Nāmarūpa Paccayā Salāyatana

Revised May 25, 2019; August 31, 2019

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 sense inputs (what we see, hear, etc) are due to kamma vipāka. When we experience them, we are using our sense faculties as indriya. For example, when we see an attractive person while on the road, that is just “seeing the event” with the cakkhu indriya.
  • However, based on those initial sense experience, we may INTENTIONALLY use those indriya to do more of those acts. Then those indriya become āyatana. In the above example, if we get attached to that attractive person and keep looking at that person, then we are using our eyes as cakkāyatana.
  • They are called salāyatana since there are six of them.
  • There is no equivalent English word for āyatana, so we will keep using indriya and āyatana from now on.

2. For example, I am walking on the road and see a nice house. I just happened to see it due to a kamma vipāka, 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.

  • But now, 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 using my mind as a āyatana too (mana indriya now becomes manāyatana).
  • I have formed greedy thoughts about the house and now I am accumulating new kamma by generating vaci sankhāra (talking to myself with vitakka/vicara).  I am using my eyes and mind both as āyatana (cakkhāyatana and manāyatana): I keep looking at the house and keep thinking greedy thoughts.
Indriya Become Āyatana With Abhisankhāra

3. In many cases, when we experience a sense event due to one indriya, we may start using some or all of the indriya as āyatana. In another example, someone offers us a piece of a tasty cake (which is a kamma vipāka). We get the taste of the cake 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” that we do with āyatana could be abhisankhāra. But just eating a cake is not abhisankhāra; 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 has a craving (anusaya) for, then we start using our sense faculties as āyatana.
  • The akusala-mula paticca samuppāda cycle operates only when we use our sense faculties as āyatana.
  • An Arahant ALWAYS uses his/her sense faculties as indriya. He/she will see, hear, etc just like us, but will not get “attached to” anything.

4. Salāyatana has somewhat different meanings in the idapaccayatā and patisandhi paticca 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, that brahma will have only eyes, ears, and the mind; there will be only three indriya (or āyatana), instead of six for the human. But we keep the term “salāyatana” in the paticca samuppāda as a generic term.
  • Thus in patisandhi paticca samuppāda, we are concerned with the formation of a brand new set of āyatana for a new existence (bhava).
  • However, when we consider the idapaccayatā paticca samuppāda series, we are concerned with how the six āyatanas for a human change from even moment to moment. One may be looking at something, listening, tasting, etc.
Nāmarūpa paccayā Salāyatana at Patisandhi

 5.  At the end of existence (bhava), a given lifestream is making a quantum transition (meaning a large instantaneous jump) from one kind of an existence to another. At that time, the base level of viññāna for the lifestream makes a quantum jump and this is basically the “nāma” of the nāmarūpa. The nāmarūpa for the new existence also has the blueprint for the new physical body, which is the “rūpa” part.

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

6. In another example, a human who exhausted his kammic energy for the human bhava at death, and becomes a deva in one of the deva realms. At the cuti-patisandhi 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 become āyatana at times depending on the activities of that deva.
Nāmarūpa paccayā Salāyatana during a Lifetime

7. 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 patisandhi) depending on the activity. Idapaccayatā paticca samuppāda cycle describes such changes.

8. In the previous posts, we discussed the case of a thief who is planning a theft. 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 is planning the theft, he will use his sense faculties as āyatana to do the “preparatory work”. He will read about the place to be robbed or ask around for relevant information, etc. Each time he does a specific act (whether thinking, seeing, hearing, etc), a separate paticca samuppāda cycle operates. We will discuss this later, after going through all the steps in a number of more posts.
  • Now when he is about to carry out the theft, his indriya transform or attune for the task and become āyatana. All his sense faculties will be on high alert. He is watching and listening 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. For example, if he is about to be caught, he will use the body to run away.
  • At the planning and execution stages, there are many, many paticca samuppāda cycles associated with each stage. We will discuss that at the end of the series as mentioned above.

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

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