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The Buddha sometimes described the practice (patipatti) of his teaching as the gradual training (Pali: anupubbasikkhā) because the eightfold path involves a process of mind-body transformation that unfolds over a sometimes lengthy period.

Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch, in the same way this discipline of Dhamma (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training (anupubbasikkhā), a gradual performance (anupubbakiriyā) , a gradual progression (anupubbapatipadā), with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.
Udana, 5.5

The emphasis on gradual training may be understood by the fact that just as the human habits which give rise to suffering have been built up over a long period of time those same habits similarly take a long time to undo requiring a sustained effort achievable only with a genuine commitment to training.

The gradual approach to teaching and training was a hallmark of the Buddha's method of instruction. Whenever he felt that a person to whom the Dhamma had not yet been revealed was in a suitably receptive frame of mind he would deliver a 'graduated discourse' (Pali: ānupubbī-kathā) [1] — which took a certain form.

  1. Generosity (dāna)
  2. Virtue (sīla)
  3. Heaven (sagga)
  4. Danger of sensual pleasure (kāmānaṃ ādīnava)
  5. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
  6. The Four Noble Truths (cattāri ariya-saccāni)[2]

See also


  1. Variously translated "Gradual discourse" (Walshe 1995, p. 215); "gradual instruction," (Nyanatiloka, 1980), entry for "ānupubbī-kathā" at; "progressive instruction," Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), p. 485. and "step-by-step talk" (Thanissaro 1998).
  2. See, for instance, Bullitt (2005).


  • Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  • Walshe, Maurice (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

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