The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes The Seven Purifications of a Buddha contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Attainment of Buddhahood. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 12 - The Seven Purifications of a Buddha

In this connection, we propose to insert in this chronicle an account of the seven purifications of a Buddha (visuddhi) for brief information.

(1) Purity of Morality (Sīla Visuddhi)

At the time the Bodhisatta stopped at the banks of the River Anomā and put on the robes of a recluse, he began to observe the moral restraint from evil conduct (Saṃvara-sīla)[1]. The Saṃvara-sīla is the eight precepts with right livelihood as the eighth (Ājīvaṭṭhamakasīla). They are abstinence from taking life;abstinence from stealing, or taking things not given in deed or in word by owner; abstinence from sexual misconduct (abstinence from improper sexual acts whether major or minor), abstinence from telling lies, abstinence from slanderous talks; abstinence from using harsh and abusive language; abstinence from frivolous, unbeneficial talks; abstinence from wrong livelihood. With the observance of this sīla, the Bodhisatta also accomplished the observance of the purity of livelihood (ājīvapārisuddhi-sīla). Indriya-saṃvara-sīla is the practice of securely guarding the six doors of the senses. Unlike ordinary worldlings, the Buddha required no special effort to develop a new Indriya-saṃvara-sīla since restraint of the senses (indriya) was, for Him, already an innate and accomplished fact.

It was also not necessary for Him to especially exert for observance of moral conduct in respect of requisites (Paccaya-sannissita-sīla) to keep away the defilements which may arise because of the Four Requisites.

Even at the time when he was about to renounce the world, he had already discarded temporarily a number of unwholesome defilements headed by greed and craving. The latent defilements are eradicated only by the arahatta-magga. This was the the Bodhisatta’s purity of morality (sīla-visuddhi).

(2) Purity of Mind (Citta Visuddhi)

The eight attainments of jhāna and the five mundane psychic-powers (abhiññā), acquired during his stay with the Sect Leaders Āḷāra and Udaka, had turned unclean and dim, as if stained with impurities (like unused large gold vessels) through neglect of practice and development throughout his six years of asceticism of dukkaracariya. On the day he was to attain Buddhahood, he partook the Ghana milk-rice offered by Lady Sujātā and spent the daytime in the sāla forest. While he was so staying there, he purified the eight attainments and the five abhiññā by developing them once again (like washing and cleaning the stained gold vessel). These eight attainments and five abhiññā constituted the Bodhisatta’s purity of mind, (citta-visuddhi).

(3) Purity of Views (Diṭṭhi Visuddhi)

Thereafter, the noble Bodhisatta proceeded to the high ground of the Mahābodhi tree in the evening and remained seated on the Invincible Throne. He vanquished Devaputta Mara before sunset. In the first watch of the night, he developed the knowledge of past existences. He perceived well the phenomena of nāma and rūpa and destroyed the twenty wrong beliefs in personality (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). This was the Bodhisatta’s purity of views (diṭṭhi-visuddhi).

(4) Purity of Overcoming Doubts (Kankhā-vitaraṇa Visuddhi)

Then in the middle watch of the night, he discerned sentient beings reaching different destinations according to their deeds, by means of yathā-kamm-ūpaga-ñāṇa which had dibbacakkhu-ñāṇa as its basis. On seeing them, he realised distinctly the law of Kamma (deeds and their results) and because of this realisation, he became free of doubts. This was the Bodhisatta'spurity of overcoming doubts (kankhā-vitaraṇa-visuddhi).

(5) Purity of Knowledge and Insight into The Right and Wrong Paths (Maggāmaggañāṇadassana Visuddhi)


In the last watch of the night, the Bodhisatta dwelt on the twelve factors of the Doctrine of Dependent Origination; and beginning with the contemplation of mind and body (Kalāpa-sammāsana) on the basis of seven contemplations such as contemplation of impermanence (anicca-nupassanā), of suffering (dukkha-nupassanā), of non-self (anattanupassanā), he realised udayabbaya-ñāṇa which discerned the rising and falling of all mental and material phenomena (nāma and rūpa). At that time, there arose in the Bodhisatta defilements of Vipassanā (Vipassānupakkilesa[3]) such as illumination, etc.

