May homage to the Blessed One, the Noble One, the Perfectly Enlightened One!
5.1. The way to perform the Asubha meditation
You are now getting basic things that need for your life step by step. That is the way to develop your conscientiousness, effort, and wisdom. You gain such knowledge from the teachings of the Supreme Buddha. Therefore, I am teaching you what the Supreme Buddha disclosed and not something that I found. I teach you these by being a disciple of the Supreme Buddha. The privilege of this Dhamma goes to that great teacher, the Supreme Buddha.
The grains picked out from the heap of grains…
One day someone asked Arahant Uttara Thero, “Venerable Sir, you preach the Dhamma beautifully. Is this Dhamma originated within you? Or do you preach this Dhamma by learning from someone else?” Then Arahant Uttara Thero answered, “Dear friend, if there’s anything that’s well-said, all of it belongs to the words of the Supreme Buddha. We just use those words when we speak.” Furthermore, an example was presented to realize the Buddha’s Dhamma. “Let’s there is heap of grains, and anyone could get as much as grains one wants from that pile of grains. Thus, each person takes as much as grains that fits in their containers. Likewise, a person learns the Dhamma according to one’s talent.”
Is the Asubha meditation forbidden for the laypeople?
In a similar manner, you will learn/grasp this Dhamma based on your talent. Furthermore, you might not like what we are going to teach now. This is called ‘Ausubha Meditation’ (meditation on impure parts in this body). There’s nothing we could do even if you don’t like it. If you think about this at least to a minimum level, you will obtain an immense development. Before we could learn the Asubha meditation, we would like to address some false views we find in this country. These views include, “Asubha meditation needs not to be practiced. Laypeople should not do it. They should not think in the manner that’s taught in this meditation. Asubha meditation is not for laypeople. It will destroy a lay-life.” Think for a moment on these examples. Doctors and nurses treat sick people a lot. They see many unpleasant scenes. They see bloody and disgusting hands and legs cut out from human bodies. Moreover, morticians see many things like that when they prepare dead bodies in mortuaries. If these things affect these people so easily, then their lives should have been destroyed and failed because of their professions. In fact, people who are under the spell of sensual pleasures don’t like the word ‘Asubha’, and that’s why these false views about the Asubha meditation are among us. They hate the Supreme Buddha’s Dhamma. (Dhammadessii parābhavō) One who hates the Dhamma fails, but the one who doesn’t hate the Dhamma prospers (Dhammakāmō bhavan hōti).
This is how to start the Asubha meditation…
When you are practicing Asubha meditation, some people may tell you various things. But what is important is to see if you are ready to realize the truth of this life. For this, you must first gain some knowledge about the meditation before you actually start it. Asubha meditation is the contemplation of 32 impure parts of the body in their true nature. Let’s take hair as an example. Let’s say there is a person with a long hair. The person likes that hair, so she takes that hair to her hands and rubs it gently. If a hair comes out from the head, she will take that hair and put aside. Let’s take nails. There is a person who likes his/her nails. She grows her nails, cuts in to shapes, and colors them. She gains happiness by looking at those colored nails. Let’s take teeth. A person brushes and cleans his/her teeth regularly. Then that person goes in front of a mirror and smiles and becomes happy. Let’s take the skin. That person feels happy by looking at the beauty of his/her skin. Contemplating the impure parts of the body is indeed something different to a person who values this body in such a manner.
Can you stay beautiful forever?
But that’s not what is important. What’s important is to understand why the Supreme Buddha preached this meditation to us. The Most Fortunate One taught us this because it’s something that we are confused with. There’s no problem if we can manage to have a beautiful hair, beautiful nails, and a beautiful life forever without letting them to decay and ugly. But dear devotees, we face the decay someday in this life. When that day arrives, we need to have a proper understanding of the true nature of this life. That realization needs to be achieved right now. That’s what the Asubha meditation is for.
It’s like a burnt chicken feather…
The Supreme Buddha preached that if someone is to practice the Asubha meditation properly, it will be like burning a feather of a chicken. If a chicken feather is positioned in a candle flame, it will get burnt and shrunk. Afterwards, it cannot be straightened back to its former shape. The Supreme Buddha preached that if one practices the Asubha meditation properly, that person will develop a defilement free mind. Or that person will develop a good equanimity.
If the Asubha is cultivated via the idea of Subha (beauty)…
Contemplating on the disgusting nature of this body is something that’s beneficial for cultivating a concentration. Therefore, it is important to be conscious about its importance in the Asubha meditation as well. If however you feel disgusted while practicing the Asubha meditation, then you haven’t actually cultivated the Asubha meditation; you have indeed practiced the idea of Subha (beauty). What you need to do in the Asubha meditation is this: The Supreme Buddha showed an example. There is a sack containing different types of grains. This sack has openings in two sides. A person who can see opens this sack of grains. He takes out all the grains and separates them according to their different types as in these are rice, these are gram, these are long beans, these are green gram, and kidney beans, etc. In a similar manner, a wise person contemplates on impure parts contained in the body, which is from above the feet through below the hair, covered by a skin.
