Dhamma Articles

The Vortex (Diya Suliya)

A vortex or a whirlpool is formed in a river or in the sea when a current flowing at high velocity comes against fluid that is stationary. One can see these in the sea or in any river that is flowing down. There is visible rotation in the whirlpool or the vortex. Increase in speed of the current results in the increasing of centrifugal force and thus suction and the downward spiral motion of the whirlpool.

In the dependent arising (Patichcha Samupppada) which is the very foundation of cause & effect explanation, the consciousness and the name & form (nama & rupa) are said to lean against each other akin to two bundles of bamboo, each supporting the other. In the NALA KALAPA Sutta this is well explained by Arahath Saripuththa. If one bundle is removed the other one will fall and vice versa. If a person works to find the path to take off the illustration of the name & form from the consciousness then that itself is the ultimate liberation or Nirvana.

What makes the whirlpool? The two, nama & rupa with consciousness co-dependent on each other forms the whirlpool.

This is well explained in the last stanza of Jata Sutta. A god came to see Buddha and asked the following,

“Knotted inside & outside, the worldly are tied in knots. I ask you Buddha a question, how can the knots be untied?”

The Enlightened One replied,” Steeped in total virtue, of concentration and mind of wisdom, striving and skilled the Bhikku will unravel the knot.”

Where the craving, anger and ignorance are no more, the Arahath cleansed of defiling has untied the knot.”

Where nama & rupa, contact and form-perception are eradicated, there the knot is totally untied.”

It may be noted that in explaining what non-illustrated consciousness is, it is stated that where the name & form does not exist even a trace of it, the consciousness is non-illustrated (the consciousness of Arahath).

The name (nama) is explained as feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. Rupa is that formed of the four maha bhutha and is the form-perception. Due to worldly beings lacking in wisdom, perceives in the four bhuthas and arising from those four bhuthas perceives form. Thus the form itself is form-perception (rupa sanna).

To a question by one god as to where the current will cease, and where will the whirlpool stop rotating and where will the nama & rupa be not illustrated without a trace the Enlightened One replied that when the four bhuthas are not registered there the current will cease to flow and the nama & rupa no more illustrated.

Thus this samsara itself is this continuum of this cycle of consciousness and name & form leaning against each other and going round. In the whirlpool the centrifugal force will suck in all the debris around it in the water and one will see churning debris. The whirlpool will not be in the same place all the time but in motion and may well be seen in a different place sans the debris originally taken in but with new debris. It is not the same whirlpool nor is it a different one and the earlier collected debris will now be just floating while the new debris is now in the vortex.

In a similar way, the vortex of name & form and consciousness moves from place to place (neither same nor different), the time frame of having the debris between birth & death the lifespan and the continuous going around the sansara of cycles of birth & death. In each existence the force of the two will collect the debris of four bhuthas and in humans & other animals it is this somatic body.

In the dwyathanupassana sutta this is further explained. The time span between birth & death is this life. Rotating between birth and death is the samsara. Being as this and as that is the nature of ignorance. Having overcome this great delusion of ignorance and with arising of wisdom they will not come to birth again (nibbana).

The worldly beings are not aware of this and believe in the somatic body as the self. Thus the whole life is often spent on caring for the somatic body. We wash it, paint, decorate, put in all kinds of dresses and apply all the perfumes and look after it with great care. Thus we are embedded in this somatic body and that itself leads to personality view (Sakkaya Ditti). With passage of time we relentlessly build the personality view.

A person is neither a lowly nor an exalted being (Wasala & Brahmin) by birth. At birth our defilements are dormant and we do not assimilate new until we grow up. However the unskilled beings with passage of time assimilate defilements and soil the mind and thus are the Wasalas. However those who achieve the sublime liberation from all kilesas will neither have any left and will not assimilate new kilesas. Such are the liberated Arahaths and Buddha termed them as Brahmins.

We may illustrate our consciousness with good actions or bad actions. Yet as the Enlightened One said, a mind that is not leaky or perplexed and where both Punaya and Papa Karma are eradicated then such person will no longer have the fear of this continuum of sansara.

