I will now attempt to substantiate claim 4, that Ven. Nanavira has invented his
own idea of contact, and ignored what is said in the Sutta Pitaka.
In his note PHASSA Ven. Nanavira begins by mentioning the standard formula found in the Discourses, "...as the coming together of the eye, forms, and
eye-consciousness (and so on with the ear and the rest)."
He then continues: "But it is probably wrong to suppose that we must therefore
understand the word phassa, primarily at least, as contact between these three
things." He then begins his own explanation of contact.
Now, since I do not understand what Ven. Nanavira is saying about contact, I will
not try to explain it. I hope that someone else will do that. Instead I will try
to explain contact as understood in the Sutta Pitaka. Any differences should then
The discourses say that eye-contact is "the coming together of eye, forms, and
eye-consciousness." Anyone who thinks that "eye-consciousness" means seeing will
run into great difficulty here. It would mean that contact was always occurring
which would result in craving for everything which one sees! Clearly, this can
not be correct.
Consider the situation where two people see the same object, and yet desire for
the object only arises in one of these two persons.
There is only one way out of these problems, and that is that "eye-consciousness"
is not seeing. They already have a word for seeing, which is frequently used.
Why invent a new "technical term" for seeing?
Since I believe that consciousness (vinnana) often means a form of knowing which
is a conceptual knowing, there is an alternative way to understand contact.
When anything that you see becomes significant to you, then a representation of
the actual external object is fabricated in ones mind. This representation is
conceptual, and will be known by a form of conceptual knowing.
Now, a form of conceptual knowing will know only concepts, it is not capable
of seeing that which is seen through the eye. So when we find the term
eye-consciousness being used, we must understand "eye" as meaning the conception of the eye, and "forms" as meaning the conception of forms.
Or, to be more accurate, since enlightened individuals still have a conception
of the eye and forms, we should say that "eye" means a misconception of the eye,
and "forms" means a misconception of forms.
Thus we see that Ven. Nanavira, by understanding eye-consciosness as seeing,
has completely overlooked the real meaning of contact in the Sutta Pitaka.