The Purity of Mind (Citta) is known in Pali word as Visuddhi. Visuddhi is one of the subjects of vipassana meditation. Visuddhi has seven stages of purity made known in Pali term as Satta-visuddhi, Vimutti-Magga and Visuddhi-dhamma.
Here are the seven Stages of Purity; namely,
– The purity of morality
– The purity of mind
– The purity of view
– The purity by overcoming doubt
– The purity by knowledge and vision of what the path is and non-path
– The purity by knowledge and vision of the path-progress
– The purity of knowledge and vision
You find these seven stages of purity in the Majjhima Nikaya No. 24 known as the Rathavinita Sutta where the Elder Sariputta is represented to ask the young Punna-Putta Bhikkhu: “What is the Motive of the Buddhist Life? Do we live a Buddhist life for the sake of purity of moral conduct?” “No”, said Punna-Putta. “Then do we live for the sake of purity of heart?” “No”, “Of purity of belief?” “No”, “Of purity of confidence?” “No”, “Of purity of vipassana through knowledge of what the right path is and what the other path is not?” “No”, “Of purity of vipassana through knowledge of the practice?” “No”, “Then for the sake of purity of Vipassana Ñãnadassana Visuddhi?” “No”. “What do you mean you say “No, No?”, “All these things are necessary. But they are only the means to end”. “Then for the sake of what we do and live the Buddhist life?” “All we must do is that we must detach from the things in the human world as well as heavenly realm and make effort to attain the supreme Nibbana, that is the unique motive of Buddhist life”, replied Punna-Putta Bhikkhu.
The Rathavinita Sutta is well known as the Simile of the Stage-Coach its aim and goal are illustrated that the ultimate goal is not made up in purity of Sila-Visuddhi, or of Citta-Visuddhi, or of Ditthi-Visuddhi, etc. But their Holy Purpose and aim is in total deliverance from all defilements such as craving, hatred, ignorance, etc.
This is similar to King Pasenadi of Kosala when he has a royal work in Rajagaha he gets on his first stage-coach and travels to the second coach then he gets on the second coach and travels with it to the third coach and so on, so forth, until he arrives in Rajagaha city to have the meeting with King Bimbisara there.
In exactly the same way when a meditator practises the Satta-Visuddhi he must begin his vipassana with the purity of (1) moral conduct (Sila-Visuddhi) is (2) the purity of mind (citta-visuddhi); its goal: (3) the purity of view (ditthi-visuddhi); its goal: (4) the purity with getting rid of doubt (kankha-visuddhi); its goal: (5) the purity by knowledge and vision of what the right path and non-path is (magga-Visuddhi); its goal: (6) the purity by knowledge and vision of the path-progress (patipada-visuddhi); its goal: (7) the purity of knowledge and vision (ñãnadassana-visuddhi); but the goal of this purification is deliverance freed from all attachment and clinging.
When a monk decides to practise the Satta-Visuddhi he must observe the purity of Sila consists of the fourfold purity of morality; namely, to observe the Patimokkha rules; sense-restraint, purity of livelihood, morality with regard to the four requisites. For lay people, they should observe the five or eight moral precepts as the fundamental level.
On the second Stage (Citta-Visuddhi) a meditator needs to have ‘attainment samadhi’ known as Appana-Samadhi (one-pointedness or eight kinds of Jhana), or ‘neighbourhood samadhi’ known as Upacara-Samadhi; or at least ‘preparatory samadhi’ known as Parikamma-Samadhi in order to be his foundation of vipassana meditation (Insight).
On the third Stage (Ditthi-Visuddhi) the meditator should see that all human life consisting of five aggregates in short known as the mind and body, which is termed as conditioned Sankhara. These aggregates are often on condition. They possess three characteristics: namely, impermanence, destructible and selflessness. All conditioned kinds of sankhara are transitory and suffering. He must see clearly that human life has no atta, no self, or no ego. It is only the forces of mind and physical matter working together until the last day! When the meditator overcomes the belief in the personality he sees that all kinds of sankhara are marked by anicca, dukkha and anatta.
On the fourth Stage the meditator overcomes doubt and understands the causes his birth and death about the five aggregates (nama-rupa) clearly. As a result he has no doubt of life in the past, at present and in the future. He knows exactly that the natural causes of his birth are ‘ignorance, craving, attachment and kamma brought his life to exist. His whole life is nourished by solid foods and breathing. His six sense-organs and outer-stimuli objects are the direct cause of six consciousnesses and sensation, perception and mental formation.
