Body contemplation

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Body contemplation

Postby A_Martin » Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:51 am

The original topic was longing for the other sex, in the lounge, but I think it is an interesting topic on its own, much neglected.
To follow up the response I had was
Jhana4 wrote:Venerable A_Martin;

I grew up watching my mother slowly die from complications related of multiple sclerosis. Last spring a friend of mine chose to give up chemotherapy and die a natural death from cancer. I visited her in hospice care and watched what happened to her. A few weeks ago my father had a triple bypass operation. I tell ya, you don't have an appreciation for those things until you meet someone has had one. This weekend I am going to a memorial for a friend who died of hereditary cancer. She was 29. I knew her for about 7 years. When I met her she was a radiantly beautiful fitness nut. I witnessed her get emaciated and come to terms knowing what her low odds of survival were.

I don't what your life experiences have been, but mine have been that people beyond a certain age are not children about the realities of life. Even in the United States, a grieving mother will not find a mustard seed from knocking on the doors of strangers.

First don't worry how to address me, actually you addressed me as Venerable, and that is more than fine. in Thai Than is used to address a monk of less than 10 pansa and it means Venerable, Ajahn is used to adress a thera, Than Acharn is used to adress a Venerable Teacher.

But now back to the question, exceptions confirm the rule, so your experience of seeing people die is not the common one, but to see bodies in a decomposed form or opened up, I don't think many people have, and in the west, before we bury them or burn them we normally beautify the corpse. Just not to see reality.
when I say in the West, then this is to say in general, that does not mean there are no exceptions.
But doesn't it strike you that we hide the dead, the sick and the people of old age, from our daily view, and the fourth messenger the samana(The recluse or the monk ), we hardly see in the west? That's why I think my comparison with living in the West is like living in a palace like Prince Siddharta is quite reasonable.
But the main point I was making, are the suttas, where the Lord Buddha teaches asubha, teaches the loathsomeness of the body and teaches the contemplation of the 32 parts of the body. You can google it, and you will find them easily.
I live in the jungle, where animals decompose very quickly and it is a repulsive smell and sight, also food decomposes very quickly and this is also quite a repulsive smell, you see animals fighting each other to death, eating each other up, and you see corpses, not beautified, corpses burnt with all the smelling and disgusting fluids ejecting from the body like a spring, or the body fat or brain sizzling. A lot of material for contemplating the loathsomeness of the body.
BTW, the only reason for me coming to Thailand was to learn the way beyond greed and hate (this way was not known nor taught in the west at the time I left 1995) and this contemplation of the body, that will deliver us to freedom from greed and hate. (A monk is living a life of celibacy and he certainly has to deal in a proper way to counteract sexual desire and longing for the other sex)
Metta Martin
P.s. I never ask people to have respect for me or to treat me respectfully, because I am a monk. If they respect my way of living, my behavior and or the things that I say, that is fine, if they don't that is fine with me as well. In the teachings of the Lord Buddha it should be praised what is worthy of praise and scolded what needs to be scolded. I am fine with it. (BTW do you know that a lot of monks go to hell, and if much faster and deeper than any worldling for they do not adhere to the vinaya? - words of Than Acharn Maha Bua)
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Re: Body contemplation

Postby Alex123 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 3:32 am

Hello Venerable A_Martin, Hello Jhana4,


Here are my two cents. While most ordinary people know about impermanence, they prefer to focus on desire-producing ideas and simply ignore "the negative". So they do not use their bad experiences as a stimulus for Buddhist practice, such as development of wholesome states of mind.
Most people are not interesting in developing wholesome states of mind and removing the unwholesome ones.

Buddhist practice aims at realizing what suffering is, removing its cause, realizing cessation (of cause of suffering), and developing the path to the cessation of suffering,

Our defilements have conditioned us to look at the positive and overlook the negative, so extra effort is required to break this deeply ingrained habitual tendency.

If a person is sick with a deadly but curable virus, optimism may kill that person. That person should be realist, admit the problem in its full extend and take the medicine. If that person is too optimistic, he may deny the fact that s/he is sick, or deny the danger of the virus, or deny the need for urgent intervention.

Same is with Buddhism. The virus is craving, the cure is path outlined by the Buddha.


With metta,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Body contemplation

Postby ground » Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:03 am

Alex123 wrote:While most ordinary people know about impermanence, they prefer to focus on desire-producing ideas and simply ignore "the negative".
...
Our defilements have conditioned us to look at the positive and overlook the negative, so extra effort is required to break this deeply ingrained habitual tendency.

While an alleged "negative" may be an appropriate antidot to counter attachment to an alleged "positive" actually the habitual defilement is the perception of "either 'negative' or 'positive'".


Kind regards
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Re: Body contemplation

Postby Dan74 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:13 am

For quite some years I had a similar reaction to these teachings like Jhana - not inspiring.

I see it a bit differently now and I try to slowly incorporate these teachings into my practice. To me it's a question of being appropriate for the audience depending where they are in their lives..

For example, if I was speaking to a recovering drug addict whose life was in shambles, I would not be extolling the virtues of renunciations and abandoning the dusts of the householder life. Instead I would speak of responsibility and reward, of hard work, discipline and focus. Of the joys of successful career, companionship and family.

But to a householder who has mastered these qualities, it is appropriate to speak of the shortcomings of lay life. Of the suffering brought about by attachment and concern for the worldly.

In the same way I doubt that the teachings on the repulsiveness of the body are properly understood by young people. They are more likely to replace the fetter of desire by the fetter of aversion. Desire can bring with it the practice of responsibility and companionship in the Dhamma with a wise partner. This has been a great gift to many people.

On the other hand observing death and decay as it happens in nature would help develop equanimity around the physical body. Aspects like beauty and ugliness are conditioned and supported by mental habits and conditioning, and yet we have these bodies for a reason. Denying our physicality or developing a negative attitude to it would also shut off one of the most powerful ways to practice - with our bodies, and we would further sink into the real of mental proliferations.
_/|\_
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Re: Body contemplation

Postby A_Martin » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:38 pm

Alex123 wrote:Hello Venerable A_Martin, Hello Jhana4,


Here are my two cents. While most ordinary people know about impermanence, they prefer to focus on desire-producing ideas and simply ignore "the negative". So they do not use their bad experiences as a stimulus for Buddhist practice, such as development of wholesome states of mind.
Most people are not interesting in developing wholesome states of mind and removing the unwholesome ones.

Buddhist practice aims at realizing what suffering is, removing its cause, realizing cessation (of cause of suffering), and developing the path to the cessation of suffering,

Our defilements have conditioned us to look at the positive and overlook the negative, so extra effort is required to break this deeply ingrained habitual tendency.

If a person is sick with a deadly but curable virus, optimism may kill that person. That person should be realist, admit the problem in its full extend and take the medicine. If that person is too optimistic, he may deny the fact that s/he is sick, or deny the danger of the virus, or deny the need for urgent intervention.

Same is with Buddhism. The virus is craving, the cure is path outlined by the Buddha.


With metta,

Alex

I agree, but I noticed also that this topic is now discussed in three threads. I'll leave it at that. :smile:
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