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Matara Sri Nanarama states:
- The only direct canonical reference to the Seven Stages of Purification is found in the Rathavinãta Sutta (The Discourse on the Relay of Chariots), the twenty-fourth discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya. [...] this same series of seven purifications forms the scaffolding of Bhadantàcariya Buddhaghosa’s encyclopedic manual of Buddhist meditation, the Visuddhimagga. Thus this series serves as a most succinct outline of the entire path a meditator passes through in his inner journey from bondage to liberation.
Contemporary scholar Ari Ubeysekara states:
- The seven stages of purification are described in the Discourse on the Relay of Chariots (ratha-vinitha sutta) of the Majjhima Nikaya (collection of the Buddha’s middle length discourses). It is based on a dhamma discussion between the Venerable Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s two chief disciples, and Venerable Punna Mantani-putta. In this sutta, Venerable Sariputta asked the following questions in a spiritually progressive basis from Venerable Punna Mantani-putta:
- Is the holy life, lived under the Blessed One (The Buddha) for the sake of the “Purification of moral virtue”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed one for the sake of “Purification of mind”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of “Purification of views”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of “Purification by overcoming doubt”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of “Purification by knowledge and vision of what is path and not-path”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of “Purification by knowledge and vision of the way”?
- Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of “Purification by knowledge and vision”?
- Having answered “No” to all the seven questions, Venerable Punna Mantani-putta stated that the holy life is lived for the sake of attaining Nibbana without clinging or grasping. This shows that the seven purifications described above need to be developed in sequence which would finally lead to the state of Nibbana. In the sutta, this process is explained by means of a simile in which a king travelling from one city to another travels by a relay of seven different chariots in succession, arriving at the final destination by the seventh chariot.
Translations from Pali:
- Matara Sri Nanarama (1993), The Seven Stages of Purification and The Insight Knowledge (PDF), Buddhist Publication Society
- Ubeysekara, Ari (2018), Seven Stages of Purification (satta visuddhi) in Theravada Buddhism