Buddhaghosa (Devanāgarī: बुद्धघोस, Thai: พระพุทธโฆษาจารย์, Chinese: 覺音/佛音) was a 5th-century Indian Theravada Buddhist commentator, translator and philosopher.[1][2] He worked in the Great Monastery (Mahāvihāra) at Anurādhapura, Sri Lanka and saw himself as being part of the Vibhajjavāda school and in the lineage of the Sinhalese Mahāvihāra.[3]

His best-known work is the Visuddhimagga ("Path of Purification"), a comprehensive summary of older Sinhalese commentaries on Theravada teachings and practices. According to Sarah Shaw, in Theravada this systematic work is "the principal text on the subject of meditation."[4] The interpretations provided by Buddhaghosa have generally constituted the orthodox understanding of Theravada scriptures since at least the 12th century CE.[5][6]

He is generally recognized by both Western scholars and Theravadins as the most important philosopher and commentator of the Theravada,[2][7] but is also criticised for his departures from the canonical texts.

Buddhaghosa with three copies of Visuddhimagga
Buddhaghosa with three copies of Visuddhimagga, Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
OccupationBuddhist monk
Era5th century
MovementTheravada Buddhism


The name Buddhaghosa means "Voice of the Buddha" (Buddha+ghosa) in Pali[8], the language in which Buddhaghosa composed. In Sanskrit, the name would be spelled Buddhaghoṣa (Devanagari बुद्धघोष), but there is no retroflex ṣ sound in Pali, and the name is not found in Sanskrit works.[9]


Limited reliable information is available about the life of Buddhaghosa. Three primary sources of information exist: short prologues and epilogues attached to Buddhaghosa's works; details of his life recorded in the Mahavamsa, a Sri Lankan chronicle; and a later biographical work called the Buddhaghosuppatti.[10][11] A few other sources discuss the life of Buddhaghosa, but do not appear to add any reliable material.[7]

The biographical excerpts attached to works attributed to Buddhaghosa reveal relatively few details of his life, but were presumably added at the time of his actual composition.[7][12] Largely identical in form, these short excerpts describe Buddhaghosa as having come to Sri Lanka from India and settled in Anuradhapura.[13] Besides this information, they provide only short lists of teachers, supporters, and associates of Buddhaghosa, whose names are not generally to be found elsewhere for comparison.[13]

The Mahavamsa records that Buddhaghosa was born into a Brahmin family in the kingdom of Magadha.[2] He is said to have been born near Bodh Gaya, and to have been a master of the Vedas, traveling through India engaging in philosophical debates.[14] Only upon encountering a Buddhist monk named Revata was Buddhaghosa bested in debate, first being defeated in a dispute over the meaning of a Vedic doctrine and then being confounded by the presentation of a teaching from the Abhidhamma.[14] Impressed, Buddhaghosa became a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) and undertook the study of the Tipiṭaka and its commentaries. On finding a text for which the commentary had been lost in India, Buddhaghosa determined to travel to Sri Lanka to study a Sinhalese commentary that was believed to have been preserved.[14]

In Sri Lanka, Buddhaghosa began to study what was apparently a very large volume of Sinhala commentarial texts that had been assembled and preserved by the monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya.[15] Buddhaghosa sought permission to synthesize the assembled Sinhalese-language commentaries into a comprehensive single commentary composed in Pali.[16] Traditional accounts hold that the elder monks sought to first test Buddhaghosa's knowledge by assigning him the task of elaborating the doctrine regarding two verses of the suttas; Buddhaghosa replied by composing the Visuddhimagga.[17] His abilities were further tested when deities intervened and hid the text of his book, twice forcing him to recreate it from scratch.[18] When the three texts were found to completely summarize all of the Tipiṭaka and match in every respect, the monks acceded to his request and provided Buddhaghosa with the full body of their commentaries.[16]

Buddhaghosa went on to write commentaries on most of the other major books of the Pali Canon, with his works becoming the definitive Theravadin interpretation of the scriptures.[2] Having synthesized or translated the whole of the Sinhalese commentary preserved at the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya, Buddhaghosa reportedly returned to India, making a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya to pay his respects to the Bodhi Tree.[16]

The details of the Mahavamsa account cannot readily be verified; while it is generally regarded by Western scholars as having been embellished with legendary events (such as the hiding of Buddhaghosa's text by the gods), in the absence of contradictory evidence it is assumed to be generally accurate.[16] While the Mahavamsa claims that Buddhaghosa was born in northern India near Bodh Gaya, the epilogues to his commentaries make reference to only one location in India as being a place of at least temporary residence: Kanci in southern India.[7] Some scholars thus conclude (among them Oskar von Hinüber and Polwatte Buddhadatta Thera) that Buddhaghosa was actually born in South India and was relocated in later biographies to give him closer ties to the region of the Buddha.[7]

The Buddhaghosuppatti, a later biographical text, is generally regarded by Western scholars as being legend rather than history.[19] It adds to the Mahavamsa tale certain details, such as the identity of Buddhaghosa's parents and his village, as well as several dramatic episodes, such as the conversion of Buddhaghosa's father and Buddhaghosa's role in deciding a legal case.[20] It also explains the eventual loss of the Sinhalese originals that Buddhaghosa worked from in creating his Pali commentaries by claiming that Buddhaghosa collected and burnt the original manuscripts once his work was completed.[21]

Commentarial style

Buddhaghosa was reputedly responsible for an extensive project of synthesizing and translating a large body of ancient Sinhala commentaries on the Pāli Canon. His Visuddhimagga (Pāli: Path of Purification) is a comprehensive manual of Theravada Buddhism that is still read and studied today.[22][23][24] Maria Heim notes that, while Buddhaghosa worked by using older Sinhalese commentarial tradition, he is also "the crafter of a new version of it that rendered the original version obsolete, for his work supplanted the Sinhala versions that are now lost to us".[25]

Writing style

Ñāṇamoli Bhikkhu writes that Buddhaghosa's work is "characterized by relentless accuracy, consistency, and fluency of erudition, and much dominated by formalism."[26] According to Richard Shankman, the Visuddhimagga is "meticulous and specific," in contrast to the Pali suttas, which "can be vague at times, without a lot of explanatory detail and open to various interpretations."[27]


According to Maria Heim, Buddhaghosa is explicitly clear and systematic regarding his hermeneutical principles and exegetical strategies in his commentaries. He writes and theorizes on texts, genre, registers of discourse, reader response, Buddhist knowledge and pedagogy.[28] Buddhaghosa considers each Pitaka of the Buddhist canon a kind of method (naya) that requires different skills to interpret. One of his most important ideas about exegesis of the buddha's words (buddhavacana) is that these words are immeasurable, that is to say, there are innumerable ways and modes to teach and explain the Dhamma and likewise there are innumerable ways in which to receive these teachings.[29] According to Heim, Buddhaghosa considered the dhamma to be "well-spoken [...] visible here and now, timeless,"[29] visible meaning that the fruits of the path can be seen in the behavior of the noble ones, and that comprehending the dhamma is a transformative way of seeing, which has immediate impact.[30] According to Heim, this idea of the transformative and immediate impact of the scriptures is "vital to Buddhaghosa's interpretative practice," concerned as he is with the immediate and transformative impact of the Buddha's words on his audiences, as attested in the suttas[31]

Regarding his systematic thought, Maria Heim and Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad see Buddhaghosa's use of Abhidhamma as part of a phenomenological "contemplative structuring" which is expressed in his writings on Buddhist praxis.[32] They argue that "Buddhaghosa’s use of nāma-rūpa should be seen as the analytic by which he understands how experience is undergone, and not his account of how some reality is structured."[32]

Yogacara influences

Some scholars have argued that Buddhaghosa's writing evinces a strong but unacknowledged Yogācāra Buddhist influence, which subsequently came to characterize Theravada thought in the wake of his profound influence on the Theravada tradition.[33] According to Kalupahana, Buddhaghosa was influenced by Mahayana-thought, which were subtly mixed with Theravada orthodoxy to introduce new ideas. According to Kalupahana, this eventually led to the flowering of metaphysical tendencies, in contrast to the original stress on anattā in early Buddhism.[34] According to Jonardon Ganeri, though Buddhaghosa may have been influenced by Yogacara Vijñānavāda, "the influence consists not in endorsement but in creative engagement and refutation."[35]

Theory of consciousness

The philosopher Jonardon Ganeri has called attention to Buddhaghosa's theory of the nature of consciousness and attention. Ganeri calls Buddhaghosa's approach a kind of "attentionalism", which places primacy on the faculty of attention in explaining activities of thought and mind and is against representationalism.[36] Ganeri also states that Buddhaghosa's treatment of cognition "anticipates the concept of working memory, the idea of mind as a global workplace, subliminal orienting, and the thesis that visual processing occurs at three levels."[36] Ganeri also states:

Buddhaghosa is unlike nearly every other Buddhist philosopher in that he discusses episodic memory and knows it as a reliving of experience from one’s personal past; but he blocks any reduction of the phenomenology of temporal experience to the representation of oneself as in the past. The alternative claim that episodic memory is a phenomenon of attention is one he develops with greater sophistication than has been done elsewhere.[36]

Ganeri sees Buddhaghosa's work as being free from a mediational picture of the mind and also free of the Myth of the Given, two views he sees as having been introduced by the Indian philosopher Dignāga.[37]


The Visuddhimagga's doctrine reflects Theravada Abhidhamma scholasticism, which includes several innovations and interpretations not found in the earliest discourses (suttas) of the Buddha.[38][39] Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga includes non-canonical instructions on Theravada meditation, such as "ways of guarding the mental image (nimitta)," which point to later developments in Theravada meditation.[4] According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "the Visuddhimagga uses a very different paradigm for concentration from what you find in the Canon."[40] Bhante Henepola Gunaratana also notes that what "the suttas say is not the same as what the Visuddhimagga says [...] they are actually different," leading to a divergence between a [traditional] scholarly understanding and a practical understanding based on meditative experience.[41] Gunaratana further notes that Buddhaghosa invented several key meditation terms which are not to be found in the suttas, such as "parikamma samadhi (preparatory concentration), upacara samadhi (access concentration), appanasamadhi (absorption concentration)."[42] Gunaratana also notes that the Buddhaghosa's emphasis on kasina-meditation is not to be found in the suttas, where dhyana is always combined with mindfulness.[43][note 1]

Bhikkhu Sujato has argued that certain views regarding Buddhist meditation expounded in the Visuddhimagga are a "distortion of the Suttas" since it denies the necessity of jhana.[44] The Australian monk Shravasti Dhammika is also critical of contemporary practice based on this work.[45] He concludes that Buddhaghosa did not believe that following the practice set forth in the Visuddhimagga will really lead him to Nirvana, basing himself on the postscript to the Visuddhimagga:[45]

Even Buddhaghosa did not really believe that Theravada practice could lead to Nirvana. His Visuddhimagga is supposed to be a detailed, step by step guide to enlightenment. And yet in the postscript [...] he says he hopes that the merit he has earned by writing the Vishuddhimagga will allow him to be reborn in heaven, abide there until Metteyya (Maitreya) appears, hear his teaching and then attain enlightenment.[45][note 2]

According to Sarah Shaw, "it is unlikely that the meditative tradition could have survived in such a healthy way, if at all, without his detailed lists and exhaustive guidance."[4] Yet, according to Buswell, by the 10th century vipassana was no longer practiced in the Theravada tradition, due to the believe that Buddhism had degenerated, and that liberation was no longer attainable until the coming of Maitreya.[48] It was re-introduced in Myanmar (Burma) in the 18th century by Medawi (1728–1816), leading to the rise of the Vipassana movement in the 20th century, re-inventing vipassana-meditation and developing simplified meditation techniques, based on the Satipatthana sutta, the Visuddhimagga, and other texts, emphasizing satipatthana and bare insight.[49][50][51]

Attributed works

The Mahavamsa ascribes a great many books to Buddhaghosa, some of which are believed not to have been his work, but composed later and attributed to him.[52] Below is a listing of the fourteen commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) on the Pāli Canon traditionally ascribed to Buddhaghosa[53]

Tipitaka Buddhaghosa's
from the
Vinaya Pitaka
Vinaya (general) Samantapasadika
Patimokkha Kankhavitarani
from the
Sutta Pitaka
Digha Nikaya Sumangalavilasini
Majjhima Nikaya Papañcasudani
Samyutta Nikaya Saratthappakasini
Anguttara Nikaya Manorathapurani
from the
Khuddaka Nikaya
Khuddakapatha Paramatthajotika (I)
Dhammapada Dhammapada-atthakatha
Sutta Nipata Paramatthajotika (II),
Jataka Jatakatthavannana,
from the
Abhidhamma Pitaka
Dhammasangani Atthasālinī
Vibhanga Sammohavinodani
Dhatukatha Pañcappakaranatthakatha

While traditional accounts list Buddhaghosa as the author of all of these works, some scholars hold that only the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries on the first four Nikayas as Buddhaghosa's work.[54] Meanwhile, Maria Heim holds that Buddhaghosa is the author of the commentaries on the first four Nikayas, the Samantapasadika, the Paramatthajotika, the Visuddhimagga and the three commentaries on the books of the Abhidhamma.[55]

Maria Heim also notes that some scholars hold that Buddaghosa was the head of a team of scholars and translators, and that this is not an unlikely scenario.[56]

Influence and legacy

In the 12th century, the Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) monk Sāriputta Thera became the leading scholar of the Theravada following the reunification of the Sri Lankan (Sinhale) monastic community by King Parakramabahu I.[5] Sariputta incorporated many of the works of Buddhaghosa into his own interpretations.[5] In subsequent years, many monks from Theravada traditions in Southeast Asia sought ordination or re-ordination in Sri Lanka because of the reputation of the Sri Lankan (Sinhale) Mahavihara lineage for doctrinal purity and scholarship.[5] The result was the spread of the teachings of the Mahavihara tradition — and thus Buddhaghosa — throughout the Theravada world.[5] Buddhaghosa's commentaries thereby became the standard method by which the Theravada scriptures were understood, establishing Buddhaghosa as the definitive interpreter of Theravada doctrine.[17]

In later years, Buddhaghosa's fame and influence inspired various accolades. His life story was recorded, in an expanded and likely exaggerated form, in a Pali chronicle known as the Buddhaghosuppatti, or "The Development of the Career of Buddhaghosa".[17] Despite the general belief that he was Indian by birth, he later may have been claimed by the Mon people of Burma as an attempt to assert primacy over Sri Lanka in the development of Theravada tradition.[57] Other scholars believe that the Mon records refer to another figure, but whose name and personal history are much in the mold of the Indian Buddhaghosa.[19]

Finally, Buddhaghosa's works likely played a significant role in the revival and preservation of the Pali language as the scriptural language of the Theravada, and as a lingua franca in the exchange of ideas, texts, and scholars between Sri Lanka and the Theravada countries of mainland Southeast Asia. The development of new analyses of Theravada doctrine, both in Pali and Sinhalese, seems to have dried up prior to Buddhaghosa's emergence in Sri Lanka.[58] In India, new schools of Buddhist philosophy (such as the Mahayana) were emerging, many of them making use of classical Sanskrit both as a scriptural language and as a language of philosophical discourse.[58] The monks of the Mahavihara may have attempted to counter the growth of such schools by re-emphasizing the study and composition in Pali, along with the study of previously disused secondary sources that may have vanished in India, as evidenced by the Mahavamsa.[59] Early indications of this resurgence in the use of Pali as a literary language may be visible in the composition of the Dipavamsa and the Vimuttimagga, both dating to shortly before Buddhaghosa's arrival in Sri Lanka.[10] The addition of Buddhaghosa's works — which combined the pedigree of the oldest Sinhalese commentaries with the use of Pali, a language shared by all of the Theravada learning centers of the time — provided a significant boost to the revitalization of the Pali language and the Theravada intellectual tradition, possibly aiding the Theravada school in surviving the challenge to its position posed by emerging Buddhist schools of mainland India.[60]

According to Maria Heim, he is "one of the greatest minds in the history of Buddhism" and British philosopher Jonardon Ganeri considers Buddhaghosa "a true innovator, a pioneer, and a creative thinker."[61][62] Yet, according to Buddhadasa, Buddhaghosa was influenced by Hindu thought, and the uncritical respect for the Visuddhimagga has even hindered the practice of authentic Buddhism.[63][64]


  1. ^ See also Bronkhorst (1993), Two Traditions of Meditation in ancient India; Wynne (2007), The Origin of Buddhist Meditation; and Polak (2011), Reexaming Jhana
  2. ^ Devotion to Metteya was common in South Asia from early in the Buddhist era, and is believed to have been particularly popular during Buddhaghosa's era.[46][47]


  1. ^ (v. Hinüber 1996, p. 103) is more specific, estimating dates for Buddhaghosa of 370–450 CE based on the Mahavamsa and other sources. Following the Mahavamsa, (Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxvi) places Buddhaghosa's arrival as coming during the reign of King Mahanama, between 412 and 434 CE.
  2. ^ a b c d Strong 2004, p. 75.
  3. ^ Gethin, Rupert, Was Buddhaghosa a Theravādin? Buddhist Identity in the Pali Commentariesand Chronicles, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Shaw 2006, p. 5.
  5. ^ a b c d e (Crosby 2004, p. 837)
  6. ^ Gombrich 2012, p. 51.
  7. ^ a b c d e (v. Hinüber 1996, p. 102)
  8. ^ Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, Pali-English Dictionary, Pali Text Society.
  9. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary". Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxviii.
  11. ^ Gray 1892.
  12. ^ (Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxix)
  13. ^ a b Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxix-xxx.
  14. ^ a b c Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxiv.
  15. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxii.
  16. ^ a b c d Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxv.
  17. ^ a b c Strong 2004, p. 76.
  18. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxc.
  19. ^ a b Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxix.
  20. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxvii-xxxviii.
  21. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxviii.
  22. ^ 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. JSTOR 25222520.
  23. ^ 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. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00111346. JSTOR 608574.
  24. ^ Edgerton, Franklin (January 1952). "Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosācariya by Henry Clarke Warren; Dharmananda Kosambi". Philosophy East and West. 1 (4): 84–85. doi:10.2307/1397003. JSTOR 1397003.
  25. ^ Heim 2014, p. 7.
  26. ^ Ñāṇamoli, 1999, Introduction p. xxxvii
  27. ^ Shankman 2008, p. 54.
  28. ^ Heim 2018, p. 5-6.
  29. ^ a b Heim 2018, p. 9.
  30. ^ Heim 2018, p. 13.
  31. ^ Heim 2018, p. 14.
  32. ^ a b Heim, Ram-Prasad, In a Double Way: Nāma-rūpa in Buddhaghosa’s Phenomenology, Philosophy East and West, University of Hawai'i Press.
  33. ^ Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogācāra Buddhism by Dan Lusthaus. RoutledgeCurzom: 2002 ISBN 0700711864 pg 106 n 30
  34. ^ Kalupahana 1994.
  35. ^ Ganeri, 2018, 32.
  36. ^ a b c Ganeri, 2018, 31.
  37. ^ Ganeri, 2018, 34.
  38. ^ Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
  39. ^ Sujato, A History of Mindfulness How insight worsted tranquillity in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Santipada, p. 329.
  40. ^ Shankman 2008, p. 117.
  41. ^ Shankman 2008, p. 136.
  42. ^ Shankman 2008, p. 137.
  43. ^ Shankman 2008, p. 137-138.
  44. ^ Sujato, A History of Mindfulness How insight worsted tranquillity in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Santipada, p. 332.
  45. ^ a b c The Broken Buddha by S. Dhammika, see p.13 of 80
  46. ^ Sponberg 2004, p. 737–738.
  47. ^ "Maitreya (Buddhism) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  48. ^ Buswell 2004, p. 889.
  49. ^ Buswell 2004, p. 890.
  50. ^ McMahan 2008, p. 189.
  51. ^ David Chapman, Theravada reinvents meditation
  52. ^ (v. Hinüber 1996, p. 103)
  53. ^ Table based on (Bullitt 2002) For translations see Atthakatha
  54. ^ For instance, regarding the Khuddha Nikaya commentaries, (v. Hinüber 1996, pp. 130–1) writes:
    Neither Pj [Paramattha-jotika] I nor Pj II can be dated, not even in relation to each other, except that both presuppose Buddhaghosa. In spite of the 'Buddhaghosa colophon' added to both commentaries ... no immediate relation to Buddhaghosa can be recognized.... Both Ja [Jataka-atthavannana] and Dhp-a [Dhammapada-atthakatha] are traditionally ascribed to Buddhaghosa, an assumption which has been rightly questioned by modern research....
  55. ^ Heim 2018, p. 19.
  56. ^ Heim 2014, p. 9.
  57. ^ (Pranke 2004, p. 574)
  58. ^ a b Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxvii.
  59. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxvii-xxviii.
  60. ^ Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. xxxix-x.
  61. ^ Heim 2013, p. 4.
  62. ^ Ganeri, 2018, p. 30.
  63. ^ S. Payulpitack (1991), Buddhadasa and His Interpretation of Buddhism
  64. ^ Buddhadasa, [https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books6/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Paticcasamuppada.htm Paticcasamuppada: Practical Dependent Origination]


  • Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (1999), "Introduction", in Buddhaghosa (ed.), Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification, translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, Seattle: Buddhist Publication Society, ISBN 1-928706-01-0
  • Bullitt, John T. (2002), Beyond the Tipitaka: A Field Guide to Post-canonical Pali Literature, retrieved 2009-04-07
  • last Buswell, Robert, ed. (2004), Encyclopedia of Buddhism, MacMillan
  • Crosby, Kate (2004), "Theravada", in Buswell, Jr., Robert E. (ed.), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, USA: Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 836–841, ISBN 0-02-865910-4
  • Ganeri, Jonardon (2017), Attention, Not Self, Oxford University Press
  • Gray, James, trans. (1892), Buddhaghosuppatti or the Historical Romance of the Rise and Career of Buddhaghosa, London: Luzac
  • Heim, Maria (2013), The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency, USA: OUP USA
  • Heim, Maria (2018), Voice of the Buddha: Buddhaghosa on the Immeasurable Words, Oxford University Press
  • Hinüber, Oskar von (1996), A Handbook of Pali Literature, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-215-0778-2
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
  • McMahan, David L. (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195183276
  • Pranke, Patrick A. (2004), "Myanmar", in Buswell, Jr., Robert E. (ed.), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, USA: Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 574–577, ISBN 0-02-865910-4
  • Rogers, Henry Thomas, trans. (1870): Buddhaghosha's Parables / translated from Burmese. With an Introduction, containing Buddha's Dhammapada, or "Path of Virtue" / transl. from Pâli by F. Max Müller, London: Trübner.
  • Shankman, Richard (2008), The Experience of Samadhi: An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation, Shambhala
  • Shaw, Sarah (2006), Buddhist Meditation: An Anthology of Texts from the Pali Canon, Routledge
  • Sponberg, Alan (2004), "Maitreya", in Buswell, Jr., Robert E. (ed.), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, USA: Macmillan Reference USA, ISBN 0-02-865910-4
  • Strong, John (2004), "Buddhaghosa", in Buswell, Jr., Robert E. (ed.), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, USA: Macmillan Reference USA, p. 75, ISBN 0-02-865910-4

Further reading

External links


Abhidharma (Sanskrit) or Abhidhamma (Pali) are ancient (3rd century BCE and later) Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist sutras, according to schematic classifications. The Abhidhamma works do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or abstract and systematic lists.


Arhat is defined in Theravada Buddhism as one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana. Other Buddhist traditions have used the term for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment, but who may not have reached full Buddhahood.The understanding of the concept has changed over the centuries, and varies between different schools of Buddhism and different regions. A range of views on the attainment of arhats existed in the early Buddhist schools. The Sarvāstivāda, Kāśyapīya, Mahāsāṃghika, Ekavyāvahārika, Lokottaravāda, Bahuśrutīya, Prajñaptivāda, and Caitika schools all regarded arhats as imperfect in their attainments compared to buddhas.Mahayana Buddhist teachings urge followers to take up the path of a bodhisattva, and to not fall back to the level of arhats and śrāvakas. The arhats, or at least the senior arhats, came to be widely regarded as "moving beyond the state of personal freedom to join the Bodhisattva enterprise in their own way".Mahayana Buddhism regarded a group of Eighteen Arhats (with names and personalities) as awaiting the return of the Buddha as Maitreya, while other groupings of 6, 8, 16, 100, and 500 also appear in tradition and Buddhist art, especially in East Asia called lohan. They may be seen as the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saint, apostles or early disciples and leaders of the faith.


Aṭṭhakathā (Pali for explanation, commentary) refers to Pali-language Theravadin Buddhist commentaries to the canonical Theravadin Tipitaka. These commentaries give the traditional interpretations of the scriptures. The major commentaries were based on earlier ones, now lost, in Prakrit and Sinhala, which were written down at the same time as the Canon, in the last century BCE. Some material in the commentaries is found in canonical texts of other schools of Buddhism, suggesting an early common source.

As with the Canon itself, the contents of collected editions of the Theravadin commentaries, compiled from the fourth century CE onwards, vary between editions. The minimal collection, found in the Thai edition (1992) includes the following (Skilling 2002).

Twelve commentaries ascribed to Buddhaghosa: commentary on the Vinaya Pitaka; commentary on the Sutta Pitaka :- one each on the Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya and Anguttara Nikaya; four on Khuddaka Nikaya books; and three on the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Commentaries by Dhammapala on seven books of the Khuddaka Nikaya.

Four commentaries by various authors on four other books of the Khuddaka Nikaya.In addition, the following are included in one or both of the other two editions: the Burmese Chatthasangayana edition (a list of contents can be found in Thein Han 1981) and the Sinhalese Simon Hewavitarne Bequest edition.

Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, a systematic presentation of the traditional teaching; the commentaries on the first four nikayas refer to this for the material it details. In both Sinhalese (Mori et al. 1994) and Burmese

The Patimokkha (Pruitt & Norman 2001, page xxxvi) and its commentary Kankhavitarani, ascribed to Buddhaghosa

Commentary by Dhammapala on the Nettipakarana, a work sometimes included in the canon

Vinayasangaha, a selection of passages from Samantapasadika arranged topically by Sariputta in the twelfth century (Crosby 2006)

Saratthasamuccaya, commentary on the Paritta. In Sinhalese (Malalasekera 1938).


Atthasālinī (Pali) is a Buddhist text composed by Buddhaghosa in the Theravada Abhidharma tradition. The title has been translated as "The Expositor" or "Providing the Meaning". In the Atthasālinī, Buddhaghosa explains the meaning of terms that occur in the Dhammasangani, a Buddhist text that is part of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.


In Buddhism, bodhipakkhiyā dhammā (Pali; variant spellings include bodhipakkhikā dhammā and bodhapakkhiyā dhammā; Skt.: bodhipakṣa dharma) are qualities (dhammā) conducive or related to (pakkhiya) awakening (bodhi).

In the Pali commentaries, the term bodhipakkhiyā dhammā is used to refer to seven sets of such qualities regularly mentioned by the Buddha throughout the Pali Canon. Within these seven sets of Enlightenment qualities, there is a total of thirty-seven individual qualities (sattatiṃsa bodhipakkhiyā dhammā).These seven sets of qualities are recognized by both Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhists as complementary facets of the Buddhist Path to Enlightenment.A sutta found in The Senior Collection of Gandhāran Buddhist texts ascribes forty one instead of thirty seven beneficial dharmas. The Gandharan text includes rūpajhānas which the Pali tradition does not. Salomon notes this forty one numbered list appears in both a Chinese translation of the Dirghagama which current scholarship believes to be of the Dharmaguptaka school of Buddhism and a Chinese translation of the Dharmaguptaka vinaya.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Sri Lanka practiced by 70.2% of Sri Lanka's population. Practitioners of Buddhism can be found amongst the Sinhalese population as well as the Tamil population. Buddhism has been given the foremost place under Article 9 of the Constitution which can be traced back to an attempt to bring the status of Buddhism back to the status it enjoyed prior to being destroyed by colonialists. However, by virtue of Article 10 of the Sri Lankan constitution, religious rights of all communities are preserved. Sri Lanka is the traditionally oldest religious Buddhist country where Buddhist Aryan culture is protected and preserved. The island has been a center of Buddhist scholarship and learning since the introduction of Buddhism in the third century BCE producing eminent scholars such as Buddhaghosa and preserving the vast Pāli Canon. Throughout most of its history, Sri Lankan kings have played a major role in the maintenance and revival of the Buddhist institutions of the island. During the 19th century, a modern Buddhist revival took place on the island which promoted Buddhist education and learning. There are around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries on Sri Lanka with approximately 15,000 monks.

Buddhist meditation

Buddhist meditation is the practice of meditation in Buddhism. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā ("mental development") and jhāna/dhyāna (mental training resulting in a calm and luminous mind).Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward liberation, awakening and Nirvana, and includes a variety of meditation techniques, most notably asubha bhavana ("reflections on repulsiveness"); reflection on pratityasamutpada (dependent origination); sati (mindfulness) and anussati (recollections), including anapanasati (breath meditation); dhyana (developing an alert and luminous mind); and the Brahma-viharas (loving-kindness and compassion). These techniques aim to develop equanimity and sati (mindfulness); samadhi (concentration) c.q. samatha (tranquility) and vipassanā (insight); and are also said to lead to abhijñā (supramundane powers). These meditation techniques are preceded by and combined with practices which aid this development, such as moral restraint and right effort to develop wholesome states of mind.

While these techniques are used across Buddhist schools, there is also significant diversity. In the Theravada tradition, reflecting developments in early Buddhism, meditation techniques are classified as either samatha (calming the mind) and vipassana (gaining insight). Chinese and Japanese Buddhism preserved a wide range of meditation techniques, which go back to early Buddhism, most notably Sarvastivada. In Tibetan Buddhism, deity yoga includes visualisations, which precede the realization of sunyata ("emptiness").


The Dhammapada (Pāli; Prakrit: धम्मपद Dhammapada; Chinese: 法句经/法句經 fajujing. Japanese: ダンマパダ. Korean: 법구경/담마 파다 beobgugyeong.) is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form and one of the most widely read and best known Buddhist scriptures. The original version of the Dhammapada is in the Khuddaka Nikaya, a division of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.

The Buddhist scholar and commentator Buddhaghosa explains that each saying recorded in the collection was made on a different occasion in response to a unique situation that had arisen in the life of the Buddha and his monastic community. His translation of the commentary, the Dhammapada Atthakatha, presents the details of these events and is a rich source of legend for the life and times of the Buddha.


Indriya (literally "belonging to or agreeable to Indra") is the Sanskrit and Pali term for physical strength or ability in general, and for the senses more specifically.

In Buddhism, the term refers to multiple intrapsychic processes and is generally translated as "faculty" or, in specific contexts, as "spiritual faculty" or "controlling principle."

