Translations of


Sanskrit: Nāmarūpa
Burmese: နာမရူပ
(IPA: [nàma̰jùpa̰])
Chinese: 名色
Japanese: myōshiki
Sinhala: නාමරූප
Tibetan: ming.gzugs
Vietnamese: danh sắc
Glossary of Buddhism
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Nāmarūpa is a dvandva compound in Sanskrit and Pali meaning "name (nāma) and form (rūpa)".


Nāmarūpa in Hinduism

The term nāmarūpa is used in Hindu thought, nāma describing the spiritual or essential properties of an object or being, and rūpa the physical presence that it manifests. These terms are used similarly to the way that 'essence' and 'accidence' are used in Catholic theology to describe transubstantiation. The distinction between nāma and rūpa in Hindu thought explains the ability of spiritual powers to manifest through inadequate or inanimate vessels - as observed in possession and oracular phenomena, as well as in the presence of the divine in images that are worshiped through pūja.

Nāma Rupatmak Vishva is the Vedanta (a school of Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism) term for the manifest Universe, viz. The World as we know it. Since every object in this World has a Nāma and Rupa,the World is called Nāma Rupatmak Vishva. The Paramātma (or Creator) is not manifest in this Nāma Rupatmak Vishva but is realized by a Sādhaka(student) by means of Bhakti (devotion), Karma (duty), Jnana (knowledge), Yoga (Union, a Hindu school), or a combination of all of these methodologies.

Nāmarūpa in Buddhism

  The 12 Nidānas:  
Mind & Body
Six Sense Bases
Old Age & Death

This term is also used in Buddhism, to refer to constituent processes of the human being: nāma is typically considered to refer to psychological elements of the human person, while Rūpa refers to the physical. The Buddhist nāma and rūpa are mutually dependent, and not separable; as nāmarūpa, they designate an individual being.[1]

Psychobio constituents

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha describes nāmarūpa in this manner (English on left, Pali on right):

"And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form."[2]

Katamañca bhikkhave nāmarūpaṃ? Vedanā saññā cetanā phasso manasikāro, idaṃ vuccati nāmaṃ. Cattāro ca mahābhūtā, catunnaṃ ca mahābhūtānaṃ upādāyarūpaṃ, idaṃ vuccati rūpaṃ. Iti idañca nāmaṃ, idañca rūpaṃ, idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, nāmarūpaṃ.[3]

Elsewhere in the Pali Canon, nāmarūpa is used synonymously with the five aggregates.[4]

Empty of self

In keeping with the doctrine of anātman/anatta, "the absence of an (enduring, essential) self", nāma and rūpa are held to be constantly in a state of flux, with only the continuity of experience (itself a product of dependent origination) providing an experience of any sort of conventional 'self'.

Part of the cycle of suffering

Nāmarūpa is the fourth of the Twelve Nidānas, preceded by consciousness (Pali: viññāna; Skt.: vijñana) and followed by the six sense bases (Pali: saḷāyatana; Skt: ṣaḍāyatana). Thus, in the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha explains to the Ven. Ajita how samsaric rebirth ceases:

[Ven. Ajita:] & form, dear sir:
Tell me, when asked this,
where are they brought to a halt?
[The Buddha:]
This question you've asked, Ajita,
I'll answer it for you —
where name & form
are brought to a halt
without trace:
With the cessation of consciousness
they're brought
to a halt.[5]

See also


  1. ^ For example, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 350, entry for "Nāma" (retrieved 2007-06-20), states:
    "nāma as metaphysical term is opposed to rūpa, & comprises the 4 immaterial factors of an individual (arūpino khandhā, viz. vedanā saññā sankhāra viññāṇa...). These as the noëtic principle comb[ine]d with the material principle make up the individual as it is distinguished by 'name & body' from other individuals. Thus nāmarūpa= individuality, individual being. These two are inseparable...."
  2. ^ From SN 12.2 (Thanissaro, 1997).
  3. ^ SLTP (n.d.), 1.1.2, Vibhańgasuttaṃ.
  4. ^ Rhys Davids & Stede, op cit.
  5. ^ Thanissaro (1994). In explaining this specific exchange between Ven. Ajita and the Buddha, Ireland (1983, 1994), n. 2 states:
    This question and answer refers to the doctrine of dependent-arising (paticca-samuppada). Where rebirth-consciousness (pati-sandhi-vinnana) does not arise there is no establishment of an individual (mind-and-body, namarupa) in a realm of existence, nor the consequent appearance of old age and death and the other sufferings inherent in life.


  • Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at
Preceded by
Twelve Nidānas
Succeeded by

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