[Advaita-l] upAdAna kAraNam.h

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 7 00:21:34 CDT 2007

I'm having a bit of a problem with the "standard translation":

  upAdAna kAraNam.h = Material Cause

IMHO, a better translation would be:

  upAdAna kAraNam.h = Constituent Cause

(I'm not sure that "Constituent Cause" is a philosophical term in
English, but it is the best one that I can think of that fits
"upAdAna kAraNam.h" the way I understand it.)

Here is the reason why.

The term "Material Cause" is used in Western philosophy to denote the
"Material" composition of an entity, which is *usually* MATTER. In
the context of Indian philosophy, the common example given for
upAdAna kAraNam.h is that of clay being the "upAdAna kAraNam.h" of a
(clay) pot. So it *appears* that upAdAna kAraNam.h and "Material
Cause" must be identical.

Unfortunately, there are definite instances in Indian philosophy
where upAdAna kAraNam.h is NOT used in the sense of entities
*composed of matter alone*. Let us now consider one such instance and
see if the "standard translation" fits correctly.

1. avidyA is said to be an upAdAna kAraNam.h of adhyAsa.
This has been stated repeatedly by Anand and others, so I don't have
to justify this statement.

2. vAsanA is an aspect of avidyA.
The author of the pa~nchapAdikA says, "Ignorance can continue in the
form of an impression..."
Evidently, vAsanAs are (at least) one aspect of Ignorance.

3. vAsanAs are non-physical.
Ramana Maharshi gives a cogent argument for this -- if the vAsanAs
were physical, they should get destroyed when the physical body gets
destroyed. But that would mean that death of body = death of vAsanAs
= salvation, which is false. Therefore, vAsanAs continue beyond the
death of the physical body, and are therefore non-physical in nature.

>From statements 1, 2 and 3, we have:

  upAdAna kAraNam.h can denote non-physical entities like vAsanAs.

Therefore, I don't think that equating upAdAna kAraNam.h with
"Material Cause" is wholly justified. I believe that upAdAna
kAraNam.h can refer to any entity that is composed of other elemental
entities, or Constituents. Therefore, I feel that a better
translation would be:

  upAdAna kAraNam.h = Constituent Cause

We say that entity X has the upAdAna kAraNam.h of substances
{A,B,C...} if X is Constituted by the substances {A,B,C...}.
This would cover those cases even where the entity/substances are

Is the above acceptable?


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