AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10: Rupayatana

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AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10: Rupayatana

Post by PeterC »

Greg started to cover this in his last post. The baton passes to me.
10a. Visible matter is twofold, or twentyfold
The twofold classification is as color and shape. Color is further subdivided into blue, red, yellow, white; shape has eight subdivisions (long, short, square, round, high, low, even, uneven).

The twenty-fold classifications involve four primary colors, eight shapes, then: cloud, smoke, dust, mist, shade, hot light, light, darkness, and possibly a ‘background’ color of lapis lazuli (is this a representation of empty space?).

The footnote says that the Sautrantikas consider shape to be a form of color.

The text goes on to explain the terms a bit further. Even and uneven refer to the consistency of the shape. Mist is vapor emitted by ground or water. Hot light is sunlight, light is moonlight, starlight, fire and so forth.

Visible matter can have color without shape, and there can be shape without color, when what is described is a bodily action.

So now we get into debates. The Sautrantikas say that a thing cannot have two attributes, color and shape, at the same time. The response is that the attributes are perceived/known rather than existing in the object. The counterargument by the Sautrantikas, which the text states but does not pick up on, is that bodily action is color and shape at the same time. (Is this an example of the text letting them win a minor argument that really doesn't matter?)

Presumably they understood the concept of color combination. It’s a little surprising that they don’t distinguish between changes in color due to lighting conditions, and instead discuss color as an attribute of an object.

(Before we go on to sound – there is a temptation to look at all of this section and say, this is just premodern understanding of things that today we understand a lot better. They weren’t aware of the electromagnetic spectrum and the states of matter, for instance, so for the purpose of describing physical objects, we don’t need to bother too much with these categorizations. I’m going to persist with them because they might affect how the writer then understands other categories later on, though I confess that was my initial reaction to this section.)
10b. Sound is eightfold
Sound is categorized by the primary causes into four categories, each of which can be agreeable or disagreeable. The four categories are identified with elements and organs:
First category: sound caused by the hand or the voice
Second category: sound of the wind, of the trees, of water
Third category: sound of vocal action.
Fourth category: every other sound
(The inevitable “other” category, familiar to anyone who looks at budgets.)

The footnote states:
…any dharma which denotes a living being is called sattvakhya. When one understands the sound which constitute vocal action (vagvijnapati), one knows “this is a living being”. Any sound different from speech is asattvakhya.
I thought this would be a relatively straightforward discussion, but nothing here is so. From the commentary:
According to other masters, one sound can belong to the first two categories at one and the same time, for example, a sound produced by the coming together of a hand and a drum…the School (Vibhasa) does not admit that one atom (of matter) has for its cause only two tetrades of the primary elements; thus one cannot admit that one atom (of sound) is produced by the four primary elements of a hand and the four primary elements of a drum.
I’m really unsure that we need to worry about this distinction too much, unless we think that this categorization is particularly important.

Nothing further is said on the agreeable and disagreeable distinction. I find this one strange – are they arguing that agreeability is an intrinsic quality of sound, and not dependent on the context, volume, listener and so forth?
10b-c. Taste is of six types.
Commentary: Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
Footnote: According to the Dharmaskandha…it is of fourteen types.
Maybe other philosophical systems had discovered umami?
10c. Odor is fourfold
Commentary: …good odors and bad odors are either excessive or non-excessive. But, according to the Prakarana, odor is threefold: good, bad or indifferent.
I had the same issue here as with their categorization of sound. I’m clearly not understanding this properly, because even in their cultural context, the idea of something being good or bad as context-dependent should be…obvious, no?

The next part is more substantial so I’ll pause here and post this first.
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Re: AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10: Rupayatana

Post by Queequeg »

Thank you, Peter.

I don't know if this is right or not, but I am approaching this reading with previous study of the Theravada Abhidhamma. And I preface that this is my personal impression and I am not representing my views as definitive.

All dharmas are basically units of experience. Electromagnetic radiation is experienced as a color, blue, for instance. It is not experienced as photons or waves or anything else. (I think the way scientific discovery of electro magnetic waves would be broken down into the elements of experience - the blip on the computer screen indicating collected data, for instance, sent to the mind which processes the feedback with other previous moments of thought. Its this problem of continuity that I sense is addressed through Alaya Vijnana, but I think I'm getting outside of the moment). Moreover, the way the moment of experience is conceived, it can only take into account a single feature - so, it would follow that if you perceive color, shape is outside the scope of attention. We end up perceiving a "Round Red Ball", but that is a derivative moment of mind, the result of a complex of many moments of visual consciousness and mental consciousness feed back loops. This is to say, it makes sense then when its asserted that only one thing can be perceived at a time. When the "Round Red Ball" is perceived, that is the only thing going on in the mind, precluding any other consciousness in that moment.

So, what I am reading with these lists of colors, sounds, odors, tastes, etc. are implicit relative value systems. A voice or clap is worthy of distinction because it implies karma, whereas the sound of the falling tree does not involve karma.

In reading this section, I felt like there was so much I was missing. I am anticipating that much of what is hinted at but not apparent here will be developed later.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
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