Impermanence of rupa

First, please correct me if I am wrong, I read that: rupa appears and disappears alongside citta.

If so then what about:

  1. rupa of a dead person?
  2. rupa outside of a person, for example a rock?
  3. if rupa appears and disappears, wouldn’t it be possible to observe it via modern tool, for example using a high speed camera?
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Dear Char101
welcome to the site!
Rupas are conditioned by several factors, to wit citta, kamma, utu and ahara.
The dead body has only rupas produced by utu, (tejo, heat). But heat is present in all kalapas so these rupas can keep rearising .
Also what we call a rock is actually masses of trillions of kalapas of rupa - each arising and vanishing , but because of heat new rupas keep arising.
Even the camera is composed of masses of kalapas that keep on arising and ceasing.
I attach a great book by Nina van gorkom about rupa…
the_buddhas_teaching_on_physical_phenomenon.pdf (261.7 KB)


Thank you for the answer and the book.

So the rupa in a dead body is caused by utu. Does the rupa in a dead body appears and disappears in a fast interval like in a living being or is it a slow process (in days or months)? Because we know in a body there are proteins, fats, minerals, and these molecules are always changing into other molecules. But to me it does not seem that they are being created or destroyed but simply changing into other forms. For example lets take a single molecule or water, does this molecule also appears and disappers? Or is it only rupa that are caused by citta and kamma that appears and disappears?

Rupas always arise in tiny groups called kalapas . And each kalapa is separated by a space.
Science has models which they call atoms and molecules which give some idea of the nature of matter, but I think it doesn’t reach the depth of Buddhist understanding of this.
Kalapas are always arising and ceasing very quickly - and this is true whether the rupa is conditioned by kamma or citta, nutrition or heat.
Science thinks the same atoms appear to last. The Buddhist teaching is that because of similar conditions similar kalapas will arise after the other kalapas fall away.
On the surface it seems that change is happening gradually but at the deepest level it is much, much faster.


Thanks, I think this is acceptable explanation. If we take kalapas as a lower level phenomenon than atoms then the appearance and disapperance of kalapas might not something that can be observed by plain eye or current scientific tools.


@RobertK took the words out of my response-post before I got around to it. However, I would like to add that in Paṭiccasamuppāda 5th Method Meditation Manual, the yogi is instructed to discern the materiality of his deceased body. He will find mostly heat born materiality…
Why only mostly :slight_smile:

Quote from PAṬICCA SAMUPPĀDA STAGE (5TH METHOD) (Pa-Auk Meditaiton Manual)
(English translation has not been edited yet.)

If the meditator does not find the NāmaRūpa of Maraṇāsanna when investigating and reflecting by insight towards the past and if sees only the appearance of being dead then discern the 4 Great Elements of that corpse. Then he will find only small particles. Analyse these small particles. Mostly, one will find the groups of Rūpa where Ojā is the 8th and which are produced by Tejo dhātu called Utujaojatthamaka Rūpa.

It is mentioned as ‘mostly’ because sometimes a meditator may find the Rūpa Kalāpa of some living maggots existing in that corpse. Therefore, sometimes a meditator may find Transparent Kalāpa and Non-transparent Kalāpa mixed together in the corpse. However, that of the corpse, there are only Utuja Rūpa which are Non-transparent Utuja Rūpa.

After having discerned the Rūpa of that corpse, further discern towards the past gradually to discern the NāmaRūpa that arose at the time of near death. If able to discern the NāmaRūpa of near death, then discern the object of the Maraṇāsanna Javana which was arising at the time of near death.
Page 10

How could rupa in the past be analyzed if the meditator had no awareness of it before?

If one carefully think about “any transformation or change”,
he can understand that, even logically,
no transformation happens without “vanishing the existing thing” and “re-arising a different thing”.

If one believes a “transformation of the same thing”, then it means,
part of it vanished and re-arisen in a different form” and at the same time “other part of it remain same”.
So, this is not a full transformation or change.

How can it called a transformation if part of it remains same?

Okasa bhante,
The famous and classical argument against Pa Auk is,
“How can one see past lives and read mind by ‘Vipassana’?”,
because “seeing past lives” and “reading minds” are classically described as ‘Abhinnna’.

This is what the Burmese Sangha council questioned from Pa Auk sayadaw in 1990s, as I heard.

How would you, bhante, respond to this?

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This is taken directly from the 5th method meditation manual from Pa-Auk which addresses this issue with references.

