Viewing images of Corpses online

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Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby bodom » Mon Jul 05, 2010 7:27 pm

At times when I am filled with lust I view images of decomposing corpses online. I have found this practice to be extremely helpful in overcoming lust if only for a short while.

There is an endless collection of photos available online of murder victims, suicides and accidents. I know that the purpose of this practice is to develop detachment and not aversion as this practice was recommended by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta. Some modern day teachers like Bhikkhu Bodhi recommend viewing pictures of corpses and attending autopsies.

I sometimes feel guilty viewing these images because if it were my family or friends being depicted I would not be happy others are viewing them. There are certainly site's and people on these site's who glorify death and suffering and I wonder if im creating unwholesome kamma by visiting them. However I really do find viewing these images helps to overcome lust and a stirring appeal to practice, "lest I regret it later".

Thoughts or opinions?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon Jul 05, 2010 11:02 pm

Hi Bodom,

I completely understand your reservations but I, for one, would rather the images of my deceased loved ones be put to the use that you're making of them than for entertainment or sheer curiosity. Metta and keep up the good work!

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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 05, 2010 11:46 pm

Hi Bodom

When I attended a Satipatthana Sutta Course (a course for old students of SN Goenka) in 1989, we could view a video of an autopsy, as an option, on one morning. Something that you might find particularly interesting is a four-part series "Anatomy for beginners" by Gunther von Hagens. Watching the series also had the desired, "Dhammic" effect on me.

Anatomy for Beginners is a television show created by Gunther von Hagens.

In the show Dr. Gunther von Hagens and Professor John Lee would demonstrate the anatomical structure and workings of the body. It was screened in the UK on Channel 4 in 2005. The show features public anatomy demonstrations with the use of real human cadavers and live nude models (for Surface Anatomy and Surface Markings), carried out at Gunther von Hagens' "Institute for Plastination" in Heidelberg, Germany.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomy_for_Beginners

After watching the series, I recommended it to the science faculty of the school where I work.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Annapurna » Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:15 am

Hello, Bodom,

thanks for an interesting topic.

I've seen photographs of bodies too. Let me tell a bit more about this.

When I came across the cruel murder of Sharon Tate, who was over 8 months pregnant at the time and pleaded for the life of her child, I was gravely shocked.

I often contemplated how she must have felt. I do things like that as a meditation.

I try to refine my empathic skills this way, or develop more metta, or eliminate judgments and anger from my mind, and imagine that I am looking through their eyes, breathing through their lungs, feeling their complete life and so forth.

It can be an emotional ordeal, at first, but then you begin to develop a greater ability to withstand the pain and suffering, and you begin to understand their emotions, motivations, their suffering, also their defilements, and then compassion and forgiveness arises.

When I got internet, I googled many things and one of them was also Sharon. I found websites dedicated to her memory, one of them by Debra Tate, her younger sister.

Everything was set up in a beautiful, respectful way, her life being the focus.

And then of course I also came upon websites which displayed the horrible side of her death. I saw crime scene and coroner photos of her, and after studying them in depth, silently wept in front of the screen, because it happened to me that I felt a part of the absolute horror she felt, the pain and suffering of her husband and family, the confusion and fear of friends and the world.

It then occurred to me, that images like this must be horrifying to view for the loved ones of Sharon Tate.

I imagined for a brief moment how I or my brother or worse, how my father would have felt if my mother would have been murdered, and her body would have gotten displayed from each possible angle, for each stranger to view, and I felt anger arising, and the wish to protect her privacy, and my relatives from pain.

I am a little concerned that the intimacy of death is dragged into public view at the expense of those left behind.

The media provide a platform for things that go way beyond what a normal being would ever get to see in their whole life.

I am also concerned about young impressionable minds being overchallenged with gruesome details an older person can 'relativate'.

To come to your questions:

I personally don't feel guilty about the small desires I have in life.

I eat when hungry, and sleep when tired, and so forth, and am trying to get an enourmous schedule of work under control. I never seem to be done when it's time to go to bed.

I find this is keeping me on the right path... :smile:

Don't know if that answers your questions?

Metta,

Anna
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:54 am

bodom wrote:At times when I am filled with lust I view images of decomposing corpses online. I have found this practice to be extremely helpful in overcoming lust if only for a short while.

There is an endless collection of photos available online of murder victims, suicides and accidents. I know that the purpose of this practice is to develop detachment and not aversion as this practice was recommended by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta. Some modern day teachers like Bhikkhu Bodhi recommend viewing pictures of corpses and attending autopsies.

I sometimes feel guilty viewing these images because if it were my family or friends being depicted I would not be happy others are viewing them. There are certainly site's and people on these site's who glorify death and suffering and I wonder if I'm creating unwholesome kamma by visiting them. However I really do find viewing these images helps to overcome lust and a stirring appeal to practice, "lest I regret it later".

