This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Nama and rupa

In order to better understand the metaphysical principles on which the institution of caste depends, we can refer to the terms nama and rupa, which are the two elements that combine to form the individual being. Nama,‘name,’ and rupa, ‘form,’ correspond to what in Aristotelian terminology are called ‘form’ and ‘matter,’ although this comparison can introduce confusion due to ‘form’ being used for the opposing term. This is the unfortunate, and we’ll address the reasons for this when we arrive at that point in our discussion. Nor should the nama-rupa pair be thought to be exactly equivalent to the Western soul-body, which is analogous but not precisely the same in meaning. For example, the Hindu rupa or ‘form,’ even though it corresponds roughly to the Aristotelian ‘body,’ does not refer to an exclusively corporeal form. Having distinguished nama and rupa accordingly, there is a further distinction within the nama or ‘individual essence’ of a being. First, there is namika which means ‘that which the particular name of each individual should express.’ Namika is the sum of all qualities belonging to to individual, not derived from anything other than himself. Second, there is gotrika, and this term means ‘that which belongs to the race or family,’ and refers to the qualities derived by the individual from heredity. The naming of individuals reflects this order, the ‘given name’ belonging to the individual, and the ‘family name’ which he shares with others. This makes it clear why it is simplistic and superficial to reduce caste to a matter of race or heredity, both of which only constitute one of the elements taken into account, namely gotrika. ‘Birth,’ as denoted by the term jati, is nothing but the resultant of the union namika and gotrika.

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