What is the path of purification? What are the steps on this path, and how does one move along it?
Join Dr. Maria Heim and a global cohort of students for this unique opportunity to dive deep into a key text in the Theravada tradition to explore the beauty and wisdom of Buddhaghosa's account of the Buddhist path.
A Classic of Buddhist Literature
The Path of Purification (Pali: Visuddhimagga) was composed as a compendium of the Buddha's teachings in the 5th century C.E. by Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa, the foremost commentator in the Theravada tradition, who is also credited with editing and translating most of the commentaries on the Pali canon. The Path of Purification is second only to the Buddha's own words as a source of doctrine and practice for the Theravada tradition.
The text is a manual of practice for monks and nuns, and is structured into three main parts. First is morality (sīla), the foundation of the path; second is the detailed practices of meditation and contemplation (samādhi) aimed at radically reconfiguring experience; and third is the practices of wisdom, insight, and understanding (paññā).
Synthesizing the Buddha's Teachings
In this course, we will explore this key text closely over the course of six weeks. As we read, we will learn to think with Buddhaghosa as he tries to make sense of the Buddha’s teachings. How did he read Buddhist scriptures, and how did he think about what the Buddha taught? We will also try to develop a method for approaching Buddhist texts so that students leaving the course will feel confident that they can approach scriptures and commentaries on their own as they continue their educational journey.
"An accessible, Harvard-quality course in Buddhist Studies"
Module 1 — Who was Buddhaghosa and What is the Visuddhimagga?
Module 2 — Buddhist Texts as Methods and Modes of Pedagogy
Module 3 — Morality (sīla)
Module 4 — Concentration (samādhi), Part 1
Module 5 — Concentration (samādhi), Part 2
Module 6 — Understanding (paññā)
Nov 8 - Dec 17, 2021 (6 Weeks)
6 Pre-Recorded Lectures (90 min each)
Each week, students will receive a Module with a 90 min lecture and an optional quiz.
6 Weekly Live Zoom Q&A Sessions (90 min each)*
Fridays @ 10-11:30am California time
Dates: November 12, 19, 26, December 3, 10, 17
*ALL LIVE SESSIONS WILL TAKE PLACE VIA ZOOM, AND WILL BE RECORDED FOR LATER VIEWING.
Students enrolled in this course will receive:
6 pre-recorded video lectures + audio recordings (90 min per Module)
6 live Zoom Q&A sessions + recordings (90 min each)
5 BSO Credits
Course Syllabus (PDF)
Course Readings (PDF)
6 Weekly Handouts (PDF)
6 Weekly Quizzes
Access to private Community forum
Certificate of Completion (PDF)
Dr. Maria Heim
George Lyman Crosby 1896 & Stanley Warfield Crosby Professor in Religion at Amherst College
Maria Heim received her PhD from Harvard University in 1999, and was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. She currently chairs the Department of Religion at Amherst.
Heim works on Sanskrit and Pali textual traditions. She has written three books on Buddhaghosa (The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency, Oxford, 2014; Voice of the Buddha: Buddhaghosa on the Immeasurable Words, Oxford 2018; and Buddhist Ethics, Cambridge, 2020). She is currently working on emotions in ancient and classical India, and her most recent book, A Treasury of Emotions from Classical India, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. She is also translating the Milindapañha for the Murty Classical Library of India.
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