Viññāna paccayā Nāmarūpa

The nāmarūpa involved in the pavutti paticca samuppāda cycle has a somewhat different meaning than the nāmarūpa in the patisandhi paticca samuppāda cycle. Here “pavutti” means “during lifetime”. In contrast, the patisandhi paticca samuppāda cycle operates when the lifestream makes a transition from one existence to another (say deer to human).

  • At the end of an existence (bhava), a given lifestream is making a quantum transition (meaning a large instantaneous jump) from one kind of an existence to another; for example, from a deer to a human or vice versa. The basic level of viññāna changes from that of a deer to a much higher level of a human in the first case.
  • That transition happens in the latter part of the last citta vīthi of the life of the deer. This is discussed in a bit more detail in the post “Cuti-Patisandhi – An Abhidhamma Description”.
Viññāna paccayā Nāmarūpa at Patisandhi

1. The key point is that at the end of the last citta vīthi of the deer, a very fine human body called gandhabba emerges from the dead body of the deer. This fine body cannot be seen with the naked eye. This gandhabba is formed by the kamma vipāka that gave rise to this new human life, and blueprint of the grown human is in that gandhabba. This is the new “nāmarūpa” of that lifestream.

  • This blueprint of the human physical body thus has all the important details of the new life (jāti); for example, sex type, the height, shape, any major physical disability, etc. Some minor features such a skin color or hair color may depend on the parents, but even those may be influenced by the kamma vipāka that gave rise to this new existence.

2. Thus as soon as the viññāna for the next existence was determined at the last citta vīthi by the step “sankhāra paccayā viññāna”, the next step of “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa” gives rise to the nāmarūpa for the next life.

  • Thus here “nāma” includes the basic level of viññāna for the new human existence, which is much different from the “nāma” of a deer. Obviously, the “rupa” is that of a human form and not of a deer. Thus “nāmarūpa” makes a huge transition at the end of the “bhava” as a deer.

3. I have discussed previously how a deer could be reborn many times as a deer until the kammic energy of the “deer bhava” is exhausted; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein“.

  • In such instances, at the death of the deer, another “deer gandhabba” emerges from the dead body and waits for a suitable womb for “deer mother” becomes available. Here the new “nāmarūpa” may be somewhat different, but still that of a deer, so any change would be minor.
  • Therefore, the “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa” gives rise to a new set of “nāmarūpa” only at the patisandhi to a new existence.
Viññāna paccayā Nāmarūpa During a Lifetime

1. Let us now continue with the human gandhabba that formed at the death of a deer in the previous discussion.

  • Once this human becomes active, he/she could influence his/her “nāmarūpa” according how he/she leads the life. The changes in the “nāmarūpa” via the pavutti paticca samuppāda cycle can be subtle.
  • Once the gandhabba is attracted to a suitable womb, that nāmarūpa grows in the womb according the blueprint in the gandhabba, and when the baby born that process continues.

2. Here “nāmarūpa” mainly refer to those visualized by the person during each activity, and depend on the nāma or viññāna for the particular activity. This viññāna is NOT the patisandhi viññāna, but the viññāna associated with the actions, i.e, viññāna arising from the type of activity or sankhāra.

  • These pavutti viññāna are basically the six types of viññāna associated with the six senses: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind consciousnesses, or cakkhu, sōta, gandha, jivha, kāya, and manō viññāna.

3. Let us take an example. When a thief plans to steal something, the process starts with “avijjā paccayā sankhāra”; he starts thinking about the plan because of his ignorance of the consequences, and that gives rise to viññāna about the theft: “sankhāra paccayā viññāna”.

  • Initially, they are mostly manō viññāna involved in planning. Here, “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa” means he is visualizing the act: how to break in, how to extract what he wants, and how to flee without getting caught. Thus here, “nāmarūpa” are the visuals he has in his mind. The more he thinks about it, the stronger those viññāna and nāmarūpa get. He is solidifying the plan.

4. In another example, a politician may be donating money to build a hospital, but the intent may be to get elected. Thus he starts the process with “avijjā paccayā sankhāra”; he starts thinking about the plan, and that gives rise to viññāna about the how and where to build the hospital and also how he may be able to get elected; such thoughts are the corresponding viññāna: “sankhāra paccayā viññāna”. Next, “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa” means he is visualizing the hospital buildings, and also visuals of how people will thank him for his generosity.

  • The more he thinks about it, the stronger those viññāna and nāmarūpa get.

5. Finally, let us take the case of a teenager who is influenced by his peers to drink alcohol at every opportunity. Because of his ignorance about the consequences, he engages in such activities and also in planning activities: “avijjā paccayā sankhāra”.

  • Now he visualizes pictures of the whole scene, including friends, bottles of his favorite drink, any food that goes with it, etc. All these are nāmarūpa: “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa”.
  • Here sankhāra including not only drinking activities but also planning. Even when he is not drinking, he may be thinking about it; it is also in the subconscious. This is “sankhāra paccayā viññāna”.

6. In all three examples, it is clear that there is a reverse step also occurring”: “nāmarūpa paccayā viññāna“, can happen, and does happen, together with “viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa”. The more one visualizes related nāmarūpa, the more strong that viññāna gets.

  • This happens sometimes in other steps too and such is referred to as an “annamanna paticca samuppāda step”. Here “annamanna” means “inter-dependent”.
  • This is especially true also for the “sankhāra paccayā viññāna”. The more stronger the viññāna gets, one is more likely to engage in same kind of acts, i.e., sankhāra, i.e., “viññāna paccayā sankhāra”. They feed on each other. This happens a lot in habit formation.

Viññāna is a key concept in Buddha Dhamma. It can be analyzed at various levels, and a deeper analysis is at “Viññāna Aggregate“.

Next, “Nāmarūpa paccayā Salayatana“, ………