The Buddhistic technical terms upadana and upadisesa.

By ARTHUR ONCKEN LOVEJOY, Harvard University, Cam bridge, Mass.
Journal of the American Oriental Society, George F. Moore ed.
vol. 19, pp 126-136

p. 126 THE meaning of the word upadana, the ninth nidana in the paticca-samuppada, and of the kindred upadi-, has been much discussed, without any altogether satisfactory and universally accepted result. Yet for the interpretation of the philosophical system of Buddhism it is of considerable consequence that both terms should be correctly understood; for the first is a pivotal link in the celebrated formula of causation which the legend represents as the third and crowning insight gained by the Buddha on the Night of Enlightenment, and the second is intimately connected with that subject of interminable controversy, Nirvana. Of upadana, in particular, a distinguished scholar has lately put forward a singular misinterpretation, which results in a mistaken view of the whole causation-formula, and thereby in a misconception of some of the essential parts of Buddhist psychology. By an examination of the use of these words in the Pitakas, it seems to me not impossible to establish their meaning somewhat more definitely and coherently than has hitherto been done, and thus to throw some light upon the notorious obscurities of the paticca-samuppada. A preliminary study directed to this end is here offered. I. The word upadana is ordinarily translated "attachment," or "clinging to existence," a meaning which its etymology naturally suggests, and which is definitely assigned to it by Buddhaghosa.(1) This signification is commonly regarded as indicating that the ninth link of the paticca-samuppada is virtually a repetition of the eighth, tanha; so Mr. Warren,(2) "the relation of desire to attachment is that of identity." Some late Buddhist commentators, however, who are followed by Burnouf,(3) define upadana in strictly physical terms as "the conception of the embryo." Finally, M. Senart, in his paper "Apropos de la ------------------------------- 1. Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 189. 2. JAOS. vol. xvi. p. xxvii. 3. Introduction, p. 475. p. 127 theorie bouddhique des douze nidanas,"(1) has lately propounded a third and surprising view of the matter, which he bases upon the frequent use of the compound upadanakkhandha. M. Senart holds that upadana is only an abbreviated expression for this compound; in other words, that it is a collective designation for the five skandhas. "Upadana, plusieurs textes le demontrent, n'est qu'une reduction pour upadanaskandhas, on, plus completement, panca upadanaskandhas. Ces skandhas sont compris en bloc sous le chef d' upadana." Childers's translation of upadanakkhandha, "the skandhas which have their roots in upadana, " M. Senart declares to be wholly arbitrary. Since, however, the five skandhas already appear, more or less distinctly, in the second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh terms of the paticcasamuppada, this interpretation makes it necessary to regard the formula as extremely repetitious; and from this supposed repetitiousness M. Senart draws his principal argument for the derivative, composite, and practically meaningless character of the formula as a whole. But both premises and conclusion are, I believe, entirely erroneous. The identification of upadana with upadanakkhandha seems to be so altogether groundless that only the eminence of the authority by whom it is made can justify any serious criticism of it. Out of the four passages cited by M. Senart in proof of it, the three which I have been able to consult prove nothing remotely like the interpretation which they are intended to substantiate. The first two are merely different versions of a familiar passage in the Dhamma-cakkappavattana Sutta.(2) Here, in the exposition of the first Noble Truth, it is said, samkhittena panc' upadanakkhandhapi dukkha, "in short, the five upadanaskandhas are painful." This text, of course, throws no light whatever upon the relation of the two elements in the compound word. The remaining passage is a section from the Abhidharma- koca-vyakhya given by Burnouf (Introd. p. 475) . Two alternative interpretations are there offered for upadanakkhandha: (a) upadanakkhandha=upadana[sambhutah]skandhah "c'est- a dire les attributs produits par la conception,"--a translation identical, so far as the relation of the elements of the compound ----------------------- 1. Melanges Charles de Harlez, 1896, p. 284. 2. Mahavagga, i. 6. 19, and Feer, " Etudes Bouddhiques," JA. 1870, i. pp. 382, 406. p. 128 is concerned, with Childers's; (b) upadanakkhandha designe les attributs qui sent l'origine ou la cause de la conception." In short, the commentator of the Abhidharma-koca-vyakhya by no means identifies upadana and upadanakkhandha, but he allows the reader to understand by the latter term either " the skandhas that are caused by upadana, " or "the skandhas that are the causes of upadana" (both interpretations, as we shell see, are to be accepted). Thus there appears no evidence for M. Senart's interpretation. On the other hand, that interpretation is directly contradicted by numerous passages in the Sutta Pitaka, which make both the distinction and the relation between upadana and upadanakkhandha sufficiently plain. Thus in Samyutta Nikaya 22. 