Nama-rupa (Sanskrit, Pali; also nāma-rūpa) is is typically translated as "name and form":
- nāma - meaning "name"
- rūpa - meaning "form"
This term is used to refer to the psycho-physical aggregates that are the basis for self-grasping:
- nāma (name) refers to psychological aggregates of a human being
- rūpa (form) refers to the physical aggregates
These two aggregates are mutually dependent; together they designate an individual being.
This term is most commonly identified as the fifth link in the twelve links of dependent origination.
Relation to the five skandhas
The term nama-rupa is often used interchangeably with the five skandhas. But the term can also be meant to express the simplest categorization of components of the individual.
Contemporary scholar Karunadasa describes nama-rupa as having a general sense and a special sense. In the general sense, nama-rupa describes two main components of an individual: mental and physical. In the special sense:
- ...nama-rupa means the following psycho-physical aspects: “Sensation, perception, will, contact, attention—this is called nāma. The four material elements and the form depending on them—this is called rūpa”.
Example from sutta
In the following example from a Pali sutta, the Buddha describes nāma-rūpa (in the sense of being equivalent to the five skandhas) as follows:
- "And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form."
Within the twelve links of dependent origination, nama-rupa is preceded by consciousness (Pali: viññāna; Skt.: vijñana) and followed by the six sense bases (Pali: saḷāyatana; Skt: ṣaḍāyatana). Thus, in the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha explains to the Ven. Ajita how samsaric rebirth ceases:
- [Ven. Ajita:]
- ...name & form, dear sir:
- Tell me, when asked this,
- where are they brought to a halt?
- [The Buddha:]
- This question you've asked, Ajita,
- I'll answer it for you —
- where name & form
- are brought to a halt
- without trace:
- With the cessation of consciousness
- they're brought
- to a halt.
- For example, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 350, entry for "Nāma" (retrieved 2007-06-20), states:
- "nāma as metaphysical term is opposed to rūpa, & comprises the 4 immaterial factors of an individual (arūpino khandhā, viz. vedanā saññā sankhāra viññāṇa...). These as the noëtic principle comb[ine]d with the material principle make up the individual as it is distinguished by 'name & body' from other individuals. Thus nāmarūpa= individuality, individual being. These two are inseparable...."
- Karunadasa 1996, p. 9, 57.
- From SN 12.2 (Thanissaro, 1997).
- Rhys Davids & Stede, op cit.
- Thanissaro (1994). In explaining this specific exchange between Ven. Ajita and the Buddha, Ireland (1983, 1994), n. 2 states:
- This question and answer refers to the doctrine of dependent-arising (paticca-samuppada). Where rebirth-consciousness (pati-sandhi-vinnana) does not arise there is no establishment of an individual (mind-and-body, namarupa) in a realm of existence, nor the consequent appearance of old age and death and the other sufferings inherent in life.
- Karunadasa, Y. (1996), The Dhamma Theory. Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma (PDF), Buddhist Publication Society
- Ireland, John D. (trans.) (1983). Ajita-manava-puccha: Ajita's Questions (Sn 5.1), from The Discourse Collection: Selected Texts from the Sutta Nipata (WH 82). Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved 2007-06-20 from "Access to Insight" (1994) at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.5.01.irel.html.
- Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
- Sri Lanka Buddha Jayanti Tipitaka Series (SLTP) (n.d.). Buddhavaggo (SN 12.1). Retrieved 2007-06-20 from "METTANET - LANKA" at http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/3Samyutta-Nikaya/Samyutta2/12-Abhisamaya-Samyutta/01-Buddhavaggo-p.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1994). Ajita-manava-puccha: Ajita's Questions (Sn 5.1). Retrieved 2007-06-20 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.5.01.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of Dependent Co-arising (SN 12.2). Retrieved 2007-06-20 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/samyutta/sn-12-002-tb0.html.
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