Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note on the ‘five eyes’” 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.

Preliminary note on the ‘five eyes’

In the literal sense, the word cakṣus, ‘eye’, means the organ of the eye which, together with the visibles, produces the visual consciousness; hence the stock phrase: cakkhuṃ ca paricca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññaṃ (Saṃyutta, II, p. 72). In the figurative sense, the eye is a seeing and, more particularly, the seeing of the four noble Truths with the three turnings and twelve aspects: the tales that describie the night of enlightenment, that review each of the twelve aspects, that review each of these twelve aspects, consider it good to repeat the refrain: cakṣur udapādi, jñānaṃ vidyā buddhir udapādi “the eye is born; the knowledge, the intellect, the erudition will be born” (Pāli Vinaya, I, p. 11; Catuṣpariṣad, p. 144–152; Saṃghabhedavastu, I, p. 135–136). ‘Eye’ can be synonymous with knowledge, intelligence, erudition.

Cakṣus often appears in composite form; its meaning is then determined by the word that precedes it. From the canonical sūtras, we can find the following compounds:

Māṃsacakṣus (maṃsacakkhu), fleshly eye: Itivuttaka, p. 52, repeated in Kathāvatthu, p. 251.

Divyacakṣus (dibbacakkhu), divine eye: Dīgha, I, p. 82, 162; III, p. 52, 281; Majjhima, I, p. 213; Saṃyutta, I, p. 144, 196; II, p. 122, 213–214, 276; IV, p. 240, 243; V, p. 266, 305; Anguttara, I, p. 165, 256, 281; III, p. 19, 29, 418; IV, p. 85, 141, 143, 178, 291; V, p. 13, 35, 38, 68, 200, 211, 340.

Prajñācakṣus (paññācakkhu), wisdom eye: Saṃyutta, IV, p. 292; V, p. 467.

Dharmacakṣus (dhammadakkhu), Dharma eye: Saṃyutta, II, p. 134; IV, p.47, 107.

Buddhacakṣus (buddhacakkhu) Buddha eye: Dīgha, II, p. 38; Saṃyutta, I, p. 138.

Samantacakṣus, universal eye (epithet of the Buddha): Saṃyutta, I, p. 137.

Nine times out of ten, in the canonical sūtras each of these cakṣus is mentioned in isolation, but with time, there was a tendency to group them together. Two classifications finally were used: the first listed three cakṣus, the second, five; and the schools’ positions lasted for a long time.

1. The classification into three cakusus groups the māṃsa-, the divya- and the prajñācakṣus.

It appears in some rare canonical sūtras: Saṃgītisūtra (Dīgha, III, p. 219; Dīrgha, T 1, k. 8, p. 50b21; T 12, k.1, p. 228b1); Ekottarāgama, T 125, k. 1, p. 550c2; Pāli Itivittaka, p. 52.

It is the rule in the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika Abhidharmas and śāstras: Saṃgītiparyāya, ed. Mittal-Rosen, p. 86, or T 1536, k. 5, p. 388a15–20; Compilation by Vasumitra, T 1549, k. 2, p. 732a2; Mahāvinhāṣā, T 1545, k. 73, p. 379c7–8; Saṃyuktābhidharmasāra, T 1552, k. 1, p. 873a29–b1.

It is also found in works of uncertain origin, such as the Śāriputrābhidharma, T 1548, k. 9, p. 599c26; 593a21–28.

2. The classification into five cakṣus, firmly adopted by the Traité, groups the māṃsa- divya- prajñā- dharma- and buddhacakṣus. In principle, the Buddha alone holds all five, but he does not use them all at the same time (see above, p. 429–440F).

The classification into five cakṣus is fully detailed in the Mahāvastu, I, p. 158–160, a Mahāsāṃghika-Lokottaravādin work. The Lalitavistara, a work of pronounced Mahāyāna tendencies, only mentions them quickly (p. 3, l. 5; 403, l. 2). Above all, the Mahāyāna knows no other and often devotes lengthy definitions to them: Pañcavimśati, p. 77, l.1–80, l. 18; Śatasāhastikā, p. 290, l. 12–301, l. 2; Avataṃsaka, T 279, k. 50, p. 268a12; T 291, k. 2, p. 600b10; T 292, k. 6, p. 659b14–24; Ratnakūṭa, T 310, k. 41, p. 240a14; k. 85, p. 486c4, 489b7; Sukhāvatīvyūha, T 363, k. 3, p. 324c11; T 364, k. 2, p. 335b17; Mahāsaṃnipāta, T 397, k. 5, p. 30a18; k. 7, p. 43a13.

The Vijñānavādins do not pay much attention to the five cakṣus, but a passage from the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, p. 143, l. 8–9, shows that they had adopted them.

The Pāli sources, at least the less late ones, also show a list of five cakṣus where the samanatacakkhu appears in place of the dhammacakkhu: Cullaniddesa, no. 235, p. 133; Atthasālini, p. 306.