Cakkhupala thera : and gantha dhura

As we know there are many suttas and Commentaries where the advantages of learning are stressed, such as this from the dispeller of delusion page 232

2350 And one who is without understanding sits in the midst of hissupporters and makes a show of his great understanding by speaking thus:As I was looking
up in the Majjhima Nikaaya the three kinds of proliferation, I came to the path with the miraculous powers. Competency in the scriptures is not difficult for us. But one who gets involved in scriptural competency is not released from suffering, so we gave up scriptural competency.’ And so on. But one who speaks thus strikes a blow at the dispensation. There is no greater rogue (mahacora) than this. For it is not a fact that an expert in the scriptures is not released from suffering.

Other commentaries and suttas seem to emphasize more on vipassandhura…

“Bhante, imasmiṃ sāsane kati dhurānī” ti?

“Reverend Sir, how many Duties are there in this religion?”

Ganthadhuraṃ, vipassanādhuranti dveyeva dhurāni bhikkhū’’ti

“Two Duties only, monk: the Duty of Study and the Duty of Contemplation.”

“Katamaṃ pana, bhante, ganthadhuraṃ, katamaṃ vipassanādhuran” ti?

“Reverend Sir, what is meant by the Duty of Study, and what is meant by the Duty of Contemplation?”

“Attano paññānurūpena ekaṃ vā dve vā nikāye sakalaṃ vā pana tepiṭakaṃ buddhavacanaṃ uggaṇhitvā tassa dhāraṇaṃ, kathanaṃ, vācananti idaṃ ganthadhuraṃ nāma.”

“The Duty of Study necessitates gaining a knowledge of the Word of the Buddha in a manner conformable to one’s understanding, the mastery of one or two Nikāyas, or indeed of the whole Tipiṭaka, bearing it in mind, reciting it, teaching it.”

“Sallahukavuttino pana pantasenāsanābhiratassa attabhāve khayavayaṃ paṭṭhapetvā sātaccakiriyavasena vipassanaṃ vaḍḍhetvā arahattaggahaṇanti idaṃ vipassanādhuraṃ nāmā” ti.

“On the other hand the Duty of Contemplation, which leads to Arahatship, involves frugal living, satisfaction with a remote lodging, fixing firmly in one’s mind the idea of decay and death, and the development of Spiritual Insight by persistent effort.”

I thought I would use this example from the texts as it brings in both the path of the dry insight worker and the contrast between gantha dhura and vipassana dhura.

1. Thought is of all things first, thought is of all things foremost, of thought are all things made.
If with thought corrupt a man speak or act,
Suffering follows him, even as a wheel follows the hoof of the beast of burden.

Where was this religious instruction given? At Sāvatthi. With reference to whom? Cakkhupāla the Elder.

At this time seventy million people dwelt in Sāvatthi. Of these, fifty million became Noble Disciples after hearing the discourse of the Teacher, but twenty million remained unconverted. The Noble Disciples had two duties: before breakfast they gave alms; after breakfast, bearing perfumes and garlands in their hands, with [28.148] servants bearing garments, medicaments, and beverages, they went to hear the Law.

Now one day Mahā Pāla saw the Noble Disciples going to the monastery with perfumes and garlands in their hands. {1.6} When he saw them, he asked, “Where is this great throng going?” “To hear the Law.” “I will go too,” said he. So he went, paid obeisance to the Teacher, and sat down in the outer circle of the congregation.

In spite of his brother’s lamentations Mahā Pāla went to the Teacher and asked to be admitted to the Order. He was admitted and professed and spent five rainy seasons in residence with teachers and preceptors. When he had completed his fifth residence and celebrated the terminal festival, 02 he approached the Teacher, paid obeisance to him, and asked, “Reverend Sir, how many Duties are there in this religion?” “Two Duties only, monk: the Duty of Study and the Duty of Contemplation.” “Reverend Sir, what is meant by the Duty of Study, and what is meant by the Duty of Contemplation?” “The Duty of Study necessitates gaining a knowledge of the Word of the Buddha in a manner conformable to one’s understanding, the mastery of one or two Nikāyas, or indeed of the whole Tipiṭaka, bearing it in mind, reciting it, teaching it. {1.8} On the other hand the Duty of Contemplation, which leads to Arahatship, involves frugal living, satisfaction with a remote lodging, fixing firmly in one’s mind the idea of decay and death, and the development of Spiritual Insight by persistent effort.” “Reverend Sir, since I became a monk in old age, I shall not be able to fulfill the Duty of Study. But I can fulfill the Duty of Contemplation; teach me a Formula of Meditation.”

