AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10d: Rupayatana

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AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10d: Rupayatana

Post by PeterC »

10d. The tangible is of eleven types
(Commentary) Eleven things are tangible things: the four primary elements, softness, hardness, weight, lightness, cold, hunger and thirst.
I thought it worth pausing on this briefly as at first glance, it’s extremely counterintuitive. You have elements, properties, and physical sensations bundled together into the same category. Why?

The definitions of these eleven are fairly self-evident, aside from:
(Commentary) “cold” is what produces a desire for heat; “hunger” is what produces a desire for food; “thirst” is what produces a desire for drinking.
So not the sensation or mental event, but the external stimulus. The commentary continues:
…the tangible which produces hunger and thirst is designated by the name of the effect.
So that at least has some consistency: we’re talking about perceived external objects. They are significant in that they are perceived (in line with QQ’s comment on my note on the previous section).

It then adduces an interesting comment by way of analogy:
”The appearance of a Buddha is (the cause of) happiness; the teaching of the religion is happiness; happiness, the harmony of the community; happiness, the austerities of monks who are in agreement”
(Footnote) The appearance of a Buddha is a cause for happiness, not happiness itself
So that which is designated by these attributes of tangibility is the thing that produces the perceptible quality. We can argue with the number of descriptors, redundancy between them, etc. but the basic idea seems fairly clear: this is a system of categories for perceived experiences. This applies to the non-qualitative attributes, for instance:
(Commentary) “Weight” is that by which bodies are susceptible to being weighed.
(I guess they didn’t have a linguistic distinction between “mass” and “weight”, which would have made that conceptual distinction for them.)
(Commentary) Both hunger and thirst are lacking in Rupadhatu, but the other tangibles are found there.
It is true that the clothes of the gods of Rupadhatu, individually, have no weight; but, brought all together, they have weight.
It is true that bothersome cold is lacking in Rupadhatu but beneficient or pleasing cold is found there: such is the opinion of the Vaibhasikas. (It is the absorption that the gods enjoy, not the cold.)
The first and the third of these comments are…I guess understandable, given that we’re talking about beings of the form realm who do not experience attachment.

The second makes no sense to me at all. Any suggestions?

After that brief detour into the form realm we return to the more familiar desire realm.
It is possible for one visual consciousness to arise from a single thing, from a single category of visible matter: when a characteristic of this thing (blue, etc.) is separately distinguished. In other cases, one consciousness is produced by many things: when such a distinction is lacking; for example, when one sees the multiple colors and shapes that an army or a pile of jewels present at a distance and bunched together. The same remark is applicable to the auditory consciousness, the olfactory consciousness, etc.
So when we hear an orchestra playing, we do not experience each second violin’s sound as a distinct thing; rather we experience the whole. Any musician reading this would say, wait a minute, it isn’t quite like that, the experience of listening to one particular sound and ignoring the rest must be a different experience from listening to the whole. But would that distinction be a mental event, rather than a auditory event? Presumably.
But one touch consciousness arises from only five things at most, namely the four primary elements and one another of the other tangibles, soft, hard, etc. Such is the opinion of certain masters. But, according to another opinion, one touch consciousness can arise from eleven tangibles at one and the same time.
Touch appears to be different from the other senses in that, for instance, we cannot selectively block out parts of an overall olfactory experience; however if we want to feel the hardness of a material, it is through a series of touch experiences that we experience that (e.g. resting one’s finger on a marshmallow vs. squeezing it). Presumably the debate he’s referring to here is whether one experiences multiple aspects of touch sequentially or simultaneously.

He then gets into this issue in more detail.
(Commentary) (Objection) According to what you say, each of the five sense consciousnesses bears on a totality, for example the visual consciousness bears on blue, red, etc.; consequently the sense consciousnesses have “general characteristics for their object” and not…”specific characteristics” (svalaksana).
(Answer) …the Scripture means by specific characteristics not the specific characteristics of things, but the specific characteristics of ayatana.
There is a long footnote to explain this. The mental consciousness experiences the totality of the objects of the sense consciousnesses. So the mental consciousness is concerned with samanyalaksana – universal characteristics? I’m unclear on the translation. If we also say that the sense consciousnesses are concerned with a specific set of attributes (e.g., color for the visual consciousness), then we are also saying that these consciousnesses also have samanyalaksana as their object. However Scripture (whichever he’s referring to) says that each of the consciousnesses has svalaksana as it’s domain – unique characteristics. The answer the text provides is that the consciousnesses’ objects are the quality of being perceptible. So the unique characteristic perceived by the visual consciousness is not that something is blue, it is the quality of being perceptible as blue.

I’m not sure that this isn’t a convoluted and somewhat unnecessary distinction. Assuming it is not, why would it be significant? Using the color example, the tree in my garden might appear to be a light green at midday, a dark green at dusk, close to black at night, and have a pink haze at dawn. We are talking here about the rupayatana – the sense domain of form. The attributes of form that the tree has, with respect to color, are the colors that an observer can perceive. They are not some exogenous, objective characteristic of color. (I think.)

I’ll pause here as the next section goes on to discuss the avijnapati.
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Re: AKB, Ch. 1, V. 10d: Rupayatana

Post by Malcolm »

PeterC wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:12 am
10d. The tangible is of eleven types
(Commentary) Eleven things are tangible things: the four primary elements, softness, hardness, weight, lightness, cold, hunger and thirst.
I thought it worth pausing on this briefly as at first glance, it’s extremely counterintuitive. You have elements, properties, and physical sensations bundled together into the same category. Why?
They are things experienced by the tactile organ, the body, and which must be touched or experienced physically. For example, though one can see the earth element, etc., as form, in order sense it’s weight, or other quality you must pick it up or feel it with your body organ. You cannot see the air element, but you can feel breezes, and so on. The sensations of the other three primary elements are self explanatory, fire feels hot, water feels wet.

As I said before, don’t get lost in the weeds of the debates. It will not contribute to your understanding of the basic subject. Save that for when you have understood the root text and the basic commentary. Things that are absent here are taken up later. It is helpful to understand that the topics in the Kosha are recursive. For example, the most detailed discussion of avijnapti occurs in the beginning of chapter four, Karma. As I mentioned already, the formation skandha receives its major explication in chapter two, indriyas.
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