Some seers of ancient India hold that it is impossible to understand consciousness itself, because it is with consciousness that we get to know everything else. They thought that it is like trying to touch one’s finger-tip with the same finger-tip.
The Buddha understood their difficulties when he compared consciousness to a magical illusion or mäyä. But he pointed out a way out of it. Instead of taking seriously the worldly notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, he analyzed experience in terms of an interdependence between ‘consciousness’ on the one hand and ’name and form’ on the other.
Now what is this ‘Name’ and ‘Form’. Venerable Sariputta , the chief Disciple of the Buddha explains it for us. "Feeling, Perception, Intention, Contact, Attention, these O! friends are called ‘Name’! the four great primaries and Form dependent on them, these O! friends are called Form.
Feelings, Perception, Intention, Contact and Attention are collectively, called ‘Name’ because they are the primaries of all what is named. The four great elements of solidity, liquidity, heat and motion represented by earth, water, fire and air are the primaries of all what has to do with ‘Form’.
Between Name and Form themselves there is a reciprocal relationship. It is with Name that one understands Form and it is Form that gives a content to Name. Name is such that it conjures up a Form and Form is such that it calls for a Name.
But we have to get more acquainted with the five representatives of Name. Let us have them at our fingertips. In fat one can even count them on ones fingers. Feeling is the little finger small but mischievous. Perception is the ring-finger both popular and notorious. Intention is the middle finger prominent and intrusive. Contact is the fore-finger fussy and busy all the time. Attention is the thumb standing apart but approachable to the rest.
Now out of the whole lot who is going to be our witness of the back-stage workings of the magic show of consciousness. Attention of course. He is the most competent when there are no witnesses to prove a case of murder or theft. Sometimes Judges give’ free pardon to one of the alleged culprits under the oath "you have to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth."
So it is in this case of the tragic drama of consciousness, though himself culpable, Attention is dependable as a witness provided he does his duty as Right Attention.
Now attention will gradually disclose what feeling felt, what perception perceived, what intention intended, what contact contacted and last but not least what attention attended to.
This is why all insight meditators single out attention for preferential treatment when they want to get the full inside story of the tragic drama of consciousness.