48 (ed. Feer, vol. iii. p. 47) we have the following: "What, O monks," says the Blessed One, "are the five skandhas? Whatever form (rupam) there is, past, present, or future, near or far, etc.--that is called rupakkhandha." So of the four other skandhas. "And what are the five upadana-skandhas? Whatever form there is, past, present, or future, near or far, etc., which is connected with the asavas and subject to attachment (upadaniya), --that, O monks, is called rupupadanakkhandha." Here it is sufficient to observe that a distinction is obviously made between the skandhas as such, and the skandhas as subject to upadana. A similar distinction is indicated at Samy. Nik. 22. 7 (Feer, iii. p. 15), where the mind is said to be characterized by upadana in so far as it takes any (or all) of the skandhas for a substantive Self. This, of course, corresponds strictly to only one of the four sorts of upadana,(1) viz., attavadupadana; but the demarcation between the several sorts is not in any case a very rigid one. It is sufficiently evident, then, that upadana is by no means "merely an abbreviation for upadanakkhandha." The view that has been criticised may, however, serve to remind us that there certainly was for Buddhist thought a particularly close connection of ideas between upadana and the skandhas. It may be worth while to attempt to state precisely what this connection was; although the matter seems, indeed, fairly obvious. It is just this relation which a great part of the Khandha Samyutta (Samy. Nik.. 22), is devoted to expounding, at tedious length and with a great deal of repetition. To this Samyutta in general the reader may be referred. A couple of typical state- ------------------------------ 1. Samy. Nik. 12. 7, Feer, iii. p. 3. p. 129 ments taken from it will suffice for quotation here. From Samy. Nik. 22. 63: rupam kho bhante upadiyamano baddho Marassa, anupadiyamano mutto Papimato, "Through attachment to form [or the other skandhas] one is bound by Mara, but by non-attachment one is released from the power of the Sinful One." From Samy. Nik. 22. 121: katame bhikkhave upadaniya dhamma, katamam upadanam. Rupam. pe. upadaniyo dhammo, yo tattha chandarago, tam tattha upadanam; "What, O monks, are the things subject to attachment, and what is attachment? The skandhas are the things subject to attachment; and whatever passion and desire exist in connection therewith, that is the attachment connected with the skandhas." In view of the exposition in the Khandha Samyutta I venture to state summarily the signification of upadana and its relation to the skandhas as follows: upadana is specifically that result of desire which consists in the habitual identification of one's will and interests with the skandhas, i. e. with the conditions of ordinary sentient, and especially (Samy. Nik. 35. 110) of physical, existence. It is thus, on the one hand, dependent upon the skandhas for its source and origin; but on the other hand, as its place in the paticca-samuppada shows, the existence of upadana is what leads directly to the formation of a new combination of skandhas in the next succeeding birth. It is this latter side of the notion which has given rise to the definition of the word that is offered by the Mahayana commentators cited by Burnouf (I. c.), "the conception of the embryo." In any given birth, a man's individual existence consists in the aggregation of skandhas which has resulted from his upadana in a previous birth. The continuance of these existing skandhas can be in no wise affected by anything which he may do in the present life. But he may or may not identify his will with, attach his whole being to, these existing skandhas; and upon this it will depend whether the dissolution of the present group shall be followed by the formation of a new one, or not. As distinguished from tanha, upadana seems to be the chronic condition of the will to which the particular cravings of desire lead; the more a man is given over to desire, the more his entire existence becomes bound to, and dependent upon, the transitory, insubstantial, and worthless conditions of sentiency and bodily form. An instructive comparison can also be drawn between the distinctive significations of upadana and karma as causes of rebirth. The word karma came p. 130 to Buddhism with a long history behind it, and with its own set of moral ideas which had grown up around it. The morality to which it referred was simply the ordinary morality of social and religious propriety; the rewards which it implied were merely the blessings of rebirth in a more desirable state of existence,-- in one of the heavens, in a wealthy family, or the like. This morality and this system of rewards Buddhism retained; but it added thereto a wholly new conception, namely, that of absolutely passionless, motiveless action; and a new summum bonum, namely, the cessation of rebirth altogether and the attainment of Nirvana. For the general idea of the influence of moral causes in affecting future destiny, Buddhism adopted the old word, karma. But the pre-philosophical doctrine of karma apparently took the necessity of rebirth in some form or other as a matter of course. Since, therefore, the Buddhistic conception asserted the possibility of putting an end to rebirth, it implied that rebirth simply as such, apart from its particular form, must also have a cause; and for this special cause of rebirth per se, the name upadana was used. It will, then, usually be found, I think, that for the general notion of moral causation the word karma is employed; but that, when there is occasion to distinguish between the old sort of virtue and its reward, which Buddhism accepted, and the new sort, which Buddhism propounded, there is a clear difference of usage between the two expressions. Karma, in this special sense, is the cause of the particular condition in which a man is reborn,(1) while upadana; is the cause of the fact of rebirth in itself.