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The Visuddhimaga (“Path of Purification”)


I finally finished reading the Visuddhimaga by Buddhaghosa (translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Nyanamoli). The Visuddhimaga (“Path of Purification”) is a comprehensive summary/analysis of the Theravada understanding of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Written in the fifth century, this 900-page book can make reading Proust seem like a walk in the part, but the little gems tucked away in the text make it worthwhile, like the verse in the section dealing with anapanasati:

“So let a man, if he is wise,
Untiringly devote his days
To mindfulness of breathing, which
Rewards him always in these ways.”

Or the lines on aging:

“With leadenness in every limb,
With every faculty declining,
With vanishing of youthfulness,
With memory and wit grown dim,
With strength now drained by undermining,
With growing unattractiveness
To wife and family and then
With dotage coming on, what pain
Alike of body and of mind
A mortal must expect to find!
Since aging all of this will bring,
Aging is well named suffering.”

I’d already read sections of this book over the years, but it was nice to read and view the work as a whole for the first time. That said, I prefer practical Buddhism and don’t like to waste time on such ideas as rebirth-linking, supernormal abilities, etc. I’m glad I read this book. To be honest, though, I’m up for a little light reading.