Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “notes on the five cakshus or visual powers of the buddha” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 1 - Notes on the five cakṣus or visual powers of the Buddha

Note: This Appendix is extracted from Chapter XIV part 1.2.

“Question. – The Buddha possesses the buddha-eye. the wisdom-eye and the Dharma-eye; they are better than the divine eye. Why does he use the divine eye to contemplate the universe?

Answer. – Because the visual range of the fleshly eye is not great enough.”

Here the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra attributes five cakṣus or visual powers to the Buddha. It will refer to them again later at k. 33, p. 305. These are:

  1. the fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus),
  2. the divine eye (divyacakṣus),
  3. the wisdom-eye (prajñācakṣus),
  4. the Dharma-eye (dharmacakṣus),
  5. the buddha-eye (buddhacakṣus).

The same list occurs in Mahāvastu, I, p. 158, and Dharmasaṃgraha, chap. LXVI. Lalitavistara, p. 3, l. 5; p. 413, l. 2, describes the Buddha as pañcacakṣuḥsamanvāgata.

These cakṣus were already mentioned in the canonical scriptures, either separately (see Rhys Davids-Stede, s.v. cakkhu) or as a group. A list of the first three eyes is in Itivuttaka, p. 52, Kathāvatthu, p. 251; a full list of the five eyes in Cullaniddesa, p. 235 and Atthasālini, p. 306, but the fourth is designated by the expression sānatacakkhu instead of dhammacakkhu.

The five eyes are also enumerated in a Sogdian text from the Pelliot mission, ed. by E. Benveniste in TSP, no. 10, p. 126–127.

Note: The above-mentioned chapter further explains:

“The wisdom-eye (prajñācakṣus) knows the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of the dharmas;the Dharma-eye (dharmacakṣus) sees a given person and discovers by what skillful means (upāya) and by what teaching (dharma) that person will find the Path; the buddha-eye (buddhacakṣus) is the direct insight (pratyakṣāvagama) into all dharmas.”