The meditator may meet a few of doubt during the course of his vipassana. Take for example he doubts whether or not ‘his self’ (Atta) exists; whether or not ‘his self’ previously existed; whether or not ‘his self’ will exist in the future and if so in what form of life, etc. These doubts are dispelled when he realizes that there is no ‘Atta’ or no ‘I’ at all. His life only composes of elements, aggregates, a nerve-system. When he eradicates his doubt his second stage of vipassana is achieved. Even so his self-conceit has not yet completely disappeared for ever.
On the fifth Stage of what the right path is that the meditator understands what the right path from the wrong path, seeing that the right path is to follow. In order to attain the fifth stage of purification, he must at first develop well-planed insight through contemplation of the five aggregates of life existence (khandha).
But the meditator is extremely warned that if he has not yet developed vipassana correctly ten mental impurities (upakilesa) such as ‘effulgent light, knowledge, rapture, tranquillity, happiness, determination, energy, awareness, equanimity and delight’, one or two of them, etc, may arise and interrupt during his bhavana and become impediments in the three kinds of full understanding here considered.
As soon as the manifold ways and characteristics of the Four Noble Truths and the Dependent Origination (paticcasamuppada) have become clear to him, he says to himself: ‘Thus these things have never before arisen arise and having arisen they disappear again. So the formations of life existence ever and again arise as something quite new. But not only are they something new, they are moreover of limited duration, like a dew-drop at sunrise, like a bubble, like a line drawn with a stick in the water, like a mustard seed placed on the point of an arrow, or like a flash of lightning. Also as something unsubstantial and empty do they appear, as jugglery, as a mirage! Merely something subject to vanishing arises, and having arisen disappears again.
Excepting Delight only the rest are not impurities (upakilesa) as such but they can block vipassana path through the arising of pride or delight or by a wrong belief so the meditator concludes that one of the Noble paths has been attained. He who is watchful and experienced in insight practice will know that these states of mind do not yet indicate attainment of the true path, but are only symptoms or the blocking of path progress.
Henceforth the meditator has determined three of the truths, namely while determining the mind and body existence he has, through purification of view, determined the truth of seeing suffering. While he grasps the conditions he has, through purification by overcoming doubt, determined the truth of the origin of suffering. While he determines the right path, he has, through purification by knowledge and vision of what path is and non-path is and determines the truth of the path leading to the extinction of suffering.
On the sixth Stage of purification by knowledge and vision of the path-progress is the insight perfected in eight kinds of knowledge together with the nine steps of knowledge (vipassanañāna), such knowledge adapting itself to truth.
The above eight blessings of the knowledge are abandoning belief in external existences and giving up the clinging to life and constant right application of the mind to vipassana endeavour, a purified livelihood, overcoming anxiety, absence of fear, acquisition of forbearance and gentleness, conquest of discontent and sensual delight.
The Nine Kinds of Insight
By the eight kinds of knowledge mentioned earlier are meant that now the meditator must follow the right path progress as correct nine steps of insight, namely:
- (1) Knowledge consisting in contemplation of rise and fall,
- (2) Knowledge in contemplation of dissolution,
- (3) Knowledge in awareness of terror (or the fearfulness,
- (4) Knowledge in contemplation of misery,
- (5) Knowledge in contemplation of aversion,
- (6) Knowledge in the desire for deliverance,
- (7) Knowledge in reflecting contemplation,
- (8) Knowledge in equanimity regarding all formations of existence,
- (sankhārupekkhā-ñãna) followed by
- (9) Knowledge in adaptation to the Four Noble Truths.
(1) The meditator sees and observes of the three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering, no self in his own mind and body processes. As long as his mind is still disturbed by the ‘ten impurities’ the three characteristics will not become fully cleared in their true nature. Only when the mind is freed from these imperfections can the three characteristics be observed clearly.
(2) When he sees through such repeated practice, knowledge and mindfulness have grown keen and the bodily and mental formations become apparent quickly, at that stage the phase of dissolution of these formations will become prominent. His consciousness with materiality as its object arises and dissolves. Having reflected on that object, the meditator contemplates the dissolution of the mind and body consciousness.
(3) The meditator has awareness of terror or fearfulness and seeing of terror in the conditions as well as the continuity of existence. For whoso considers the formations as impermanent, to him the conditions of existence – the karma-formations producing ever new existence appear as terror, as driving towards death. Whoso considers the formations as misery to him the continuity of existence appears as terror, as something oppressive. Whoso considers the formations as impersonal to him the karma-formations as well as the continuity of human existence appears as terror as an empty village and as a mirage!
