The essential meditation manual of the Theravada Tradition and the book that, legend has it, convinced the Sri Lankan elders to allow Acariya Buddhaghosa to write the (now quasi-canonical) Pāli Commentaries.
Ostensibly a commentary on a single verse from the Dhammapada, this classic work synthesized the Buddhist Path into a single, comprehensive progression of purification from approaching the path, to purifying ethics, to purifying the mind with meditation and eventually insight. It is from the Visuddhimagga that we get the threefold division of the path into Sīla, Samādhi and Paññā. The ideas of “neighborhood” concentration, the confusion over samatha and vipassana, and much else in the contemporary Theravada world can all be traced back to this enormously influential tome.
In its day, a landmark of commentarial scholarship and synthesis, today it contains some of the clearest and most detailed descriptions of the advanced stages of meditation that we have from ancient times. Despite, or perhaps even because of, the text’s limitations and subsequent disagreements over their correct interpretation, the Visuddhimagga is certain to remain a vital part of the Buddhist Tradition for centuries to come.