Nāmarūpa Paccayā Salāyatana

Revised May 25, 2019; August 31, 2019; major revision May 20, 2021; September 9, 2022

The “Nāmarūpa Paccayā Salāyatana” step involves different types of nāmarupa and salāyatana depending on whether it is an idapaccayātā or a upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.

Āyatana and Indriya

1. First, let us discuss the difference between a āyatana and an indriya.

  • We have six sense faculties: eyes (cakkhu), ears (sōta), nose (ghāna), tongue (jivhā), body (kāya), and the mind (manō). These are the indriya.
  • Our initial sensory inputs (what we see, hear, etc.) are due to kamma vipāka based on this life with a solid, physical body. Unlike Brahma‘s “energy body,” our “solid body” can be exposed to various ailments. At the moment of experience, these sensory faculties act as indriya. For example, when we see an attractive person on the road, that is just “seeing the event” with the cakkhu indriya.
  • However, based on those initial sensory experiences, we may INTENTIONALLY use all indriya to “enjoy that ārammana.” Then those indriya become āyatana. In the above example, if we get attached to that attractive person and keep looking at that person, we use our eyes as cakkāyatana. In the same way, sota indriya becomes sotāyatana, and so on for all six.
  • They are called salāyatana since there are six of them.

2. There is no equivalent English word for āyatana, so we will keep using indriya and āyatana from now on.

  • By the way, pañca indriya (saddhā, sati, viriya, samādhi, paññā) are an entirely different set compared to this set of 6 indriya.
  • In general, “indriya” means a “dominant faculty.” Those that are dominant in the interactions with the external world are the six indriya in #1; those dominant in spiritual advancement are the five indriya in pañca indriya.
Examples of Indriya Becoming Āyatana

3. For example, I am walking on the road and see a nice house. I just happened to see it, and my eyes (cakkhu indriya) were working as indriya;  they just presented a picture of that house to my mind. It is a neutral event.

  • However, if I form an attachment to the house, I start looking at it for a while (with cakkāyatana). I am thinking about how nice that house is and even about building one like that. At that point, I am also using my mind as a āyatana (mana indriya now becomes manāyatana).
  • I have formed greedy thoughts about the house, and now I am accumulating new kamma by generating vaci saṅkhāra (talking to myself with vitakka/vicāra).  I use my eyes and mind as āyatana (cakkhāyatana and manāyatana): I keep seeing the house and thinking greedy thoughts.
Indriya Become Āyatana With Abhisaṅkhāra

4. In many cases, when we experience a sensory event through one indriya, we may use some or all of the indriya as āyatana. In another example, someone offers us a piece of a tasty cake (a kamma vipāka). We get the cake taste with the tongue (jivhā) and like it so much we may use all six āyatanas to accumulate more kamma (smell and touch it and then ask for the recipe and think about how to make it or where to buy it).

  • Those “extra activities” we do with āyatana are abhisaṅkhāra (depending on whether greed was involved.) But just eating a cake is not abhisaṅkhāra; see, “Kāma Guna, Kāma, Kāma Rāga, Kāmaccanda”.
  • Most of the time, we use our sense faculties as indriya: we see, hear, etc., many things in a day but ignore most of them. But when we experience something that we have a craving for, we start using our sense faculties as āyatana.
  • Both types of Akusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles operate only when we use our sense faculties as āyatana.
  • An Arahant ALWAYS uses his/her sensory faculties as an indriya. He/she will see, hear, etc., just like us, but will not get “attached to” anything.

5. However, we DO NOT use our indriya as āyatana in most situations. For example, I may become thirsty. Then I need to think about getting a glass of water or asking someone for a glass of water. Both involve vaci saṅkhāra.  Then I drink water that involves kāya saṅkhāra (moving body parts.) Those are kammically neutral and NOT abhisaṅkhāra.

