Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “description of the ‘five eyes’ (cakshus)” 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.

Description of the ‘five eyes’ (cakṣus)

What are these five? 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).

1. The fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus) sees what is close up (samīpe), does not see what is far off (dūre); sees what is in front (purastāta), does not see what is behind (pṛṣṭhatas); sees what is external (bahis), does not see what is internal (abhyantare); sees during the day-time (divā), does not see at night-time (rātrau); sees what is on top (upariṣṭāt), does not see what is underneath (adhastāt).[1]

2. Because of these screens, the bodhisattva seeks the divine eye (divyacakṣus). Having obtained the divine eye, he sees what is distant and what is near, what is in front and what which is behind, what is internal and what is external, he sees during the day and during the night, he sees what is above and what is below, for there are no further screens. This divine eye sees the provisional entities resulting from causes and conditions coming together (saṃghātahetupratyayaja), but he does not see the true nature (dharmatā), namely, emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta), wishlessness (apraṇihita), non-arising (anutpāda), non-cessation (anirodha).

3. And it is the same as before: in order to see the true nature (dharmatā), the bodhisattva seeks the wisdom eye (prajñācakṣus). Having obtained the wisdom eye, he no longer sees beings (sattva), he eliminates completely the signs of identity (ekatva) and difference (nānātva), he rejects all clinging (adhyavasāna) and accepts no dharma.[2]

4. However, the wisdom eye cannot save beings. Why? Because it does not distinguish them; this is why the bodhisattva produces the Dharma eye (dharmacakṣus). By means of this eye, he knows that such and such a man, by practicing such and such a dharma, has obtained such and such bodhi;[3] he knows all the methods (upāyamukha) suitable for each being in particular (pṛthak pṛthak) [306a] to attain the realization of bodhi.

5. But the Dharma eye cannot know the means appropriate to save beings everywhere; this is why the bodhisattva seeks the Buddha eye (buddhacakṣus).[4] There is nothing that this Buddha eye is unaware of; there is no mystery however secret it may be that it cannot discover. What is distant for other people is close for the Buddha; what is obscure for others is clear for the Buddha; what is doubtful for others is clear for the Buddha; what is subtle (sūkṣma) for others is coarse (audārika) for the Buddha; what is deep for others is shallow for the Buddha. By means of this Buddha eye, there is nothing that is not understood, seen, known, felt (yena buddhackaṣuṣānmati kiṃcid aśrutaṃ vāvijnnātaṃ vāmataṃ vā).[5] Free of thinking (manasikāra), the Buddha eye is always clear on all dharmas.

In a following chapter,[6] the meaning of the five eyes (cakṣus) will be elucidated further.

Footnotes and references:


Similar development in a passage from the Karaṇaprajñapti cited by the Kośabhāṣya, p. 19, l. 9–14.


Cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 78, l. 11–16: Prajñācakṣuṣā samanvāgato bodhisattvo mahāsattvo na kaṃcid dharmaṃ prajānāti saṃskṛtaṃ vāsaṃskṛtaṃ vā … yena prajñācakṣuṣā bodhisattvena mahāsattvena kaścid dharma na dṛṣṭo na śruto na mato na vijñātaḥ.


These are particular bodhis capable of being acquired by beings on their course towards supreme bodhi. These ‘fruits of the Path’ are detailed in Pañcaviṃśati, p. 79.


The Buddha eye is none other than the awareness of things in all their aspects (sarvākārajñatā) acquired by the Bodhisattva the very night of his great enlightenment. The Pañcaviṃśati, p. 82, explains: The Bodhisattva, having entered into the Vajropāmasamādhi, by means of the wisdom associated with a single moment of mind attains the awareness endowed with all the aspects (vajropamaṃ samādhiṃ samāpadya, ekacittakṣaṇasamāyuktayā prajñayā sarvākārajñatām anuprāpnoti).


The expression dṛṣṭa-śruta-vijñāta-mata designates the group of perceived things: what is perceived by the eye consciousness is dṛṣṭa, what is perceived by the ear consciousness is śruta, what is perceived by the mental consciousness is vijñāta, what is perceived by the nose, tongue and body consciousnesses is mata (cf. Kośa, IV, p. 160). The expression is canonical and is expressed in Pāli by the words diṭṭhaṃ sutaṃ mutaṃ viññātaṃ: Majjhima, I, p. 135; III, p. 261; Saṃyutta, III, p. 203; Anguttara, II, p. 23, 25.


Pañcaviṃśati, p. 77, l. 1–83, l. 6, appearing in the Wang cheng p’in of the Chinese translation, T 223, k. 2, p. 227b10–228b1, and commented on by the Traité, T 1509, k. 39, p. 347a6–351b1.

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