(2) Thus a man who has not entered the Paths, and so has not begun to extinguish upadana at all, is still capable of creating for himself good rather than bad karma. If this general distinction be borne in mind, it will, I think, make the paticca- samuppada seem rather more significant and intelligible than it would otherwise appear. The formula, though not expressing strict temporal sequence, falls broadly into three parts, the first (links 1-2) referring more particularly to past existences; the second (3-9), to the present existence; and the third (10-12) , to future existences. The first section begins with Ignorance (i. e., of the Buddhist Dharma), and ends with samkhara, which are --------------------------- 1. Cf. Samy. Nik. 3. 2, tr. Warren, B. in T. p. 226, and Milinda Panha, 2. Cf. the passages cited above, and MP. p. 32 12. p. 131 equivalent to karma in its more general sense; what is asserted is that those who have never known the truth revealed by the Enlightened One have of necessity been subject to the law of karmic causation, and so to rebirth; this is, so to say, the preBuddhistic era, and therefore the pre-Buddhistic term is used for the cause which carries the sequence over into the next stage. But the "present" existence of the second section is characteristically an existence described with reference to the special doctrine of Buddhism; the being who is in this stage, is, as it were, conceived as potentially acquainted with the saving truth of the impermanence of all composite things and the worthlessness of all skandha-existence; and consequently the cause and transitional link at the end of the section (9), which, if it be not extinguished and salvation be not gained, will lead to repeated birth after death, is here spoken of, not simply as karma, but as the peculiar cause of rebirth itself, which has been discovered by the Buddha,--i. e., as upadana. The indeterminate future existences of the third stage are briefly summarized under the ordinary colloquial expressions for the great termini of human life, --bhava, jati, jaramarana, --and the sorrow inevitably connected therewith. From this point of view the whole formula of causation becomes, I think, reasonably intelligible, and the value traditionally assigned to it can be understood. To conceive, as M. Senart does, that the paticca-samuppada is a virtually meaningless affair of shreds and patches, is to go a long way towards missing the point of certain of the most interesting and essential doctrines of Buddhism. In spite of a considerable residue of obscurity, the formula has, in general, a distinguishable meaning and an important one. Buddhism,--I speak throughout, of course, of the Buddhism of the Pitakas and of the orthodox commentators,-- is essentially a system of spiritual discipline based, not upon a metaphysic, but upon a Psychology of sensation. It is this, of course, which sharply differentiates it from the other important Hindu philosophies, which are highly metaphysical. It seems to be difficult for European expounders of Buddhism to keep this distinction steadily in mind. There is a tendency to assimilate the doctrine to the type of the metaphysical systems.' Thus one ----------------------------- 1. A corresponding tendency appears in the interpretation of the practical side of the system, to make the essence of the Buddhistic conception of virtue lie in "union,--the sense of oneness with all that is," etc., while sorrow and evil are "in fact the result of the effort of the p. 132 of those who have done most to advance Buddhistic studies has been led to lend his weighty sanction to an unfortunate suggestion of Mr. Waddell's(1) for the interpretation of the very first of the nidanas; the suggestion, namely, that the Ignorance there referred to is "an Ignorant Unconscious Will to Live, identical with what is now generally known to occidentals as Hartmann's Absolute." But this, surely, is almost enough to disturb the Bhagavat in the quietude of Nirvana. Buddhism knows nothing of any ontological absolute, and it has a really morbid antipathy to the Unconditioned. Tile first nidana simply asserts that salvation depends ultimately upon a certain theoretical insight; namely, an insight, not into any ultimate truths about the prime substance and metaphysical essence either of the universe or of man, but into a certain simple psychological analysis of the nature and value of human sensation and volition. Now, just this analysis is concisely packed into the middle and longest section (3-9) of the paticca-samuppada. The terms used there, perhaps even the ideas, are doubtless largely borrowed ones; but the arrangement and application of them is certainly original and characteristic. It is impossible here to attempt to review this analysis, and to show how the skandhas are somewhat obscurely referred to in the nidanas between 1 and 8. The analysis ends with the seventh term of the formula, the completed and concrete fact of Sensation, with which, for the first time, appear determinations of worth, the pleasure-pain characteristics.' Hereupon arises the activity of the sensuous will in the form of desire and aversion (8); and from this there ensues that habitual volitional attitude of upadana which seeks, with inevitable failure, to find fixity and a stable satisfaction in what is inherently changeful and transitory. The fact of imperma- -------------------------------- individual to keep separate from the rest of existence." This, in reality, is not an original Buddhistic notion at all, but Vedantic. The spirit and tendency of Buddhism is far more pluralistic than monistic. In the sense in which the doctrine recognizes individuality, the individual is inherently "separate from the rest of existence," and always remains so. This separateness consists in the individuation of the sequence of karmic causation. Only the substantive permanence, not the separateness, of the Self is denied. For Buddhism, so to put it, a longitudinal section of existence would show no Ego, but a cross-section at any given moment would show an irresoluble individuation. 1. Buddhism in Tibet, p. 112. 2. Cf. Milinda Panha, p. 60, and Warren, B. in T.,135. p. 133 nence, which is the cause of this failure, is not made explicit in the formula itself, but is given in the complementary formula of the Three Characteristics. It may almost be said that the paticcasamuppada, properly understood, and the tilakkhana for a commentary upon its middle section, constitute all the absolutely indispensable theoretical impedmenta with which Buddhism burdens itself. II We may now turn to consider briefly the meaning of the element upadi- in the compound upadisesa. This compound has usually been translated, "having the five Skandhas remaining;" and saupadisesa niibbduna and anupadisesa nibbana are rendered respectively as the condition of the Arahat before, and his condition after, the dissolution of the skandhas, i. e. before and after his physical death (cf. Childers s. v.). Upadi is thus represented to be what M. Senart has taken upadana to be, --a summary designation for the skandhas. But upadi (according to Childers's etymology, which is the usually accepted one) is virtually the same word as upadana, in a form adapted to composition; and we have seen that upadana, at all events, is no more a name for the skandhas than 'hen' is a name for 'hen's-egg.' It is, therefore, surprising, if true, that substantially the same word should have two so different meanings. The only hypothesis, I think, that has been offered to account for it, is one suggested by Professor Rhys Davids: " A comprehensive name for all the skandhas is upadi, a word derived (in allusion to the name of their cause, upadana) from upada, to grasp." This, however, is an explanation that hardly explains. The improbability of such a change of meaning led Oldenberg to argue, in an admirable discussion appended to his Buddha (English tr., P. 433), that upadisesa has primarily nothing to do with the skandhas, but means simply, "having a residue of attachment remaining." His contention is fortified by some citations which come near to being conclusive as to the prevailing, though not quite universal, usage; and to these citations those interested may be referred. Oldenberg's view seems, however, to have been pretty commonly ignored or rejected by subsequent expositors, who cling rather to the theory of Childers. The question is rendered somewhat difficult and complicated by the confusing similarity between upadi and upadhi, which allows a large chance for scribal errors, p. 134 and by the uncertain etymology of both these words. The Skt. word upadhi is a technical term in the Nvaya,(1) and in the Sankhya,(2) where it signifies the elements of phenomenal existence. This, according to E. Muller(3) and J. Dahlmann,(4) is the equivalent of the Pali upadi, while Bohtlingk, Childers and Rhys Davids derive upadi from upada, and regard upadhi as the Pali representative of Skt. upadhi. Both derivations seem to be etymologically possible; the meaning of upadi must therefore be settled rather by an examination of its use than by etymological arguments. I can only contribute here a few points, relevant but not necessarily conclusive, in favor of the view that upadi means the same thing as upadana. For light upon the original signification of Buddhistic terms we naturally turn first to the Sutta Nipata. The word upadisesa occurs there in three connections. At p. 135 (ed. Fausboll), and repeatedly in a similar context we have the following: evam, samma dvayatanupassino bhikkhuno.... phalam patikamkham, ditthe va dhamme anna, sati va upadisese, anagamita, "to the monk who rightly attends to this twofold truth, this result follows: either he attains in this world to perfect knowledge, or else, if upadi remains, he becomes an Anagamin." To be upadisesa is here described explicitly as the characteristic attribute of the Anagamin, just as perfect insight is the attribute of the Arahat. The obvious antithesis