In the Vibhanga sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni defines name (nama) as mental phenomena (feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention), and form (rupa) as physical phenomena (the great elements and all that is dependent on them). Nama-rupa is also used by the Buddha as shorthand for the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, tendencies, and consciousness —the karmic formations that characterize phenomenal existence. Manifestation is all nama-rupa. All manifestation is nama-rupa.
Karmic formations are the basis for habitual tendencies, the ‘scripts’ that condition us to act and react in familiar —if not always beneficial— ways. Through repeated action (seed > impression > formation), we have developed and established many ‘scripts’ that lead to suffering. The spiritual technologies of the Vajrayana, the Swift Path, are capable of overwriting and rewriting those scripts, leading to the cessation of suffering.
In the West, it has become fashionable among some uninformed persons to recommend meditation exclusively, consigning textual recitation, mantras, and mudras (ritual gestures) to the sphere of the ‘mystical’ and ‘superstitious’, without understanding the basis for these practices.
Texts, mantras, and mudras are condensed, multivalent expressions for spiritual cultivation: forms (rupa) anchored in sound (nama), and sound imbued with form. The recitation of the sound establishes the form, and the enactment of the form establishes the sound.
While meditation is an extremely helpful technique for spiritual cultivation, allowing us to recover peace and clarity, it is neither primary in every case, nor essential for all. It can generate a more malleable and receptive ground consciousness, but meditation is often laborious and slow when used independently of other skillful means.
Vajrayana, the Swift Path, offers us more efficient means for the replacement of negative karmic formations. When we repeatedly utilize textual and mantra recitation and perform mudra to invoke specific aspects of our own Buddha Essence or Natural Perfection, we establish those beneficial formations in the mind.
The Vajrayana practices of textual recitation, mantra, and mudra overwrite and rewrite scripts swiftly and efficiently.