During meditation or chanting, some people may feel a slight pressure on their forehead. Typically, the spot that is between the eyebrow. Some reported a tingling sensation, others reported that it felt like a pressure. Like an invisible finger pressing upon their forehead. Or a kind of “warmness”
During a meditation retreat that I attended. A few students eagerly reported this sensation to the meditation teacher, hoping that it’s a sign of enlightenment or awakening. Unfortunately, the teacher only dismissed it with an advice to ignore it and refocus on the meditation subject.
In non-Buddhist traditions, such an experience may be celebrated as the initial stage of the 3rd eye opening.
What is the 3rd eye? According to new age movements, it is some sort of psychic ability that allows you to see the future, see spectral beings, see aura field of people, increase your extra sensory perception etc. In fact, there seems to be a “new age” industry dedicated to 3rd eye ‘opening’ and various organizations mushrooming to tap the membership fees or donations of eager students. (Will talk about that towards the end)
If it is celebrated in non-Buddhist tradition, why is the traditional Buddhist system dismissing it like a pesky fly buzzing our concentration?
Well, it is disturbing our concentration, right? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be getting off that meditation cushion to seek verification…..
To catch a glimpse of the Buddhist attitude, we can probably look at a famous Zen quote “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”– Linji
This verse is not meant to be literal. It is an advice for spiritual practitioners to avoid being distracted by “holy” imagery. Therefore, even if the Buddha were to appear to us during our spiritual training, we should simply dismiss it and not engage with it. This is because it is probably due to our mind resisting focused concentration and trying to do its monkey business again. In another word, our hallucinations!
Behind that cryptic verse lies a serious reminder. It reminds all spiritual practitioners not to be deluded by illusions and fantasy.
During spiritual training, the 3rd eye pressure as discussed above is also treated as yet another sensation. Not to be overly excited about, lest it become a distraction from the main goal of enlightenment. (Note: If it becomes a headache (literally), do consult with meditation masters)
If we examine the definition of a 3rd eye, we will realise that it is a psychic ability.
In Buddhism, such ability has nothing to do with enlightenment. For some people it becomes a major road block because it inflates the ego until it becomes irreparable. Not forgetting, there is a high chance it’s all hallucinatory.
We are not saying that psychic ability is definitely bad. Although it can be useful, it tends to distract practitioners away from the real goal of enlightenment.
Therefore, Buddhist spiritual training do not emphasize its development.
Instead of trying to read another’s mind, Buddhist system emphasize that it is far more important to understand our own. In another word, psychic ability in Buddhism is a by-product. Something that is secondary and produced through our effort to developed morality, concentration and wisdom. If psychic ability arises from morality, concentration and wisdom, then it is conditioned by enlightening factors. Otherwise, it could be just hallucinatory or it could be due to possession or undue influence by other beings. Furthermore such abilities are not permanent if it is a mundane attainment.
Therefore, the 3rd eye is not of key importance in Buddhism. The Buddhist system places more importance in being able to see things with wisdom that is according to Dharma. For example, ability to see the impermanence nature of Samsara. To see all beings as equally precious. To view all beings with compassion and loving kindness. To see the interdependent originations of phenomenon. These are the types of ‘seeing’ to be developed in Buddhism.
To become superman or psychic is not a Buddhist goal.
About some new age system.
Some of the new age system designed meditation methods that causes one to focus consciousness or mental energy on the 3rd eye area, or the pineal gland or to imagine a blank screen at the back of the head in the skull. All with the sole objective of “seeing” beyond ordinary perception.
The risk of this is that, one will start to have visions! I agree that it does make life interesting. But that is just forcing mind energy to concentrate in areas that will easily induce hallucination.
Which means, the visions may not be true 3rd eye visions but an over active mind causing hallucinatory visions to superimpose over our ordinary sense of sights.
I know it is like throwing a bucket of cold water over someone who wants to believe they are “special”. But this knowledge is available in Chinese Buddhist meditation classes and by sharing this, hopefully the western audience can be warned of its possible danger as well.
The danger is caused by one trying to reconcile hallucination with reality. Ultimately, one will just become completely confused by their own hallucination. When you believe your own hallucination and others do not believe you, you just retreat into yourselves for self-protection. You will just drive yourselves into a lonely corner…
In Buddhism, psychic vision or the divine Vision means that you also have x-ray vision to see through things. (that is only one of the basic attributes) If you cannot even see what is happening next door. Forget it! Don’t kid yourselves. Better to be more grounded and practice seeing your true nature. (at least that result in self-improvements) last but not least, being able to see what’s happening next door or being able to see what’s underground does not end sufferings.