Abhiññā And Vipassanā

One can accept that past lives can be discerned by Pubbenivāsānussati Abhiññā and that future lives can be discerned by Anāgataṁsa ñāṇa which is a section of Dibba Cakkhu; but one may be reluctant to accept that the pasts and futures Khandhas can be discerned by Vipassanā insight. The teachings of the Buddha and the explanations of the Commentary that past and future Upādānakkhandhā can be discerned by Vipassanā insight are as follows:

Ye hi keci bhikkhave samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā anekavihitaṁ pubbenivāsaṁ anussaramānā anussaranti, sabbete pañcupādānakkhandhe anussaranti etesaṁ vā aññataraṁ. Katame pañca?
"Evaṁ rūpo ahosiṁ atītamaddhāna"nti, iti vā hi bhikkhave anussaramāno rūpaṁ yeva anussarati…Evaṁ vedano…Evaṁ sañño…Evaṁ saṅkhāro…Evaṁ viññāṇo…
(Saṁyutta Nikāya-Vol.2-71 Burmese script)(Khajjaniya Sutta)
Pubbenivāsanti na idaṁ abhiññāvasena anussaraṇaṁ sandhāya vuttaṁ, Vipassanāvasena pana pubbenivāsaṁ anussarante samaṇabrahmaṇe sandhāyesaṁ vuttaṁ. Tenevāha…"sabbete pañcupādānakkhandhe anussaranti etesaṁ vā aññatara"nti. Abhiññāvasena hi samanussarantassa khandhāpi upādānakkhandhāpi khandhapaṭibaddhāpi paṇṇattipi ārammaṇaṁ hotiyeva. Rūpaṁ yeva anussaratīti evaṁ anussaranto na aññaṁ kiñci sattaṁ vā puggalaṁ vā anussarati, atīte pana niruddhaṁ rūpakkhandhameva anussarati. Vedanādīsupi esevanayoti. (Saṁyutta Commentary-Vol.2-266 Burmese script).

“Bhikkhus, there are some Samaṇas and some Brahmaṇas who, recollecting by insight the numerous past existences’ Khandha processes can discern them. Such Samaṇas and Brahmaṇas can recollect by insight the 5 Upādāna Khandhā or one the 5” (Khajjaniya Sutta).

In the above Pāḷi, by using the word “Pubbenivāsaṁ” the Buddha did not mean that it is the recollection of past existence Khandhā process by the power of Pubbenivāsānussati Abhiññā. What the Buddha really meant by the word “Pubbenivāsaṁ” is that the Samaṇas and Brahmaṇas recollect the past existence Khandhā processes by the power of Vipassanā insight. Therefore the Buddha taught it as “sabbete pañcupādānakkhandhe anussaranti etesaṁ vā aññataraṁ…” - “…these Samaṇas and Brahmaṇas can recollect the 5 Upādānakkhandhā by insight. They can also recollect one of these 5 by insight…”

The reason is that there are only 4 objects of Pubbenivāsānussati Abhiññā which are:

  1. 5 Khandhā that includes Lokuttarā dhamma,
  2. 5 Upādānakkhandhā that does not include Lokuttarā dhamma,
  3. Clan, complexion, food nutriment, happiness, suffering…etc connected with the 5 Khandhā,
  4. Various name concepts.

In the above Pali Text, as the Buddha was not teaching about the discernment of these 4 objects by insight but was teaching only the discernment of the past 5 Upādānakkhandhā or one of them by insight, it can be understood that the Buddha only meant the discernment of past Khandhā by Vipassanā ñāṇa and not by Pubbenivāsānussati Abhiññā. In discerning the past Khandhā process by Vipassanā ñāṇa, it is not discerning ‘beings’, ‘persons’ but discerns by insight only the Rūpa, Vedanā, Saññā, Saṅkhāra & Viññāṇa which had ceased in the past life.
(Saṁyutta-Vol.2-71; Samyutta Commentary-Vol.2-266 Burmese script)

The above are the references about the difference in power between Pubbenivāsānussati Abhiññā and Vipassanā ñāṇa and that the past and future can be discerned by Vipassanā ñāṇa.

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How could something that has not happened yet be seen?

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For a yogi who is practicing, the future is discerned according to the previous momentum and path already committed, but can change according to the kamma yet to be made. It is like throwing a ball and guessing where it will fall before it hits the target.

The Buddha was able to do this with extreme accuracy.


