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  • phassa

(fr. phusati, to touch): 'sense-contact', contact.

The term samphassa is used in compounds, e.g. in the following: '"T'here are 6 classes of sense-contact: visual contact (cakkhu-samphassa), contacts of hearing, smelling, tasting, bodily (tactile) contact and mental contact" (M.9).

A twofold division occurs in D.15: patigha (q.v.) -samphassa, contact by sensorial reaction', and adhivacana-samphassa, verbal (or conceptual, i.e. mental) contact'.

Phassa does not signify physical impact, but is one of the 7 constant mental concomitants of consciousness (cetasika) and belongs to the group of mental constructions (sankhāra-kkhandha). In lists of both these categories it is generally mentioned first (e.g. Dhs.1: M.9), due to its fundamental position in the cognitive process In M.18 it is thus defined: "Dependent on the eye and the forms, eye-consciousness arises; the coming-together of the three is sense-contact" (similarly stated in the case of the other 5 senses, including mind). In the dependent origination, it is conditioned by the six sense-sources and is a conditioning factor of feeling (s. paticca-samuppāda 5, 6). Its relation to mind-and-body (nāma-rūpa) is described in D.15, and its influence on feeling and wrong views, in D.1 (at the end). - It is one of the 4 nutriments (āhāra, q.v.), and the first factor in the pentad of sense-contact (phassa-pañcamaka), together with feeling, perception, intention and consciousness (see Abh. St., p. 47ff ).

Being a key function in the mind's contact with the world of objects and being a potential source of defilements, sense-contact is an important subject for reflective insight contemplation as succinctly formulated in many verses of the Sn.: 736/7, 778, 851, 870/72, 923.


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