At the end of the first month the Elder, who allowed himself no sleep, began to suffer from an affection of the eyes. Streams of tears trickled from his eyes, as streams of water from a broken jar. All night long he devoted himself to meditation, and with the coming of dawn entered his cell and sat down. When it was time for the monks to go the rounds for alms, they came to the Elder and said to him, “Reverend Sir, it is time for us to go the rounds for alms.” “Very well, brethren; take bowl and robe.” Having thus directed them to take their own bowls and robes, he himself set out. The monks observed that his eyes were running and asked him, “What is the matter, Reverend Sir?” “The wind cuts my eyes, brethren.” “Were we not offered the services of a physician, Reverend Sir? We will inform him.” “Very well, {1.10} brethren.” [28.151]

They informed the physician, who prepared an ointment and sent it to the Elder. The Elder applied the ointment to his nose, remaining seated as he did so, and then entered the village. The physician, seeing him, said to him, “Reverend Sir, I am informed that the wind hurts your reverence’s eyes.” “That is true, lay disciple.” “Reverend Sir, did you apply to your nose an ointment which I prepared and sent you?” “Yes, lay disciple.” “How do you feel now?” “The pain continues just the same, lay disciple.” The physician thought to himself, “The ointment which I sent him should have cured him with only one application. How is it that he is not cured?” So he asked the Elder, “Were you seated when you applied the ointment, or were you lying down?” The Elder remained silent. Though the physician repeated the question several times, he answered not a word. The physician thought to himself, “I will go to the monastery and have a look at his cell.” So he dismissed the Elder, saying to him, “That will do, Reverend Sir.” And going to the monastery, he inspected the Elder’s cell. Seeing only a place to walk and a place to sit down, but no place to lie down, he asked the Elder, “Reverend Sir, were you seated when you applied the ointment, or were you lying down?” The Elder remained silent. “Reverend Sir, do not act in this way; the duties of a religious can be performed only so long as the body is properly cared for. Were you lying down when you applied the ointment?” After the physician had repeated the question several times, the Elder replied, “Go your way, brother; I will take counsel and decide the matter for myself.”

Now the Elder had no kinsmen or blood-relatives there. With whom, therefore, was he to take counsel? Therefore he took counsel with his own person, saying, {1.11} “Come now, brother Pālita, tell me this. Will you regard your eyes or the Religion of the Buddha? For in the round of existences without conceivable beginning, there is no counting the number of times you have been without eyes. But while unnumbered hundreds of Buddhas and thousands of Buddhas have passed, your experience does not cover the period of even a single Buddha. Now in this rainy season you resolved not to lie down for three months. Therefore let your eyes perish or decay. Keep only the Law of the Buddha, not your eyes.” And admonishing his own physical body, he uttered the following Stanzas,

My eyes perish, my ears perish, so also my body,
All that has to do with my body perishes;
Why, Pālita, continue heedless? [28.152]

My eyes wear out, my ears wear out, so also my body,
All that has to do with my body wears out;
Why, Pālita, continue heedless?

My eyes decay, my ears decay, so also my body,
All that has to do with my body decays;
Why, Pālita, continue heedless? {1.12}

Having thus admonished himself in three Stanzas, he applied the ointment to his nose, remaining seated as before, and then entered the village for alms. The physician, seeing him, asked him, “Reverend Sir, have you applied the ointment to your nose?” “Yes, lay disciple.” “How do you feel?” “The pain continues just the same, lay disciple.” “Reverend Sir, were you seated when you applied the ointment, or were you lying down?” The Elder remained silent. The physician repeated the question several times, but the Elder answered never a word. Then the physician said to him, “You are not doing as you ought for your own good. Henceforth do not say, ‘So and So prepared ointment for me’ and I will not say, ‘I prepared ointment for you.’ ”

Given up by the physician, the Elder went to the monastery. Said he, “Monk, though you have been given up by the physician, do not give up your Posture.”

You are given up as incurable, you are abandoned by your physician.
Destined to the King of Death, why, Pālita, are you heedless?

Having admonished himself in this Stanza, he resumed his meditations. At the end of the middle watch his eyes and his Depravities were blotted out simultaneously, and he became an Arahat dwelling in the bliss of Spiritual Insight.


Adapted from the Archaic Translation by Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids.
Commentary (Atthakatha) By Acariya Dhammapala

95. Cakkhupāla
He was reborn in this Buddha-age at Sāvatthī, as the son of a landed proprietor named Mahā-Suvaññā, and received the name of Pāla.[1] He was also called Pāla major, because his younger brother was called Pāla minor. And the parents bound the sons in domestic bonds. But the Lord(Buddha) came to the Jeta Grove, and there Pāla major heard him, and leaving his brother to manage the property entered the Monk’s order. After five years as novice initiate, he went with sixty bhikkhus(monks) to perfect his studies. And they chose a woodland spot near a border village, where the villagers were lay-followers, and he, living in a leaf-hut, practised the duties of a recluse monk.