Thoughts or opinions?

:anjali:

Wat Nanachat is or was in Luang Por Chah's time, decorated with pictures of corpses from car wrecks Bodom. For the same reason. To weaken identity with the body, and to remind forcibly of the fact of anicca.
I doubt if anyone asked the families of the victims for permission.
I think only you and perhaps your teacher/s can know your motivation clearly. If you are clear, then it certainly is a time honoured practice. One to be used sensitively , sparingly, and with hands -on advice I would suggest. By hands-on advice i mean that imo this kind of practice should ideally be within a wider supervised practice.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Annapurna » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:26 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Wat Nanachat is or was in Luang Por Chah's time, decorated with pictures of corpses from car wrecks Bodom. For the same reason. To weaken identity with the body, and to remind forcibly of the fact of anicca.
I doubt if anyone asked the families of the victims for permission.


I find that tasteless and impious, sorry.

If at all, why not put images of their own deceased loved ones on the wall???
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:38 am

p
Annapurna wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Wat Nanachat is or was in Luang Por Chah's time, decorated with pictures of corpses from car wrecks Bodom. For the same reason. To weaken identity with the body, and to remind forcibly of the fact of anicca.
I doubt if anyone asked the families of the victims for permission.


I find that tasteless and impious, sorry.

If at all, why not put images of their own deceased loved ones on the wall???


You had better put that point to Luang Por Chah's successors. It was he who had the pictures put up.
Last edited by Sanghamitta on Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Annapurna » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:40 am

If I were there, I most certainly would confront them with this.

From here it would be a bit ridiculous to tell them what to do, right? 8-)
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:21 am

His sucessors are still having a big impact on the world. His monasteries in the west are among the best places to learn authentic Buddhadhamma. They are inhabited by and run by monks that Ajahn Chah trained, such as Ajahn Sumedho , Ajahn Amaro, and Ajahn Munindo. They did their monastic training under Luang Por Chah and they are very familiar with the photographs I have referred to. None of them appeared to find those pictures anything but conducive to their understanding of certain aspects of Buddhadhamma. I have heard them refer to the impact made by them, on a number of occasions.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:27 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Wat Nanachat is or was in Luang Por Chah's time, decorated with pictures of corpses from car wrecks Bodom. For the same reason. To weaken identity with the body, and to remind forcibly of the fact of anicca.
I doubt if anyone asked the families of the victims for permission.
I think only you and perhaps your teacher/s can know your motivation clearly. If you are clear, then it certainly is a time honoured practice. One to be used sensitively , sparingly, and with hands -on advice I would suggest. By hands-on advice i mean that imo this kind of practice should ideally be within a wider supervised practice.

Actually, that doesn't surprise me, Valerie.
I remember years ago, a friend telling me of magazine publications in Thailand that interspersed photos of car-crash scenes with photos of scantily clad models. I also know that in some viharas in Thailand, dead bodies are kept in glass cabinets as a reminder for practitioners.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:38 am

A few years ago Ben, one of the most senior lay Buddhists in the UK died. He was in his late eighties and had been associated with Buddhadhamma from almost its earliest days in the UK. When he knew he was dying he requested to die at Amaravati. Ajahn Sumedho agreed to this and eventually he did die there. As a teaching his body was washed and laid out on full display in the shrine room for some time..quite a number of days. During this time the usual number of visitors continued to come to the monastery, which gets large numbers of lay people visiting at at times . Eventually the normal odours of decay began to become a little intrusive and so he was laid to rest. Ajahn Sumedho was fulsome in his praise and considered the lesson that had been made possible by the deceased to be an act of great generosity.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:44 am

That is inspiring. Thank you for sharing that anecdote, Valerie!
metta

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:55 am

Ben wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Wat Nanachat is or was in Luang Por Chah's time, decorated with pictures of corpses from car wrecks Bodom. For the same reason. To weaken identity with the body, and to remind forcibly of the fact of anicca.
I doubt if anyone asked the families of the victims for permission.
I think only you and perhaps your teacher/s can know your motivation clearly. If you are clear, then it certainly is a time honoured practice. One to be used sensitively , sparingly, and with hands -on advice I would suggest. By hands-on advice i mean that imo this kind of practice should ideally be within a wider supervised practice.

Actually, that doesn't surprise me, Valerie.
I remember years ago, a friend telling me of magazine publications in Thailand that interspersed photos of car-crash scenes with photos of scantily clad models. I also know that in some viharas in Thailand, dead bodies are kept in glass cabinets as a reminder for practitioners.

Newspapers in Thailand typically have lots of gory photos of such things as car crashes on the cover (see below) so they wouldn't be hard to find. However, when I was there in April, when the protesters drove the car crashes off the cover...

