Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

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Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:46 am

Hello Pali friends,

The traditional English translations of these terms - "eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind", in context of the six senses, are commonly understood as the physical sense organs, which makes no sense:

"... the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is thrashed in the eye by charming & pleasurable forms... thrashed in the ear by charming & pleasurable sounds... thrashed in the nose by charming & pleasurable aromas... thrashed in the tongue by charming & pleasurable flavors... thrashed in the body by charming & pleasurable tactile sensations... thrashed in the intellect by charming & pleasurable ideas."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

SN 35.7 " ... the well-taught ariyan disciple cares not for an eye that is
past, is not in love with an eye to be, and for the present
eye, seeks to be repelled by it, seeks dispassion for it, seeks
the ceasing of it." [ PTS Kindred Sayings IV page 3 ]

From SN 35.155 [ Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 1216 ]

"Bhikkhu, if one teaches the Dhamma for the purpose of revulsion
towards the eye, for its fading away and cessation, one can be
called a bhikkhu who is a speaker on the Dhamma."

"If one is practising for the purpose of revulsion toward the eye,
for its fading away and cessation, one can be called a bhikkhu who
is practising in accordance with the Dhamma."

"If, through revulsion towards the eye, through its fading away and
cessation, one is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a
bhikkhu who has attained Nibbana in this very life."

[ Repeat for ear ..... mind. ]

Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 1139. - SN 35.21

"Bhikkhus, the arising, continuation, production, and manifestation of
the [eye] is the arising of suffering, the continuation of disease,
the manifestation of aging-and-death."

Replace [eye] with [ear], [nose], [tongue], [body] and [mind].

"The cessation, subsiding, and passing away of the [eye], is the
cessation of suffering, the subsiding of disease, the passing away
of aging-and-death."

Seems like the first English translators used the terms 'eye', 'ear', etc. in the old sense of 'sight', 'sense of hearing', etc.,

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eye
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ear

and then these renderings became traditional and undisputed:

However in the recently published Pali-English dictionary Margaret Cone gives the appropriate contemporary meanings:

cakkhu, 1. the eye; the organ of sight; the faculty of seeing, sight;...

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:51 am

Niddesa describes five kinds of sight:

Cakkhumāti bhagavā pañcahi cakkhūhi cakkhumā— maṃsacakkhunāpi cakkhumā, dibbacakkhunāpi cakkhumā, paññācakkhunāpi cakkhumā, buddhacakkhunāpi cakkhumā, samantacakkhunāpi cakkhumā.

Kathaṃ bhagavā maṃsacakkhunāpi cakkhumā? Maṃsacakkhumhi bhagavato pañca vaṇṇā saṃvijjanti— nīlo ca vaṇṇo, pītako ca vaṇṇo, lohitako ca vaṇṇo, kaṇho ca vaṇṇo, odāto ca vaṇṇo. ...

Katthavatthu describes two types of sense of hearing:

Ekaṃyeva sotanti? Āmantā. Nanu dve sotāni vuttāni bhagavatā— “maṃsasotaṃ, dibbasotan”ti? Āmantā. Hañci dve sotāni vuttāni bhagavatā— maṃsasotaṃ, dibbasotaṃ, no ca vata re vattabbe— “ekaññeva sotan”ti.

and the types of sight:

Maṃsacakkhuṃ dhammupatthaddhaṃ dibbacakkhuṃ hotīti? Āmantā. Dveva cakkhūnīti? Na hevaṃ vattabbe…pe… dveva cakkhūnīti? Āmantā. Nanu tīṇi cakkhūni vuttāni bhagavatā— maṃsacakkhuṃ, dibbacakkhuṃ, paññācakkhunti? Āmantā. Hañci tīṇi cakkhūni vuttāni bhagavatā— maṃsacakkhuṃ, dibbacakkhuṃ, paññācakkhuṃ, no ca vata re vattabbe— “dveva cakkhūnī”ti.

Dveva cakkhūnīti? Āmantā. Nanu vuttaṃ bhagavatā— “tīṇimāni, bhikkhave, cakkhūni. Katamāni tīṇi? Maṃsacakkhuṃ, dibbacakkhuṃ, paññācakkhunti— imāni kho, bhikkhave, tīṇi cakkhūnī”ti.

“Maṃsacakkhuṃ dibbacakkhuṃ,
Paññācakkhuṃ anuttaraṃ;
Etāni tīṇi cakkhūni,
Akkhāsi purisuttamo.

Maṃsacakkhussa uppādo,
maggo dibbassa cakkhuno;
Yadā ca ñāṇaṃ udapādi,
paññācakkhuṃ anuttaraṃ;
Tassa cakkhussa paṭilābhā,
sabbadukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

Attheva suttantoti? Āmantā. Tena hi na vattabbaṃ— “dveva cakkhūnī”ti.

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:57 am

'Ear' as a physical organ corresponds to a different word in Pali - 'kaṇṇa'.

