Ugliness of body

(Meditation – Intermediate level)

This body of mine consist of (1) hair on the head, (2) hair on the body, (3) nails, (4) teeth, (5) Skin, (6) Flesh, (7) Sinews, (8) Bones, (9) Bone-marrow, (10) Kidneys, (11) Heart, (11) Liver, (12) Diaphragm, (13) Spleen, (14) Lungs, (15) Bowels, (16) Small intestines, (17) stomach & its contents, (18) Excrement, (19) The brain, (20) Bile, (21) Phlegm, (22) Pus, (23) Blood, (24) Sweat, (25) Fat, (26) Tears, (27) Grease, (28) Saliva, (29) Snot, (30) Fluid of the joints, (31) Urine

Bones, flesh and skin – Skin, flesh and bones.

Contemplation of the 32 parts

The above passage is taken from Theravadian meditation text and is used for contemplating our body. By extension, we acknowledge that the body of people around us is similar. 😉

Unlike western culture, Buddhism teach us to contemplate the human body as it is. We are not encouraged to think and believe that our body is beautiful because it is the creation of God. In reality, our body is repulsive and ugly.

By seeing it as it is, we will learn to “let go”. It becomes okay to see wrinkles and grey hairs too.

This meditation may not be suitable for beginners because some people may find the topic offensive, repulsive or frightening. Just like, dissecting a cadaver in medical school may not be suitable for all.

On the other hand, if we learn how to look upon our body and see it as it is, then we will not be easily enchanted by this delusion.

Lets’ start by examining the hair on our head. In shampoo commercial, we are shown lustrous long hair flowing in the wind. If we do not wash the hair, it becomes matted and smelly. With wisdom, we recognize our hair as a smelly mess unless we perfume it every day with shampoo. If we find a blob of wet hair floating towards us while we are swimming, most of us will recoil with horror, right? Thus, the 1st step of this meditation is to visualize our hair being shorn off and is lying in a messy heap in front of us. That’s hair, as it is.

Next, we have the various body hair. Facial hair, nostril hair, eyebrow, eyelashes, pubic hair and whatever hair you know of. The modern people realize that it is repulsive and various waxing salon provides services to help us get rid of them. Again, we recognize it as it is. Even if you had just done your Brazilian wax, you have to be mindful of your body hair during this meditation. Again visualize it in front of you in one messy heap. If you are extremely hairy, then maybe a bigger heap?

Nails. We polish, buff and paint our nails. Some would even decorate it with shiny ornaments. In this meditation, we learn to see it as it is. Without the decoration. We visualize our nails in front of us in one heap. Just like how we sweep our nail clippings together after clipping our nails. Nails as it is without nail polish or ornamental bling.

Teeth. We brush and clean our teeth every day without really thinking much. We want them to stay healthy and white. In reality, we are trying to prevent it from rotting and decay. Again, let us see it as it is. Instead of “seeing” teeth like in TV commercials, we visualise our teeth in one heap right in front of us.

Skin. We are used to seeing skin as part of our body, but if we were to see it in a heap, it would probably be a horrible sight to behold. We will need a bit of imagination as we proceed on from here. Most of us are not medically trained and we do not see human parts as it is. Watching medical documentary can help with the subsequent visualization.

We continue to visualize the various parts of our body being “dismantled” and placed on the floor in front of us. (6) Flesh, (7) Sinews, (8) Bones, (9) Bone-marrow, (10) Kidneys, (11) Heart, (11) Liver, (12) Diaphragm, (13) Spleen, (14) Lungs, (15) Bowels, (16) Small intestines, (17) stomach & its contents, (18) Excrement, (19) The brain, (20) Bile, (21) Phlegm, (22) Pus, (23) Blood, (24) Sweat, (25) Fat, (26) Tears, (27) Grease, (28) Saliva, (29) Snot, (30) Fluid of the joints, (31) Urine

I visualize the various liquids in jars. Some people would just visualize a small puddle of it.

You will probably get the picture of the imaginary ugly mess in front of us. As we dismantle our body, our mental focus is the various heaps in front of us. “Our state of being” becomes “empty”

Once, we visualized our body in various heaps in front of us, we reflect upon our body as it is.

This body that we identify with, is made up of these ugly heaps of matters. It is smelly and ugly. It is impermanent and subjected to decay. If any emotion arises, let it pass. Don’t dwell on it.

Next, simply bring our awareness back to our physical body. As it is. The visualized heaps in front of us simply disappeared. We just need to bring our mental focus back and be mindful of our body as it is.

Reflecting thus,

“This body of mine is impermanent as it is. It will grow old and will die one day. With this precious human existence, I have learned Dharma. May I cherish every precious moment of this impermanent life by practising diligently, so that enlightenment can be achieved.”

The objective of this meditation is to program a mentality that is not deluded by our impermanent body. To see our body as it is and not become attached to it. To understand that our physical body is impermanent and is made up of various parts. At the same time, we shouldn’t become paranoid about death. We simply appreciate and treasure our life more.

You should understand that there is a balancing of perspective going on here. You become wise and appreciative of life without being attached to your physical self. You shouldn’t be feeling depressed after this meditation.

When we learn to “let go” and not be “bound” or “contained” or “trapped” by our physical body, there should be a simplistic and liberating joy. We learn to appreciate that our body does not define us. Our physical body is not “I”

Hopefully, all the aforesaid cues will help with your practice.

Last but not least, don’t force it. Spirituality will blossom like the lotus and sometimes it takes time to mature. If you find this meditation extremely uncomfortable, it is perfectly fine not to practice it.

There are many other alternative ways that leads to the ultimate Truth in Buddhism. 84,000 ways!

May all be well and happy.

Meditation on 32 parts of our body

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