The illumination of the Buddha, unlike that of others, was not confined to one spot, one area, or one portion of a region. In fact, when the Bodhisatta, by means of the very sharp, penetrating aforesaid Mahāvajjra Vipassanā-ñāṇa, contemplated the aggregates of phenomena (dhammā) in the mind continuum of himself, as well as that of the inestimable number of sentient beings throughout the three passages of time. In a summary manner, he reduced them into twelve factors of Paṭiccasamuppāda;and again dividing these twelve factors into two groups of nāma and rūpa when he contemplated them by means of udayabbaya-ñāṇa. His energy was very strong, his mindfulness very steadfast, his mind very composed and so his insight wisdom was very sharp. His faith very strong, his physical and mental happiness and tranquillity were developing incessantly. The mental factors of equanimity (tatramajjhatattā-cetasika) also called vipassanupekkha, which views with even-mindedness all conditioned states, was also very strong. The mind continuum of the Bodhisatta, thus supported and assisted by happiness (sukha) and tranquillity (passaddhi) was suffused with five kinds of zest, namely, (1) joy that makes hairs stand on end (khuddaka-pīti), (2) joy that occurs off and on like a flash of lightning (khaṇika-pīti), (3) joy flooding the body and then receding like waves breaking the sea shore (okkantikapīti), (4) joy so strong as to transport one up into the air (ubbega-pīti), (5) joy that pervades the whole body, as soft cotton wool soaked in oil. His blood, heart and sense faculties, such as eye, ear, nose etc., were also very lucid.

Therefore, illumination from the Bodhisatta flooded the earth, the mass of air and the mass of water of the nether region and made them golden yellow. It then plunged into the boundless space below and as well as in the upward direction to the highest abode of beings, Bhavagga, turning everything into golden yellow. The illumination then continued to penetrate further into the upper boundless space. It also brightened across the whole of the ten thousand world-systems, and rapidly extended throughout the infinite worldsystems.

(When such defilements of Vipassanā appear, unclever meditators mistook them for the Path and the Fruition. They abandoned the original subject of meditation and dwelt taking delight in defiling elements). When, however, these defilements of Vipassanā appeared in the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta, he reflected: “These are not the Path which will lead to arahatta-magga-ñāṇa and sabbaññutā-ñāṇa, they merely defile Vipassanā. Only udayabbaya-ñāṇa etc., of my original meditation form the true path to arahatta-maggañāṇa and sabbaññutā-ñāṇa.” He did not allow his mind to hover over these defilements of

Vipassanā and to become attached to them. Instead, he let it remain inclined to the object of Vipassanā meditation.

When thus the defiling elements of Vipassanā appeared in the Bodhisatta’s mind continuum, as in the case of others, he did not allow subtle craving and greed, known as nikanti, that longed for those defiling elements, to rise. He had the lucid, extraordinary knowledge, Ñāṇa, which discerned clearly that this group of defiling elements was not the proper Path to Enlightenment but just led to the defilement of Vipassanā. Only udayabbaya-ñāṇa, etc., form the right path leading to Enlightenment. This was the Bodhisatta’s purity of the knowledge and insight into the right and wrong path, (Maggāmaggañāṇadassana Visuddhi).

(6) Purity of Knowledge and Insight of The Path (Paṭipadā-ñāṇa-dassana visuddhi)

(7) Purity of Knowledge and Insight (Ñāṇa-dassana visuddhi)

The set of nine Knowledges of Insight[4] (Vipassanā-ñāṇa), beginning with udayabbayañāṇa and ending with anuloma-ñāṇa which arise in the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta, is known as Purity of Knowledge and Insight of the Path. The Four Noble Paths, (Ariyamagga), are known as the Purity of Knowledge and Insight, Ñāṇa-dassana-visuddhi.

(In this connection, it should especially be noted that: Sotāpatti-magga attained by the Buddha was the first jhāna-magga with the five factors of Initial application (vitakka), sustained application (vicāra), joy (pīti), happiness (sukha), and onepointedness (ekaggatā). Sakadāgāmi-magga was the second jhāna-magga with the three factors of pīti, sukha, and ekaggatā. Anāgāmi-magga was the third jhānamagga with the two factors of sukha and ekaggatā. Arahatta-magga was the fourth jhāna-magga with the two factors of upekkhā and ekaggatā.)

     ——Upakkilesa Sutta, Uparipaṇṇāsa Aṭṭhakathā——

Conclusion of the seven Purities:

In this manner, the series of the seven Purities, described above, constitute the right and proper way to Nibbāna. Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and noble Disciples of the past, present and future, realise Nibbāna only through the series of these seven Purities; and, to say the least, so do the noble individuals who attain the noble Path by developing at least tacapañcaka meditation[5] or by hearing a Dhamma Discourse in verse delivered by a Buddha through His projection of His image while He remained at the monastery. They attain the Noble Path (ariya-magga), only going through these seven Purities successively.

A question may be raised thus: If all the Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and Disciples of the three passages of time realise Nibbāna only through the series of the seven Purities, should not all these noble persons be alike in every respect? Why should there be such differences as: He was a Buddha, he was a Paccekabuddha, he was a Chief Disciple, (agga-sāvaka), he was a Great Disciple, (mahā-sāvaka), he was an ordinary Disciple, (pakati-sāvaka)?

The answer is: Although Nibbāna is realised by all the Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and Noble Disciples only through the series of the Seven Purities, they are originally different in wisdom (paññā), in practice (paṭipadā), in faith (saddhā) and in inherent disposition (ajjhāsaya-dhātu).

Therefore, the noble individual, who realise arahatta-phala through knowledge acquired by hearing the Dhamma from others (sutamaya-ñāṇa), after having developed the pāramīs according to the strength of his saddhā and paññā throughout a period of around one hundred thousand world-cycles, are designated Pakati-sāvakas and Mahā-sāvakas.

The noble individuals, who realise arahatta-phala through sutamaya-ñāṇa after having developed the pāramīs throughout a period of one asaṅkhyeyya and one hundred thousand world-cycles, or slightly less, are designated Agga-sāvakas.

The noble individuals, who realise arahatta-phala through knowledge independently acquired, without being taught by others, but by (sayambhu-ñāṇa) after having developed the pāramīs throughout a period of two asaṅkhyeyyas and one hundred thousand worldcycles but are incapable of teaching others the Dhamma which will enable them to attain magga and phala and Nibbāna, are designated Paccekabuddhas.

The noble peerless individuals, who after valiantly fulfilling their pāramīs for (the minimum period of) four asaṅkhyeyyas and one hundred thousand world-cycles and performing the five Great Sacrifices, which are not the concern of Pacceka Bodhisattas and Sāvaka Bodhisattas, attain arahatta-phala pinnacled by sabbaññutā-ñāṇa by means of sayambhū-ñāṇa. Superbly skilled in the use of words, they give Dhamma discourse with Four Profundities, namely, profundity of deep and subtle text (Pāli), profundity of meaning, profundity of the teaching, and profundity of the penetrating wisdom. They do so in many ways to suit the inherent dispositions of sentient beings. They are able to convey all worthy beings (veneyyas) to the Path, Fruition and Nibbāna and thus become their refuge. They are designated Perfectly Self-Enlightened Ones, Omniscient Buddhas, Lords of the three worlds. Since our noble Bodhisatta also is of such nature, he too is a Perfectly Self-Enlightened One, Lord of the three worlds and an Incomparable Buddha. (This is the answer.)

