Rupa Kalāpa (Grouping of Matter)

Revised September 15, 2020

1. There are 28 types of rupa discussed in Abhidhamma: “Rupa (Material Form) – Table.” They are not found separately in nature. They are produced by the four causes in the form of tiny material groups called rupa kalāpā or “elementary groups of matter.”

  • All rupā have origins in the four great elements of pathavī, āpo, tejo, vāyo. However, they all arise together in the smallest unit of matter, a suddhāṭṭhaka. See, “The Origin of Matter – Suddhāṭṭhaka.” Four more rupā (vaṇṇa, gandha, rasa, oja) derived from the great elements are in a suddhāṭṭhaka making it an octad (composed of eight or an aṭṭaka.)
  • There are 15 other elementary units (rupa kalāpā) that derive from suddhāṭṭhaka. All 16 types of rupa kalāpā are not further divisible. They are avinibbhoga rupa.
  • Let us briefly discuss them.

2. There are three rupa kalāpā that have nine units: A suddhāṭṭhaka “energized” by kammic energy becomes a jivita navaka (vital nonad) of nine units.  That added unit is an “energy unit” called a jivita rupa. That jivita rupa keeps a physical body alive. Another element of nine units, a sadda navaka (sound nonad) is responsible for the sound created by utu, i.e., it is an utuja rupa. Another is kāyaviññatti navaka created by citta responsible for bodily intimation.

  • Eight types of rupa kalāpā have ten units (dasaka or decad) created by kammic energy: Here a suddhāṭṭhaka combines with a jivita rupa and another unit created by kammic energy to become a dasaka. Those eight types of dasaka are vital parts of a living being. For example, a cakkhu pasada rupa (together with the other nine units) creates a cakkhu dasaka responsible for seeing. In the same way sota dasaka, ghana dasaka, jivha dasaka, kāya dasaka arise. itthibhāva rupa and purisabhāva rupa give rise to itthibhāva dasaka and purisabhāva dasaka. The seat of the mind, vatthu dasaka arises with the hadaya vatthu.
  • The following are created only by citta (thoughts): One is vaciviññatti-sadda-dasaka (vocal intimation decad) responsible for speech. Kāyaviññatti-lahutādi-dvadasaka (dodecad of bodily intimation) of 12 units with kāyaviññatti and three lahutādi rupa. Another is vaciviññatti-sadda-lahutādi-terasaka (tricad of sound) of 13 units with vaciviññatti, three lahutādi rupa, and sadda.
  • Then there is lahutādi-ekadasaka (suddhāṭṭhaka + lahuta + muduta + kammaññata) with 11 units created by citta.  There is also saddalahutādi-dvadasaka (suddhāṭṭhaka + lahuta + muduta + kammaññata + sadda) with 12 units created by utu.

3. All rupa kalāpā have the following characteristics.

  1. All the rupā in a rupa kalāpa arise together, i.e. they have a common genesis.
  2. They also cease or dissolve together, i.e. they have a common cessation.
  3. They all depend on the four great essentials present in the kalāpa for their arising, i.e. they have a common dependence.
  4. They are so thoroughly mixed that they cannot be distinguished, i.e. they co-exist.

4. It should be noted that kalāpā are so small that they are indistinguishable from pure energy. The origin of rupa is a javana citta, which is formless and mass-less. Science has shown that the smallest “particle” detected, Higgs boson, is indistinguishable from energy. See, “The Origin of Matter – Suddhāṭṭhaka.”

5. There are 17 types of kalāpā produced in 21 ways:

9 kammaja kalāpā, 6 cittaja kalāpā, 4 utuja kalāpā, 2 āhāraja kalāpā as shown below:

 Kamma BornCitta BornUtu BornĀhāra Born
Cakkhu dasaka (eye decad)Yes
Sota dasaka (ear decad)Yes
Ghana dasaka (nose decad)Yes
Jivha dasaka (tongue decad)Yes
Kāya dasaka (body decad)Yes
Itthi dasaka (female decad)Yes
Purisa dasaka (male decad)Yes
Vatthu dasaka (base decad)Yes
Jivita navaka (vital nonad)Yes
Suddhāṭṭhaka (pure octad)Yes Yes Yes
Kāya viññatti navaka (body intimation nonadYes
Vaci viññatti sadda dasaka (vocal intimation decad)Yes
Lahutādi ekadasaka (undecad of mutability)YesYesYes
Kayavinnati Lahutadi dva dasaka (dodecad of mutability)YesYes
Vacivinnati Sadda Lahutadi terasaka (tridecad of mutability)Yes
Sadda navaka (sound nonad)Yes

6. Internal and External Kalāpā

All the 21 rupa kalāpā mentioned above occur internally in living beings. itthibhāva-dasaka does not occur in males. Similarly, pumbhava-dasaka (or purisabhāva-dasaka) does not occur in females. For those who are born blind or deaf, cakkhu-dasaka or sota-dasaka are not present.

