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” Four nutriments (āhāra)


1)Physical food (kabalinkāhāra)

2)Contact (phassāhāra)

3)Volitional thoughts (mano sancetanāhāra)

4)Consciousness (viññānāhāra)


Feelings that arise dependent on contact would inevitably lead to suffering. Feelings that are considered as pleasant will lead to suffering when they cease to exist due to their very transient nature while the unpleasant feelings cause suffering by their very nature. Neutral feelings will lead to suffering due to their bland nature and boredom. Because contact conditions feeling that lead to suffering and because feeling also conditions craving (tanhā), clinging (upādāna), becoming (bhava) and re-birth (jāti), contact has a most significant role as a mental nutriment. (11)


In the Puttamansa sutta, the Buddha has advised the monks to reflect on the simile of a skinned cow when considering the nutriment of contact. When a skinned cow is standing near a wall it is bitten by the insects living on the wall, standing near a tree it is bitten by the insects living on the tree, standing in the water it is bitten by the insects living in the water, and standing in the open space it is bitten by insects living in the air. So, wherever the skinned cow stands it will be bitten by the insects causing suffering. Similarly, one is constantly in danger of being bombarded with sensory contact through the six sense doors which will inevitably lead to suffering. According to the Buddha, when the nutriment of contact is comprehended, it will lead to comprehension of the pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings resulting in the eradication of the fetters that keep beings bound to the cycle of birth and death (samsāra) with no re-birth.


Contact or sense impression (phassa) within the Buddhist teaching is the coming together of three factors: an internal sense door, an external sense object and the respective sense based consciousness. There are six types of contact based on the six sense doors. Contact plays a crucial role in producing mental defilements and suffering in unenlightened beings, as it is from contact that the mental processes such as feeling, perception and volitions arise. Hence, the Buddha has named it as a nutriment (āhāra) that sustains the life of living beings and support those who are to be born within the cycle of birth and death (samsāra). Through the development of wisdom by comprehending into the real nature of contact, the enlightened ones continue to experience contact through the six sense doors, but there is no arising of any mental defilements as they have given up any subjectivity with regard to their sense doors and sensory experiences. “