All phenomena in and around ourselves are only nāma and rūpa which arise
and fall away; they are impermanent. Nāma and rūpa are absolute
realities, in Pāli: paramattha dhammas. We can experience their
characteristics when they appear, no matter how we name them; we do not
necessarily have to call them nāma and rūpa. Those who have developed
'insight' can experience them as they really are: impermanent and not self.
Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiencing tangible object through the
bodysense and thinking, all these nāmas are impermanent. We are used to
thinking that there is a self who performs different functions such as seeing,
hearing or thinking; but where is the self? Is it one of those nāmas? The more
we know different nāmas and rūpas by experiencing their characteristics, the
more we will see that 'self' is only a concept; it is not a paramattha dhamma
(absolute or ultimate reality).
Nāmas are mental phenomena, rūpas are physical phenomena. Nāma and
rūpaare different types of realities. If we do not distinguish them from each
other and learn the characteristic of each we will continue to take them for
self. For example, hearing is nāma; it has no form or shape. it has no ears.
Hearing is different from earsense, but it has earsense as a necessary
condition. The nāma which hears experiences sound. Earsense and
sound are rūpas, they do not experience anything; they are entirely
different from the nāma which hears. If we do not learn that hearing, ear-
sense and sound are realities which are altogether different from each other,
we will continue to think that it is self which hears.