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THE BODY IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER. Most of our desires are bound up with it. Looking around us, we can see a world that is in the grips of sexual craving and frantic in its adoration of the human form. As meditators, we must face up to the challenges posed by our own sexuality, which stems from a deep-seated craving for sensual gratification. During meditation, this defilement is the most significant obstacle to our progress. The deeper we dig into body contemplation, the more evident this becomes. No other form of kilesa drags more on the mind, nor exerts greater power over the mind than the defilement of sexual craving. Since this craving is rooted in the human body, exposing its true nature will gradually loosen the mind’s tenacious grasp on the body.


Body contemplation is the best antidote for sexual attraction. Successful body practice is measured by a reduction in the mind’s sexual desires. Step by step, wisdom unmasks the reality of the body, cutting off and destroying deep-rooted attachments in the process. This results in an increasingly free and open mental state. To fully understand their significance, meditators must experience these results for themselves. It would be counter-productive for me to try to describe them—that would only lead to fruitless speculation. These results arise exclusively within a meditator’s mind, and are unique to that person’s character and temperament. Simply focus all your attention on the practical causes and let the results of that effort arise as they will. When they do, you will know them with undeniable clarity. This is a natural principle.

When body contemplation reaches the stage where reason and result become fully integrated with wisdom, one becomes completely absorbed in these investigations both day and night. It’s truly extraordinary. Wisdom moves through the body with such speed and agility, and displays such ingenuity in its contemplative techniques, that it seems to spin relentlessly in and out and around every part, every aspect of the body, delving into each nook and cranny to discover the truth. At this stage of the practice, wisdom begins to surface automatically, becoming truly habitual in manifesting itself. Because it’s so quick and incisive, it can catch up with even the most subtle kilesas, and disable even the most indomitable ones. Wisdom at this level is extremely daring and adventurous. It is like a mountain torrent crashing through a narrow canyon: nothing can deter its course. Wisdom bursts forth to meet every challenge to crave and to cling that is presented by the kilesas. Because its adversary is so tenacious, wisdom’s battle with sexual craving resembles a full-scale war. For this reason, only a bold and uncompromising strategy will succeed. There is only one appropriate course of action—an all out struggle; and the meditator will know this instinctively.


When wisdom begins to master the body, it will constantly modify its investigative techniques so that it will not fall prey to the tricks of the kilesas. Wisdom will try to keep one step ahead of the kilesas, constantly looking for new openings and constantly adjusting its tactics: sometimes shifting emphasis, sometimes pursuing subtle variations in technique.

As greater and greater proficiency is achieved, there comes a time when all attachment to one’s own body and to that of others appears to have vanished. In truth, a lingering attachment still remains; it has only gone into hiding. It has not been totally eliminated. Take careful note of this. It may feel as though it is eliminated, but actually it is concealed from view by the power of the asubha practice. So don’t be complacent. Keep upgrading your arsenal—mindfulness, wisdom and diligence—to meet the challenge. Mentally place the whole mass of body parts in front of you and focus on it intently. This is your body. What will happen to it? By now wisdom is so swift and decisive that in no time at all it will break up and disintegrate before your eyes. Each time you spread the body out before you—whether it is your body or someone else’s—wisdom will immediately begin to break it apart and destroy it. By now this action has become habitual.



In the end, when wisdom has achieved maximum proficiency at penetrating to the core of the body’s repulsive nature, you must place the entire disgusting mess of flesh and blood and bones in front of you and ask yourself: From where does this feeling of revulsion emanate? What is the real source of this repulsiveness? Concentrate on the disgusting sight before you and see what happens. You are now closing in on the truth of the matter. At this crucial stage in asubha contemplation, you must not allow wisdom to break the body apart and destroy it.

Fix the repulsive image clearly in your mind and watch closely to detect any movement in the repulsive feeling. You have evoked a feeling of revulsion for it: Where does that feeling originate? From where does it come? Who or what assumes that flesh, blood and bones are disgusting? They are as they are, existing in their own natural state. Who is it that conjures up feelings of revulsion at their sight? Fix your attention on it. Where will the repulsiveness go? Wherever it moves, be prepared to follow its direction.


The decisive phase of body contemplation has been reached. This is the point where the root-cause of sexual craving is uprooted once and for all. As you focus exclusively on the repulsiveness evoked by the asubha contemplation, your revulsion of the image before you will slowly, gradually contract inward until it is fully absorbed by the mind. On its own, without any prompting, it will recede into the mind, returning to its source of origin. This is the decisive moment in the practice of body contemplation, the moment when a final verdict is reached about the relationship between the kilesa of sexual craving and its primary object, the physical body. When the mind’s knowing presence fully absorbs the repulsiveness, internalizing the feeling of revulsion, a profound realization suddenly occurs: The mind itself produces feelings of revulsion, the mind itself produces feelings of attraction; the mind alone creates ugliness and the mind alone creates beauty.

These qualities do not really exist in the external physical world. The mind merely projects these attributes onto the objects it perceives and then deceives itself into believing that they are beautiful or ugly, attractive or repulsive. In truth, the mind paints elaborate pictures all the time—pictures of oneself and pictures of the external world. It then falls for its own mental imagery, believing it to be real.


At this point the meditator understands the truth with absolute certainty: The mind itself generates repulsion and attraction. The previous focus of the investigation—the pile of flesh and blood and bones—has no inherent repulsiveness whatsoever. Intrinsically, the human body is neither disgusting nor pleasing. Instead, it is the mind that conjures up these feelings and then projects them on the images that are in front of us. Once wisdom penetrates this deception with absolute clarity, the mind immediately relinquishes all external perceptions of beauty and ugliness, and turns inward to concentrate on the source of such notions. The mind itself is the perpetrator and the victim of these deceptions; the deceiver and the deceived.

Only the mind, and nothing else, paints pictures of beauty and ugliness. So the asubha images that the meditator has been focusing on as separate and external objects, are absorbed into the mind where they merge with the revulsion created by the mind. Both are, in fact, one and the same thing. When this realization occurs, the mind lets go of external images, lets go of external forms, and in doing so lets go of sexual attraction.


Sexual attraction is rooted in perceptions of the human body. When the real basis of these perceptions is exposed, it completely undermines their validity; and the external, as we know it, collapses and our attachment to it ceases of its own accord. The defiling influence of sexual attraction—which has ridden roughshod over the mind since time immemorial, luring the mind to grasp at birth and so experience death continuously for eons—this insidious craving is now powerless. The mind has now passed beyond its influence: It is now free.


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