Anutpāda is a Buddhist concept for the absence of an origin.


"Anutpāda" means "having no origin", "not coming into existence", "not taking effect", "non-production".[1]

Usage in Buddhist tradition

The Buddhist tradition uses the term "anutpāda" for the absence of an origin[3][4] or sunyata (voidness).[5] Anutpāda means that dharmas, the constituting elements of reality, do not come into existence.[6] Atiśa:

One may wonder, "From where did all this come in the first place, and to where does it depart now?" Once examined in this way, [one sees that] it neither comes from anywhere nor departs to anywhere. All inner and outer phenomena are just like that.[7][note 1][note 2]

Chandrakirti, in his Yuktisastikavrrti, states:

Nagarjuna taught, "bereft of beginning, middle, and end," meaning that the world is free from creation, duration, and destruction.[8]

According to Nakamura in his study of Advaita Vedanta, the Buddhist paramārtha, "highest truth", is identified with anutpāda [9] The term paramārtha is a synonym for tattva, tathata, sunyata, animitta, bhutakoti and dharmadhatu.[9] One who understands sunyata, anutpada and dependent arising, has realized the ultimate truth and gains nirvana. Nagarjuna:

[67] Nothing exists by virtue of own-being, nor is there any non-being here. Being and non-being, born through causes and conditions, are empty.

[68] Since all things are empty of own-being, the incomparable Tathagata teaches dependent co-origination regarding things.
[69] The ultimate meaning consists in that! The perfect Buddhas, the Bhagavats, have [only] conceived the entire multiplicity in reliance upon worldly convention.
[70] The worldly norms [dharmas] are not violated. In reality [the Tathagata] has not taught the Dharma. Not understanding the Tathagata's words, [fools] fear this spotless discourse.
[71] The worldly principle, "This arises depending on that," is not violated. But since what is dependent lacks own-being, how can it exist? That is certain!
[72] One with faith who tries to seek the truth, one who considers this principle logically [and] relies [upon] the Dharma that is lacking all supports leaves behind existence and non-existence [and abides in] peace.

[73] When one understands that "This is a result of that" the nets of bad views all vanish. Undefiled, one abandons desire, delusion, and hatred and gains nirvana.[10]

Anutpāda is one of the important features of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutras and Madhyamaka.[note 3][note 4] The term is also used in the Lankavatara Sutra.[11] According to D.T Suzuki, "anutpada" is not the opposite of "utpada", but transcends opposites. It is the seeing into the true nature of existence,[12] the seeing that "all objects are without self-substance".[13] Another well-known use is in Bankei's "Unborn".[14]

Influence on Gaudapada

Main articles: Advaita Vedanta and Ajativada

Gaudapada-karika characterizes Brahman-Atman Absolute with the concept of "Ajātivāda". It is a fundamental philosophical doctrine of Gaudapada.[15] In Gaudapada-Karika, chapter III, verses 46-48, Gaudapada states that Brahman never arises, is never born, is never unborn, it rests in itself:

When the mind does not lie low, and is not again tossed about, then that being without movement, and not presenting any appearance, culminates into Brahman. Resting in itself, calm, with Nirvana, indescribable, highest happiness, unborn and one with the unborn knowable, omniscient they say. No creature whatever is born, no origination of it exists or takes place. This is that highest truth where nothing whatever is born.