He was attacked by ophthalmia, and a doctor prescribed for him. But he did not follow the advice, and the disease grew worse. ‘Better,’ he thought, ‘is the allaying of the moral torments (kilesā) than that of eye-disease.’ Thus he neglected the latter and worked at his insight, so that eyes and torments perished at the same time. And he became a ‘dry-visioned’ arahant(enlightened).

Now the village patrons asked the bhikkhus(monks) what had become of the Thera, and, hearing of his blindness, they [89] ministered to his wants full of guilt. Then those bhikkhus(monks) having also won arahantship(enlightenment), they proposed that they should return to Sāvatthito salute the Master; but the Thera said: ‘I am weak and blind, and the journey is not without risk. I should hinder you. Do you go first and salute for me the Lord(Buddha) and the great Theras, and tell Pāla minor of my state that he may send a servant to me.’ At length they consented to go, after taking leave of their patrons and providing him with a lodging. And they carried out his words, and Pāla minor sent his nephew Pālika. And the bhikkhus(monks) initiated Pālika into monkhood, because the road was not safe for a solitary layman. He went and announced himself to the Thera, and set out with him. Midway, near a village in the forest, a woodcutter’s wife was singing. And the novice was charmed by the sound, and, telling his uncle to wait, went and enjoyed with her. The Thera thought: ‘Now I heard a woman singing, and my novice stays long. Is he not evilly employed?’ The youth returned, saying: ‘Let us go, sir.’ And the Thera said: ‘What! have you been vile?’ The novice at length confessed, and the Thera said: ‘One so evil shall hold no staff for me. Get you hence!’ ‘But the way is perilous, and you are blind. How will you go?’ ‘Fool! even if I lie down and die, yet will I get on, but not with such as you.’ Then he uttered this verse:

[95] Andhohaɱ hatanettosmi kantāraddhānapakkanto,||
Sayamāno’pi gacchissaɱ na sahāyena pāpenā’ ti.|| ||

[95] All blind am I and perished are mine eyes
And through the jungle’s wilderness I move about.
Even then I’ll go, and were it lying down,
But not with child of evil as my mate.

Then the other, conscious of his evil action, weeping with outstretched arms, plunged into the forest. But the efficacy of the Thera’s virtue made Sakka’s(King of gods, also called Indra) throne hot, and the god, in the shape of a man journeying to Sāvatthi, took his staff and brought him that evening to Sāvatthi to the Jeta Grove. And Pāla minor ministered to him all his days.

[1] The full name means Eye-guardian, the father’s Great-golden. The story is given in somewhat ampler detail and slightly varied diction in the Dhammapada Commentary on the opening verses of that anthology. Pronounced Chakkhu-.

[2] See Compendium, p. 75.

1.10-5 [95] Commentary on the stanza of Cakkhupālatthera
The stanza starting with Andho’haṃ hatanetto’smi constitutues that of the thera Cakkhupāla. What is the origin? He also, having done devoted deeds of service toward former Buddhas, doing meritorious deeds in this and that existence, was reborn in a family home, at the time of the Blessed One Suddhattha. On having attained the age of intelligence, when the Blessed One had entered parinibbāna, he reverentially offered (pūjesi) to the shrine, after having collected the (asure) flower of flax (umā) when the shrine festival (maha) was being held. On account of that act of merit, he was reborn in the divine world, and having done meritorious deeds, now and then, he wandered about his rounds of repeated rebirths, and was reborn as the son of an estate owner (kuṭumbika) named Mahāsuvanna, in Sāvatthi, when this Buddha arose. They gave him the name Pāla. At the time when he could run about his mother gained another son. His mother and father made his name as Cūḷapāla and they called (vohariṃsu) the other (itaraṃ) as Mahāpāla. Later on, when they had come of age (their parants) bound them down with the tie of household life (gharavandhana). On that occasion the Master resided at the Jetavana (monastery) in Sāvatthi. There, Mahāpāla went to the monastery in the company of the devotees who were on their way to Jetavana, listened to the truth (dhamma) in the presence of the Master, aptly gained pious faith, shifted the responsibility (bhāra) of his estate (kuṭumba) over to his younger (kaniṭṭha) brother even, himself became a monk, gained the full ordination of the Order (upasampadā) lived for five years in the presence of his teachers and preceptors (upajjhā), and when he had spent the lent, he went through the ceremony of candid apology (pavāretvā), collected his mental exercise (kammaṭṭhāna), obrained to the extent of sixty associate bhikkhus(monks), was in search of a residential place congenial to (anukūla) the development of deep meditation (bhāvanā), together with them and living in a leaf-hut (pannassālā) in the forest region, which the devotees dwelling in the village had caused to be built and offered, depending on (nissāya) a certain border-village (paccantagāma), and performed the duties of a monk (samanadhamma). To him, there had arisen an eye-ailment. A physician prepared (sampādetvā) and offered it to him. He did not comform (paṭipajji) to the prescription (vidhāna) as told (vutta) by the physician (vejja). On that account his disease became worse (vaḍḍhi). He became increasingly indifferent (ajjhupekkhitvā) ot his eye-illness saying to himself: “To me, better is (varaṃ) but the mastery (vūpasamana) of the disease of depravity than the allayment of the ailment of my eyes and came to be intent on (yuttapayutto) but the development of spiritual insight (vipassanā). When he was indulging in (ussukkāpenta) in the development of deep meditation (bhāvanā), his eyes as well as his depravity vecame destroyed (bhijjiṃsu) simultaneously (apubbaṃ acarimaṃ). He became an Arahant of ‘dry-visioned’ class (sukkhavipassaka). Hence, has it been said in the Apadāna.–

