Did the Buddha instruct us to close the eyes?

So, the question is very simple, does anything in the EBTs indicate the Buddha instructed us to close our eyes when in meditation?

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Not that I can recall.

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Searching with the regular expression “((close|shut).{1,50}eye)|(eye.{1,50}(close|shut))” throughout Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations yields a few places in the suttas that employ the word nimīlati:

Nimīlati & Nimmīlati

to shut, close (the eyes) Ja.i.279; Dhp-a.ii.6 (akkhīni nimmīlituṃ nâsakkhi) Caus. nim(m)īl-eti id. MN.i.120; Dhp-a.ii.28 (paralokaṃ opp. ummīleti); Ja.i.279; Vism.292 (akkhīni ni˚).

ni + mīlati

If any such instruction should include the term, I don’t see that there are any.

Of note, in MN 20 and MN 152, the word is used in analogy. And according to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s footnote to SN 51.20, commentary does indicate some eye-closing where “perception of light” is involved.

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maybe it was so much taken for granted that nobody even thought of specifically mentioning it

or it really shouldn’t matter

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I remember seeing something like a “face mudra”, once upon a time. It involved each hand on the face, with the fingers pointing forward. The thumbs were put in the ears; the forefingers covered closed eyelids; the middle fingers pinched the nostrils together; the last two fingers pinched the mouth shut.

This was something of a symbolic retreat from the senses, it seemed to me (you’d open a nostril to breathe). I thought about this for a while in specific connection with whether or not the eyes should be open or not, back when I was comparing Zen with other contemplative styles.

It seemed optional, but these days I lean towards the idea that eyes open is better - after all, we start out with ears open & the body present & the nose and tongue active, whether we want to or not, so having vision in there is just natural.

And, it offers an additional measurement tool; alongside noticing a lack of hearing and/or a lack of the presence of the body, one can notice a lack of seeing – in short, you can notice that some senses are present & others absent, or else all or none, and there’s no reason I can see to treat vision in a special way by trying (!~) to keep the lids down.

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Thank you all for replying.

What would be then the earliest mention of the formal practice of meditation requiring closed eyes? Commentaries? Visudhimagga?

What would be then the implications if doing it with eyes open? Should one allow it to close naturally as the Ganzfeld effect takes place? Or close once rapture begins to arise?

PS: @daverupa, some amulets produced by temples in Thailand do indeed have that “face mudra” you mention depicted! They call it พระปิดตา , lit. ‘venerable shut eyes’ (phra pid-dta).

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With respect to the satipatthana tetrads, it occurs to me that with the body, the eyes are part of the practice & so, when being refined into anapanasati, vision will move away of its own accord, and the eyelids can do what they please.

With feeling, again it’s the case that seeing is one of the sense spheres involved, and so this too is an aspect wherein vision could be peresnt, for a time, during the anapanasati aspect.

With the mind & the factor/hindrance dhammas, it seems to me that neither attention nor effort is going to be anywhere near the eyes. Probably the eyes close eventually, once the practice gets going.

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That’s the common name over the past 2 decades. In previous decades, it was Pakawampati, a corruption of Phra Gavampati. Was this the Theravadin Gavampati, counted among the first 11 arahants and celebrated for stopping a tsunami? Or the Northern edition, a disciple of Sariputra?

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I wonder if we will have enough bandwidth to both (1) deal with eye-contact, and (2) dwell as a body/feelings/mind/states contemplator, at the same time.

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Wow! Never heard of this! So cool! Maybe a lost trace of the northern Buddhist tradition displaced by the Theravada?

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Most definitely. The oldest surviving Gavampati statue goes back to “Burma” when Mahayana held sway.

Other Thai Buddhist icons are traceable to the Agamas, eg the events when Pasenadi made a Buddha effigy to tide over his longing for the Buddha during His sojourn in Tavatimsa. Upon His return, the statue got up and attempted to vacate the shrine, which the Buddha forbade. Thus, you get one of the 3 variations of the Monday Buddha theme involving the abhaya mudra.

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you might mean “closing the six gates”, ṣaṇmūkī mudrā?

https://www.google.com/search?q=shanmukhi+mudra&pws=0&source=lnms&tbm=isch

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Yeah that looks like it. A Hindu practice, yes?

Depends on what you mean by “Hindu”. It’s recorded in the Haṭha Pradīpikā, which itself is a compilation of 20 or so older haṭha texts. For most of India’s history as far as I’m aware, the haṭha yogis haven’t really been considered “mainstream” if that’s what you mean by Hinduism.

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Sure, I grok the troubles with that term, but I didn’t/don’t know enough to ask it a different way. :blush:

So we have four people: R, S, A, and J.

R is engaged in sense restraint of the eye, mindfully aware of contacts at the eye base as they e.g. ride on the train.

S is walking on a short path/sitting in a quiet room engaged in contemplating the body tetrad of satipatthana.

What came to mind for me was this passage from MN 10:

Furthermore, when a monastics goes out and returns they act with awareness; when looking to the front and to the side they act with awareness.

Is there a way to phrase this difference in a more precise way?


A is engaged in the first tetrad of anapanasati.
J is engaged in some jhana or other.

J hasn’t got anything going on with the eyes or vision or anything like that, I think we’ll agree. So it’s this question of the A practitioner: are they advised to close the eyes for X reason, or are they advised to let go of engagement with the eyes?

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Sorry to revive such an old topic, but it seemed better than making a new one about this age-old question.

I’ve also recently gone down the eyes-open-or-closed rabbit hole, and I found that in SN 54.8 the Buddha says about mindfulness of breathing:

Before my awakening—when I was still unawakened but intent on awakening—I too usually practiced this kind of meditation. And while I was usually practicing this kind of meditation neither my body nor my eyes became fatigued. And my mind was freed from defilements by not grasping.

suggesting that he might have meditated with his eyes open.

My question is: @cdpatton can you confirm this statement is present in the parallel SA 814?

Thank you :pray:

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A little off-topic here, but much was said about mudras in this thread. Are there any mentions of mudras in the suttas?

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Practically speaking I haven’t noticed much difference. As concentration deepens, sensory input naturally diminishes, even with open eyes. This is particularly the case if one’s gaze is resting on a static visual field, for example a blank wall.

Yes, it says his body wasn’t fatigued and his eyes weren’t troubled.

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