— Gaudapada Karika, 3.46-48, Translated by RD Karmarkar[16]

According to Gaudapada, the Absolute has no origin, and is not subject to birth, change and death. The Absolute is aja, the unborn eternal.[15] The empirical world of appearances is considered Maya (unreal, changing, transitory), and not ontologically independent reality.[15]

Gaudapada's concept of "ajāta" is similar to Nagajurna's Madhyamaka philosophy.[3][17] The Buddhist tradition usually uses the term "anutpāda" for the absence of an origin[3][4] or śūnyatā.[5]

But Gaudapada's perspective is quite different from Nagarjuna.[18] Gaudapada's perspective is based on the Mandukya Upanishad.[18] According to Gaudapada, Brahman cannot undergo alteration, so the phenomenal world cannot arise independently from Brahman. If the world cannot arise, yet is an empirical fact, than the world has to be an unreal (transitory) appearance of Brahman. And if the phenomenal world is a transitory appearance, then there is no real origination or destruction, only apparent origination or destruction. From the level of ultimate truth (paramārthatā) the phenomenal world is māyā,[18][19] changing and not what it seems to be.[20][21]

The Ajativada of Gaudapada, states Karmarkar, has nothing in common with the Sunyavada concept in Buddhism.[22] While the language of Gaudapada is undeniably similar to those found in Mahayana Buddhism, Coman states that their perspective is different because unlike Buddhism, Gaudapada is relying on the premise of "Brahman, Atman or Turiya" exist and are the nature of absolute reality.[18][clarification needed]

See also


  1. ^ Brunholzl quotes Atisha's Centrist Pith Instructions, Called The Open jewel Casket.
  2. ^ Compare the Upanishads, for example the Mundaka Upanishad, where the same question is being asked, but where the answer is that Brahman is the origin of All.
  3. ^ Buswell, Robert; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University Press pg. 945 "In the PRAJÑĀPĀRAMITĀ literature and the MADHYAMAKA school, the notion of production comes under specific criticism (see VAJRAKAṆĀ), with NĀGĀRJUNA famously asking, e.g., how an effect can be produced from a cause that is either the same as or different from itself. The prajñāpāramitā sūtras thus famously declare that all dharmas are actually ANUTPĀDA, or “unproduced.”"
  4. ^ King, Richard (1995), Early Advaita Vedānta and Buddhism: The Mahāyāna Context of the Gauḍapādīya-kārikā, SUNY Press pg.113 "It is equally apparent that one of the important features of the Prajnaparamita position is that of the nonarising (anutpada) of dharmas."


  1. ^ Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Anutpāda
  2. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Utpāda". Archived from the original on 2017-06-20. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
  3. ^ a b c Renard 2010, p. 157.
  4. ^ a b Bhattacharya 1943, p. 49.
  5. ^ a b Renard 2010, p. 160.
  6. ^ King 1995, p. 113.
  7. ^ Brunholzl 2004, p. 295.
  8. ^ Loizzo, Joesph Nagarjuna's Reason Sixty. American Institute of Buddhist Studies 2007, page 177.
  9. ^ a b Nakamura 2004, p. 255.
  10. ^ Nagarjuna, Sunyatasaptati. Seventy Verses on Sunyata.
  11. ^ Suzuki 1999.
  12. ^ Suzuki 1999, p. 123-124.
  13. ^ Suzuki 1999, p. 168.
  14. ^ Dumoulin 2005, p. 316.
  15. ^ a b c Sarma 1996, p. 127.
  16. ^ RD Karmarkar, Gaudapada's Karika, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
  17. ^ Comans 2000, p. 35-36.
  18. ^ a b c d Comans 2000, p. 36.
  19. ^ Hiriyanna 2000, p. 25, 160-161.
  20. ^ M Hiriyanna (2000), The Essentials of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120813304, pages 25, 160-161
  21. ^ Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (1986), Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226618555, page 119
  22. ^ RD Karmarkar, Gaudapada's Karika, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, pages xxxix-xl


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  • Brunholzl, Karl (2004), Center of the Sunlit Sky, Snowlion
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  • Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
  • Odin, Steve (1982), Process Metaphysics and Hua-Yen Buddhism: A Critical Study of Cumulative Penetration Vs. Interpretation, SUNY Press
  • Renard, Philip (2010), Non-Dualisme. De directe bevrijdingsweg, Cothen: Uitgeverij Juwelenschip
  • Sarma, Chandradhar (1996), The Advaita Tradition in Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
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