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Buddhaghosa offers the Visuddhimagga to the Chief Monk of the Mahavihara




  Sri Lanka
Cambodia • Laos
Burma • Thailand



Pali Canon




Pre-sectarian Buddhism
Early schools • Sthavira
Asoka • Third Council
Mahinda • Sanghamitta
Dipavamsa • Mahavamsa




Saṃsāra • Nibbāṇa
Middle Way
Noble Eightfold Path
Four Noble Truths
Enlightenment Stages
Precepts • Three Jewels


The Visuddhimagga ("The path to purity") is a Theravada Buddhist commentary written by Buddhaghosa approximately in 430 CE in Sri Lanka. It is considered the most important Theravada text outside of the Tipitaka canon of scriptures.[1] 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 nibbana, considering seven steps.[2]



It is composed of four parts, which discuss: 1) Sila (discipline); 2) Samādhi (meditative concentration); 3) The land of wisdom; and 4) Pañña (wisdom).

  • The first part explains the rules of discipline, and the method for finding a correct temple to practice, or how to meet a good teacher.
  • The second part 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 part is a description of the five skandhas (aggregates), ayatanas, the Four Noble Truths and the dependent origination (see: Pratitya-samutpada). This part shows a great analytical effort specific to Buddhist philosophy.
  • The fourth part describes the practice of vipassana through the development of wisdom. It emphasizes different forms of knowledge emerging because of the practice.

Seven steps

This comparison between practice and "seven relay chariots" points at the goal. Each purity is needed to attain the next.

  • Purity in terms of virtue
  • Purity in terms of mind (that is, concentration)
  • Purity in terms of view
  • Purity in terms of the overcoming of perplexity
  • Purity in terms of knowledge and vision of what is and what is not the path
  • Purity in terms of knowledge and vision of the way
  • Unbinding through lack of clinging

See also


  1. ^ See, for instance, Upatissa 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."
  2. ^ 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.



Printed Pali editions

  • Hewavitarne Bequest edition, Colombo, Sri Lanka (Sinhalese script)
  • Hanthawaddy Press edition, Rangoon, Myanmar (Burmese script)
  • Royal Siamese edition, Bangkok, Thailand (Thai script)
  • Pali Text Society edition, London, England (Roman script)
  • Harvard University Press edition, Harvard Oriental Studies, Vol. 41, Cambridge, Mass., 1950 (Roman script)

English translations

  • The Path of Purity, Pe Maung (trans.), Pali Text Society, London, 3 vols., 1922-31
  • Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, Bhikkhu Nanamoli (trans.), The Path of Purification, BPS-Pariyatti Editions, Onalaska, WA (Buddhist Publication Society), 1999. ISBN 1-928706-01-0.
  • Buddhist Meditation, Edward Conze (trans.), NB: Partial translation, 2002, ISBN 81-215-0781-2

Other translations

  • der Weg zur Reinheit, Nyanatiloka & Verlag Christiani (trans.), Konstanz, 1952 (German)
  • Sinhala Visuddhimargaya, Pandita Matara Sri Dharmavamsa Sthavira, Matara, Sri Lanka, 1953 (Sinhalese)
  • Le chemin de la pureté, Christian Maës, Fayard 2002 (Français)

Other references

External links


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