The treasured works of the Original Wisdom Schools do not end with the Pali Canon.  The Path of Purification (Vissuddhi-magga in Sanskrit) summarizes some key teachings of the Theravada school (specifically the Mahavihara subschool). Its author, Buddhaghosha, reframes in simpler terms the diffuse, complex, and fragmentary teachings of the Buddha’s teachings from the Pali Canon often in the forms of lists. He combines many of the teachings into the broader grouping of the Thirty-Seven Limbs of Enlightenment. The list includes the Noble Eightfold Path and the following:

  • Seven Factors of Awakening
  • Five Powers
  • Five Faculties
  • Four Bases of Power
  • Four Perfect Exertions
  • Four Establishments of Mindfulness

Buddhaghosa identifies five overarching categories into which all thirty-seven items fit: wisdom, concentration, faith, energy, mindfulness. For example, energy-related limbs appear in all but one of the lists. The general Pali term “viriya” appears in most lists, while the Four Perfect Exertions, itself being a list of the types of useful energy, contains four refined definitions of “viriya.” Likewise, mindfulness-relates limbs appear in five of the seven lists. Like energy, there is a list devoted entirely to the types mindfulness: the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. They are mindfulness of body, feelings/sensations, mind, and dharmas.

The Five Powers are Faith, Energy, Mindfulness, Concentration, and Wisdom. They are strengthened and practiced to keep their undesirable counterparts in check: Doubt, Laziness, Carelessness, Distraction, and Ignorance.

The Five Faculties are the potential for the Five Powers, but also their deleterious opposites. At the root of these are the Four Bases of Power: Purpose, Energy, Mind, and Investigation.

The Four Perfect Exertions of these bases are: the non-arising of evil states, the abandonment of evil states which have already arisen, the arising of good states, and the maintenance of good states which have already arisen.

The Seven Factors of Awakening are mindfulness, investigation, joy, tranquility, energy, concentration, equanimity.

Pali:  Visuddhimagga