Image

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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Annapurna » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:58 am

Sanghamitta wrote:His sucessors are still having a big impact on the world. His monasteries in the west are among the best places to learn authentic Buddhadhamma. They are inhabited by and run by monks that Ajahn Chah trained, such as Ajahn Sumedho , Ajahn Amaro, and Ajahn Munindo. They did their monastic training under Luang Por Chah and they are very familiar with the photographs I have referred to. None of them appeared to find those pictures anything but conducive to their understanding of certain aspects of Buddhadhamma. I have heard them refer to the impact made by them, on a number of occasions.


Whatever. I couldn't care less what they think or don't think about this. They are not my 'Gods'.

I don't buy into appeals of authority.

I have my own thinking faculties for this life, and I rely on those most. They tell me here it would be offensive to me and mine, if my mother's dead body would be displayed there, and I would ask them to take the image away and I'm sure they would. If not, I would.

I feel compassion for those, who need graphic images to become aware of sublime truths.

But that is human nature.

Some need a club over the head, and some react after a wink with an eye.

Good if a master knows the nature of his disciples.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:01 am

Its not uncommon for death to be seen as an offence to our sense of self. To be even a cause of anger.
The Buddha spoke about it a number of times. Corpse contemplation is very strong medicine, it certainly is not right for everyone . But is is part of every Buddhist culture throughout history.
There are a whole set of practises that are around cemetery contemplations.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Annapurna » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:09 am

Sanghamitta wrote:A few years ago Ben, one of the most senior lay Buddhists in the UK died. He was in his late eighties and had been associated with Buddhadhamma from almost its earliest days in the UK. When he knew he was dying he requested to die at Amaravati. Ajahn Sumedho agreed to this and eventually he did die there. As a teaching his body was washed and laid out on full display in the shrine room for some time..quite a number of days. During this time the usual number of visitors continued to come to the monastery, which gets large numbers of lay people visiting at at times . Eventually the normal odours of decay began to become a little intrusive and so he was laid to rest. Ajahn Sumedho was fulsome in his praise and considered the lesson that had been made possible by the deceased to be an act of great generosity.


Sunday a week ago, I found a beautiful young blackbird in my garden, lying on it's back, wings spread, head to the side in a gracious way, eyes open.

It was dead, and the wind played in its feathers.

I left it there for a week.

It didn't lose any of it's beauty, nor form, nor did it stink. When I finally decided I would take it to rest in a quiet place, it was light. It had become a mummy.

I carefully placed it on the floor in another place, in the cool shade.

I live in the country, and seeing death is something we grow up with.

Why would we have to stare at human bodies to realize things about nature we know since we're small.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:11 am

Thai people in my experience seem to be very casual about seeing death. far different from here in America. i remember watching the news when i was living in Bangkok and there we were at the scene of some accident, just like on American TV, but then BAM it's the dead body and here comes the wife to see it for the 1st time and crying and it was overwhelming for me, i had never been exposed to anything like this. many Thai people also forward photos of dead bodies from all sorts of sources, once while staying at the temple before i was married my future wife was looking at some rather grotesque corpse photos that other Thai people i knew had passed around, i was kinda grossed out by them but she just looked at me and said "it's just anicca"... i was amazed.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:22 am

If you don't see why Ajahn Sumedho made the point he made...then that's OK.
If such practices would not lead to a greater understanding for you ..then that's OK.
Clearly for some people, including some people who show themselves to have a depth insight into Buddhadhamma they are a very graphic and useful skillful means.
As I said they are very strong medicine.
They also for some people, cut across some of the image of how Buddhadhamma should be .
I seldom posted on E Sangha but I often read it. I remember this same topic causing great aversion for some people. One of whom even said that if this was what Buddhism was about then she had made a mistake in professing an interest.
The fact is that some practices are not for general use, and in any case should be part of a wider and balanced approach.
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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:25 am

Hi JC

I had a similar television moment when I was in India 20 years ago. Between meditation courses I and a few friends got out of the centre for a few days and stayed in a hotel in Nasik. The news came on and they were reporting on an aircrash in Bangalore (I think), and there were bits of bodies and charred corpses on prime time tv. And then the next day I witnessed a funeral procession of a local holy man on an open stretcher and his many thousands of crying devotees on their way down to the ghats.
Incredible!
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Viewing images of Corpses online

Postby Ben » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:31 am

Annapurna wrote:Why would we have to stare at human bodies to realize things about nature we know since we're small.

Its a different type of knowledge, Anna. When we engage in practice, we develop nana: knowledge/insight. Its the wisdom that arises from directly penetrating the nature of nama and rupa: bhavana-maya-panna.
Contemplation of death was praised by the Buddha, and in the Satipatthana Sutta, he gives instructions for the contemplation of a corpse in its different states of decay. It is a powerful and profound technique that can precipitate awakening.
Having said that, my impression is that it is not for everyone.
Metta

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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