- Rúpas always arise in groups (kalapas) consisting of at least eight rúpas,
the eight inseparable rúpas. There are rúpas other than these eight and
these arise together in a group together with the eight inseparable rúpas.
Our body consists of different groups of rúpas and each group is surrounded
by infinitesimally tiny space, and this is the rúpa that is called space
(akåsa) . The rúpas within a group are holding tightly together and
cannot be divided, and the rúpa space allows the different groups to be
distinct from each other. Thus, its function is separating or delimiting the
different groups of rúpas, and therefore it is also called pariccheda rúpa,
the rúpa that delimits (pariccheda meaning limit or boundary). The rúpa
space is a rúpa without its own distinct nature (asabhåva rúpa), and it
arises simultaneously with the different groups of rúpa it surrounds.
The ³Atthasåliní² (II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 326) states that space is
that which cannot be scratched, cut or broken. It is ³untouched by the four
great Elements.² Space cannot be touched. The ³Atthasåliní² gives the
following definition of space  :
... space-element has the characteristic of delimiting material objects, the
function of showing their boundaries, the manifestation of showing their
limits, state of being untouched by the four great elements and of being
their holes and openings as manifestation, the separated objects as
proximate cause. It is that of which in the separated groups we say ³this is
above, this is below, this is across.²
Space delimits the groups of rúpa that are produced by kamma, citta,
temperature and nutrition so that they are separated from each other. If
there were no space in between the different groups of rúpa, these groups
would all be connected, not distinct from each other. Space comes into being
whenever the groups of rúpas are produced by any of the four factors and,
thus, it is regarded as originating from these four factors.
We read in the ²Discourse on the Analysis of the Elements² (Middle Length
Sayings III, no 140) that the Buddha explained to the monk Pukkusåti about
the elements and that he also spoke about the element of space. This Sutta
refers to the empty space of holes and openings that are, as we have read,
the manifestation of space. We read:
... And what, monk, is the element of space? The element of space may be
internal, it may be external. And what, monk, is the internal element of
space? Whatever is space, spacious, is internal, referable to an individual
and derived therefrom, such as the auditory and nasal orifices, the door of
the mouth and that by which one swallows what is munched, drunk, eaten and
tasted, and where this remains, and where it passes out (of the body) lower
down, or whatever other thing is space, spacious, is internal, referable to
an individual and derived therefrom, this, monk, is called the internal
element of space. Whatever is an internal element of space and whatever is
an external element of space, just these are the element of space. By means
of perfect intuitive wisdom this should be seen as it really is thus: This
is not mine, this am I not, this is not myself. Having seen this thus as it
really is by means of perfect intuitive wisdom, he disregards the element of
space, he cleanses his mind of the element of space.
The Sutta speaks in conventional terms of space of the auditory orifices and
the other holes and openings of the body. Space in the ear is one of the
conditions for hearing . We attach great importance to internal space and
we take it for ³mine² or self, but it is only a rúpa element.
3. I used for the description of space Acharn Sujin¹s ³Survey of Paramattha
Dhammas², Ch 4.
4. See also Dhammasangani, § 638 and Visuddhimagga XIV, 63.
5. Atthasåliní II, Book II, Part I, Ch III, 314.