Concepts I - Three groups of beings

The Commentary to the Abhidhammattha Sangaha, the Abhidhammattha Vibhaviní, (Book 8), gives an explanation of paramattha dhammas (fundamental or ultimate realities), sammutti (conventional truth) and pannatti (concepts). This subject pertains to daily life, it is deep in meaning and it should be correctly understood. Names can be given because there is the reality of sound. Sounds form up names, in Pali, nama. This word nama does not refer to nama-dhamma, the reality that experiences. A name “bends towards,” conveys the meanings of things. “Namati” in Pali means: to bend, incline towards. According to the subcommentary there are two kinds of names: names that are suitable to convey meaning, and names that are used because of preference.
About what do we speak in daily life? Why do we speak? We speak so that someone else will understand the subject we refer to. Thus, sadda-rupa (sound) functions then as name (nama), it bends towards, conveys the meaning of the different subjects we want to make known. The fact that someone else understands the meaning of what we say and the subjects we speak about depends on the words we use to convey the meaning; it depends on the language we choose to express ourselves.
The Abhidhammattha Vibhaviní deals with several other aspects concerning different kinds of names. It distinguishes between four kinds of names. There are names which are generally agreed upon (samanna nama), such as sky, rain, wind, or rice. There are names denoting a special quality (guna nama), such as “Arahatta Sammasambuddho.” Someone who does not have the special qualities of a Buddha cannot have this name. Then there are names denoting activity (kiriya nama) and names that are given according to one’s liking. The Dhamma is very intricate and detailed. We should study all realities that the Buddha realised at his enlightenment and taught to others. He wanted to help people to understand the true nature of the realities that appear. The Abhidhammattha Vibhaviní states:

Question: For which reason did the Buddha teach the Dhamma

in such an extensive way?


Answer: Because he wished to help three groups of beings.

There are beings that are slow in understanding nama (mentality),

beings that are slow in understanding rupa (materiality, physical),

and beings that are slow in understanding both nama and rupa.

They have different faculties: some have keen faculties,

some have faculties of medium strength,

and some have weak faculties.

There are people who like short explanations,

there are people who like explanations of medium length,

and there are people who like detailed explanations.


Those among the different groups who are slow in understanding nama

can understand realities as explained by way of the five khandhas,

because nama is classified by way of four khandhas,

thus, in a more extensive way.

Those who are slow in understanding rupa

can understand realities as explained by way of ayatanas.

The five senses and the five sense objects are ten kinds of rupa

which are ayatanas.

As to dhammayatana, this comprises both nama and rupa.

Thus, in this classification rupa is explained more extensively.

Those who are slow in understanding as to both nama and rupa

can understand realities as explained by way of elements (dhatus),

because in this classification both nama and rupa are explained in detail.

  We should consider whether we are people who are slow in understanding only as regards nama (mentality), only as regards rupa (materiality) or as regards both nama and rupa. If we are of slow understanding as regards both nama and rupa we need to listen to the Dhamma very often, and we need to study different aspects of the teachings in detail. This is necessary in order to have right understanding of realities and to be able to cultivate all kinds of kusala. In this way there will be supporting conditions for satipatthana to arise and be aware of the characteristics of realities, just as they naturally appear in daily life.

Topic 288