What exactly encompasses the "Path to Liberation"?

Is it the Noble Eightfold Path, is it the Seven Purifications ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_Paths_to_liberation#Theravada_tradition ) or is it more generally all the Buddha taught to reach Nirvana?

I would say that the most definitive list of things that contribute to the eventuating of awakening would be the 37 qualities (dhammā) conducive or related to (pakkhiya) awakening (bodhi) - aka 37 Bodhipakkhiyādhammā.

"And what are those Teachings that have, with deep knowledge, been taught by me, which after grasping them well, you should practise, develop, and make a lot of them, so that the Spiritual Life may last long, and may endure for a long time, that will be for the benefit of many people, for the happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, benefit, and happiness of Divinities and men?

They are as follows:

The Four Ways of Attending to Mindfulness,
the Four Right Strivings,
the Four Paths to Power,
the Five Faculties,
the Five Strengths,
the Seven Factors of Awakening,
the Noble Eight-Fold Path.

These, monks, are those Teachings that have, with deep knowledge, been taught by me, after grasping them well, you should practise, develop, and make a lot of them, so that the Spiritual Life may last long, and may endure for a long time, and that will be for the benefit of many people, for the happiness of many people, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, benefit, and happiness of Divinities and men.”


When an English (-language) Buddhist speaks about the “Path to Liberation” - what exactly does he mean: is it a referral to the Noble Eightfold Path, to the Seven Purifications, to those 37 qualities you name here, or - more generally - all that the Buddha taught and is conductive to Nirvana?

It generally means just the 7th step of the 8thfold path taken out of context and practiced in a way not found in the suttas

One may be as well referring to the very interesting book Vimuttimagga, which can be translated as Path to Liberation. An English translation can be found through the link below:

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@dxm_dxm : Can you explain that?

@Gabriel_L : Yes, I was thinking about that, too.

Here’s one account.

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I am not sure about other people, but for me liberation is a synonym for Nibbana, so the Path to Liberation is a synonym to the Noble Eightfold Path, and this is the default meaning I use the word in. I can use it occasionally in other meanings, like “Vimuttimagga” or the 37 Wings of Awakening but it takes me some conscious effort to do so. Referring to the Noble Eightfold Path as the Path to Liberation doesn’t take any effort at all.


Thank you, DKervick and Vstakan

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Yes, that’s how I understand it too.

Four Noble Truths are the back borne of Buddhist teaching.
Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Four Noble Truths.
Hence as the Path, Noble Eight Fold Path encompasses all the rest. (ie 37 enlightenment factors)


Hi all

I think it’s a good question.

If we take into consideration that the teaching is impermanent, then I’d say we have to admit the possibility that what is generally accepted as the Buddha’s teaching, may be corrupted. Unwise reflection will lead us to ideas such as, it is perfectly maintained till x number of years, then it is lost. The simile the Buddha used in addressing this would not agree with that idea at SN 20.7.

Another thing to consider, possibly more to the point, is: even the (supposed) First Council, which was established to ensure the teaching was well-maintained, did not attribute the idea of a council for that purpose, to the Buddha, but rather to Bh. Kassapa and did not follow the instructions from the Buddha for councils for the purpose of maintaining the teaching, as we see in Pāsādika Sutta DN29:

“All you to whom I have taught these truths (dhammā) that I have realised by super-knowledge (abhiññā) should come together and recite them, setting meaning by meaning and expression by expression (saṅgamma samāgamma atthena atthaŋ byañjanena byañjanaŋ saṅgāyitabbaŋ), without dissension, in order that this holy life may continue and be established for a long time, for the profit and happiness of the many.”

What we see in councils is recitation and correction of recitation errors, as in, vowels and consonants in words.

I suggest that parroting the existing standard formulations is not a sign that the teaching has been digested and absorbed, but rather, if one had attained the Vision of Dhamma (Dhammacakkhu), one could present the Path in different ways according to different individual’s development (not inclination), as the Buddha did; see Dr Bucknell’s early work.

I believe the Noble Eightfold Path (N8FP), as we now have it, is a corrupted teaching and also the 37 Enlightenment Factors (37EF). The 37EF are specifically mentioned after the quote above, but it is not clear how the study is to be done. The one example we do have - see Q10, which appears to be the type of study intended, is comparing the N8FP with the Three Trainings and the latter are not in the 37EF.

Keeping the number of items (to me they have to be steps, in order to have a path) to 8, then I would generally present the path like this:

  1. associating with the wise
  2. listening to their teaching of the Path
  3. examining it
  4. testing it
  5. developing perfect ethics (Stream Enterer)
  6. developing perfect concentration (Once and Non Returner)
  7. developing perfect wisdom (Worthy One)
  8. developing perfect liberation

Though, for me, 7 and 8 are identical, because perfect wisdom would be a totally lived knowing, not like Right View, which I see as only based on the first experience of wisdom.

Right View is the first part of Perfect Ethics, for me, as the Buddha’s teaching would go to directly to the cause, ethics in thought (Right View, Right Aspiration), then word (Right Speech), then deed (Right Action, Right Livelihood).

best wishes


Greeting Bhante. Scholary research does not support the idea of big part of the suta pitaka been corrupted. To my knowledge, only big parts of DN (something like 1/3) are latter additions and also 12 out of 152 suttas from MN are possibly further additions. There is also a small little addition in a subchapter from SN chapter 5, “the great book” but nothing important or doctrinal. These are generally supernatural passages or passages against bhramins added later. There are also maybe 2 instances in MN where they have tried introducing abbhidhabamic ideas into a sutta.

