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Revised: Saturday, November 21, 2015 3:50 AM

Temporary Vimutti

Here are two that are important to meditators today for two reasons: the first is, of course, the information given directly: what things cause one to lose one's High. The second is more significant today: a clear statement that "vimutti", freedom, a synonym for Nibbana, can be attained temporarily.

[AN 5.149] Anguttara Nikaya III, V, xv, 149

[AN 5.150] Anguttara Nikaya III, V, xv, 150

The term to understand: Samaya-vimutti. Con-time-freedom. note the expression opening most suttas: "Ekam samayam ..." "Once upon a time." The meaning I believe is not, for this, 'temporary-freedom', but freedom based on or connected to perception of things as bound up in Time. The nature of this freedom is unstable and the attainer is subject to falling back, but apparently not in all cases. Related to this freedom is Asamaya-vimutti. Freedom based on or connected with perception of things as not bound up in time. This form of freedom is stable and there is no falling back from attaining such.

[MN 29] Discourse on the Simile of the Pith, the I.B. Horner translation,
Linked to the Pali, the Ñanamoli Thera translation edited and revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Bhikkhu Thanissaro translation, and the the Sister Upalavana translation.
The Buddha uses a simile to warn the bhikkhus not to mistake fame, or achievement of ethical culture, or attainment of concentration, or attainment of knowledge and vision for attainment of permanent freedom disconnected from Time, which is the goal of his system.
There is a problem with the last section of the Pali. The problem is either with the PTS Pali or the BJT/CSCD (BBS and SBJ eds.,) or all of the above. In the PTS the the first half of the last section, before the simile, has the bhikkhu attaining release from things connected to time which is then cast as a position from which he is likely to fall away. The second half of the PTS version of the last section has the bhikkhu attaining release from things not connected to time which is then cast as a position from which there is no falling away. The other versions of the Pali and the translations (all the other translations) have the first and second halfs of the section as identical.

[From the first version of the PTS ed:]

Appamatto samāno samayavimokkhaṃ ārādheti.|| ||

Ṭhānaṃ kho pan'etaṃ bhikkhave vijjati yaṃ so bhikkhu tāya samayavimuttiyā parihāyetha.|| ||

[Horner:] "Being diligent,
he obtains release as to things of time.

The situation occurs, monks,
when that monk falls away from freedom as to things of time."

[Olds:] "Being careful the shaman is favoured with upon-time-freedom.

And thus it stands, beggars, that this beggar, nourished by whatever he knows by upon-time-freedom,
falls away.

[From the second half of the PTS and the last whole section of all other versions:]

Appamatto samāno asamayavimokkhaṃ ārādheti.|| ||

Aṭṭhāname taṃ bhikkhave anavakāso yaṃ so bhikkhu tāya asamayavimuttiyā parihāyetha.|| ||

[Horner:] "Being diligent,
he obtains release as to things that are timeless.

This is impossible, monks,
it cannot come to pass,
that a monk should fall away
from freedom as to things that are timeless."

[Bhk. Thanissaro:] "Being heedful, he achieves a non-occasional liberation.

And it is impossible, monks,
there is no opportunity,
for that monk to fall from that non-occasional release.

[Bhk. Bodhi:] "Being diligent, he attains perpetual liberation.

And it is impossible for that bhikkhu to fall away from that perpetual deliverance."

I find it highly unlikely that that very very careful man, V. Treckner, would have made a mistake here. It is not just a slip of a negative or the repetition of an almost identical phrase. I believe his rendering is a correct recording of what was an error in the orignal Pali, that is, that there should be two versions of the final section: one relating to temporary release and the other relating to a release from which there is no falling back. This also comports with the simile where there is mention of 'the benefits of having the pith', which we can take as being that he who attains temporary release, once that is known, will strive for that state on a permanent basis.

So my version of the Pali would include a second last section, and my translation of the second section, both parts, would differ as per the second half of the PTS Pali:

Appamatto samāno asamayavimokkhaṃ ārādheti.|| ||

Aṭṭhāname taṃ bhikkhave anavakāso yaṃ so bhikkhu tāya asamayavimuttiyā parihāyetha.|| ||

Being careful, the seeker is favoured with not-upon-time-freedom.

And thus it does not stand, beggars, that this beggar,
throwing away the nourishment of not-upon-time-freedom,
falls away.

My position is that this business of freedom being connected or not connected to time (samaya- or asamaya=) does not mean, as Horner and Bhk. Thanissaro understand it, dealing with the temporal world and dealing with the transcendental, nor does it mean 'temporary' versus 'not-temporary' (or perpetual). The temporary or lasting nature of the freedom is dealt with as the separate idea 'parihāyetha'. He gets this freedom that is or is not connected to Time and then he either falls away or does not fall away from that. 'Samaya-' is a matter of the nature of what is perceived. In the first case there is connection to the appearance of time; in the second case there is connection to phenomena perceived as not related to time. (The ordinary way we perceive the world as an on-going story that proceeds chronologically versus seeing things as discrete entities coming to be and passing away much as an animated cartoon character or a movie creates the illusion of movement.) One more thing that argues for this understanding of 'samaya-' is that in [AN 5.149 and 150], the attainer of samaya-vimutti is described as both subject to falling away and also, with precautions, not subject to falling away. In other words it cannot be that this word 'samaya' means 'temporary' when the attainer thereof is also described as not being subject to falling away.

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