Transcribing the oral tradition...
Suvarnagarbha, Cambridge, UK
Vicki, Seattle, USA
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
Viriyalila, FBA Team
Colum, London, UK
Coleen, FBA Team
Kalyanavaca, London, UK
Nanamoli XI: Tuscany 1986
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS on NANAMOLI'S LIFE OF THE BUDDHA, Ch. XI
PRESENT: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Vessantara, Uttara, Sudhana, Sumana, Cittapala,
Jayamati, Sanghapala, Chakkhupala, Dharmamati, Ratnaprabha, Padmapani, Douglas Ponton,
Duncan Steen, Peter Nicholson, Paul Tozer, Alan Pendock, Ben Murphy, Ong Sin Choon,
Alan Turner, Kevin Donovan, Derek Goodman, Colin Lavender, Thomas McGeary, Gerd
Baak. [New Order Members' names not available.)
10 November 1986Vessantara: So today, Bhante, we have our third(?) session on the chapter from Nanamoli on
'The Person'... we've collected about nine questions. We will start with one or two on
technical matters. Chakkhupala? According to my notes, you've got a question on 'giving,
Chakkhupala: Ah, thank you, yes... We couldn't find out what those three words were,
translations of: the triad 'giving, control, restraint'. What was a little confusing was that
'control' and 'restraint' are very close in meaning in English. I wondered if you were familiar
with that triad and could throw any light on the separation of meanings in Buddhism.
S: I can't remember. One would have to look at the original text and then look in the Pali
Dictionary. Sometimes one finds, in these sort of works, two adjectives or two nouns used of
more or less the same meaning, and sometimes it is only later in the history of Buddhism that
a distinct technical meaning is assigned to each. I am afraid we would have to wait until we
got our hands on the original text to check that. I imagine, even in Pali, 'restraint' and 'control'
are quite closely connected, Whatever the originals might be. But make a note of that. As
soon as you do get access to a Pali Dictionary every self-respecting community should have
one! just look it up. You will need, of course, the Pali text of that passage, won't you? You
can get at that quite easily, because we have a more or less complete set at Padmaloka.
Ratnaprabha: This is another question about technical terms. There are a pair of terms called
'heart deliverance' and 'understanding deliverance' in this translation ceto-vimutti and
S: That must be, yes.
Ratnaprabha: I have come across these terms quite often in the Pali Canon, but I am not quite
sure exactly what they refer to and how they are distinguished from each other.
S: This doesn't seem at all clear. Sometimes it is explained as meaning that ceto-vimutti is
full experience of the jhanas, both lower and higher, whereas panna-vimutti is the attainment
of full Insight. But there seems also to be an interpretation I am not completely clear about
this but there seems to be an interpretation which suggests that ceto-vimutti indicates the
exhaustion of the asravas by their not being  supplied with any fresh material; as if to say
you stay on these dhyanic planes for so long that you are no longer generating fresh unskilful
karma, so that you attain liberation in that way. Whereas prajna-vimutti or panna-vimutti
represents more a sort of cutting through the defilements by means of Insight. But I must
admit I have not gone thoroughly into the question of the distinction between these two terms,
which as I said does not seem very clear anyway; so those remarks must be regarded as only
Ratnaprabha: Does this imply that these are two different routes to liberation rather than two
aspects of one liberation, then?
S: Yes and no; because you can have prajna, Insight, without experience of all the dhyanas, so
in that sense without the experience of ceto-vimutti; but on the other hand, if you have
attained liberation in any way, whether by ceto-vimutti or prajna-vimutti, surely there must be
Insight of a kind; even if it is not the Insight that is actually cutting through it will be the
Insight, so to speak, that has cut through. Though there is a Pali term ubhayo-vimutti(?),
which means liberated both ways that is to say via ceto-vimutti and prajna-vimutti. I think
some authorities would say that full and complete liberation is attainable either by
prajna-vimutti or by ubhayo-vimutti, but not by ceto-vimutti by itself; but in that case
ceto-vimutti would be regarded merely as experience of the jhanas without liberation in the
full sense. The term vimutti is used quite loosely, sometimes; for instance, the samaya-vimutti
which is usually translated as 'temporary vimutti'. In a way, that is a contradiction in terms.
