Proximate and ? Causes


I am suffering a tip-of-the-tongue experience: what is the opposite of proximate cause?
Also, is there a sutta that describes the difference between the two types of cause?

Thanks :pray:


The Abhidhamma lists 24 modes of conditionality. The relevant ones here are “hetu paccaya” or root condition, and “anantara paccaya” or proximate condition (the same as “samanantara paccaya” or contiguous condition).

Also see these EBT, where proximate is contrasted with remote and distant.

So the opposite of proximate cause could be root cause, underlying cause or distant cause.
So for example with DO you could say that the root cause of suffering is ignorance, while the proximate cause is craving.


‘Distal cause’? :slightly_smiling_face:


I assume distal and distant have the same root?


I guess the butterfly effect would be an extreme case of distant cause.


Oh good: I can blame a random distal butterfly for all my unwholesome sankaras.
More seriously thanks for the solutions.


Nah, it’s probably your star-sign. :yum:


Being a gardener, I am always wary of conflating root cause with vital condition. A plant only has one root cause, i.e., the seed. A root grows down from the seed. Contrast this with “vital condition”. A vital condition is one that prevents occurence if removed. For a plant, water, light (fire), earth (minerals) and air (gases) are all vital conditions. Yet there is only one root cause. The seed.

I note that the Buddha grew up in an agragrian culture that would have understood the difference between root cause and vital condition. Therefore I always feel uncomfortable when ignorance is held out as a root cause of suffering. I am more comfortable with saying that ignorance is a vital condition for suffering. It is delight/relishing which is the seed, the root cause of suffering. MN1.


I’m not sure about the seed analogy here, you could argue that seed, water, light etc are ALL necessary conditions for the grown plant (see the next post for an explanation of “necessary”, which I think is equivalent to your “vital”).
In DO ignorance is the first link, and therefore it’s the root cause of suffering. Actually I think that “underlying cause” would be more accurate here, since craving ceases when ignorance ceases.


The distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions is relevant here.

For example a seed is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a grown plant, you also need water, sunlight, etc.
And in DO, feeling is a necessary but not sufficient condition for craving, since ignorance also needs to be present.
But birth is a sufficient condition for old age and death.