seen the perils of “kama äsvada” that are available in the kama lōka (at least temporarily), because prior to being born there, they had enjoyed jhanic pleasures and value those more than the “rough” sense pleasures. They have — at least temporarily — given up the craving for those “rough” sense pleasures that are available via touch, taste, and smell.
10. We can get an idea of such “soft” and “rough” sense contacts with the following example. Suppose someone (a grand mother is a good example) watching her grandchild laughing and dancing around having good time.
- At first she may be watching from a distance and enjoying the sight of the little baby having fun.
- Then she goes and hugs the child. It is not enough to just watch from a distance; she needs to touch the child.
- If the child keeps on wiggling and having a good time, the grandmother may start kissing the child. In some cases, the grand mother may start tightening the hold on the child, even without realizing it, and may make the child cry out in pain.
- This last scenario is an example of how craving for extreme sense pleasures can instead lead to suffering. Of course, it is the craving for olārika sense pleasures that leads to most suffering.
- But suffering is there even in the rupi and arupi realms. Even at the level of arupi brahmas — where the attachment is only to pleasures of the softest of the rūpa (dhamma) — there is inevitable suffering at the end when they have to give up that existence and come back down to the human realm.
11. Therefore, the level of inevitable suffering goes hand in hand with the “denseness” of the sense contact.
- Pains, aches, and illnesses are there only in the lowest 5 realms (including the human realm) where there are dense physical bodies. In the higher realms those are absent. This is the price even the humans pay for being able to experience “rough contact pleasures” such as a body massage, sex, eating, and smelling.
- We humans in the kama lōka like to enjoy close and “rough” sense pleasures. In addition, most times, just enjoying sense pleasures is not enough; we like to “own” those things that provide sense pleasures. For example, people like to “own” vacation homes; it is not enough to rent a house in that location just for the visit.
- This tendency to “own” pleasurable things also go down in higher realms. There are less material things to “own” in brahma lōkas, especially in the arupi brahma realms.
12. As one attains higher stages of Nibbana, craving for “rough” sense pleasures, as well as the desire to “own” things go down.
- A Sotapanna has only “seen” the perils of käma äsväda; he/she still enjoys them.
- A Sakadāgami may still enjoy “käma äsväda“, but has no desire to “own” those things that provide pleasures. It is enough to live in a nice rented house, and there is no desire to own a nice house. In fact, a Sakadagami can clearly see the burden of “owning things”.
- An Anāgāmi has no special interest in enjoying kāma āsväda. He/she eats to quench the hunger (but will eat delicious foods when offered), and will never give priority to any sense pleasure over the “pleasure of Dhamma” (of course, Dhamma here means Buddha Dhamma). He/she also likes jhanic pleasures, and thus will be born in the rūpa realms reserved for the Anāgāmis upon death.
- An Arahant has no desire for even jhanic pleasures, and will not be born anywhere in the 31 realms upon death.
Each habitable planetary system (chakrāwāta) has all 31 realms of existence, even though we can only see two realms (human and animal) in ours.
This is discussed next: “31 Realms Associated with the Earth“, ………