Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reflections: The Five Eyes and Dogen's True Dharma Eye Treasury

I've been wanting to tell folks about a discovery that caused a bit more of the Shobogenzo fall into place for me. I intended to write about it as soon as I got back from this fall's Genzo-e on Komyō, Radiant Brightness, but work and the holidays have kept me from writing.

At the Genzo-e Okumura mentioned the Five Eyes. Because the Shobogenzo is called "The True Dharma Eye Treasury" when I got back I pulled up what I could about the Five Eyes. Here's a summary.

The Five Eyes* are:

The human eye - our physical eye, which, while better than the eye of a barnacle, only sees a limited range of light in the electromagnetic spectrum. This means a lot more comes and goes in the world than we perceive. We can't completely know reality because our perceptions are limited. Then again, the question arises, how much do we need to know? Most of us survive okay for the typical duration of a human life span.

The divine or heavenly eye - the divine eye is an eye with the obstructions removed. Because the divine eye is free of limitations it can see anything and everything. The divine eye can be experienced during sitting. In addition, because telescopes, microscopes and a variety of scientific instrumentation give humans the power to perceive beyond the normal limits of the physical eye, it has been suggested these instruments can confer the divine eye. [Note: scientific instrumentation only enhances perceptions of a single 'channel'. And the sight conferred by scientific instrumentation typically doesn't get integrated into experience. So intellectual understanding of another dimension or perspective doesn't necessarily imply we have fully incorporated that dimension or perspective into our lives. The points that I'm trying to make are that (a) the average scientist doesn't experience what can be experienced during sitting and (b) in science and beyond sitting, intellectual understanding falls substantially short of experiential understanding and integration.]

The wisdom eye - the eye that sees the empty nature of phenomena and form. [For example see my 'Mind Cannot Be Grasped' posts on Shobogenzo Chapters 18 & 19.] Experiencing the bliss of emptiness during sitting and recognizing the empty nature of phenomena is freeing, because a person is no longer reflexively driven by the fears and stresses arising from the unsatisfactory aspects of life that are a natural byproduct of living.

The dharma eye - the eye of the Bodhisattva. The dharma eye is the manifestation of emptiness in form or as close to emptiness in form as it's possible to get outside of sitting. The dharma eye arises, at least in part, from the realization that the experience of emptiness during sitting and the motivation for practice and enlightenment arise out of phenomena and form. To go one step further, emptiness however blissful is also phenomenological and, therefore, empty. With this realization it seems obvious that each dharma is reality for the person experiencing it, even though each dharma is a construct of delusion. I can't see how recognition of this basic truth could fail to be accompanied by unconditional compassion.

The buddha eye - the buddha-eye integrates the sight provided by the previous four eyes at their most advanced functioning. I plan on writing more about my thoughts on the buddha eye in a separate post. (Hopefully in the near, rather than distant, future.)


I suspect many of you already know about the Five Eyes. For me, learning about the Five Eyes was a bit of a Doh! insight. To me it implies that Dogen wrote the Shobogenzo not only to instill compassion, but also as guidebook for people motivated by compassion -- even though Dogen, like me lately, seems to have realized that actions based on compassion are based on views and judgements and, therefore, that actions based on compassion have the potential to do as much harm as good -- a topic that admittedly continues to perplex me... But I have about three quarters more of the Shobogenzo to go.

 *A more in depth intellectual but fun description of the Five Eyes can be found at: