Concepts I - Concepts of a “whole”

Realities arise, fall away and succeed one another all the time, but it seems as if they do not arise and fall away and thus they are taken for “something.” We cling to a concept of things as a mass, a conglomeration or whole (gana pannatti). We may do this even when we don’t yet know the conventional terms of things. Small children who cannot talk yet and do not know the meanings of things as  expressed in language, as well as animals, know concepts of a “whole”. When a child grows up it learns the correct meaning of the words used in language, which denote concepts. Thus, the child becomes familiar with conventional truth.
If we only know conventional truth, and do not develop right understanding of nama (mentality) and rupa (physical phenomena), realities appear as if they do not arise and fall away. It seems that we see things, beings, and people. We may touch a cup, a plate, a spoon or fork, but in reality it is just the element of earth or hardness that is touched. What do we see or touch in daily life? When we touch something we are not used to realising that the reality of hardness can be touched. We have the feeling that we touch a spoon, a fork, a plate, or a cup. Since realities arise and fall away and succeed one another very rapidly, we cling to the shape and form of things, to a conglomeration or mass. It seems that a spoon is hard, a fork is hard, a cup is hard, and a plate is hard. In reality, what is touched is only the rupa (physical phenomena) which is hardness, the element of hardness. Since we remember different shapes and forms of things we know that a cup is not a dish, a spoon is not a fork. What is real in the absolute sense is rupa dhamma, which has the characteristic of hardness, but we remember only what is real in the conventional sense. We remember that a dish is for serving rice, a bowl for curry and a spoon for serving food.
One recognises conventional things that are in reality different elements. When one sees, for example, a radio or a television, one takes it for granted that they are composed of iron, plastic, and other materials. However, in reality the component parts are only different rupa elements. One may be forgetful of the characteristics of nama dhammas and rupa dhammas that appear one at a time and then fall away. One remembers the conventional terms of things after seeing what appears through the eyes. All the time, more and more conventional terms are needed because there are new inventions every day. When we know the shape and form of different things that appear as a mass or a whole, we know concepts (conventional truth), and not absolute truth.

Topic 288