Okasa bhante,
According to the commentary ‘recollection of past lives’ in this particular sutta (khajjaniya sutta) has been considered to be done by vipassana, but with no mention of how to do it by Vipassana.

In the subcommentary, it is explained like below.

vipassanāvasenāti etarahi rūpavedanādayo anussaritvā “Pubbepāhaṃ evaṃvedano ahosi”nti atītānaṃ rūpavedanādīnaṃ paccuppannehi visesābhāvadassanā vipassanā, tassā vipassanāya vasena.

‘vipassanavasena’ means ‘by the vipassana’ which
sees the ‘absence of difference (absence of special-ness)’ of past ‘rupa-vedana-etc’ to present ones
by having recollected present ‘rupa-vedana-etc’ ,
and seeing that “In the past also, I was a person with vedana like this”.

So, according to the classical scholars and the Tika, the mention of ‘recollection of past lives’ in this sutta, is considered an “inference about the past (an understanding)” and not a “real seeing”.

What would be, bhante, your explanation regarding this?

Learn about Cittaja Rupa – cittaja rupa - Google Zoeken

Biological rupa and non-biological rupa are not the same. But are not different either as we eat minerals, such as salt, to maintain biological structures.

Body and mind co-arise in three types of action: bodily action, speech and thought. When we think about pleasant things, our face shows it. When we move our body, the mind directs the body to move certain ways, such as walking, running, singing…
Body and mind co-arise in feeling too. There are 5 bodily feelings and 1 mental feeling related to five bodily feeling. One needs ears and ear-consciousness to hear. The same to four other feelings.

After the separation of body and mind, the body is all by itself. There is no citta and cetasika arising with that body. There is no other four aggregates. Yet we still feel that body as someone and we still call that body with a name that was given to the aggregate of five. It’s our perception or view or delusion.

Sakkaya Ditthi is very strong. Our goal as Buddhists is to breakdown Sakkaya Ditthi.

I’m not very knowledgeable about this. I know a bit of this and that.

Dr. Mehm Tin Mon writes in “The Essence of Buddha Abhidhamma” (pp. 238 - 240): Abhidhamma Class No. 76, 9 December 2003: The Causes of Material Phenomena - Rupa-samutthana

There are four causes which produce rupa. They are:
(1) kamma
(2) citta
(3) utu
(4) ahara

(2) Material Phenomena arising from Citta

The cittas that produce rupa number 75, excluding the 10 dvi-panca-vinnana cittas and 4 arupavacara-vipaka cittas. All patisandhi-cittas and the death-consciousness of arahats also do not produce rupa.

Starting from the first bhavanga-citta of the life-continuum till death. The 75 cittas mentioned above produce cittaja-rupa at every arising instant of the respective cittas. The rupa produced by citta is known as cittaja-rupa.

Of the 75 cittas, the 26 appana-javana cittas not only produce cittaja-rupa but also support the four bodily postures -viz., standing, sitting, lying and walking.

The 32 cittas comprising mano-dvaravajjana, 29 kamavacara javanas and 2 abhinnas (supernormal knowledges) produce cittaja-rupa, support the bodily postures and also produce two viññati-rupas for bodily postures and vocal actions.

Of the 32 cittas mentioned above, the 13 somanassa javanas also produce smiles and laughters whereas the 2 domanassa javanas, i.e., the 2 dosa-mula cittas, produce moaning and weeping.

Hasituppada and 4 somanassa-maha-kiriya cittas produce smiles in Buddhas and arahats.

Two lobhamula-ditthigata-vipayutta-somanassa cittas and 4 somanassa-maha-kusala cittas produce smiles and laughters in sekha-persons -i.e., sotapanna, sakadagamis and anagamis.

Four lobhamula-somanassa cittas and 4 somanassa-maha-kusala cittas produce smiles and laughters in puthujjanas (worldlings).

Three mano-dhatus, 11 tadalambanas and 5 rupavacara vipaka cittas (totalling 19) produce only ordinary cittaja-rupa.

As a biological process, the body begins as a embryonic cell as cittaja rupa. From that it grows and ages. At one points, body and mind break up. And there the process ends. Now it’s exposed to utu - decomposing.

When we see a fruit, we know how it will become and look like. When we see a kid, we know similarly.
Seeing the future existence is similar imho.

Actually there are only 30 rūpa at the paṭisandhi moment.
After that, yes there are additional cittaja rūpa, utuja rūpa, āhāra rūpa

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