Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Wind
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Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Wind » Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:57 am

I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation. Most assume the eyes are shut but some even practice with eyes open. It seems to be an important factor to consider. I wonder if the Buddha shuts his eyes or not when he does sitting meditation. Any clues?

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:00 am

Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation. Most assume the eyes are shut but some even practice with eyes open. It seems to be an important factor to consider. I wonder if the Buddha shuts his eyes or not when he does sitting meditation. Any clues?


Probably because meditation was a well known practice in the culture of the day so people already had an understanding of the posture to assume.

But I guess if it were really important he would have explicitly said so it's probably not.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Wind » Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:09 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation. Most assume the eyes are shut but some even practice with eyes open. It seems to be an important factor to consider. I wonder if the Buddha shuts his eyes or not when he does sitting meditation. Any clues?


Probably because meditation was a well known practice in the culture of the day so people already had an understanding of the posture to assume.

But I guess if it were really important he would have explicitly said so it's probably not.


I thought it wasn't important either until I tried both ways, and it makes a huge difference. So I want to know what the Buddha did. :cry:

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 05, 2010 4:42 am

Wind wrote:I thought it wasn't important either until I tried both ways, and it makes a huge difference. So I want to know what the Buddha did. :cry:


I don't know if it was ever recorded.

Most commonly it's eyes closed. Eyes open is usually only encouraged when necessary to prevent sleepiness however you need to be sitting somewhere that doesn't have any visual distraction, which is why those traditions who encourage eyes open encourage sitting facing the wall.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Wind » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:15 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Wind wrote:I thought it wasn't important either until I tried both ways, and it makes a huge difference. So I want to know what the Buddha did. :cry:


I don't know if it was ever recorded.

Most commonly it's eyes closed. Eyes open is usually only encouraged when necessary to prevent sleepiness however you need to be sitting somewhere that doesn't have any visual distraction, which is why those traditions who encourage eyes open encourage sitting facing the wall.


Excellent point. Do you know if the non-Buddhist meditators in India during the time of the Buddha practice with eyes closed too?

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:49 am

Mahayana from my instructions and from readings tend to do it eyes open
Theravada eyes closed

either one is fine really.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Thai_Theravada » Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:11 am

...
Last edited by Thai_Theravada on Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:39 am

Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation. Most assume the eyes are shut but some even practice with eyes open. It seems to be an important factor to consider. I wonder if the Buddha shuts his eyes or not when he does sitting meditation. Any clues?


Perhaps there is a clue in images of the Buddha? I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods actually. Which do you find most effective?

P
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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Wind » Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:52 am

porpoise wrote:
Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation. Most assume the eyes are shut but some even practice with eyes open. It seems to be an important factor to consider. I wonder if the Buddha shuts his eyes or not when he does sitting meditation. Any clues?


Perhaps there is a clue in images of the Buddha? I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods actually. Which do you find most effective?

P


When I meditate with eyes closed, I can focus on my breathing better but my mind tend to wonder more or if I'm a little tired, sometimes I feel I'm drifting into dream land. When I meditate with my eyes open, I find my mind is more focus and more awake and wander less but it is harder to focus on breathing when I'm distracted sometimes by my blinking. Over all I think eyes-closed is better.

And it is because a lot of pictures depict the Buddha with eyes slightly open that I am trying it eyes open but it has been harder to do. I'm not sure if those images of the Buddha are accurate so that's why I started this thread to find out.

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:01 am

Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation.

Probably for the same reason as he didn't specify exactly how one should sit. The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta just says, “pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā” = having sat cross-legged. What suits one person doesn't suit another. To get hung up on such details misses the point.

If you're sleepy, then open your eyes. If you're restless, then shut them — or do whatever works for you.
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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Wind » Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:17 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Wind wrote:I wonder why the Buddha did not give any instruction on what to do with the eyes during sitting meditation.

Probably for the same reason as he didn't specify exactly how one should sit. The Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta just says, “pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā” = having sat cross-legged. What suits one person doesn't suit another. To get hung up on such details misses the point.

If you're sleepy, then open your eyes. If you're restless, then shut them — or do whatever works for you.


Thanks again Venerable. You are right. I will do what works for me. :smile:

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby PeterB » Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:10 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:Mahayana from my instructions and from readings tend to do it eyes open
Theravada eyes closed

either one is fine really.

As a generalisation this is largely true in my experience.

When I learned Vipassana I was taught to close my eyes.
When I learned Vipasnya I was taught to half close them and look at the ground about four feet ahead.

Both ways are fine.

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby catmoon » Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:56 pm

If it was critically important to enlightenment that one meditate eyes open, then surely the sutras would have mentioned it. Right?

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:42 pm

basically the reasons i've seen to back both are thus;

eyes closed means less distractions
eyes opened means a safeguard against drowsiness

what are you having problems with? the answer to that question should tell you whether or not to open your eyes, nothing else.
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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:04 pm

In her audio book "How to Meditate", Pema Chodron stated that 'Southern" Buddhists (Theravada) meditate with their eyes closed to minimize distractions. Tibetan Buddhists meditate with their eyes open, though more distracting, to symbolize their openness to the world. (Don't shoot the messenger, just repeating what I heard.)

This cleared up a lot for me. I always wondered why at some meditation workshops I was told to keep my eyes closed, and at others eyes open (soft gaze directed at a spot on the floor 18 centimeters in front of me.)

I have a similar story about mudras.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Why were there no instruction on the eyes in meditation?

Postby Fede » Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:13 am

You have 2 eyes, don't you?
open one, close the other...... :roll:
Really, I think it all depends on how you feel at the time.
A lot of pictures depict the Buddha with his eyes closed.
Many statues depict him with eyes open.

Truly, I think it best to do what feels best, at the time.....

I actually find I am less distracted with my eyes semi-closed, looking at a point about three feet ahead of me....
If I close my eyes, I find I get too mentally active.
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