“When the world-revered, the worthy

recipient of sacred sacrifice, the

Blessed One Suddhattha entered

nibbāna, there was held a great


When the festival was being celebrated,

for the great sage Siddhattha, I collected

the (azure) flowers of flax (umā) and

specially offered (abhiropayiṃ) them to

the shrine.

Ninetyfour aeons (kappa) ago, from now,

it was that I specially offered the flowers;

I do not remember any evil existence; this

is the fruitful result of the reverential

offering made to the shrine.

In the ninth aeon (kappa) previous to

this (ito), there arose eithtyfive

sovereigns, very strong world-kings,

with the name of Somadeva.

My depravity had been burnt; …

Buddha’s instruction had been carried


During the three
months of the rainy season, Ven. Cakkhupāla decided to use only three postures: walking,
standing, and sitting postures. After one month his eyes begin to
The commentary of the Dhammapada describes the moment of
his attainment of arahantship in the following words:
At the end of the middle watch, his eyes and his defilements were broken simultaneously.
After having become a dry-insight arahant, he entered and sat down in the chamber.
Dhp-a I 12,16-18: Athassa majjhimayāme atikkante apubbaṃ acarimam akkhīni c’eva kilesā ca pabhijjiṃsu. So
sukkhavipassako arahā hutvā gabbhaṃ pavisitvā nisīdi.

commentary to the Theragathā,

“For me, the cessation of the defilement disease is better than the cessation of the eye
disease,” [thinking thus,] he devoted himself to insight meditation, neglecting his eye
disease. When he indulged in mental development, his eyes and defilements were broken
simultaneously. He became a dry-insight arahant.
Th-a I 207,9-13: So ‘akkhi-roga-vūpasamanato kilesa-roga-vūpasamanameva mayhaṃ varan’ ti akkhi-rogaṃ
ajjhūpekkhitvā vipassanāyaṃ yeva yutta-ppayutto ahosi. Tassa bhāvanaṃ ussukkāpentassa apubbaṃ acarimaṃ akkhīni
c’ eva kilesā ca bhijjiṃsu. So sukkha-vipassako arahā ahosi.


Faith Building In The Commentaries.

Many people probably find it hard to believe that a doctor could do such things during the time of the Buddha, but it is likely a similar treatment for retinal detachment was used by this doctor. If not successful, it can lead to total blindness. When this is done, the body must be in a face down posture, sometimes up to 2 weeks… You can read about this below. This is an older treatment method, but still used today. It could also be another entirely different condition. However, this just shows that there are treatments of the eye that require one to lie down.

From Mayo Clinic

  • Injecting air or gas into your eye. In this procedure, called pneumatic retinopexy (RET-ih-no-pek-see), the surgeon injects a bubble of air or gas into the center part of the eye (the vitreous cavity). If positioned properly, the bubble pushes the area of the retina containing the hole or holes against the wall of the eye, stopping the flow of fluid into the space behind the retina. Your doctor also uses cryopexy during the procedure to repair the retinal break.Fluid that had collected under the retina is absorbed by itself, and the retina can then adhere to the wall of your eye. You may need to hold your head in a certain position for up to several days to keep the bubble in the proper position. The bubble eventually will reabsorb on its own.

Another website:

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Very inspiring and hair raising too when I first read it. How on earth a person can have such determination, patience, and great mental strength? It is simply unthinkable and so amazing.

Such is the nature of all those great Arahant candidates. I wish I can do a Dana to such Arahant…