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What is the path to Enlightenment in Theravada Buddhism?  

I have heard in some sects of Mahayana Buddhism, there is a gradual path towards Enlightenment; when the practitioner begins with the aspiration to attain a favorable rebirth, and then moves on to strive for liberation.

Some say that in Theravada Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path is the primary way to Arhatship.  Others say that the Path of Purification, from the commentary Visuddhimagga, in which the practitioner moves on through the four stages by removing the fetters, is the primary path.  I have heard that there are the four stages to Enlightenment and the cessation of fetters along the way.  But the Noble Eightfold Path did not mention the stages of Enlightenment or removing fetters to become liberated.  It is just teaches us to lead a righteous lifestyle to become liberated.  The books I have read does not teach the way or path towards liberation but only techniques to overcome problems in everyday life.  My question is, is there a path in Theravada Buddhism in which the practitioner needs to follow in order to remove the fetters and become Enlightened?  Is there a practice manual towards Enlightenment?  (If you know what I mean).  If so, what books or scriptures do you recommend?

Hi Dan,

It is said that the visuddhimagga is not the direct teachings from the Buddha himself, as the author was Buddhaghosa. The Noble Eightfold Path is the direct teachings of the Buddha. On this take alone, we should look closer at the Eightfold Path.  

The 4 Nobel Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are the complete embodiment of the Buddha's teachings.  The forth Noble Truth specifically states the path to the extinction of rebirth and suffering, which means the attainment of liberation, or enlightenment.  If you study the Eightfold Path carefully, you will find the blueprint to liberation under 3 broad categories, namely, morality, concentration, and wisdom.  Through mindful meditation with morality as its base, the seeker will gradually gain the wisdom towards liberation.  

The relevant books will be those on Vipassana meditation.  On a more practical approach I would strongly recommend the Goenka Vipassana Meditation Course.  I have written an article on this, and if you are interested you can go to this site @

Hope this helps.  Take care.

Justin Choo


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Justin Choo


All your questions will be answered, and you may not have to agree with the answers. Such is the beauty of Buddhism. I follow the Theravada tradition, and have been studying Buddhism for more than 50 years. As I am not a Buddhist scholar, I answer in simple language, and I prefer answering general questions rather than textual.


I was brought up in the 50's as a Buddhist. For the past 50 years I have read numerous books on Buddhism and listened to numerous talks on Buddhism by well-respected and learned monks and lay teachers. I have conducted Buddhist classes for parents of Sunday School children in a Theravada Buddhist Temple. My teacher was the late Chief Reverend, The Ven. K Sri Dhammananda of The Brickfields Buddhist Mahavihara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can view the relevant website in memory of my revered late teacher @ and my blog posting at

I am a life member of the Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia.

YOU ARE INVITED TO VISIT MY BLOG @ Published a book called "The Rainbow And The Treasure". It is a compilation of extracts from various sources to introduce Buddhism to beginners. (Currently out of print)

Bachelor of Commerce And Administration, Victoria University Of Wellington, NZ.(1974)

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