  • In the external (bahiddha) world, only the two utuja-kalāpā are found. All inanimate things such as trees, stones, earth, water, fire, corpses, etc., are made up of utuja-suddhāṭṭhaka kalāpā. The sounds produced by beating two sticks together or by rubbing of branches in the wind or by musical instruments such as violin, piano, radio, cassettes, etc., are utuja-sadda-navaka kalāpā.
  • From the internal rupā, kāya-pasāda, bhava-rupa (femininity and masculinity), cittaja-rupa, utuja-rupa and āhāraja-rupa spread all over the body, and so they will be present in the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue and in every part of the body.

7. Rupa in Kamaloka

All the 28 material qualities occur undiminished, if circumstances permit, in an individual during a lifetime in kāmaloka (sense-sphere).

  • In womb-born creatures, only three kammaja-kalāpā comprising body-decad, sex-decad and heart decad are manifested at the moment of conception (at paṭisandhi).

Here again the sex-decad may not be manifested in some particular individuals. After conception, during life, the eye-decad and the rest are manifested slowly in due order. Of the groups of material qualities which are produced in four ways, kammaja-rupa starts to form at the moment of conception and it goes on forming incessantly at every minor-instant. Cittaja-rupa begins to form from the second moment of consciousness, i.e. from the arising instant of the first bhavaṅga which follows the rebirth-consciousness. Cittaja-rupa continues to be formed at every arising instant of the subsequent cittā for the whole life-time.

  • Utuja-rupa starts to form from the existing instant of rebirth consciousness. The reason is that the tejo-dhātu (utu) present in the first kammaja-kalāpā comes to the static stage (thithi) at that instant. From that time onward, the tejo- dhātu then produces utuja-rupa at every minor-instant. Since tejo-dhàtu is present in every kalāpa, every kalāpa, from the time it reaches the static stage, produces new utuja-kalāpā at every minor instant. And the new utuja- kalāpā, from the time they reach the static stage, again produce new utuja-kalāpā at every minor instant. So this process goes on forever.

Every kalāpa also contains the nutritive essence, oja. But āhāraja-rupa starts to form when internal oja meets external oja at the time of diffusion of nutritive essence and the combination of internal and external oja comes to the static stage. From that instant, āhāraja-rupa is also formed at every minor instant. As new groups of material qualities are incessantly produced, old groups dissolve and disappear when their lifetime of 17 conscious-moments is over. Thus, the material phenomena go on uninterruptedly in the sense-sphere till the end of life like the flame of a lamp, or the stream of a river.

Material Phenomena at Death:  At the time of death, psychic life and physical life must cease together. This means that all kammaja-rupa which contains physical life must cease at the time of death. So at the arising instant of the seventeenth citta reckoned backward from the death-consciousness (cuti citta), the last kammaja rupa is formed. This last kammaja rupa will cease at the dissolving instant of the death-consciousness. Cittaja rupa is formed till the arising instant of the cuti citta. This last cittaja rupa will have lasted for a conscious- moment at the dissolution of cuti citta, and thus will perish in another sixteen conscious-moments which happens almost instantly. āhāraja rupa is formed till the dissolving instant of the cuti citta, because the support required for the formation of āhāraja rupa can be furnished by citta up to that time. So at death, that last-formed āhāraja rupa has lasted for only one minor-instant. However in another fifty minor instants (rupa lifespan – 51 minor instants or 17 conscious-moments), that āhāraja rupa also ceases. Thus at the time of death, kammaja rupa, cittaja rupa and ahàraja rupa cease almost instantly.

  • But utuja rupa goes on forming and dissolving till the corpse is converted into dust. A corpse consists of only utuja rupa.
  • So when a person dies and is reborn in another life, material phenomena similarly arise starting from the instant of conception and go on arising till the time of death.

Arising of Material Phenomena in Rupa planes In the rupa-plane, nose-decad, tongue-decad, body-decad, sex decad and āhāraja kalāpā do not arise. At the time of opapatika rebirth, there arise four kammaja kalāpā namely, eye decad, ear decad, heart decad and vital nonad. During life, however, cittaja kalāpā and utuja kalāpā also arise. To the Asañña Brahmā, eye-decad, heart- decad and sound-nonad (sadda-navaka) do not arise. Also, cittaja kalāpā do not arise. Therefore, at the time of their opapatika rebirth, only the vital-nonad (jivita-navaka) arises. During life, utuja kalàpas, with the exception of the sound-nonad, arise in addition.

  • Thus in kāma loka and rupa loka, the process of the arising of material phenomena should be understood in two ways, that is (1) at rebirth and (2) during life.

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