One of the classic forms of Buddhist meditation is contemplation of the decay of the body. To perform this meditation monks would go to the charnel grounds where dead bodies were burned and sometimes simply left to be eaten by vultures. One could observe every stage of decay and these stages are recorded in detail in the Buddhist texts - how the body gets eaten by maggots, how flesh falls away, how bones disassemble, how eventually there is just dust.

One of the 'benefits' of modern hygiene is that there are no longer such places where one can go and see it all in process, however a compensating 'benefit' of modern medicine is that one can now contemplate the decay of the body by observing one's own condition. Nowadays we live with a great variety of ailments that in the old days would have carried one off. Thus, as one gets older the number of such gradually gets grater and, broadly speaking, they tend to get worse rather than better. Getting old generally means putting up with an ever increasing degree of bodily decay.

In my own case, to the casual observer I remain a healthy looking specimen. Making a list of my current ailments, I cam up with twenty items ranging in severity from 'trigger finger syndrome' through psoriasis and migraines to abdominal aortic aneurysm and pulmonary embolisms. There are actually few areas of my body not evidently affected one way or another and one can reasonably assume, I think, that the few areas that are showing no symptoms are, nonetheless, suffering wear and tear much like the rest. After all, they have been around just as long and been through the same degree of roughness of life.

I reflect that I am relatively fortunate that all my different components seem to be decaying at much the same rate. Some poor sould have one bit fall to pieces at an early stage while everything else is still in fair working order which seems like rather a waste.

The whole point of the Buddhist meditation on these matters is to bring one to a degree of objectivity about the whole matter and, thereby, to eliminate one's fantasy that one is a special case, different from all the rest of the universe - a fond delusion that generalises to all manner of other kinds of lunacy - and thereby restore a measure of sanity.

Views: 64

Replies to This Discussion

I am writing this while lying in a pull out couch in a hospice in Canada next to a partner who is dying. We have both been here for almost six weeks. We have lived together with the dignosis of terminal cancer for a year now and over that time, until we entered the hospice, I became more and more his full time caretaker. We are now within hours or short days until his death. The last few weeks have felt more and more like a meditation retreat organized by something more universal than the retreats I have done in the past. There is are things to be learned in going through this experience that it will take me months or even years to process. In some ways I feel like a death midwife. There are aspects of the process that remind me very much of giving birth. That strange awesomeness of the mystery of a being coming into experience right inside your own body would then be the process in reverse, the dissolving of the energies of the body and of consciousness. The being comes from nowhere and exits into nowhere. It almost makes life seem to be a slight of mind. Consciouness pops into existence rather like a soap bubble, floats for a few years and then bursts. At the same time there is nothing pretty or bubble like about the death process itself. There are many variations, some less cruel than others but few of them are either wanted or chosen.

I like thinking that part of that decay of the body is just a reminder that we all are part of the same thing, this world and with that, we are also part of this universe. Animals and plants die too, but so does stars.

Dying changes our body and at some point it makes us one with the rest of the planet and the rest of the life that inhabits it, there is no difference between what we were and what the rest is.

RSS

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

JOHNNY HALLYDAY

Posted by David Brazier on December 6, 2017 at 10:08 1 Comment

Johnny Hallyday died just after midnight this morning.

A vous autres, hommes faibles et merveilleux

Qui mettez tant de grâce a vous retirer du jeu

Il faut qu'une main posée sur votre épaule

Vous pousse vers la vie, cette main tendre et légère

On a tous quelque chose en nous de Tennessee

Cette volonté de prolonger la nuit

Ce désir fou de vivre une autre vie

Ce rêve en nous avec ses mots à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee

Cette force qui nous…

Continue

THE RUBICON

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 5, 2017 at 22:30 0 Comments

i have been attending a parent and toddler group at the Steiner school in Kings Langley for a little while. I first started going there with Selena and then started taking Dorian there in September. It’s a lovely place with a different outlook and philosophy, and where I have learned about the Rubicon stage, but unfortunately the regulatory body Ofsted had rated it badly and so it had to introduce radical measures in order to stay open. 

But these changes have made things worse for…

Continue

By sheer power of aspiration

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 3, 2017 at 22:30 4 Comments

Ever since my ordination back in Dec 2003 I have always loved being involved in or being a witness to someone taking a step onto the Buddhist path. The aspirant or candidate taking on the Amida precepts always appears solemn, and sincere, and as I listen to the vows and see how willing they are to aspire to live an ideal life they become even bigger with a certain amount of gravitas and I find myself shrinking and becoming less Significant. It is a wonderfully moving experience and so I always… Continue

letter to Father Christmas

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 2, 2017 at 22:36 6 Comments

Dear Father Christmas,



Please can I have a light up Christmas tree and the prettiest baubles in your workshop. Love Selena



My daughter is 5 and loves decorations. She would love to have a garden with lots of flowers and fruit trees and plants but we live in a flat with a balcony so she spends time enjoying other people’s garden whenever she can. So maybe this Christmas we will try and create a mini Pureland garden on our balcony.



This Bodhi retreat she and her… Continue

© 2017   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service