Sunday, 28 February 2010


arupa-raga: "desire for the formless", the seventh fetter.

Arupa means without form.

The arupa-khandhas are feeling, perception, sankharas (mental) and consciousness.

There are four arupa-jhanas. These are the four highest states of meditation in which there is no perception of or consciousness of form. Beings who succeed in achieving any of these find them more satisfactory than physical existence or existence in the heaven worlds of form. When they die, they generally arise in the plane of existence which corresponds to the particular jhana they have attained. Life on these planes is very long.

The Buddha's former teachers are still there. They arose there because they did not find anything higher. They thought this was the ultimate. But on these planes, too, you arise (get born) and, after a time, you fall away from them (die) and are born again somewhere else as the result of latent, unfulfilled karma.

More birth, more death. These are the characteristics of all planes of existence except Nibbana, which is the highest. Hence, although there is no suffering in these states or these worlds, the fact that they are impermanent makes them unsatisfactory and the desire for them constitutes a fetter.

Even for non-meditators, when one just sits and thinks, the actual process of thinking is formless, though what one thinks about may involve objects of sense and desire for them (kama-raga) or delight in forms perceived through the eye or ear (rupa-raga). However, certain types of thinking, where the mind is quite detached and without feelings either for or against the content of the thoughts, are arupa. Pure mathematics is arupa, for example when one is simply concerned with number and not relating it to actual objects (forms). That is, one is not thinking of five apples divided among three people, but simply 5 divided by 3.

New Project: The Eighth Sanyojana

Sunday, 21 February 2010


rupa-raga: craving for fine material existence, the sixth fetter.

Rupa means form. In nama-rupa, it means matter in contrast to mind.

In physical matter, it can refer to a distinct shape which appears as a separate recognisable object. In matter which is not living, it could be a statue, a rock, a lake, a building, a photograph etc.

Rupa-raga at this level can be for anything recognisable which is seen and stimulates desire and attachment. It may be accompanied by kama-raga as in the case of e.g. the Rokeby Venus; or it may not if the attraction is aesthetic e.g. Constable's Hay Wain or the view from the bedroom window. It may also be for things heard, e.g. a symphony.

Where there is no kama-raga, it is clear that the attachment is for the perceived form which is superimposed by the mind on a physical sangkhara made up of the four elements. Ordinarily this is not realised. In such a case, if the physical object is destroyed, the form disappears and unpleasant feelings, in proportion to attachment, are experienced as though something real had actually been lost.

Those who can see the distinction between the collection of physical elements and the mentally superimposed image, go for the image. A mental image can be made of an object without its imperfections. In the Hay Wain, the seasons do not change, there are no gadflies, no smells of horse manure, no unwelcome sounds. The worst that can happen is that the canvas itself can be destroyed. If one goes one stage further and dispenses with the canvas, retaining the imagery solely in the mind, one detaches it altogether from matter. One can also improve it. One can choose to view it in Spring or in a snow storm. One can people it with one's friends. One can introduce motion and background music from the Pastoral Symphony. One can bring it alive. One can enter it.

At this point one creates a heaven world in which "moth and rust doth not corrupt nor do thieves break in and steal". Anyone, using a combination of merit, imagination (the creation of images i.e. rupas) and concentration, can do this.

Hence the basis for a fetter: either to forms associated with the elements (i.e. the material sangsara) or to forms dissociated from the elements, i.e. heaven worlds (including the Christian). In either case one is drawn back to the objects of one's desire to be born again on the plane on which they exist. And to die again.

New Project: The Seventh Sanyojana

Monday, 15 February 2010


vyapada: ill-will, the fifth fetter.

This is a spectrum of feeling ranging from the slightest irritation to blind hatred and produces corresponding actions of thought, word and deed. Irritation is the acorn, hatred the fully grown oak. When the contact of sense base with a sense object results in a feeling which is unpleasant, vyapada can arise. Just as unwise reflection on a pleasant object and the associated feeling can result in attraction and attachment, so unwise reflection on an unpleasant object can result in repulsion. 

In either case, clinging is the result and a fetter is created which binds you to the level on which these objects exist, i.e. the sangsara. If you go back to a room to meet your lover or to settle accounts with your enemy, in either case you go back to the same room - the room of birth and death.

New Project: The Sixth Sanyojana

(See Sanyojana The Buddha's Doctrine of the TEN FETTERS)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


kama-raga : "Desire for sense objects" the fourth fetter.

The senses contact a sense object. This causes feelings to arise. The feelings can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. If the feeling is pleasant, it can give rise to strong desire and clinging (see The Dependent Origination). It is this clinging that constitutes the fetter. It binds you down to the sangsara where all these desirable sense objects exist and so you come back again in order to experience them. You can't escape because you keep coming back. 

It's not only sexual lust (as often translated). It is any sense contacting any sense object. Think of those Roman gluttons who, having eaten as much as they could, took an emetic, vomited it all up and returned to the table! Think of the youngsters going everywhere with earphones of music. Et cetera.

New Project: The Fifth Sanyojana

(See Sanyojana The Buddha's Doctrine of the TEN FETTERS)