Asubha as Disenchantment

Says who, where?
Sukhā is sukhā, dukkhā is dukkhā.
If I ask you to pick up a hot glowing piece of coal with bare hands, you will refuse to do it, knowing it will burn you. There is no grasping when you know it’s nature.

While we can argue about something being relative unattractive, once you know dukkhā rises based on sight you can’t say it’s attractive.
I can go even further, once dukkhā is established and the “something” turns even worse, you will experience even greater dukkhā. And when you maintained equanimity towards something, you considered it neither dukkhā or sukhā, yet when it changes either dukkhā or sukhā will hit you right in the face.

The body is a hot piece of coal. It requires a tremendous amount of effort to maintain sukhā, and that’s temporary. The tremendous amount of effort is a clear sign that the body is in fact dukkhā, requiring constant maintenance, care and attention from conception to death.
If that does not make it unattractive, or in other words ugly, or in other words dukkhā, then I don’t know what to call it.

I’m not making things absolute, I’m stating things as they are.

What makes you wary of cultivating greater feelings of repulsiveness?
If there is equanimity towards the body, it would not make an impact on you, not at all.
Seeing the body decaying and decomposing, with whatever unpleasant sight and smell related to it, equanimity would make you observe just that.
If that’s not the case, and you find this kind of observation unpleasant, it’s not equanimity which the mind uses, but ignorance.
You do realise that equanimity and ignorance are two sides of the same coin, so to speak, right?

My apologies. I used an example from my experience to illustrate a point, which was a natural seque into my practice as a topic of the thread. Fair enough.
But I take guidance on my practice from my teacher. It was not my intention to discuss my practice on the forum.
I will take this as important lesson in Right Speech when posting in the future. :+1:
Thank you for your concern, @Jos. May you be well and happy. :pray:


The theme is asubha and its easy to see that what one perceives as subha or asubha is just a sign that depends on disposition.

I do not believe dukkha arises based on sight or seeing but based on engagement with the seen. Clinging is the problem. Not seeing.

Like i said i see this as relative teachings to remedy the allure of things. I think it might be useful to remedy being overly passionate towards something. But in general i believe a desinterestedness for something, ideally grows from growing understanding of 4 noble truths and not from perceiving something as intrinsically asubha. I feel this is like the difference between forcing oneself to be retraint and naturally having lost the interest and passion for things seen, heard etc. Can we meet eachother here?

I had your original question in mind when replying.

I find the term “repulsiveness” calls up associations in English that don’t fit with the goal of becoming neutral towards the body - approaching the body with neither craving or aversion.

I know my stance on asubha is strong and can be unpleasant.
The reason is that the body is not a neutral topic, at least not until attachment to it is gone.
This attachment originates in an ingrained view/perspective that the body is attractive, where attractive goes far beyond it’s outside appearances. Asubha practice is to confront this view/perspective by a continuous keeping in mind of the unattractiveness of the body, which will wear down the existing view/perspective.
We might say this is fighting fire with fire - which is also why it’s an unpleasant or “dukkhā based” practice.
Done right there is no point of attachment, just as there is no grabbing a hot piece of coal with bare hands and not burning yourself.
This however is not equanimity, it’s restraint by mindfulness. You might, not being mindful, grasp based on tendency.
This tendency is harder to counter, since instead of paying attention to the mind moving outside, it requires ending the movement of the mind which leads to grasping.

This ending of (the mental movement leading to) grasping is based on the body being hot, not cooling down. The body is hot, the mind knows, and is unwilling to touch it, now or in the future.
Since when not touched there is no pain, this is sufficient to remain equanimous towards the body as it is present.
This does not imply there is no physical pain or discomfort, or pleasure in Jhana (I-IV).
These rise based on the experience of body and cannot be avoided. The mind will however cut all thought processes leading to grasping (the body should be like this, not like that (craving/aversion)).
I recall one sutta where Buddha was experiencing severe pain, and he was said to be “mindfully enduring” it. That’s equanimity towards the body in my understanding.

What I’m wary about is that people consider their practice/understanding right, while there appears to be a fundamental disconnect between the practice and it’s goal.
The goal of asubha practice is not to achieve equanimity towards the body. Disenchantment and dispassion are the natural result when the body is seen with equanimity.
Equanimity is the result of using meditation (leading to immersion) to see the body (and broader: the entire wold/all) as hot (a snare) and the disengaging of the mind as cooling.
This differs from what we in general know as Jhana in that it’s starting point is dukkhā instead of sukhā. It also differs in that the mind won’t cling to it’s starting point in the way it does with sukhā based Jhana.

Perhaps I can approach this different to clarify.
Starting with dukkhā we acknowledge by experience that the world is hot and investigate just that.
Starting with sukhā we eventually find out that sukhā is hot, and investigate just that.
With concentration on the body we find that we can use both dukkhā and sukhā as starting point, where abusha is dukkhā based practice. If there is no dukkhā, it’s not abusha practice.

