A mental factor that functions to perceive its object as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. See Understanding the Mind.
M (Tactile sense). Contact, tactile sense.
One of the Sabbacittasadharana cetasikas. Phassa is contact. As a cetasika, it arises together with citta while itself is functioning as an introducer making contact with citta and rupa. As an example let us see cakkhuvinnana citta or eye consciousness or seeing consciousness.
Phassa makes introduction to vanna and cakkhu and cakkhuvinnana altogether.
Pali for Contact. Phassa, is the first of the Seven Universal . Phassa arises together with every citta; it "contacts" the object so that citta can experience it.
When 'seeing' experiences visible object(s), phassa (which accompanies seeing-consciousness) also experiences visible object(s), but it also performs its own function. At that moment phassa 'contacts' visible object(s) and conditions 'seeing-consciousness' to see.
Phassa is different from what we mean in conventional language by physical contact or touch. Phassa is not the mere collision of hardness with the bodysense, it is not touch in the physical sense. Phassa is manifested by coinciding or concurrence, namely, by the coinciding of three factors: physical base (vatthu), object and consciousness.
Phassa which arises with akusala citta is also akusala;
The Atthasalini (Expositor, Part IV, chapter I, 108) states about contact:
Contact means "it touches" It has touching as its salient
characteristic, impact as its function, "coinciding" (of the physical
base, object and consciousness) as its manifestation, and the object
which has entered the avenue (of awareness) as proximate cause .
Phassa is One of the Seven Universals.
(fr. phusati, to touch): 'sense-impression', contact.
The term samphassa is used in compounds, e.g. in the following: '"T'here are 6 classes of sense-impression: visual impression (cakkhu-samphassa), impressions of hearing, smelling, tasting, bodily (tactile) impression and mental impression" (M.9).
A twofold division occurs in D.15: patigha (q.v.) -samphassa, impression by sensorial reaction', and adhivacana-samphassa, verbal (or conceptual, i.e. mental) impression'.
Phassa does not signify physical impact, but is one of the 7 constant mental concomitants of consciousness (cetasika) and belongs to the group of mental formations (sankhāra-kkhandha). In lists of both these categories it is generally mentioned first (e.g. Dhs.1: M.9), due to its fundamental position in the cognitive process In M.18 it is thus defined: "Dependent on the eye and the forms, eye-consciousness arises; the coming-together of the three is sense-impression" (similarly stated in the case of the other 5 senses, including mind). In the dependent origination, it is conditioned by the six sense-bases and is a conditioning factor of feeling (s. paticca-samuppāda 5, 6). Its relation to mind-and-body (nāma-rūpa) is described in D.15, and its influence on feeling and wrong views, in D.1 (at the end). - It is one of the 4 nutriments (āhāra, q.v.), and the first factor in the pentad of sense-impression (phassa-pañcamaka), together with feeling, perception, volition and consciousness (see Abh. St., p. 47ff ).
Being a key function in the mind's contact with the world of objects and being a potential source of defilements, sense-impression is an important subject for reflective insight contemplation as succinctly formulated in many verses of the Sn.: 736/7, 778, 851, 870/72, 923.
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