Snp 4.4, MN 119, parimukhaṁ, and Crossing over the Boundary

I believe that this is a reference to crossing over from the near shore(knowing or the known) to the far shore(seeing or the seen). The boundary or limits is feeling or the felt. Someone standing on the near shore looking straight ahead in front of him sees the far shore, the seen. If so, we should understand parimukhaṁ to be the seen in MN 119.

The instructions given in MN 119 then can be understood to be the instructions for stepping over/out of the body or felt and into the seen and to our surprise fing there is no “you” to be found. One has reached the end of Loka, the inner world, a visual effect that of an visible wall caused by the lack of depth. The relaxation of mostly eye and facial muscles is accompanied by a loss of depth perception and proprioception resulting of the correspondence between parts of the seen and parts of the felt being lost and so the sense of being in the world is lost as well as a sense of agency.

For some reason not in the Pali Canon that I could find, people started meditating with there eyes closed. I am not shore why.

This is a weird post. I’ll bite. Are you claiming that MN119 is suggesting that we should have our eyes open in meditation since mindfulness takes you to the far shore since the far shore is equal to literal “seeing”?

With the pāli:

The brahmin has stepped over the boundary;
Sīmātigo brāhmaṇo tassa natthi,

knowing and seeing, they adopt nothing.
Ñatvā va disvā va samuggahītaṁ;* (Note that samuggahīta is used here in the same sense as Snp 4.3:6.2 or Snp 2.12:11.1, i.e. the “adoption” of a theory or view.)

sīmā (boundary) atigo (overcome) brāhmaṇo (a brahmin) tassa (for/of him/that) natthi (it isn’t)

I don’t see a strong reason to say this is a reference to the far shore metaphor, sīmā and sīmātigo aren’t used like that anywhere else, but it’s still technically probably talking about enlightenment.

How could you make that relation to the previous line? It grammatically doesn’t imply that, and I don’t see how that could make sense myself. Knowing and seeing are just synonyms for each other, you see them paired with each other in many other places.

Arahants sense, and those who have total cessation of feeling aren’t necessarily arahants; they may still have delusion, which is what it’s actually about.

parimukha isn’t in Snp 4.4 and there’s nothing that says that sutta is directly related to the guide on meditation. Meditation is only part of the path of developing wisdom, it’s not literally what enlightenment is, especially considering any layperson can do it and does it. You shouldn’t make such stretched extrapolations, it sounds like you already had an opinion and needed a passage to justify it.

sits down cross-legged, sets their body straight, and establishes mindfulness in front of them.
nisīdati pallaṅkaṁ ābhujitvā ujuṁ kāyaṁ paṇidhāya parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā.

parimukhaṁ = pari (around) + mukha (mouth/face/front) = “in front of” or even “around face” adverb
satiṁ = mindfulness (accusative) object
upaṭṭhapetvā = one makes (such) established/put forth (causative verb)

“One makes mindfulness established in front of themself”.

“in front of” is “the seen”? Like, you are seeing what is literally in front of you? If it’s talking about being mindful of the seen, then why does it immediately start talking about mindfulness of the breath - in the “Mindfulness of The Body” sutta?

You’re saying that Snp4.4’s use of “seeing” is a reference to the far shore, and since mindfulness eventually takes you to the far shore (which it doesn’t alone do that; it’s not the full path, so those developing a soul theory probably do that exact same meditation). Therefore the guide on mindfulness is about “seeing”.

Then you relate this to the literal eyes. Enlightenment definitely isn’t from the literal eyes. I’d even guess that path is open to blind people. The mind is the primary faculty, and the goal is to give up the eyes.

Eyes can be relaxed or unrelaxed with or without depth perception, and with or without being closed. Unless your focus is on sight itself, it’s easier to do real seeing and understanding when you aren’t distracted by what your eyes are seeing (also known as physical seclusion viveka), but whether you have your eyes open or not in meditation is meaningless, just do whichever one makes mindfulness stronger and let go of the eyes. The goal is happiness, not strictly following guides (even in this sutta, the Buddha is just answering “how is mindfulness cultivated?”, which isn’t a literal guide, but a (model) example), and the goal especially not trying to convolute the meaning of text.