Footnotes and references:


saṃvara-sīla: The Practice of Sīla varies in accordance with the mode of life adopted by the disciple, whether a bhikkhu or a lay person. Suttas in the Nikāyas give extensive explanations of the practice of sīla, the type of moral training which necessarily precedes meditation. The Visuddhi-magga explains the moral training in general under four heads: (1) Pāṭimokkhasaṃvara, the Pāṭimokkha restraint, (2) Indriya-saṃvara, restraint of the senses, (3) Ājivapārisuddhi, Purity of Livelihood, (4) Paccayasannissita, Purity in regard to the requisites. Pāṭimokkha-saṃvara is meant for observance by the bhikkhu disciples of the Buddha; hence it is not mentioned in this account of the purity of the Bodhisatta’s morality.


Maggāmaggañānadassana Visuddhi: Knowledge as to whether it is the right path leading to Nibbāna or not is called Maggāmaggañāṇadassana Visuddhi.


Vipassān’upakkilesa: defilements of vipassanā.

A yogi practising Vipassanā meditation, at a certain stage of advancement, contemplates again and again the rising and falling of all mental and physical phenomena and attains the initial stage of the knowledge of arising and falling (udayyabbaya-ñāṇa).

“At this stage, he generally beholds a supernormal light (obhāsa), feels a thrill of zest (pīti), calmness (passaddhi), determination (adhimokkha), great energy (paggaha), happiness (sukha), deep insight (ñāṇa), intensity of mindfulness (upatthāna), equanimity (upekkhā), and a mild desire for this state (nikanti)”. (From Essential Themes of Buddhist Lectures given by Ashin Thittila. Department of Religious Affairs. Yangon, Myanma, 1992.)

These states arising in a yogi at the stage of udayabbaya-ñāṇa in ten phases are termed Vipassānupakkilesa, defilements of kilesa. Ñāṇamoli, in The Path of Purification translates it as imperfections of Insight and enumerates them, ten in number, as follows: (1) Illumination, (2) knowledge, (3) rapturous happiness, (4) tranquillity, (5) bliss (pleasure), (6) resolution, (7) exertion, (8) assurance, (9) equanimity and (10) attachment.

“The yogi, arriving at this stage, is liable to these defilements and his mind may be seized by ‘spiritual excitement’ or ‘agitation about higher states’ (dhamma-uddhacca). For example, he may, on having an illumination, feel that this constitutes Path-experience and so inhibits his further progress through deceiving himself. When an illumination appears, the meditator thinks: ‘Never indeed has such illumination as this arisen in me before. Surely, I have reached the Path; I have reached the Fruition’. Thus he takes which is not the Path for the Path, and that which is not the Fruition for the Fruition. Through this mistake, the progress of Vipassanā is checked; leaving the original subject of meditation, he lingers, delighting in the illumination.” (Buddhist Meditation in theory and practice. by Vijirañāna Mahā Thera.—Buddhist Missionary Society, Malaysia. 1975.)


Nine Knowledges of Insight: According to Visuddhi-magga, they are "(1) Knowledge of contemplation of Rise and Fall, (Udayavayanupassanā-ñāṇa), which is free from imperfection and steady on its course, (2) Knowledge of contemplation of Dissolution, (Bhanganupassanāñāṇa); (3) Knowledge of appearance as terror, (Bhayanupassanā-ñāṇa); (4) Knowledge of contemplation of danger, (Adinavanupassanā-ñāṇa); (5) Knowledge of contemplation of dispassion, (Nibbidanupassanā-ñāṇa); (6) Knowledge of desire for deliverance, (Muñcitukamyatā-ñāṇa); (7) Knowledge of contemplation of reflection, (Paṭisaṅkhānupassanāñāṇa); (8) Knowledge of uluanimity about formations, (Sankhārupekkhā-ñāṇa) and (9) Knowledge in Conformity with Truth, (Anuloma-ñāṇa) For further elucidation, see Chapter XXI of The Path of Purification by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli.)


Tacapañcaka meditation: meditation on the first five features of the body with skin (taca) as the fifth, the other four being hair on the head (kesa), hair on the body (loma), nail (nakha) and teeth (dantā). It is part of the mindfulness meditation of the body (kayagatāsati bhāvanā).

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