Visuddhimargha or ‘The Path of Purification’ is a Theravada Buddhist treatise written by the monk Buddhaghosa during the 5th century AD. This doctrine is a comprehensive manual condenses and organizes the theoretical and practical teachings of the Buddha, as they were understood by the elders of the Great Temple Monastery in Anuradhapura. The Visuddhimargha is filled with comphrehensive instructions for the purification of the mind as it is set out by Theravada Buddhism. As such, it is considered the most important Theravada text outside of the Tipitaka canon of scriptures.
The structure of the Visuddhimargha is based on the Ratha-Vinita Sutra (Relay Chariots Discourse), and describes the progression from the purity of discipline to the final destination of nirvana in seven steps. These seven stages of purification are:
- 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)
- Change of lineage
- The first path and fruit
- The second path and fruit
- The third path and fruit
- The fourth path and fruit
These seven main stages cam be segregated into three sections:
- The first section (step 1) is about the rules of discipline; and the method for finding a correct temple and/or good teacher to practice.
- The second section (step 2) describes samatha’s practice, object by object. It also mentions the different stages of concentration.
- The third section (steps 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.
According to scholars, the Visuddhimargha is one of those extremely rare texts within the Jainism, Buddhism, and Hindu religions to give explicit details about how spiritual masters were thought to actually manifest supernormal abilities.The Siddhis are abilities such as flying through the air, walking through solid walls, diving into the ground, walking on water, invisibility, the ability to change one element into another, and etc. In order to gain the Siddhis an individual must master, what is known as, kasina meditation as described in the text. Dipa Ma was one of those who trained via the Visuddhimagga, and was said to hsve demonstrated these abilities.