Mindfulness of the body's impermanence

Kerome

Kerome

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#1
I was reading through some of the material on mindfulness, and I came across this passage referring to how a Buddhist monk would approach mindfulness of the body's impermanence. It kind of changed my view on how I consider my body and the body of other people, and so I thought I would quote it here.

"And how does a monk remain focused on the body in & of itself?
...
[6] "Furthermore, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground — one day, two days, three days dead — bloated, livid, & festering, he applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate'...

"Or again, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground, picked at by crows, vultures, & hawks, by dogs, hyenas, & various other creatures... a skeleton smeared with flesh & blood, connected with tendons... a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected with tendons... a skeleton without flesh or blood, connected with tendons... bones detached from their tendons, scattered in all directions — here a hand bone, there a foot bone, here a shin bone, there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a breast bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, there a tooth, here a skull... the bones whitened, somewhat like the color of shells... piled up, more than a year old... decomposed into a powder: He applies it to this very body, 'This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.'

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or externally on the body in & of itself, or both internally & externally on the body in & of itself. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body."

"Satipatthana Sutta: Frames of Reference" (MN 10), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, Satipatthana Sutta: Frames of Reference (Creative Commons license).
Spoken by the Buddha, it's a teaching that is intended to show how our bodies are not really what we think they are. In this modern era it's very easy to be dragged along by the image of the body beautiful, the smooth outside of the skin and elegant bones somewhere hidden beneath. But as the Sutra shows, being truly mindful of the body's nature and destination means also being aware of its nature in death.

Everyone you meet walking in the streets will one day be a decomposing body (or cremated). A youthful body's smooth functioning and recuperative powers give way to various ailments in old age, wrinkles and the need for hearing aids.

It's a sobering thought... next time when you're being mindful of the body, spare a thought for its ultimate nature.
 
NeedHaldol

NeedHaldol

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#2
We were born to die. That is the only absolute in life.
 
Kerome

Kerome

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#3
Yes, that's true, death and taxes, the only certainties in life. But it is interesting that in the Buddha's original teaching on mindfulness, the Satipatthana Sutra, he includes a section on the mindfulness of death and the impermanence of the body.

Buddhist monks in Asia would on occasion meditate in charnel grounds where dead bodies were left in order to absorb this lesson thoroughly. Of course in the west burial is more common, and visiting a burial ground does not quite confront you to the same extent with the body's temporary nature, so it can still be a bit of a shock to confront this quite so viscerally.
 
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