Characteristics of KAraNa, Cause and Kaarya, Effect
The study of Vedanta involves a correct understanding of the concept of Cause and Effect. These are called ‘kAraNam’ and ‘kAryam’ respectively. The final purport of Vedanta is Advaitam and the very concept of cause-effect is unreal. Yet, in order to get the proper grasping of the Non-dual truth, the Vedanta adopts the method of cause-effect. Once the truth is grasped, the concept and the method of cause-effect are dropped. The Mandukya Upanishad, in the crucial seventh mantra naantaH prajnam… presents the Ultimate Truth, Turiya, as kArya-kAraNa-vilakShaNam. Brahman, the Ultimate Truth, is neither the cause of anything nor the effect of anything.
This study of the characteristics of the cause and effect is undertaken as an example in order to apply them to Brahman and the world and finally appreciate the nature of Brahman and understand the nature of the world. These characteristics are enumerated below:
- KaaraNam Ekam, One – Kaaryam anekam, many
- kAraNam Nityam, eternal – kARyam anityam, ephemeral
- kARaNam Saaram, essence, substantial – kAryam asaaram, insubstantial
- KaaraNam Satyam, real – kAryam asatyam, unreal
The example of gold, the cause and gold-ornaments, the effects, is taken up to elucidate the above.
- Whatever be the number of ornaments, the material gold is one only. Thus, the effect, kAryam, ornaments have anekatvam, multiplicity and the cause, kAraNam, gold is ekam, one only.
- While ornaments keep changing, whenever one decides to ‘convert, remake’ a bangle into a chain and ring and so on, the material gold does not undergo change. That is, what was called a bangle is now called a chain but what was gold in a bangle is still gold in the chain. Thus gold is nityam, eternal and the ornaments are anityam, ephemeral.
- Gold alone is the substance, the substantial material, in all the ornaments. The name and form of the ornament is insubstantial, immaterial. When considering the worth, value, security of the ornaments one possesses, the individual name and form of ornaments are disregarded and only the content of gold in them is calculated. Thus, what is disregarded, the name and form, is insubstantial, asaaram, and that which is counted, considered, valued alone is substantial, saaram.
- Gold is the ‘real’ thing and the ornaments are ‘false’. This is because we say ‘bangle is’ and ‘is not’ referring to the presence and the absence of the bangle-name and form. But gold is always referred to as ‘is’ and never comes to be called ‘is not’. Whichever object swerves from its initially determined state is false, asatyam, mithyaa, and that which never gives up its originally determined state is alone true, satyam. (Read an article titled ‘The world is anitya, but is it mithya?’ at:
The above four characteristics can be applied to the Cause, Brahman, and the effect, the world.
- Brahman the cause is only One and the world, the effect, is variegated. One can even talk about several worlds, considering the past ones that have perished in pralaya. Brahman is Advaita and the world is dvaita.
- Brahman is eternal, nityam and the world is ephemeral, the constantly changing one.
- Brahman is the substance of the world; the world as a name and form is insubstantial. In deep sleep we discard the world and repose in the Atman, the Self, our love for the world and our body-mind notwithstanding. Also, more importantly, the realization of Truth demands our ‘giving up’ the world. Only he who is able to consider the world as insubstantial can succeed in realizing Brahman, the Substance.
- Brahman is the Truth, Real, Satyam and the world in mithyA, unreal.
- Viveka, discrimination is the result of the consideration of the Satyam-mithyA aspect of Brahman-world.
- Vairagyam, dispassion, desirelessness, is the result of the consideration of the nityam-anityam aspect of Brahman-world.
- Vairagyam is strengthened by considering the essential, substantial nature of Brahman and the insubstantial nature of the world, resulting in shama, mind-control, dama, sense-control, uparati, withdrawal from actions to fulfill unnecessary goals, titikshaa, forbearance in the face of difficult situations, shraddhaa, deep faith, conviction, in the teaching of the scripture and the preceptor, samaadhAnam, abidance in longing-free equipoise. All these will result in reinforcing mumukshutvam, the burning desire for release from bondage.
The above study results in these corollaries:
The deep study of the characteristics of cause and effect, applied to Vedanta, will enable the aspirant to focus his sadhana in the right direction. He will consider what his own fundamental needs are:
- lasting peace
- lasting security
- lasting happiness
He comes to understand that these cannot be had by turning to the world. The world is characterized by:
The sadhaka sees the contrast and total unsuitability, incompatibility of the world with reference to what he fundamentally seeks. He learns to intelligently ‘use’ the world but not lean upon the world. The world is compared to a beautiful chair, artistically ornamented and displayed in the showcase of a shop. One likes to buy it for use in the office or home. The shopkeeper, while negotiating the price, casually remarks that the chair is made of card board and is very light in weight. He says it is a fine piece of curio and one can do anything with it except sitting on it.
With this crucial knowledge about the world, the aspirant learns not to rely on the world for security, peace and happiness. This is the avowed purpose of the study of the nature of the cause and effect.
Humble pranams to Pujya Swami Paramarthananda-ji whose elucidation inspired the above study.
- An article titled: AdhyAropa ApavAda available at:
2. An article titled: Attributes and Substantive at:
Om Tat Sat