That part of MN119 clearly isn’t suggesting opening, closing, or using your eyes and it doesn’t even use the word “see”.

Even if it did, the word “see” doesn’t literally mean seeing with eyes in English, it means know, understand, perceive See Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster. The same is true in pāli (disvā); they have also abstracted the word “see” to also mean understand.

You probably wish to question the supposed orthodoxy (many teachers are not strict about this anyway) around people wanting to close their eyes in meditation, which is good to question if it’s for the sake of improving meditation, but this is a complex language, and you don’t need to distort it to try to make a point… the teachings corrupt very slowly. Just test it yourself to figure out if eyes open/closed is better as a real proof. If you want to question the teachings, question the important philosophical parts that connect with suffering, and then go and see (see, I also did a pun at the end like you did) for yourself how things really work with meditation, because that’s where suffering ends, with or without your eyes closed, standing or sitting — in my opinion.

Namo Buddhaya!

What one sees that one knows and what one knows that one sees.

The suttas use ‘seeing’ as we do colloquially in saying ‘i see your point’ but the sutta scope of usage is even more broad than that.

For example one could know & see the formless ayatana, or the destruction or taint, things directly experienced, and one could claim to know & see to the extent that one understands or has learned something in general.

You might be convinced if you try it. I have found that things that don’t make sense initially make sense after a break though. Given how otherwise vague things and confusing things are if you do not interpret it as the seen I think it is worth a try.


Yes, I would agree that it technically talking about enlightenment. With regard to the language being different than you expect, consider that the sutta was written in verse and is very old.

I also refer you to the following to support my hypothesis:

Note that most translators translate mute to sensed or felt. Sujato translates it to thought. To my knowledge he is the only one doing so. Check the Online Pali English Dictionary where is says

Note this usage is consistent with other suttas in the Atthakavagga:

Phassaṁ is cotact, that is the seen, heard, and felt. Sanna is only the known. One must completely know it. This is backed up by Snp 4.11

The atthakavagga does not advocate formless states that are distorted. If you meditate with your eyes open you will know why they are called the Spheres of infinite space and consciousness. They are very warped to the point of being spherical. As Analayo points out form here is namarupa. Three dimentional forms collapse into a flat forms that are not differentiated nor do they have feelings associated with them.

See for yourself. Seeing is believing. Seriously, Keep you eyes and mind open.

PS. Sorry for the staggered release. I have fat thumbs and hit something.

Please show in the suttas where seeing is knowing when knowing is referred to already as knowing.

Why would you expect perfect consistency in the terminology used when the suttas were written down over along time by different people?

In front of the face is not part of your face. So what is it? It is the seen.

I became interested in this particular issue because I was trying to make sense of Ud 1.10 and Snp 4.11.

I am amazed by the suspicion so many Buddhists have when questions are asked and alternatives are considered. This strange considering the Buddha was famous for saying try it and see.

I’ll just show how it’s used.

"It was not long before I quickly learned the doctrine. As far as mere lip-reciting & repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew & saw — I, along with others. Ariyapariyesana Sutta: The Noble Search

Suppose there was a black ox and a white ox yoked by a single harness or yoke. Would it be right to say that the black ox is the yoke of the white ox, or the white ox is the yoke of the black ox?”

“No, householder. The black ox is not the yoke of the white ox, nor is the white ox the yoke of the black ox. The yoke there is the single harness or yoke that they’re yoked by.”

“In the same way, the eye is not the fetter of sights, nor are sights the fetter of the eye. The fetter there is the desire and greed that arises from the pair of them.

The ear … nose … tongue … body … mind is not the fetter of ideas, nor are ideas the fetter of the mind. The fetter there is the desire and greed that arises from the pair of them.”

“You’re fortunate, householder, so very fortunate, to traverse the Buddha’s deep teachings with the eye of wisdom.” SuttaCentral

“Concentration has knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its purpose, knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its reward.”

