Letters from Nina

by Nina van Gorkom | 1971 | 26,358 words

No description available...

First Letter

Tokyo, April 10, '71

Tokyo,
April 10, '71

Dear Friend,

I will repeat your questions and then give my comments.

"When feeling hot, there is not only nama, there is also rupa.

What is the characteristic of body-consciousness, kaya-vinnana?

What is the characteristic of the (bodily) feeling which accompanies body-consciousness?

What are the characteristics of the other feelings which do not accompany body-consciousness, but arise at other moments?

What is the characteristic of the rupa which is heat?"

These are questions which are bound to arise when we hear about the characteristics of nama and rupa and learn to be aware of them.

Kaya-vinnana, body-consciousness is the citta which experiences rupas which impinge on the bodysense. These rupas can be solidity, which can be experienced as hardness or softness; temperature, which can be experienced as heat or cold; motion, which can be experienced as motion or pressure.

The bodysense through which these rupas can be experienced is also rupa.

Bodysense is to be found not only on the outside of the body but everywhere, except in those parts which are insensitive, such as hair or nails. The "Visuddhimagga" (XIV, 52) states that "it is to be found everywhere, like a liquid that soaks a layer of cotton". Also in those parts of the body we call "kidney" or "liver" there is body-sense; pain can be felt in these parts. When we notice any bodily sensation, be it ever so slight, it shows that there is impact on the bodysense. When we remember this, it can condition awareness of different kinds of realities, also when the impact on the bodysense is very slight, or inside the body.

Body-consciousness which is vipakacitta, the result of kamma, arises in a process of cittas which experience the object which impinges on the bodysense. When the object which impinges on the bodysense is unpleasant, body-consciousness is accompanied by painful (bodily) feeling (dukkha vedana) and when the object is pleasant, body-consciousness is accompanied by pleasant (bodily) feeling (sukha vedana). It cannot be accompanied by indifferent feeling. The object is unpleasant when, for example, the temperature is too cold or too hot, and pleasant when the temperature is just right.

The painful feeling or pleasant feeling which accompanies body-consciousness and can therefore be called "bodily feeling", is nama, it experiences something; it is different from rupa which does not know anything. Since body-consciousness is vipaka, the accompanying feeling is also vipaka.

Shortly after the body-consciousness has fallen away, there arise in that process javana-cittas which are, if one is not an arahat, kusala cittas or akusala cittas, and these experience the same object as the body-consciousness. When the javana-cittas are kusala cittas, they can be accompanied by happy (mental) feeling, somanassa, or by indifferent feeling, upekkha, and when they are akusala cittas, they can be accompanied by happy (mental) feeling, by indifferent feeling, or by unhappy (mental )feeling, domanassa. These feelings can be called "mental feeling" in order to differentiate them from the feeling which accompanies body-consciousness.

Sometimes we have the idea that painful bodily feeling and domanassa can hardly be separated. However, they are different realities arising because of different conditions. When we burn ourselves with fire, the heat, which is an unpleasant object, impinges on the bodysense and is experienced by body-consciousness which is accompanied by painful bodily feeling. At that moment there is no dislike, the body-consciousness which is vipakacitta merely experiences the unpleasant object. The dosa-mula-citta which is accompanied by domanassa arises later on. It experiences the object with aversion. When sati arises it can be mindful of one reality at a time, and thus, different characteristics of realities can gradually be known. When we try to "catch" realities and desire to know whether the phenomenon which appears is citta, feeling, rupa or any other reality, it is thinking, not mindfulness.

You wrote that you recognize lobha and dosa more easily than seeing or hearing. Can we say that anything is easy? Different realities may present themselves closely one after the other, and when panna is not yet developed, we are bound to confuse them. When there is lobha, it may be accompanied by somanassa. Are we sure of the difference between the characteristics of lobha and somanassa? We cling so much to feeling, to the body and to the other realities that it is difficult to have clear understanding of different characteristics. When there is lobha-mula-citta or dosa-mula-citta there are both nama and rupa. These cittas can produce rupas. In the Abhidhamma it is explained that rupa can be produced by four factors: kamma, citta, temperature and nutrition. Can we not notice, for example, that when we are angry there are also rupas arising which are conditioned by dosa-mula-citta? Don't we look different when we are angry or when we are glad? When we are afraid, or when we dislike something we may notice bodily phenomena conditioned by citta. We might have thought that lobha and dosa are easier to recognize, but through the Abhidhamma we learn that it is not easy to distinguish between the different characteristics of realities. We tend to join different realities into a "whole" and thus we will not know them as they are.

You gave in your letter examples of moments when there was awareness. You write that when walking you are aware of the feeling of pressing the ground.

Is there not thinking of the conventional term "pressing the ground"? Do you picture yourselves as walking? That is a kind of thinking. The object one thinks of at that moment is a concept or idea, not a reality, but the nama which thinks can be object of mindfulness. When you walk different rupas such as hardness, pressure or motion may appear. There can be mindfulness of one reality at a time, without having to think about it or name it.

You write that when eating you are aware of flavour. There is not only flavour, there is also the nama which experiences the flavour. Do we know the difference already? There can be mindfulness of one reality at a time.

Then you speak of the movement of the jaws when eating. Again, is there not thinking of the conventional term "jaws" instead of being aware of one nama or rupa at a time? When we are more familiar with characteristics of nama and rupa, we will be less inclined to name them or to select them as objects of awareness. There can be direct awareness of their characteristics, although there is bound to be a great deal of thinking in between.

Some people might be inclined to sit and wait for hearing, for sound, for like or dislike to appear. In that way realities will not be known. We can go on with all the things we usually do and we do not have to do anything special in order to have more awareness. For instance, when I am writing, there may be sound, hearing, like, dislike or any other reality appearing.

When moving the hand hardness or motion may appear and these realities can be object of awareness. We should not mind what kind of reality presents itself. In the beginning we may be trying to "catch" the difference between hearing and sound, seeing and visible object, but in that way realities will not be known. Sometimes there is mindfulness of rupa, sometimes of nama, it all depends on the sati.

I am glad to hear that while you talk there is also awareness. One may be inclined to think that it is impossible to be aware while talking, since one has to think of what one is going to say. Now you can prove to yourself that also at such moments there are namas and rupas appearing.

Our life consists of nama and rupa. When we are hungry or when we have a headache there are different kinds of nama and rupa. There is rupa such as hardness, there are namas such as painful bodily feeling, unhappy mental feeling (domanassa), there are many realities. When there is no awareness while we have pain, we think that there is a long moment of pain. When
there is mindfulness we can find out that there are many other kinds of nama and rupa presenting themselves, besides the pain caused by the impact on the bodysense. Pain does not stay, it falls away, and then it arises again.

We find it very important whether we like or dislike something. We let ourselves be carried away by our like or dislike instead of being aware of different realities.

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (IV, Salayatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Sense, Third Fifty, Ch III, par. 130, Haliddaka):

Once the venerable Kaccana the Great was staying among the folk of Avanti, at Osprey's Haunt, on a sheer mountain crag.

Then the housefather Haliddakani came to the venerable Kaccana the Great.

Seated at one side he said this:-

It has been said by the Exalted One, sir, "Owing to diversity in elements arises diversity of contact. Owing to diversity of contact arises diversity of feeling". Pray, sir, how far is this so?

Herein, housefather, after having seen a pleasant object with the eye, a monk comes to know as such eye-consciousness that is a pleasant experience.

Owing to contact that is pleasant to experience arises happy feeling.

After having seen with the eye an object that is unpleasant, a monk comes to know as such eye-consciousness that is an unpleasant experience. Owing to contact that is unpleasant to experience arises unhappy feeling.

After having seen with the eye an object that is of indifferent effect, a monk comes to know as such eye-consciousness that experiences an object which is of indifferent effect. Owing to contact that is indifferent to experience arises feeling that is indifferent.

So also, housefather, after having heard a sound with the ear, smelt a scent with the nose, tasted a flavour with the tongue, experienced tangible object with the body, cognized with the mind a mental object, that is pleasant... Owing to contact that is pleasant to experience arises happy feeling. But after having cognized a mental object which is unpleasant ... owing to contact that is unpleasant to experience arises unhappy feeling.

Again, after having cognized with the mind a mental object that is indifferent in effect, he comes to know as such mind-consciousness that experiences an object which is of indifferent effect. Owing to contact that is indifferent arises feeling that is indifferent.

Thus, housefather, owing to diversity in elements arises diversity of contact. Owing to diversity of contact arises diversity of feeling.

We do not come to know seeing, visible object, contact and feeling "as such", merely by thinking about them. Panna should realize the characteristic of seeing when it presents itself; it should realize seeing as nama which arises because of conditions, not self. The nama which sees is different from the rupa which is visible object. When we learn to see realities as elements which arise because of conditions and which we cannot control, we will be less carried away by pleasant or unpleasant objects.

After I had typed the sutta-text I went to a party. When I have typed a text I find that it afterwards reminds me of reality, more so than when I only read the text. And thus, when I was at the party, the text reminded me of the six doors. I saw objects that were pleasing and owing to that pleasant impression happy feeling arose. I saw objects that were displeasing and owing to that unpleasant impression unhappy feeling arose.

There was diversity of elements and so there was diversity of contact and diversity of feeling. My legs were tired and there was hardness which could be experienced. There were speeches and I felt tense, and then there were aversion and hardness which could be experienced. Later on when we received roses, there was a pleasant impression through the eyes. Is it not true that all day long there is diversity of elements, diversity of contact and diversity of feelings?

With metta,
Nina van Gorkom

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: