Visuddhimagga: Why people doubt it?

I saw this video on YouTube. Personally I read Visuddhimagga and so far, I don’t see anything off from what was taught in Theravada Buddhism. It is curious how people downgrade the Visuddhimagga desperately just because it was written later in Sri Lanka.

Because they don’t understand Abhidhamma. They don’t understand elements. They don’t see how Abhidhamma is exactly what is here and now, exactly what is real.

So they try different ways and all of those are wrong path.

1 Like

Yet is is a complete wholistic system. It it heavily relies on the mula texts and quotes from them too. It is funny to watch. Unfortunately, we have a whole group of monks who speak like this. They all confirm eachother’s beliefs and then plant seeds to others. There is one key detail to look for. They don’t give any details. If they do, often they are out of context. I just replied to an out of context quote on jhāna lasting for 1 mind moment.

1 Like

Yes, it is true that many people misunderstood Visuddhimagga.

I doubt they even bother to read it carefully. It is sad to see such video propagating online… I wonder how many people was misled by this sort of video.

When I first started touring monasteries to look for a place to ordain, I got mixed up with Bhante Vimalaramsi. I remember how easy it was for me to hate the commentaries just based on one person. However, later, I found myself with many question marks about meditation. In 2000, I was building my own earth kasina by trying to follow the vsm at Wat Pah Nanachat. I didn’t like the place, but it was the best I could find.

Shortly after, an American visitor who traveled from Burma donated “Knowing and Seeing”. I quckly recognized it was directly from the vsm. I was sold and quickly moved to Pa-Auk MC. I was so inspired that a present day teacher was alive and teaching. We really didn’t have internet catalogs of places to go during those days. It was all mostly by word of mouth. I didn’t even wait for a sponsor letter. I just showed up.

1 Like

Thank you for sharing your experience, bhante.

Yes. There is a tendency among current generation of Buddhists misled to dislike or even reject the Commentary tradition.

In the past, I was too like those certain members in Dhammawheel, always refuse to read explanation from commentaries. When I was teenager around 16-17 (if not mistaken), I spent my pocket money to purchase a thick book from a temple bookstore (I like to collect books back then), little did I know that it was the great work of Ven. Buddhaghosa Thera. But then later on I was told by a certain person in temple that somehow Visuddhimagga misguided Buddhism (something like that) and I ended up putting away that book (and I told other people it was late addition so it is better to avoid it).

I have to admit that I was foolish back then.

Later on, when I start learning about Five aggregates and Paticca samuppada. There I met a lot of confusions and doubt. I tried seek the guidance of monks but here one monk said this but the other monk said that. No consensus at all and they seems not similar to one another.

Then I studied Ven. Punnaji Thera’s way of explanation for Paticca samuppada and Five aggregates. It pushed me even further and totally confused with his (pseudo?)scientific interpretation/naming of the Pali terms and trying to match Buddha’s teachings to modern science (well I wondered if he understands that science is subject to change, but Buddha Dhamma isn’t like that). There’s a particular part of Paticca samuppada that is most problematic to me: “Viññāṇa paccaya Namarupa”.

But then one day, I was sitting at home, somehow I saw the thick book that I put away: Visuddhimagga.

I remember that there’s a sudden flash of thought appeared: “I shall read it”. And there in the book I found my answer about Viññāṇa paccaya Namarupa and how Patisandhi citta works. It was a big relief.

Then when I made confirmation through Anguttara Nikaya (Pathamabhava Sutta), then I was fully convinced: Visuddhimagga is a viable guide in studying Buddhism.

This is my copy of Visuddhimagga, it is quite an old book:




Really glad to have this book.

1 Like

I think its just modern western arrogance. (generalization of course as its not like all critics of the vism are westerners and some westerners accept it). Basically they believe they with thier modern western education and brains can interpret the suttas better than the early commentators. And also that since it is “later” than the suttas it is less reliable. although i dont understand that logic because we are literally living much later than the commentaries yet think we can somehow interpret the suttas more accurately. Its kinda the same logic as people today who think they are morally superior to the Abraham Lincoln in 1865 because lincoln said didnt believe blacks and whites were equal even tho he risked and sacrificed his life to free the slaves. Because we know about germs and solar systems and gravity, we are more intelligent than the backwards commentators from over 1000 years ago and can interpret the suttas better.

Also some people have this purity test that because it is not 100% right, it is all wrong. Its reasonable to believe the commentaries are not 100% right, just as the suttas may not be 100% right (thus why were like 26 different versions of the tripitaka during the early buddhist school era). So its like, oh well its not 100% right anyways since the commentatators were not from the Buddha’s time, but we dont have any commentators from the Buddhas time, so just ignore it.

While i do agree with the idea that the commentaries and records are probably not 100% right, i do think 90% is better than 0%.

1 Like

I will be writing an article on Theravada soon and explain more about the EBT how it has its roots in the other schools. They are seen as superior in EBT as a traffic cop. However, EBT texts and Chinese agamas came from the very same schools that the kathavatthu speaks against. They don’t realize that these texts came from wrong views schools.

However, it will take some time to research this. If someone is familiar with the kathavatthu and different schools, send me a message.

1 Like

A good effort, sadhu X3 to Bhante Subhuti.

If you done the work, it will be a great contribution to the lasting of Theravada.

I hope to propagate Theravada in my country too.

In that case, I will start in-depth reading of Kathavathu and its commentary too.

1 Like

It seems modern author also familiar with Visuddhimagga stories, for example, Daniel Goleman (bestseller of Emotional Intelligence) in his book “Focus - The Hidden Driver of Excellence”, also recorded the story as this, along with Asubhanussati details:


1 Like

That article was partially touched below as a side story… but I’d like to make another.

1 Like