“And what is the purpose of knowledge & vision of things as they actually are? What is its reward?”

“Knowledge & vision of things as they actually are has disenchantment as its purpose, disenchantment as its reward.”

“And what is the purpose of disenchantment? What is its reward?”

“Disenchantment has dispassion as its purpose, dispassion as its reward.”

“And what is the purpose of dispassion? What is its reward?”

"Dispassion has knowledge & vision of release as its purpose, knowledge & vision of release as its reward. Kimattha Sutta: What is the Purpose?

Take the realization of Four Noble Truths for example.

The fleshly eye, the divine eye, and the supreme eye of wisdom—these three eyes were taught by the supreme Buddha. The birth of the fleshy eye is helpful to obtain the divine eye. The arising of the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths is obtained by the unsurpassed eye of wisdom. Whoever obtains the eye of wisdom is released from all suffering.

If one breaks it down

“Bhikkhus, there are these Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.

“Of these Four Noble Truths, bhikkhus, there is a noble truth that is to be fully understood; there is a noble truth that is to be abandoned; there is a noble truth that is to be realized; there is a noble truth that is to be developed.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the noble truth that is to be fully understood? The noble truth of suffering is to be fully understood; the noble truth of the origin of suffering is to be abandoned; the noble truth of the cessation of suffering is to be realized; the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering is to be developed.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’… An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’” SuttaCentral

"Discernment & consciousness, friend: Of these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined, discernment is to be developed, consciousness is to be fully comprehended.

The eye of discernment

“Friend, what can be known with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five [sense] faculties?”

"Friend, with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five faculties the dimension of the infinitude of space can be known [as] ‘infinite space.’ The dimension of the infinitude of consciousness can be known [as] ‘infinite consciousness.’ The dimension of nothingness can be known [as] ‘There is nothing.’

“With what does one know a quality that can be known?”

“One knows a quality that can be known with the eye of discernment.”

“And what is the purpose of discernment?”

“The purpose of discernment is direct knowledge, its purpose is full comprehension, its purpose is abandoning.” Mahavedalla Sutta: The Greater Set of Questions-and-Answers

As to meditating with eyes open, you don’t need to use that terminology. There are better texts to use as basis, for example

Here, brahmin, when I am dwelling in dependence on a village or town, in the morning I dress, take my bowl and robe, and enter that village or town for alms. After the meal, when I have returned from the alms round, I enter a grove. I collect some grass or leaves that I find there into a pile and then sit down. Having folded my legs crosswise and straightened my body, I establish mindfulness in front of me. Then, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I enter and dwell in the first jhāna, which consists of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by thought and examination. With the subsiding of thought and examination, I enter and dwell in the second jhāna, which has internal placidity and unification of mind and consists of rapture and pleasure born of concentration, without thought and examination. With the fading away as well of rapture, I dwell equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, I experience pleasure with the body; I enter and dwell in the third jhāna of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, I enter and dwell in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity.

“Then, brahmin, when I am in such a state, if I walk back and forth, on that occasion my walking back and forth is celestial. If I am standing, on that occasion my standing is celestial. If I am sitting, on that occasion my sitting is celestial. If I lie down, on that occasion this is my celestial high and luxurious bed. This is that celestial high and luxurious bed that at present I can gain at will, without trouble or difficulty.” SuttaCentral

It would be extraordinary to suggest that one has to sit or walk with eyes closed.

@Notez , thanks for the quotes. They are very helpful.

No. The far shore in the Atthakavagga is when the senses (including seeing) are unyoked from each other to use the terminology in the suttas Notez provided. That is, when Vinnana ceases which is explicitly said in the Parayanavagga in Snp 5.2.

With that said, the instructions given in MN 119 should suggest meditators need to keep the eyes open which is why I believe the instructions say to establish mindfulness in front. I can’t see my face, but I can see what is in front of me. That looks like an attempt to get people to open their eyes. The other senses can’t be closed like the eyes can.