I think the above might clarify for you as well.
It’s not about “losing interest”, it’s having investigated with full interest and realising how the mind entangles itself with it’s occupations.
You essentially speak about the mind reaching outside (to things seen/heard) and this outflow stopping due to lack of interest/passion. Yet what’s more accurate is that the mind knows it will burn itself when reaching outside, and stops doing that without paying very close attention to it’s whereabouts (and with that stopped entangling itself).

I went to a Thai wat (temple, I think it was Phra That Phanom) once and my wife started walking barefoot on some tiles to walk to a Buddha status which was in full sun, around 14.00.
I followed her, and since no shoes/sandals are allowed I was barefoot as well.
Well, that hurt, but the lighter tiles were a little less hot than the darker ones. So I stepped on those lighter tiles and avoided the darker tiles.
You do that fast, without thinking, once you know you can’t escape the pain entirely.
Something similar, but far deeper, happens in the mind as well once it sees that all there is are lighter and darker shaded tiles to step on in the blistering sun.
And the mind will incline to never step on any of them, since stepping on any of them hurts.
That’s not losing interest nor lack of passion, it’s knowing the nature of these tiles.

The mind loosing passion for what is seen, heard etc. i see as the natural (unforced) result of growing understanding of the Four Noble Truths. That requires investment, effort, discovery, mindfulness etc. Seeing things are they really are. I never suggested anything else Jos.

In the dark you can step on any tile. Tiles are not hot or cool of themselves. If you think so you do NOT know the nature of these tiles. But the nature of any sense contact is a burden, also the pleasant and neutral ones. If you mean that, oke, i agree. Why is any establising vedana a burden, because it is an aggregation and aggregation is felt as a weight on the mind. It is like an openeness becoming dense.

Habitually the mind inclines towards what presents itself at a sense door. Any establising sense contact that results, always represents a burden because then things starts to be felt. Mind it not always with vedana’s. They always arise and cease.

Seeing…this is vedana, this is its arising, this is its cessation, this is the path to its cessation (also for the other khandha’s) is something to know. Seeing its cessation is not some intellectual understanding of how vedana’s cease after a last death, but refers to seeing how sensations or vedana’s here and now also cease. So it is also seeing those moment that there are yet no estbalished vedana’s.

Any sense contact represents a burden, a weight on the heart, but also this does not mean that there are always sense contacts. Also that always arises in the moment.

This is also what seeing Paticca Samuppada means for me. One sees as it were from emptiness, from dispassion, from a total openess and sees how all arises and ceases. Khandha’s arise and cease momentairy. Sense contacts arise and cease, Vedana arise and cease. Vinnana etc. All momentairy. Khandha’s cannot be considered as being present, but as arising, existing a while and ceasing.

Also establishing neutral feelings are a burden. If you call this burning oke. I rather speak of the arising of a load. Of dukkha. In fact any establishing vedana represent a load, a certain touch, weight on the heart.

That is also why sariputta says…when nothing is felt that is bliss. That refers to a mind in which no vedana’s have yet established.

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Personally I think that Ashuba is a difficult subject. We all know what happened in Sri Lanka … and even historically in the Buddha’s time !!

Is it meaningful if a Sangha practices it? What does somebody who has a good understanding of dhamma and is already well rooted in the Middle Way gain from it, except, possibly, a negative attachment?

I don’t think you need to read too hard into asubha. What’s subha? Pleasant, beautiful, attractive. What’s asubha? Not-pleasant, not-beautiful, not-attractive.

I know that asubha has harder connonations, but again, those are connonations. We don’t read anatta as Other, Alien, Unknown, we just read it as Not-Self.

So, perhaps that’s a good idea for your meditation: instead of focusing on negative adjectives (disgusting, repulsive, horrible, etc.), just focus on how the body is not pleasant, attractive, or beautiful, without a judgment value.

As said in this thread, too much negativity might be a deterrent for a skillful practice. Asubha practice is essentially an antidote to fight against or sense of pride for the way our body looks, our sexual desires we can’t control, etc. Focusing on the body not being the things we think it is, and is just what it is - a bag of meat, conditioned into existence, a place of suffering.


Suppose you see the body as ugly, food as disgusting, me as wise…do you now see things as they really are?

I feel we can do the mirror test.

A mirror can reflect coming and passing reflections. Reflections are never mixed up with the mirror, althought it might seem that way. Reflections are always adventitious. The mirror is never the owner of the reflections. A mirror does not reflect ugly and beauty, superior, inferior or equal. It does not reflect anatta nor atta but still reflections are naturally alien to the mirror, not mixed up. A mirror forms not thoughts or perceptions about anicca but still reflection naturally come and go. A mirror does not become attached to reflections. A mirror has no wisdom but still it is detached, un inclined, signless, desireless.

All that matters is the Middle Way.

The rest is for repeaters :sweat_smile: