The Visuddhimagga (Pali; English The Path of Purification), is the 'great treatise' on TheravadaBuddhist doctrine written by Buddhaghosa approximately in the 5th Century in Sri Lanka. It is a comprehensive manual condensing and systematizing the theoretical and practical teachings of Gautama Buddha as they were understood by the elders of the Mahavihara Monastery in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is described as "the hub of a complete and coherent method of exegesis of the Tipitaka, using the ‘Abhidhamma method' as it is called. And it sets out detailed practical instructions for developing purification of mind." (Bhikkhu Nyanamoli 2011 p. xxvii.) It is considered the most important Theravada text outside of the Tipitaka canon of scriptures.
The Visuddhimagga′s structure is based on the Ratha-vinita Sutta ("Relay Chariots Discourse," MN 24), which describes the progression from the purity of discipline to the final destination of nibbana in seven steps.
It is composed of three sections, which discuss: 1) Sīla (ethics or discipline); 2) Samādhi (meditative concentration); 3) Pañña (understanding or wisdom).
The first section (part 1) explains the rules of discipline, and the method for finding a correct temple to practice, or how to meet a good teacher.
The second section (part 2) describes samatha's practice, object by object (see Kammatthana for the list of the forty traditional objects). It mentions different stages of concentration.
The third section (part 3-7) is a description of the five skandhas (aggregates), ayatanas, the Four Noble Truths, dependent origination (Pratitya-samutpada), and the practice of vipassana through the development of wisdom. It emphasizes different forms of knowledge emerging because of the practice. This part shows a great analytical effort specific to Buddhist philosophy.
This comparison between practice and "seven relay chariots" points at the goal. Each purity is needed to attain the next. They are often referred to as the "Seven Stages of Purification" (satta-visuddhi):
Purification of Conduct (sīla-visuddhi)
Purification of Mind (citta-visuddhi)
Purification of View (ditthi-visuddhi)
Purification by Overcoming Doubt (kankha-vitarana-visuddhi)
Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What Is Path and Not Path (maggamagga-ñanadassana-visuddhi)
Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Course of Practice (patipada-ñanadassana-visuddhi)
Knowledge of contemplation of rise and fall (udayabbayanupassana-nana)
Knowledge of contemplation of dissolution (bhanganupassana-nana)
Knowledge of appearance as terror (bhayatupatthana-nana)
Knowledge of contemplation of danger (adinavanupassana-nana)
Knowledge of contemplation of dispassion (nibbidanupassana-nana)
Knowledge of desire for deliverance (muncitukamyata-nana)
Knowledge of contemplation of reflection (patisankhanupassana-nana)
Knowledge of equanimity about formations (sankharupekka-nana)
Conformity knowledge (anuloma-nana)
Purification by Knowledge and Vision (ñanadassana-visuddhi)
According to scholars, the Visuddhimagga is one of the extremely rare texts within the enormous literatures of various forms of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism to give explicit details about how spiritual masters were thought to actually manifest supernormal abilities. Abilities such as flying through the air, walking through solid obstructions, diving into the ground, walking on water and so forth are performed by changing one element, such as earth, into another element, such as air. The individual must master kasina meditation before this is possible.Dipa Ma, who trained via the Visuddhimagga, was said to demonstrate these abilities.
Kalupahana notes that the Visuddhimagga contains "some metaphysical speculations, such as those of the Sarvastivadins, the Sautrantikas, and even the Yogacarins". Kalupahana comments:
Buddhaghosa was careful in introducing any new ideas into the Mahavihara tradition in a way that was too obvious. There seems to be no doubt that the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries are a testimony to the abilities of a great harmonizer who blended old and new ideas without arousing suspicion in the minds of those who were scrutinizing his work.
^See, for instance, Kheminda Thera, in Ehara et al. 1995 p. xliii: "The Visuddhimagga is a household word in all Theravāda lands. No scholar of Buddhism whether of Theravāda or of Mahāyāna is unacquainted with it."
^Biographical articleBritannica – June 14th, 2017 "...According to the various traditions of Buddhism, there have been buddhas in the past and there will be buddhas in the future. Some forms of Buddhism hold that there is only one buddha for each historical age; others hold that all beings will eventually become buddhas because they possess the buddha nature (tathagatagarbha)..."
^See Thanissaro (1999) for a translation of the Ratha-vinita Sutta. See the various Visuddhimagga printings listed below to see the manner in which this sutta is explicitly integrated into the work.
^Stede, W. (October 1951). "The Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosācariya by Henry Clarke Warren; Dharmananda Kosambi". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (3/4): 210–211. JSTOR25222520.
^Stede, D. A. L. (1953). "Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosācariya by Henry Clarke Warren; Dharmananda Kosambi". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 15 (2): 415. JSTOR608574. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00111346.
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