  •  In another example, suppose a robber attacks you with a knife in an isolated place. If possible, you would want to disarm him without killing or hurting him too much in the process. If that is not possible, you may want to try to run away. All those activities involve kāya saṅkhāra. But they are NOT abhisaṅkhāra that involve greed, anger, or ignorance (lobha, dosa, moha.) The INTENTION (cetanā) there is to avoid injury to both.
Salāyatana Means Different Things in The Two Types of PS

6. Salāyatana has somewhat different meanings in the idapaccayātā and upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles. That is very much like for nāmarūpa that we described in the previous post,

  • At birth (especially in a new bhava or existence), we get a “new set of sense faculties” or indriya.  For example, if a human is reborn as a Brahma, A Brahma will have only eyes, ears, and mind. There will be only three indriya (or āyatana) instead of six for humans. But we keep the term “salāyatana” in the Paṭicca Samuppāda as a generic term.
  • Thus in upapatti Paṭicca Samuppāda, we are concerned with forming a brand new set of āyatana for a new existence (bhava).
  • However, when we consider the idapaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda series, we are concerned with how the six āyatanas for a human change from even moment to moment. In particular, the issue is whether they are being used as āyatana or indriya.
“Nāmarūpa paccayā Salāyatana” at Patisandhi (Upapatti PS)

 7.  At the end of existence (bhava), a given lifestream makes a “big jump” from one kind of existence to another. At that time, the base level of viññāna for the lifestream makes a jump, and this is the “nāma” of the nāmarūpa. The nāmarūpa for the new existence also has a different blueprint for the new physical body, the “rūpa” part.

  • As we did in the previous post, let us consider the case of a lifestream transitioning from a human to a deer. The basic level of viññāna changes from a human to a much lower level of a deer. This new level of viññāna, together with the blueprint for the deer, is in the new nāmarūpa of the “deer gandhabba” that comes out of the body of the dead human, as we saw before.
  • Now when this gandhabba descends to the womb of a female deer, that baby deer starts to grow. Six sense faculties (indriya) suitable for a deer grow in that womb, which may become salāyatana at times in the future after the birth.

8. In another example, consider a human who exhausted his kammic energy for the human bhava at death and became a Deva in one of the Deva realms. At the cuti-paṭisandhi transition in the last citta vithi of that human, the human gandhabba dies. In the next moment, a Deva gandhabba is born.

  • All devas are born fully formed. There is no need for a mother’s womb. That is an ōpapātika birth.
  • When that human dies, his body becomes inert like a log. At that very instant, a fully-formed Deva appears in the appropriate Deva world.
  • That Deva will have sense faculties appropriate for a Deva. Those are the indriya for the new existence. Those indriya can sometimes become āyatana depending on Deva‘s activities.
“Nāmarūpa Paccayā Salāyatana” During a Lifetime (Idapaccayātā PS)

9. During a given lifetime of a deer, human, or a Brahma, that lifestream will have a basic set of indriya (that become āyatana at times) appropriate for that existence: the sense faculties for a human are different from that of a deer or a Brahma.

  • But during that lifetime, those āyatana will have minor changes (compared to the drastic changes at paṭisandhi) depending on the activity. Idapaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycle describes such changes.
An Example in Idapaccayātā PS

10. In the previous post, we discussed the case of a thief who is planning a theft; see #4 of “Viññāna Paccayā Nāmarūpa.” His viññāna about the theft led him to generate appropriate nāmarūpa (the visuals in his mind of how the theft is to be carried out).

  • When he plans the theft, he will use his sense faculties as āyatana to do the “preparatory work.” He will read about the place to be robbed, ask for relevant information, etc. Each time he does a specific act (whether thinking, seeing, hearing, etc.), the Idapaccayātā Paṭicca Samuppāda cycles operate.
  • Now when he is about to steal, his indriya becomes āyatana. All his sense faculties will be on high alert. He watches and listens carefully for anything unexpected, and his whole body becomes tense, pumped with adrenaline.
  • All his āyatana will be employed to carry out the task. He will be using his body, eyes, and ears as āyatana. The act of stealing the watch is done with kāyāyatana (kāya āyatana) and involves kāya abhisaṅkhāra. It is an abhisaṅkhāra because it involves greed.
  • In comparison, getting the same watch by paying for it is a kāya saṅkhāra where the body is used as an indriya. Both times he used his hand to hold the watch. It is the INTENTION (cetanā) that determines whether the body was used as an āyatana (with kāya abhisaṅkhāra) or an indriya (kāya saṅkhāra.)

 Next, “Difference between Phassa and Samphassa“, ……….

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