For a proper understanding of the history of early buddhist texts I suggest: “The authenticity of earty buddhist text by B.Sujato & co” - many other important scholar monks took part in the analysis. There is also the B.Analayo very detailed analysis of MN.

In the past, I had this tendency to say that suttas who do not fit with my views are latter additions. But after starting reading the sutta pitakka (in order, from start to finish) I have come to find it extremely consistent and have found the opinions I had before to be wrong.

Hi There, sorry I don’t see your name.

Please be careful what you say. I suggest you amend ‘scholarly research’ to ‘SOME scholarly research’. I have to disagree, based on other scholarly research.

I have not found scholarly research, outside Dr Bucknell’s and my own following on from his, that applies the instructions from the Buddha for maintaining the teaching purely.

I have read the sutta pitaka twice and it was only after applying the advice from the Buddha that I started to see the real extent of probable corruptions.

best wishes

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Well, the noble 8thfold path description been a possible corruption is quite a big one. We see it repeated countless times throghout the suttas. That is close to saying the 4 noble truths are a corruption

Sorry for sounding disrespectful but it is quite a claim to make

I’ve just noticed this.

I do not see on what suttas this opinion is based. To my knowledge a stream entry is incapable of 6 things. Murdering his mother, his father, mudering an arahant, injuring a Buddha, creating a schism in the shanga. SN 55:40 also contadicts this perfect ethics opinion.

In my opinion, stream entry has little to do with ethics but has a lot to do with views. That is why he is called “one acomplished in view”. I have made my case better over here: How is stream entry achieved?

When trying to interpret a book, it is good to go with the general idea in the book, with the passages repeated countless times not with a single sutta taken out of context and twisted or interpreted in a way not in accordance with the rest of the canon.

Also, we see in the suttas that Non-returners poses Jhana but not once returners. That is also why stream enterers and once returners are born in sense sphere realms while non-returners in form spheres. So a once-returner does not necessarily poses perfect concentration. It is indeed possible for a once-returner to achieve jhana and take some time untill seen with wisdom that it is constructed too but that would be quite a short time between the 2 stages, maybe a couple of days. If a once-returner would poses jhana, then he would be reborn in a form sphere witch is not the case. This is also in accordance with the fact that he has not eradicated sensual desire and therefore will be reborn in a sense -sphere.

As for B.Sujato (And many others including B.Bodhi) book about authenticity of early buddhist texts, it is avaliable for free: https://books.google.ro/books?id=fK9zBwAAQBAJ&pg=PA158&lpg=PA158&dq=sujato+abhidhamma&source=bl&ots=DrTUPYeXnm&sig=GIjU-YNt-wIspr3jxBPh3NCArnY&hl=ro&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjypJfr_tDRAhXqBcAKHRg9CQ4Q6AEIOzAF

I perfectly agree with what SN 20.7 and other such suttas are saying. But I don’t believe that happened with the nikayas themselves. I believe latter additions such as abbhidhamma, vissudimagga, modern meditation books, etc fall into that category. I believe the important doctrinal part has been quite well preserved in the SN volume. I may not be an expert but I find it to be very consistent.

I pretty much perfectly agree with other things you’ve said.

Bhante, could you please elaborate on who you think corrupted the Buddhasasana, when, and why? Of course, asking for a specific attribution (e.g., ‘it was Ven. Saccensacco’) would be ridiculous, just a general outline would be more than enough. If you could refer to a specific publication of yours or other researchers (preferrably available online, but it doesn’t really matter) on the topic, I’d also be very obliged :anjal:

Reading this citation filled my heart with great joy, since this is kind of what the SC community is doing here most of the time :anjal:


It was that guy from AN 8.20 : https://suttacentral.net/en/an8.20

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Hi again (whatever your name is),

Yes, the N8FP appears many times. This, to me, is not proof that it is (likely to be) authentic, as, in the time of verbal transmission, insertion or replacement of ideas could be very easily done, just like on computers now ‘search and replace’. The reply to the question ‘what is the path’ will probably be the N8FP, it is easy to remember and thus very convenient. Dr Bucknell has shown that the path has been taught in more than 50 different ways (also with different numbers of steps and names not just the N8FP) in the Nikayas and that the ‘Tenfold Path’ is specifically said to be superior to the N8FP in the Nikayas. Also that Right View (item 1) is probably not the same as Right Insight (item 9 in the Tenfold Path, then Right Liberation) - showing that the latter would be(part of the training in) wisdom, not Right View (which I see as part of morality in thought).

RE: ‘That (saying the N8FP description as we now have it) is close to saying the 4 noble truths (4NT) are a corruption’, that is your opinion and I totally disagree. I said the N8FP AS WE NOW HAVE IT. I would say the 4NT current description is also corrupted, not that the whole teaching of the 4NT is a corruption. This is what I understand the 4NT to be, which can also be found in the Nikayas:

  1. life WITH CLINGING is suffering (NOT either: life is suffering, or there is suffering (in life).)
  2. the cause is ignorance (NOT desire, which is the Hindu teaching)
  3. to end the result one must end the cause
  4. the path to the ending of suffering (taught in many ways by the Buddha and only fully understood with Right View)

I don’t see disagreeing as disrespectful. If I did I would have to discourage it and I don’t see the Buddha doing that.

I’ll work on other replies.

best wishes

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