(4) He contemplates on misery and danger and another aspect of the awareness of terror: the origin of life existence is terror, continuance of births is terror; arising is suffering, such understanding in the awareness of terror is the knowledge of misery. Non-birth arising is bliss. This is knowledge of the peaceful state; the no-more-arising is safety and is happiness as it is Nibbana.
(5) He contemplates on aversion means: aversion for all formations as terror, so its name awareness of terror has come into use. Because it has made known the misery of all these formations, therefore it has received the name of contemplation of misery. Because it has arisen through aversion for those formations, therefore it is known as contemplation of aversion.
(6) Now he has strong desire for deliverance means: the desire for freedom and escape from all formations of existence. For feeling aversion for all formations, becoming weary of them, finding no more delight in them, his mind does not cling and attach to a single beauty of all these formations.
(7) He reflects contemplation upon the repeated meditative discernment of the formations of his life existence, attributing to them the three characteristics of existence, with the desire to find deliverance from all forms of existence.
(8) With equanimity the meditator regards all formations: “When he reflects contemplation and has discerned the formations by applying the three characteristics to them and sees them as empty and void, he abandons both terror and delight, and becomes indifferent and equanimity with regard to all formations; he neither takes them as “I” nor as “mine” he is like a man who has divorced his wife”. Now, while his continuing to contemplate the three characteristics of existence and perceiving the tranquil lot of Nibbana as the peace, this equanimity-knowledge becomes the triple gateway to liberation. As it is said; “Three gateways to liberation lead to escape from the world, namely: that the mind is contemplating all formations as limited, and is rushing forward to the condition-less element; that the mind is stirred with regard to all formations of existence, and is rushing forward to the desire-less element; that the mind sees all things as something foreign, and is rushing forward to the void element”.
At this stage and through the triple gateway, the diversification of path attainment takes place, according to the seven kinds of noble persons or ariya- puggala.
The sixth, seventh, and eighth knowledge according to Visuddhi-Magga construct really only one single knowledge in its first, middle, and final stages of development. This knowledge is also known as the Vipassana Bhavana leading to path rise.
(9) Finally the meditator adapts to truth or conformity with truth is called that knowledge which, while contemplating impermanence, etc. adapts itself to the preceding eight kinds of insight-knowledge, as well as to the immediately following supramundane path and to the thirty-seven elements pertaining to enlightenment. It is identical with adaptation-knowledge.
Therefore whosoever has cultivated and frequently practised equanimity regarding all life-formation arises in him very strong faith known as determination (adhimokkha-saddha) and his energy is better exerted, his mindfulness better established, his mind better concentrated and a still stronger equanimity regarding the formations arises.
Now the path will reveal itself, thus thinking, the meditator contemplates with his equanimity-knowledge all formations as impermanent, etc and thereafter that knowledge sinks into the subconscious stream of existence. Immediately afterwards there advertence at the mind-door arises. And just like equanimity-knowledge, the adaptation-knowledge, too, takes as its object the formations, regarding them as something impermanent, miserable and impersonal. Thereupon, while continuing the uninterrupted continuity of consciousness (citta-santati), there the first impulsive moment (javana) arises.
This is called ‘preparation’ (parikamma), taking the same formations as object. Immediately thereafter, with the same formations as object, there arises the second impulsive moment, known as access (upacara). And again immediately after that, there arises the impulsive moment called “adaptation” (anuloma).
This Ñãnadassan-visuddhi is the last the knowledge of the SATTA VISUDDHI associated with any of the four kinds of supramundane path-consciousness (ariya-puggala).
The Result of the Practice
Immediately upon this adaptation-knowledge there arises the “maturity- knowledge” (GOTRARABHŪÑĀNA) taking as object the unconditioned, the standstill of existence, the absence of becoming, cessation of suffering (Nibbana), at the same time transcending the rank, designation and plane of the world-ling and entering the rank, designation and plane of the Noble Ones (ariya), being the first turning towards Nibbana as object, the first thinking of it, the first concentration on it and the condition for the path… forming the culmination of insight, and never as such coming back again.
As the immediate continuation following upon that maturity knowledge, there arises the first path-consciousness (stream-entry) forever destroying the ‘first three of the ten fetters of existence’ and closing the entrance to the lower worlds. Immediately after this path-knowledge, there arise, as its result, two or three path-produced states of consciousness, the fruition consciousness (phala-citta).
Immediately after the sinking of this consciousness into the subconscious stream of existence, the retrospective knowledge arises, having the path consciousness as its object. Each of the four kinds of path-consciousness performs at the one and the same time four functions, namely: the function of full understanding of suffering, the function of overcoming the origin of suffering, the function of realising the extinction of suffering and the function of developing the supramundane Noble Eightfold Path.