The commentaries explain it simply as the temporary experience of the dhyanas. So there is
not complete clarity with regard to the actual meaning of those terms, as far as I have been
able to make out.
Ratnaprabha: Bhante, in the Udana one of the suttas talks about Meghiya, and the term used
there quite often through it is what Meghiya should do for 'the heart's release', and it gives
five different progressive practices that he should follow. So this presumably is ceto-vimutti
again, and it has been translated as 'the heart's release'.
S: Yes, that must be ceto-vimutti.
Ratnaprabha: But, in that case, it includes practices like developing spiritual friendship and so
on; it doesn't seem to just emphasize dhyana.
S: Well, perhaps spiritual friendship can lead to dhyana! But one mustn't forget also the
Udana you did say the Udana?
S: Yes, the Udana is quite an early text. Well, I must be careful what I say: it is an early text
in the sense that it seems to reflect a very early version of the teaching, when perhaps terms
which later became technical terms hadn't been very closely defined and were used more in a
general literary sense. It is interesting that you can translate ceto-vimutti as 'heart's release'. If
you translate it in that way, it does have a certain imprecision, but none the less it does
communicate something. Perhaps it does correspond I have made this suggestion, before, I
think to something very much like the removal of the klesa varana and the jneya varana in the
Mahayana: that is to say, the removal of the veil of defilements what does Guenther call that?
what does he call klesa? conflicting emotions, on the one hand, and jneya varana on the other,
the veil of what does he call that? wrong ideas  about reality, or words to that effect. It is as
though ceto-vimutti could be regarded as the emotional, or emotive, aspect of liberation, and
panna-vimutti as its intellectual. It looks something like that. Perhaps we, or the Buddhist
tradition in general, is trying to assign a technical meaning to terms which at the beginning
did not possess a precise technical significance.
Ratnaprabha: So does this mean that the term ceto, which I understand is basically the same
as the word citta, tends to refer to the emotions in particular?
S: No; I don't think we can say that. I don't think we really have in Pali, anyway, that sort of
distinction between emotions and reason that we have in English. There are contexts in which
citta seems to be best translated as 'mind', and contexts in which it seems to be best translated
as 'heart'. Perhaps the fact that we do distinguish so closely between emotion and reason does
say something about us.
Vessantara (almost inaudible): One suggestion which ... the exhaustion of the asravas ...
impression that you have stayed in dhyana so long that your previous karma has been
S: Well, no, not that your previous karma has been exhausted so much as that you are not
your karmas are exhausted but what makes karma is exhausted; because even after attaining
liberation you may have to suffer the results of previous karma. But you are not it is as
though, at least for the time being, there is a sort of pause in which there is no experience of
the defilements. They sort of tail off, and when that happens, you are liberated, and that is
irreversible if it is in fact liberation in the full sense, which seems to be doubtful.
Vessantara: ... experience of ... the mundane ... necessarily ...
S: It is not the experience of them but the cessation, in a sense, of the experience of them that
is the condition precedent for the experience of vimutti. It is as though there is no longer any
experience of the defilements. It is as though the defilements don't have a sort of base any
more. But then, this is on the assumption that vimutti, in the compound ceto-vimutti, does
indicate vimutti in the full sense. That seems to be doubtful. But there seems to be no doubt
that panna-vimutti is vimutti in the full sense, and no doubt that ubhayo-vimutti is vimutti in
the full sense. But ceto-vimutti does remain at least a trifle ambiguous. Once again, one could
consult the Pali Dictionary, and then just follow up all the references to particular passages
and see whether one can arrive at a definite meaning. It did, just as I was speaking, occur to
me that it could have been that ceto-vimutti was the original term, and there, in this context,
vimutti did mean liberation in the full sense; but that the distinction between panna-vimutti
and ceto-vimutti might have been a later refinement. When that distinction was made,
ceto-vimutti lost something of its original meaning. But that is just speculation. Anyway,
what practical value does the question have for us?
Vessantara: I suppose it ... You've got several ways of approaching the spiritual ... certain
very good conditions in quite a period of time, and I ...