[Advaita-l] upAdAna kAraNam.h

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 7 01:12:11 CDT 2007


Based purely on first principles, the sense of upAdAna kAraNam is certainly captured by 'constituent cause', irrespective of whether one subscribes mUla-avidyA or not. The only advantage that 'material cause' has is that it is one of the four Aristotelian causes and hence familiar to those who read Aristotle before Vedanta (reproduced below from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/#FouCau).

"The material cause: “that out of which”, e.g., the bronze of a statue. 
The formal cause: “the form”, “the account of what-it-is-to-be”, e.g., the shape of a statue. 
The efficient cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child. 
The final cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”, e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools."

Even in Aristotelian causality, 'constituent cause' should fit in reasonably well. The phrase 'material cause' was most likely chosen three or four hundred years ago when translating from Greek representing the strong materialistic bias of the age. However, as in the case of Plato's 'ideal', with some respect to the historical aspect, the custom seems to be not to change the phrase, but to qualify with an adjective such as Aristotelian. So much for the usage of the phrase in English within the context of western philosophy.

In translatations from Sanskrit to English, 'material cause' has no such historical sanctity attached, and we should be free to choose the most appropriate phrase. My teacher, Dr. B. V. L. Narayan Row consistently prefers 'ignorance' to 'nescience', for the benefit of beginners. I remember books written in the early 1900s using the English word 'intellect' in contexts where today we use 'consciousness'. How well such changes are accepted, is the test of fire which differentiates gold from non-gold.

If you were to conduct a survey and I were the first respondent, I would have no problem in understanding your translations, but would I use it myself? No, not yet - for two reasons. To me 'material cause' works well enough, as you yourself have shown in an earlier post. Secondly, I am not confident enough and would confirm as much as possible - unless such confirmity is against the basic tenets - to ensure respectability. For similar reasons I would also not use 'ignorance', except in informal posts.


----- Original Message ----
From: S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sent: Saturday, April 7, 2007 10:51:34 AM
Subject: [Advaita-l] upAdAna kAraNam.h

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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