is between "perfect insight in this life " and upadisesa. Now the customary translation of this passage, "if at death the skandhas still remain he will attain to non-returing," makes the antithesis almost pointless. In the first place, the words "at death" are a gratuitous interpolation, since the time referred to may equally well be that of entering the Third Path. Again, it is incorrect to speak of the skandhas as "still remaining" at death; the skandhas do not remain but only their cause, which produces new groups in the next birth. This consideration alone is sufficient to make the more usual rendering of upadisesa improbable; for if the word really meant "having the skandhas remaining, " it could not properly be applied as the differentia of the Anagamin, since until death both Anagamin and Arahat have the skandhas remaining, and after death neither can be said to do so. More- ----------------------- 1. Cf. Sarvadarcana-samgraha, tr. Cowell, p. 275. 2. Cf. Garbe, Die Samkhya-Philosophie, p. 171, 305-7. 3. Pali Grammar, p. 30. 4. Nirvana, p.14. p. 135 over, if upadisesa is the especial epithet of the earthly life of the Arahat, it is difficult to see how it can at the same time express the characteristic which distinguishes the Anagamin from the Arahat. Finally the passage seems to indicate the presence of upadi as the cause which prevents the disciple from reaching the Fourth instead of the Third Path. In short, then, it appears to be not only justifiable but necessary to render upadisesa here by "having remaining a residue of attachment (upadana)." The second instance of the word in the Sutta Nipata occurs at v. 354 (cited also by Oldenberg). Here the question is raised concerning a certain monk recently deceased: "Has he entered Nirvana or is he saupadisesa?" The Buddha replies, --recalling how fully the monk has accepted and followed the Buddhist doctrine--that he has entered Nirvana Not only, then, is it clear, as Oldenberg points out, that, since the monk is already dead, saupadisesa cannot be peculiarly am epithet of the Arahat before his death; but we may also note that the point upon which the inquirer wishes to be assured, is whether this monk, obviously far advanced in the Paths, had quite, or merely almost, reached perfect freedom from attachment,--i. e. whether in his lifetime he had reached the stage of the Arahat or only that of the Anagamin. Once more, the word occurs at Sutta Nipata, v. 86, with the negative prefix: Ettavat' aggam pi vadanti h' eke yakkhassa suddhim idha panditase tesam pun' eke samayam vadanti anupadisese 'kusala' vadana; "thus some learned men say that the chief thing in the world is the purification from the demons; some, again, say that religious observances are the chief thing; but the truly wise say that the chief thing consists in being anupadisesa.'' No one familiar with Buddhist modes of thought could suppose that anupadisesa here means merely the extinction of the (present) skandhas, i. e. physical death. To the man who has once become freed from desire it is indifferent whether he lives or dies; to regard death, in itself, as the summum bonum, would be the least Buddhistic of sentiments. Plainly, the word anupadisesa in this passage means that morel condition of freedom from attachment which is the goal of the true Buddhist's aspiration. p. 136 In the Sutta Nipata, then, it would appear, first, that upadisesa or saupadisesa never refers primarily to the persistence of the five skandhas, but always to an ethical state; and, second, that the word, so far from describing the Arahat either before or after his death, is precisely what serves to distinguish the Anagamin from the Arahat, while the special superiority of the latter consists just in having got rid of upadi. Compare with this the numerous other texts, e. g. Samy. Nik. 23. 85, in which freedom from attachment is spoken of as the mark of the Arahat. In accordance with these results we should be warranted in rendering saupadisesa nibbana and anupadisesa nibbana respectively as " proximate " and " complete " freedom from attachment. Another phrase in which the Anagamin and Arahat are at once grouped together and contrasted is oraparam or paraparam, "the hither and the further shore" (see the first sutta of the Sutta Nipata, and Childers, p. 336). The ''hither shore" is the state of the Anagamin, who has rid himself of the first five samyojanas, or fetters, but has five still remaining. The Arahat, who "has crossed both the hither and the further shore," has thrown off all the ten samyojanas. The samyojanas are roughly synonymous with upadana (v. Oldenberg, Buddha, p. 430); so that this form of expression seems to be precisely parallel to saupadisesa and anupadisesa nibbana. Both phrases indicate the Anagamin as one who has just fallen short of the religious perfection of the Arahat by reason of a slight residuum of upadana. It remains to say that, although the oldest and probably the most numerous texts thus point to the interpretation of upadisesa suggested by Oldenberg, other passages might be cited in favor of the more usual view; so that the matter cannot be regarded as finally settled. The discrepancies in usage may, as I have suggested, prove to be explicable as due to scribal errors resulting from the homophony of upadi, upadhi and the Sankhyan upadhi.