May you be conscious on the true nature of the body…
How does he contemplate? He goes to a calm place and silently thinks about the (impure) parts of this body. He sees these impure body parts separately, one by one. There is hair in this body. There are nails in this body. There are teeth in this body. There is a skin in this body. There is flesh in this body. There are veins in this body. There are bones in this body. There is bone marrow in this body. There is a kidney in this body. There is a heart in this body. There is a uterus in this body. There are lungs in this body. There is a liver in this body. There are small intestines in this body. There are large intestines in this body. There is feces in this body… In this manner, that person contemplates the disgusting parts of this body.
He also sees that there is gall in this body. There is phlegm in this body. There is pus in this body. There is blood in this body. There is sweat in this body. There is a liquid that flows with sweat in this body and it is called blubber. There are tears in this body. There is synovia fluid in this body. There is saliva in this body. Also, there is mucus in this body. There is marrow in this body. There is urine in this body. He contemplates on these impure body parts one by one separately. It’s like looking at a sack of grains that has openings in two sides.
If you want to make your life pleasant, then practice Asubha meditation…
You might now be able to understand how the Supreme Buddha saw the life in order to free from all defilements. Therefore, it is the way that you should also see the life in order for you to experience the freedom in this life. It’s because a life becomes pleasant by freeing yourself from bonds and not otherwise. Therefore, the contemplation of impure parts in this body is a Dhamma that helps to make this life pleasant. When you practice this meditation, you are seeing the impure body parts from your mind. Your life will not get destroyed because you imagine it. If that’s the case, your life should have destroyed when you go to toilet. But your life doesn’t get destroyed in that manner.
Before the breathing meditation…
You will realize, see, and understand that this body also consists of features that exist in every other thing. Therefore, you must understand this properly. So, practice this Asubha meditation little by little. Once it’s well practiced, one can perform the breathing (breathe-in and breathe-out) meditation even if he/she was unable to do it at the beginning. The Supreme Buddha has not preached the breathing meditation for everyone. There are some people who can naturally focus their minds. That person should practice breathing meditation. Or one can do the Asubha meditation as a first step before starting the breathing meditation. If one can practice the meditation for at least 20 to 30 minutes, he will be able to achieve a great success in his life.
In this body made out of four elements (Satara mahābūta), there are thirty two parts that are prone to rot, smell bad, deteriorate, and they reside in a disgusting body.
They are: black color hair that is prone to smell bad and deteriorate; the bodily hair in other parts of the body that mixed with sweat and dirt; nails that are of deteriorating character; smelly and unpleasant teeth with gum with the nature of rotting by making cavities; skin that has the characteristics of dying and peeling off with time, becoming contagious with various skin diseases like scabies, blistering, rashes, eczema, ulcer, and hives; flesh that becomes full of pus and warms when gets injured and rotted; various sized veins that are embedded within the flesh like string or vine joints.
The bone structure in this body consists of a skull, neck bones, collar bones, finger bones, chest bones, waist bones, back bones, thigh bones, knee bones, foot bones, and toe bones. It is covered by veins and flesh in the body.
There is a liquid in the bones (bone marrow) that has rotting nature.
There are kidneys, which look like two unripe mangoes. These filter water that mixes with the blood and transform useless water into urine. The livers have the tendency to rot and deteriorate due to many diseases.
This body also consists of a heart that acts as the center of pumping blood to everywhere in the body. The heart has a fish-smell and brings many illnesses to a person.
Also, there is a chunk of flesh, liver, filled with blood and a bad smell. It rots as every other part of the body.
There is bladder or gall bladder that spills gall and mass of flesh called spleen filled with disgusting nature in this body. These also decompose easily.
Lungs are like two huge luffas and have the nature of getting moldered with various diseases. They are composed of blood and flesh, with many tubing on it, and they stretch when inhale and shrink when exhale.
Like a skinned-snake, which is coiled in a boat filled with blood, small intestine filled with worms and coiled in the stomach.
Inside the body, there is large intestine. This bears the digested food or the feces.
Crushed food mixed with spit is in the stomach, which is like a bag filled with dog vomit.
This body also contains feces, which is digested and look like lump of clay with the nature of bad smell.
Like bloody young coconut pulp, the Brain cells coiled inside the skull.
Smelly and yellowish liquid, gall, is also inside this body.
Like a smelly vomit of an animal, the phlegm is full of bad smell and of slimy foam.
When blood is rot, the pus builds up. Pus is a yellowish disgusting liquid with the nature of giving birth to worms.
The smelly and red-colored liquid, blood, is also within this whole body.
Smelly sweat that builds throughout this whole body is like salt water.
There is blubber, which is in between skin and muscles of this body.
Also, tears that are disgusting salty liquid that comes out from eyes can be seen in the body.
There is synovia fluid coming out of fat after it is mixed with sweat.
Smelly and of slimy foam of spit that comes out from the mouth.
Yellowish and sticky mucus with disgusting smell is also in this body.
Marrow is the slimy liquid at between bone-ends of the body.
There is urine that comes out from our bodies as a liquid with very disgusting smell.
Thus, inquire/contemplate well about these disgusting parts of this body. That is when you will see the true nature of this body, after which you will be able come to a middle state of freeing yourself from clinging to the body consists of disgusting nature.
Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero.