Points of Controversy

3.7. Of the “Celestial Eye.”

Controverted Point: That the fleshly eye, when it is the medium of an idea, becomes the celestial eye.

Theravādin: If you affirm this, you must also say that the fleshly eye is the celestial eye, and conversely, that the two are like in kind, are, in fact, identical, the one having the same range, power, and field as the other. This you deny.

Again, if you make the two thus on a par, you are affirming that something grasped at as effect by previous karma becomes something not so grasped at, that experience in the universe of sense is experience in the universe of “Rūpa,” that experience, analogously reasoning, in the universe of Rūpa is experience in the universe of the remoter heavens, that the things included in these universes are “the Unincluded’—which is absurd.

Further, you are, by your proposition, also admitting that the celestial eye, when it is the medium of a sensuous idea in jhāna, becomes the fleshly eye. And, again, that, when it is the medium of a spiritual idea, it then becomes the eye of understanding—which you must deny.

Further, you are also admitting that there are only two kinds of vision (or “eye ”). If you deny, your proposition falls. If you assent, I would ask whether the Exalted One did not speak of three kinds of vision—the fleshly, the celestial, and the eye of understanding, thus:

“Three, bhikkhus, are the modes of sight—which are they? The fleshly eye, the celestial eye, the eye of understanding.

“The eye of flesh, the heavenly eye,
And insight’s eye, vision supreme:
These are the eyes, the visions three
Revealed by the man supreme.

“The genesis of fleshly eye,
The way of eye celestial,
How intuition took its rise:
The eye of insight unsurpassed.
Whoso doth come that eye to know,
Is from all suffering and sorrow freed.”