Upada, Upadana, Upadaya - what are the differences

Hello, can someone please explain to me the differences between upada, upadana and upadaya. Specifically I am looking to use the English words “take up,” as in subsisting upon, and am wondering what the difference in upada, upadana and upadaya is so that I can use them appropriately - well deploy them pragmatically - in relation to take up, takes up, having taken up, taken up, taking up, etc. Is upada a verb with these other terms being inflection, nominative … or what. Are they technically even of the same etymology?

Thank you!

Hi. The above is what the matter is about but my understanding of these grammatical matters is very limited & extremely superficial. You just need to do your best to study the dictionaries and study contextually the suttas where these words are found.

For example searching the dictionary & suttas:

  • the dictionary (here SuttaCentral ) tells us upādāna is neuter noun (thus also can be used as an adjective in Pali) derived from fr. upa + ā + dā. It is a noun in SN 12.2, where it says: “What is upādāna?” (singular; not plural). We can learn upādāna (the neuter noun) is singular by looking up a declension table, such as on page 18, here: https://host.pariyatti.org/plc/EngPaliGrammar_w.audio.pdf It is an adjective in SN 56.11 in the word compound “pañcupādānakkhandhā”. Because it is in the middle of a word compound, no declension can be known.

  • the dictionary (here SuttaCentral ) tells us upādā is an adverb; shortened ger. of upādiyati for the usual upādāya in specialised meaning. The abbreviation ‘ger.’ means ‘gerund’ (look up what it means on Google). The abbreviations used in the PTS Pali English Dictionary can be understood here: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary The same word search gives the impression upādā is not found in any suttas but is only found in later texts. The usual “upādāya” is found in suttas, such as:

‘Reverend Ānanda, the notion “I am” occurs because of grasping, not by not grasping.
upādāya, āvuso ānanda, asmīti hoti, no anupādāya.

SN 22.83

A different use is below:

The four primary elements, and form derived from the four primary elements.
Cattāro ca mahābhūtā, catunnañca mahābhūtānaṁ upādāyarūpaṁ.
This is called form.
Idaṁ vuccati rūpaṁ

SN 12.2

  • In Pali, the verbs generally/often end in “ati”. Therefore, above “upādiyati” appears to be a verb. So we can look this up, here SuttaCentral , where the dictionary says it is “present 3 singular”. Studying a sutta under the same word search, there is for example:

This is called a noble disciple who gets rid of things and doesn’t accumulate them;
Ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako apacināti, no ācināti;
who gives things up and doesn’t grasp at them;
pajahati, na upādiyati

SN 22.79

So when we read the suttas, we come across these different terms such as:

  • MN 144 (verb)

When someone lays down this body and takes up another body, I call them ‘blameworthy’.

Yo kho, sāriputta, imañca kāyaṁ nikkhipati aññañca kāyaṁ upādiyati tamahaṁ ‘saupavajjo’ti vadāmi.

  • SN 22.48 (adjective only)

Any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near, which is accompanied by defilements and is prone to being grasped: this is called the aggregate of form connected with grasping.

Yaṁ kiñci, bhikkhave, rūpaṁ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṁ …pe… yaṁ dūre santike vā sāsavaṁ upādāniyaṁ, ayaṁ vuccati rūpupādānakkhandho.


  1. (from upādāna) likely to be taken as one’s own, tending to produce grasping; serving as a support or fuel

PTS Pali English Dictionary
belonging to or connected with upādāna

fr. upādāna, for *upādānika → ˚aka

We can probably confirm upādāniyaṁ above is only an adjective & not a noun because the ending “iyam” is not found the declension tables.

Yes, it seems so. :slightly_smiling_face:


Perhaps for the first term you asked about, you meant to write upadhi? I’m not really familiar with upādā.

Upādāna is a noun, it has the literal sense of “taking up”. Often translated as “clinging”.

Upādāya is an absolutive, based on the verb upādiyati. So, “having taken up”.

Hi Stephen,

Upadi is coming up next, so thanks for that, but nope it’s upada and I got it from “Upādāparitassanañca vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi anupādāaparitassanañca" in the Upādāparitassanāsutta SN 22.7

Sorry, I don’t put the little lines and things on and under things as I should, to be clearer.

Absolutive - ahh, maybe that’s why my ear hears some connections to ancient Japanese …

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Hi CurlyCarl,

Thanks for all that information. I appreciate the link to the SuttaCentral dictionary. And it’s OK, I know what a gerund is, but thanks for reminding me that grammar isn’t any more fun for others than it is for me!

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Hi, I see, sorry to doubt you.

I see it’s a short version of the absolutive (gerund), seemingly found often in compounds.

As the PTS PED says,
“ Usually (and this is the earlier use of upādā) as neg. anupādā (for anupādāya) in meaning “not taking up any more (fuel, so as to keep the fire of rebirth alive)”, not clinging to love of the world, or the kilesas q. v., having no more tendency to becoming”

Absolutive will do it for me, if I can take upadana in the nominative case. This is a very technical term! It refers to the allurements of internal sensory perception.

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In fact, it seems how the Buddha defines dukkha “in short”, the 5 aggregates “taken up” as I, me, mine, etc.

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Be sure to check out what Prof. Gombrich has written about this in “What the Buddha Thought”.

Yes, but I am having trouble with understanding the meaning of the actual speech act versus how it’s translated into English. I think we would probably say something like “taken with.” Profoundly taken with this idea/belief of consciousness as being me … that kind of thing. Grasping is such a loaded term, and as a “proper Deleuzian” I am obliged to reject the moral. To me it’s a disease. I won’t go as far as Deleuze, but I do agree with his fundamental perspective … social mores are “striation” and "molar " … necessary, yes, but let’s keep in mind that we’re here to grow and get better.

Anyway, enough of the soap box. Thank you!

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I have it kicking around somewhere … a should … on top of the other :face_with_raised_eyebrow: trillion of things I must bring underneath me.

Some people use “appropriate”.
I suppose in the sense of taking something that’s not really yours.

Well now, isn’t this the complaint of feminists everywhere - appropriation, erasure and construction of the negative other …

Yes, although I’m not convinced “appropriate” is the best choice. It seems to have too much of an ethical connotation. But we don’t “appropriate” thoughts as much as are fully convinced they are ours. (Whose else could they be?? - we need to assign them to “somebody”…)

But the punchline, of course, is that there is nobody…

Great because I personally do not have a clue what a ‘gerund’ is. I was simply sharing my methodology with you. Even the term ‘adverb’ makes my head spin. :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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As St. Augustine famously said,

Si nemo me queret, scio, si aliqui explicare velim, nescio.

Says a lot…

It’s funny. I had a conversation once with someone who was completely convinced of the Cartesian trap, being able to experience/know her own soul. I said to her, “Oh. yes, my dad tells me that’s ego and it fades with time.” I didn’t tell her that when he got mad with me he said, “stop being perverse.” :smiling_face:

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Or the kind of question one hears at meditation retreats, “but if I don’t go to nirvana, who does?”

Isn’t that rascally … make me laugh :laughing: Well it’s a good attitude to take. If my daughter asked me that I’d say, “your mother.” Enjoy your soft clouds and blue sky in the middle of this good night, Stephen.