The term literally means "belonging to Indra," chief deity in the Rig Veda and lord of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven (also known as Śakra or Sakka in Buddhism) hence connoting supremacy, dominance and control, attested in the general meaning of "power, strength" from the Rig Veda.In Buddhism, depending on the context, indriya traditionally refers to one of the following groups of faculties:

the 5 spiritual faculties

the 5 or 6 sensory faculties

the 22 phenomenological faculties


In Buddhism, kammaṭṭhāna is a Pali word (Sanskrit: karmasthana) which literally means the place of work. Its original meaning was someone's occupation (farming, trading, cattle-tending, etc.). It has several distinct but related usages, all having to do with Buddhist meditation.


Karuṇā (in both Sanskrit and Pali) is generally translated as compassion and self-compassion. It is part of the spiritual path of both Buddhism and Jainism.

List of suttas

Suttas from the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

List of Digha Nikaya suttas

List of Majjhima Nikaya suttas

List of Samyutta Nikaya suttas

List of Anguttara Nikaya suttas

List of Khuddaka Nikaya suttas

Middle Way

The Middle Way or Middle Path (Pali: Majjhimāpaṭipadā; Sanskrit: Madhyamāpratipada; Tibetan: དབུ་མའི་ལམ།, THL: Umélam; traditional Chinese: 中道; ; Vietnamese: Trung đạo; Thai: มัชฌิมาปฏิปทา) is the term that Gautama Buddha used to describe the character of the Noble Eightfold Path he discovered that leads to liberation.

Pali literature

Pali literature is concerned mainly with Theravada Buddhism, of which Pali is the traditional language. The earliest and most important Pali literature constitutes the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada school.


Passaddhi is a Pali noun (Sanskrit: prasrabhi, Tibetan: ཤིན་ཏུ་སྦྱང་བ་,Tibetan Wylie: shin tu sbyang ba) that has been translated as "calmness," "tranquillity," "repose" and "serenity." The associated verb is passambhati (to calm down, to be quiet).In Buddhism, passaddhi refers to tranquillity of the body, speech, thoughts and consciousness on the path to enlightenment. As part of cultivated mental factors, passaddhi is preceded by rapture (pīti) and precedes concentration (samādhi).

Passaddhi is identified as a wholesome factor in the following canonical contexts:

the seven factors of enlightenment (sambojjhangas)

meditative absorptions (jhanani)

transcendental dependent arising (lokuttara-paticcasamuppada)

Prajñā (Buddhism)

Prajñā (Sanskrit) or paññā (Pāli) "wisdom" is insight in the true nature of reality, namely primarily anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), and anattā (non-self). In addition, Abhidharma and later Mahāyāna text may include suññatā (Skt; Eng: emptiness).

Seven Factors of Awakening

In Buddhism, the Seven Factors of Awakening (Pali: satta bojjhaṅgā or satta sambojjhaṅgā; Skt.: sapta bodhyanga) are:

Mindfulness (sati). To maintain awareness of reality (dharma).

Investigation of the nature of reality (dhamma vicaya).

Energy (viriya) also determination, effort

Joy or rapture (pīti)

Relaxation or tranquility (passaddhi) of both body and mind

Concentration, (samādhi) a calm, one-pointed state of mind, or clear awareness

Equanimity (upekkha). To accept reality as-it-is (yatha-bhuta) without craving or aversion.This evaluation of seven awakening factors is one of the "Seven Sets" of "Awakening-related states" (bodhipakkhiyadhamma).

The Pali word bojjhanga is a compound of bodhi ("awakening," "enlightenment") and anga ("factor").


Upādāna is a Vedic Sanskrit and Pali word that means "fuel, material cause, substrate that is the source and means for keeping an active process energized". It is also an important Buddhist concept referring to "attachment, clinging, grasping". It is considered to be the result of taṇhā (craving), and is part of the dukkha (suffering, pain) doctrine in Buddhism.


The Visuddhimagga (Pali; English: The Path of Purification), is the 'great treatise' on Theravada Buddhist doctrine written by Buddhaghosa approximately in the 5th Century in Sri Lanka. It is a manual condensing and systematizing the 5th century understanding and interpretation of the Buddhist path as maintained by the elders of the Mahavihara Monastery in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

It is considered the most important Theravada text outside of the Tipitaka canon of scriptures, and is described as "the hub of a complete and coherent method of exegesis of the Tipitaka," but it has also been criticised for its non-canonical departures, and its interpretation of dhyana as concentration-meditation.

Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
Major figures


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