However what do the worldly people do all their life? A drive from Colombo to Kandy will reveal it all. On both sides of the road are shops full of clothing of all types for men and women, bakeries and restaurants with all types of food and drinks, places where the hair is done, dyed or straightened, places where the skin will be made beautiful and shiny, places where you will be dressed up by professionals, places where your body will be shaped to look great, signage and hoardings telling folks about products that can make one handsome & beautiful.

But one will not be able to find a place on either side of the road which says that they will cleanse the defiled mind of mundane people. We never place any emphasis on cleansing our defilements barring a very small percentage of the population. Yet we spend large sums of money and much of our time cleaning and brightening this collection of debris, our body. For the slightest body illness we rush to the nearest doctor or the hospital but will not think of cleansing our defilements as and when they arise and instead will churn those in our mindset.

As one Venerable Bhikku in a recent Dhamma discourse said, that the textile trade will put up the fashions for April New Year from the beginning of the year and soon after the April New Year festivities will put up the fashion wear for the Vesak Month. This was an indication of how much we adorn this collection of debris which in any case we will leave behind.

How do we put an end to this whirlpool? The aforesaid does not mean that one must give up caring for this somatic body. On the contrary should live well, dress well, use the cosmetics and perfumes, have good home, eat good food and have other possessions such as motor car and even aero planes or a yacht. But deep inside the person must realize that all these are temporary and with that strive all the time to cleanse our mindset. This can be done while working or doing business or driving a car or walking along the road etc & how?

Firstly one must start on Mindfulness Meditation to bring the ability to have presence of mind. For this the best meditation technique as I note is breathing meditation. One need not go to a retreat for this meditation but can practice while being at home. All one needs is to wake up at least one hour before the usual time. We must all remember that in this sansara each one of us would have slept trillions of years with no positive result. Keeping that in mind (please refer to Achchara Sanghatha Sutta in Samyuththa Nikaya) we should attempt to place emphasis on mindfulness meditation to develop mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the precursor to insight. Possessed with mindfulness one can progress forward towards insight (Vipassana). It is all about being in the now and being aware of what one is doing. It may be working in office or at home, may be eating food or drinking water, getting dressed up, driving to work in a motor vehicle or travelling in public transport, taking a bath or brushing teeth etc. At each moment one must be mindful and aware of the actions and also of the mind. Be aware when a thought of hate arise and mindfully be aware of it ceasing. It can also be thought of craving, delusion, enmity, anger, desire etc. one must be aware of these arising and ceasing and not give any value to these thoughts. It is only when you start giving value these that the thought process moves forward with ultimate negative results. These in turn illustrate our consciousness and the name & form and consciousness continues to lean on each other and keep on each other as in a whirlpool.

So how does the name & form is together? When there is a Nama of a nature, of a characteristic, of a sign and of a topic then that gives to host of words describing the Rupa. When there is a Rupa of a nature, of a characteristic, of a sign and of a topic then it gives rise to friction in the Nama. When of a nature, of a characteristic, of a sign and of a topic there is Nama & Rupa then there is host of words of description and ensuing friction. When there is no Nama/Rupa there is no contact (Passa).

In the stanza on the six touch agencies, the Enlightened One said the world is formed of the six touch-agencies, the six are the ones that associate everything, having grasped it all with the six touch-agencies, the worldly beings lament on the six touch-agencies. Thus this world is not that the one outside but of our six touch-agencies.

Meditation and introspection of Dhamma and its application to one’s life enables that person to slowly and surely overcome the burden of nama/rupa. In the Maha Nidhana Sutta Enlightened One has shown how the beings go in this sansara due to their inability to comprehend this dependent arising, of nama/rupa and that of nama/rupa and consciousness. So the path is vividly clear. Go fort and strive to end this inglorious sansara.

One has broken the cycle, attained freedom from desire. The dried-up stream no longer flows. The whirlpool broken no longer turns. This is the end of Dhukka. (Udana 7.62)

Sugath Rajapakse
Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and presently Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka.

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