Cases of usage:

hatthissa kaṇṇo - elephant's ear;
kaṇṇachinna - one whose ears are cut;
kaṇṇapatta - lap of the ear;
kaṇṇasukhā (vācā) - (speech) pleasant for the ear;
kaṇṇasota - passage of the ear.

The list of diseases in Girimānanda sutta includes both 'sota' and 'kaṇṇa' as two different things:

Iti imasmiṃ kāye vividhā ābādhā uppajjanti, seyyathidaṃ – cakkhurogo sotarogo ghānarogo jivhārogo kāyarogo sīsarogo kaṇṇarogo mukharogo dantarogo oṭṭharogo kāso sāso pināso ḍāho jaro kucchirogo...

Commentary explains the cakkhu, sota, etc. in the sense of 'vatthu', and kaṇṇa as an external ear (bahikaṇṇa).


For a physical eye, there's a Pali word 'akkhi':

Akkhi (nt.) the eye M i.383 (ubbhatehi akkhīhi); Sn 197, 608; J i.223, 279; v.77; vi.336; Pv ii.926 (akkhīni paggharanti: shed tears, cp. PvA 123); VvA 65 (˚īni bhamanti, my eyes swim) cp. akkhīni me dhūmāyanti DhA i.475; DhA ii.26; iii.196 (˚īni ummīletvā opening the eyes); Sdhp 103, 380. -- In combn with sa -- as sacchi & sakkhi (q. v.). As adj. ( -- ˚) akkha3 (q.v.).
-- añjana eye ointment, collyrium DhA iii.354. -- kūpa the socket of the eye J iv.407. -- gaṇḍa eye -- protuberance, i. e. eye -- brow (?) J vi.504 (for pamukha T.). -- gūtha secretion from the eye PvA 198. -- gūthaka id. Sn 197 (= dvīhi akkhicchiddehi apanīta -- ttaca -- maŋsasadiso a˚ -- gūthako SnA 248). -- chidda the eye -- hole SnA 248. -- dala the eye -- lid DA i.194; ThA 259; DhsA 378. -- pāta "fall of the eye", i. e. a look, in mand˚ of soft looks (adj.) PvA 57. -- pūra an eye -- full, in akkhipūraŋ assuŋ (assu?) an eye full of tears J vi.191. -- mala dirt from the eye Pv iii.53 (= ˚gūtha C.). -- roga eye disease DhA i.9.

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :1:47.pali
Last edited by Dmytro on Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:12 am

Sue Hamilton discusses this issue at length in Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism (pp. 7-35). She concludes that "cakkhu" (eye), etc. do not refer to the physical organs.

Wisdom-oriented suttas describe the investigation in terms of the elements (dhatu), sense spheres (ayatana), conditioned arising and aggregates (khandha):

Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tividhūpaparikkhī hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu dhātuso upaparikkhati, āyatanaso upaparikkhati, paṭiccasamuppādaso upaparikkhati.

"And how does a monk have three modes of investigation? There is the case where a monk investigates in terms of properties, investigates in terms of sense spheres, investigates in terms of dependent co-arising.

(Sattathana sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )

So the "cakkhu", etc., denote the sense spheres (ayatana), and not the physical organs.

Vibhanga explains these ayatanas in such a way:

Dvādasāyatanāni— cakkhāyatanaṃ, sotāyatanaṃ, ghānāyatanaṃ, jivhāyatanaṃ, kāyāyatanaṃ, manāyatanaṃ, rūpāyatanaṃ, saddāyatanaṃ, gandhāyatanaṃ, rasāyatanaṃ, phoṭṭhabbāyatanaṃ, dhammāyatanaṃ.

Tattha katamaṃ cakkhāyatanaṃ? Yaṃ cakkhu catunnaṃ mahābhūtānaṃ upādāya pasādo attabhāvapariyāpanno anidassano sappaṭigho, yena cakkhunā anidassanena sappaṭighena rūpaṃ sanidassanaṃ sappaṭighaṃ passi vā passati vā passissati vā passe vā, cakkhumpetaṃ cakkhāyatanampetaṃ cakkhudhātupesā cakkhundriyampetaṃ lokopeso dvārāpesā samuddopeso paṇḍarampetaṃ khettampetaṃ vatthumpetaṃ nettampetaṃ nayanampetaṃ orimaṃ tīrampetaṃ suñño gāmopeso. Idaṃ vuccati “cakkhāyatanaṃ”.

(similarly with other sense spheres)


The key word in the definition, "pasādo", is explained in the Margaret Cone's dictionary as:

Ghāna-pasāda, m., the tranquillity (resulting in sensitivity) of the sense-organ that is the nose; the receptive power of the sense-organ that is the nose; Spk II 131,11

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:20 am

Such understanding makes comprehensible the passages about the cessation of six sense spheres.

This is explained in Paṭisambhidāmagga Suññatākathā:

Through the stream-entry path one who is fully aware terminates the occurrence of defilements associated with wrong view; through the once-returner path one who is fully aware terminates the occurrence of gross defilements; through the non-returner path one who is fully aware terminates the occurrence of secondary defilements; through the arahant path one who is fully aware terminates the occurrence of all defilements [i.e. ignorance].

Or through the nibbāna component (nibbānadhātu) without any fuel remaining for one who is fully aware this occurrence of eye ends and no further occurrence of eye arises; this occurrence of ear ends and no further occurrence of ear arises; this occurrence of nose ends and no further occurrence of nose arises; this occurrence of tongue ends and no further occurrence of tongue arises; this occurrence of body ends and no further occurrence of body arises; this occurrence of mind ends and no further occurrence of mind arises.

This is the ultimate meaning of emptiness [as it relates to] all kinds of emptiness, which is the terminating of occurrence in one who is fully aware.

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby piotr » Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:12 pm

Hi Dmytro,

Thanks for raising the topic which is so often misunderstood. What follows is a footnote from Three Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, which I find useful:

    EYE, etc.: the six, beginning with the eye and ending with the mind (q.v.), are called the six "Bases for Contact (see Contact) in oneself," and are also known as the six "Doors" of perception. Their corresponding objects are called "external bases," ("sense-organ" is both too material and too objective), since the emphasis here is on the subjective faculty of seeing, etc., not the associated piece of flesh seen in someone else or in the looking-glass, which, in so far as it is visible, is not "seeing" but "form" as the "external" object of the seeing "eye in oneself," and insofar as it is tangible is the object of the body-base in oneself, and insofar as it is apprehended as a "bodily feature" is the object of the mind-base in oneself. Here the eye should be taken simply as the perspective-pointing-inward-to-a-center in the otherwise uncoordinated visual field consisting of colors, which makes them cognizable by eye-consciousness, and which is misconceivable as "I." The six Bases in Oneself are compared to an empty village, and the six External Bases to village-raiding robbers.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Sylvester » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:24 pm

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu to this thread!

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Re: Pali Terms: Cakkhu, Sota, Ghāna, Jivhā, Kāya, Mano

Postby Sylvester » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:27 am

Commenting on SN 35.1, BB makes this general observation about the popular understanding of the internal and external sense bases that have been unknowingly adopted from Abhidhamma-speak -

Spk distinguishes the different types of “eyes” referred to in the canon. These are first divided into two general classes: the eye of knowledge (ñāṇacakkhu) and the physical eye (maṃsacakkhu). The former is fivefold: (i) the Buddha eye (buddhacakkhu), the knowledge of the inclinations and underlying tendencies of beings, and the knowledge of the degree of maturity of their spiritual faculties; (ii) the Dhamma eye (dhammacakkhu), the knowledge of the three lower paths and fruits; (iii) the universal eye (samantacakkhu ), the Buddha’s knowledge of omniscience; (iv) the divine eye (dibbacakkhu), the knowledge arisen by suffusion of light (which sees the passing away and rebirth of beings); and (v) the wisdom eye (paññācakkhu), the discernment of the Four Noble Truths. The physical eye is twofold: (i) the composite eye (sasambhāracakkhu), the physical eyeball; and (ii) the sensitive eye (pasādacakkhu), i.e., the sensitive substance in the visual apparatus that responds to forms (perhaps the retina and optic nerve). Here the Blessed One speaks of the sensitive eye as the “eye base.” The ear, etc., should be similarly understood. Mind (mano) is the mind of the three planes, which is the domain of exploration with insight (tebh̄makasammasanacāracitta).

For the commentarial treatment of the sense bases, see Vism 444–46 (Ppn 14:36–53). Hamilton challenges the commentarial classification of the first five sense bases under the rūpakkhandha, arguing from the fact that the standard definition of the form aggregate in the suttas does not include them. In her view, the sense faculties are powers of perception partaking of both material and mental characteristics and thus unclassifiable exclusively under rūpa (Identity and Experience, pp. 14–22). By the same logic, however, it might be argued that the five external sense bases should not be assigned to the rūpakkhandha, for again the suttas do not place them there. The plain fact is that the correlations between the khandhas, āyatanas, and dhātus are not made explicit in the Nikāyas at all, but only in the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, which classifies both the first five internal and external sense bases under rūpa. The five faculties and four sense objects (excluding the tactile object) are categorized as “derivative form” (up̄d̄ r̄pa), i.e., form derived from the four primary elements; the tactile object is classified under three of the primary elements: earth (hardness or softness), heat (hotness or coolness), and air (pressure and motion). The suttas themselves do not enumerate the types of derivative form, and the Abhidhamma texts seem to be filling in this lacuna.


To add to Dmytro's earlier post posting.php?mode=reply&f=23&t=13799#pr204072, the distinction in the suttas between vision and eye, and hearing and ear is also attested in the earlier Upanisadic literature. Olivelle gives the identification of these 2 sensory prāna as pertaining to function, rather than organ, for which latter, different words were used.

I think it's really about time that sutta readers take a more critical approach to some of the unspoken premises in grappling with translations. Have they unwittingly allowed Abhidhamma maps to colour their sutta readings, despite elsewhere protesting vehemently against Abhidhamma and Commentary?


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