If I told you that I spent my teenage years looking at photos of naked men and women in the living room of a monk, you would probably be very concerned. Wouldn’t you?
However, there was nothing sexual or sinister because those naked people were in various stages of decomposition. Some were maggots ridden and some were bloated and purpled. Sounds like a nightmare huh? I was practising the contemplation of death and filthiness of the human body.
Comparing the first paragraph and the second, we realise how much the context had changed.
Photographs of naked and beautiful models may encourage lustful thoughts. However, if the same model is dead and covered by maggots, then we would probably have a nightmare instead.
For the uninitiated, this may sound morbid and disturbing. Why on Earth do we stare at dead bodies and contemplate death? Our education and media taught us the exact opposite. Human body is celebrated as beautiful in art galleries and museums. We were taught to appreciate those beautiful curves?
2,500 years ago, the sight of an old man motivated Prince Siddhartha to search for an end to suffering. Nowadays, we admire black and white photos of bent old man or woman in an exotic Asian village and marveled at the photographer’s skill in catching the lines on their face? Some would even pay 10,000 dollars for that picture. What would Siddhartha think?
What are we missing? Wisdom!
The reason why we ogled at photos of a corpse is to learn how to see things as it is. Instead of being entranced by the skin-deep beauty of things, we learn how to look beyond and see the reality of things. Therefore, you can forget about convincing a Buddhist to buy a picture of an old man wearing a turban.
A diamond is just a polished stone. A Lamborghini is a carriage that makes you sit lower than a dog by the road and wine is the juice of a decaying grape?
So what is the practical usage of seeing things as it is?
It gives us the wisdom not to attach imaginary values to things and that gives us freedom! When we learn to see the “unattractive” side of things, we reduce our craving. When we reduce our craving, we are fine with not having it. And if we lose something, the pain will be lesser.
That is why enlightened masters are never impressed by material things.
The next time you see an attractive advertisement, try using your wisdom eyes to “look beyond” the surface and see the truth. It changes the way you see the world and will reset your priorities in life.
May all be well and happy.
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