In Anuccheda 60 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Goswami accepts the Vedantic concept of sat-kārya-vāda as applying to the material world. Here we examine what sat-kārya-vāda means.


Sat-kārya-vāda is defined in the Sāñkhya Kārikā by Iswara Krsna as follows (ch. f. page 403 in Tattva Sandarbha written by Śrī Babaji):

असदकरणादुपादानग्रहणात् सर्वसंभवाभावात् शक्तस्य शक्यकरणात् कारणभावाच्च सत्कार्यम्

The effect is existent [in the cause] because what is non-existent cannot be produced, because an effect requires a corresponding constituent cause, because all things are not produced from all causes, because a competent cause can bring forth only that effect for which it has competence, and because the effect is of the same essence as the cause. Sāñkhya Kārikā 9.

The idea is that an effect (kārya) exists (sat) as an inherent potential in its cause. As such, the effect is non different from the cause. At the same time, the cause is different from the effect, because the cause is something more than the effect. An agent or instrument is needed to bring out the effect from the cause.

The above kārikā refutes the notions of Buddhists, Advaita Vedantins and Naiyayikas as follows:

Buddhist view: asataḥ saj jāyate, “From the non-existent comes the existent object”. Consider the pressing of oil from peanuts. The oil comes out from peanuts because it exists there. Oil cannot be pressed from sand. As such, this notion does not correspond to our experience.

Advaita Vedantins: sato mithyā jāyate, “From the existent comes the non-real (false).” This is refuted by the fact that the effect has the same nature as the cause in our experience (kāraṇa-bhāva). This proves that the world must be real because Brahman is real.

Naiyayikas: sato’saj jāyate, “the cause is destroyed to produce (a previously non-existent) effect”, just as the seed is destroyed to produce the sprout. This is called ārambha-vāda. But what is non-existent cannot be produced. Oil cannot be pressed from sand. Also, if the effect did not pre-exist in the cause, then anything should be produced from any cause. But this is not observed.

Paramātmā is both the nimitta as well as the upādāna kāraṇa

We see that the potter moulds the clay into a pot. The clay is a constituent or material or upādāna cause of the pot. Or, in less fancy terms, it is what the pot is made of. Therefore the pot and clay are not different, as explained in वाचारम्भणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम् – the created clay object is different from the clay in name only; only the clay is real (CHU 6.1.4).

Obviously the pot is not made of the potter. The potter is a different type of cause called nimitta, variously translated as efficient or instrumental, or, for our purposes, conscious cause.

The problem arises in trying to explain scriptural statements which call this universe as Brahman: सर्वं खल्विदम् ब्रह्म- all this is indeed Brahman (CHU 3.14.1) or term the universe as being ‘like Bhagavān’ – इदं विश्वं भगवानिव (SB 1.5.20). When a potter makes a pot, we do not say, “the pot is indeed the potter”, or “the pot is like the potter”.

CHU 6.1.3 states, “knowing Brahman, everything becomes known (avijñātam vijñātam)”. Knowing clay, or upādāna kāraṇa, we can know everything about the pot. Thus, Brahman must also be an upādāna kāraṇa of the universe, because by knowing Brahman, we can know everything about the universe.

But at the same time, Brahman and Bhagavān are both conscious, while matter is not. What to make of such scriptural statements? Śrī Jīva comes to the rescue as follows in Anuchheda 60:

ततः केवलस्य परमात्मनो निमित्तत्वं शक्तिविशिष्टस्योपादानत्वमित्युभयरूपतामेव मन्यन्ते – Thus Paramātmā is accepted both as the efficient cause when alone by Himself (kevala) and as the constituent cause (upādāna) when qualified by His energies.

Paramātmā is both the nimitta as well as the upādāna cause of the processes of manifestation and unmanifestation of the universe. By Himself as a conscious person, He is the nimitta cause of the universe, and through His external energy, or māyā, He is the upādāna cause of the universe. Because His potencies are nondifferent from Him, not being able to exist or function without His support, He is the upādāna cause. Because it is He who causes māyā to manifest the universe, He is the nimitta cause. This type of thinking is founded upon the Vedāntic concept of non-duality or advaya jñāna, which we will examine in another article.

Sat-kārya-vāda applied to Paramātmā’s energy, māyā

We can now understand how sat-kārya-vāda applies to the material world. Paramātmā is qualified by two energies: māyā and the pure jīva. Pariṇāma, or transformation of the unmanifest pradhāna, into the universe (i.e. pradhāna when injected with the jīvas and forced by time becomes the mahat-tattva, then sūtra, then ahaṅkāra and so on), occurs when these two energies are mixed together and pradhāna goes out of equilibrium. These transformations occur in pradhāna only, while both Paramātmā and the jīva are unchanged.

By one portion of His energies, Paramātmā is said to be the material or upādāna cause which manifests the universe as its effect. Before creation, the universe remains unmanifest, or exists as a ‘potential’ in the cause, Paramātmā. Upon creation, it manifests from Paramātmā. But Paramātmā remains unmodified in His svarūpa, and also the pure jīva remains unmodified. During destruction, the universe is wrapped up into the unmanifest pradhāna and again becomes present only in its potential state in its cause Paramātmā.


  1. Sat-kārya-vāda means that the effect exists in the cause as an inherent potential and is therefore non-different from the cause. But the cause is different from the effect, being more than the effect.

2. Before creation, the universe exists as an unmanifest potential in Paramātmā.

3. The universe manifests by Paramātmā’s will who is the nimitta or conscious agent.

4. The universe manifests from pradhāna, which is Paramatma’s energy. pradhāna undergoes a series of transformations or pariṇāma, into mahat-tattva and so on, to ultimately produce the universe. Each of these transformations also obey sat-kārya-vāda, that is, each subsequent effect exists in potential form in its preceding cause.

5. Paramātmā is the upādāna cause because His energy, māyā, is non-different from Him. But He is more than māyā which is but one type of His energies. As such, He transforms in part through transformations of māyā, but does not transform in His svarūpa. He subsumes the effect, the universe, but is (much) more than the effect.

6. The universe is non-different from Paramātmā, but Paramātmā is different from the universe.

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3 replies »

  1. Namaste!
    Should ‘energy’ be used as a synonym for śakti? In “Sanskrit-Non translatables” , Śrī Babaji seems to say that the english word will not convey the meaning of śakti in the sense it actually means.


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