Agree, because I notice this quite easy in my mind when certain forms hit’s the eye “without” my permission - it happens so quickly that it’s almost magic, but it ain’t according to some of the research I’ve seen. But when one ask other male’s, they often don’t have the same impression or experience, but I wonder a bit about that … Had a female boss, that I saw with my own eyes doing the same thing when there was a suitable male “Hunk” around us, and I told her about it just after the incident, and she laughed and said; yes, but did you really see it …!?
You didn’t, but the post that kicked this off did. Maybe the OP didn’t consider the perspective of women when it could/should have but it was written by a man afaik and maybe for an audience of those who might have similar experiences; i.e. being men. I think it’s very important and worthwhile to understand women’s perspective as men, but we can never truly understand their experience from a first person perspective.
Demonization is very strong language, ridiculous really.
I’d like to bring more attention to the points relevant to the suttas on asubha, that the practice is really concerned with the problem of lust and that aversion is also a problem, so translations like “unattractive” are really the best suited.
I do have some sense of and sympathise with where you’re coming from, but really do have to note
This forum has an audience of men and women, this detail should never be overlooked or negated.
Of course, it is absolutely so that any given person can only write from their perspective, there’s nothing wrong with that. It should just be recognised. Further, where screamingly obvious (say with respect to around half the world’s population) make at least some small acknowledgement that there are other important perspectives to remember, even maybe invite them in.
As an aside, I really didn’t want to get involved in this thread. It’s my mod duties that have kept me watching it and eventually participating. I didn’t want to have to wade through the interminable minefield of gender politics and all that stuff (it’s really not my bag) and I’m forcing myself to make this point explicit so as to disrupt the possible thought of “silent = not there” (that is, ordinarily I would have remained silent).
And “ridiculous” is supportive of respect and harmony?
An excellent plan!
Let’s move on.
It seems to me that the focus, be it Ajahn Chah’s, or anyone’s, on body parts simply objectifies the person who possesses that body part. I’m not sure that these meditations on body parts and asubha practices resonate with a thoughtful, Metta filled mind. In some way, if we look at videos of childbirth to defuse our own lust for the body parts of others, then we really are using a very graphic means, coupled with objectification of women (or men, as the case may be in a different context) to mitigate a problem we have with our thinking and our mindfulness and our compassion and caring for others.
I have a sense that Ajahn Chah was an arahant, but he was not a perfect person. He came from a small village and a culture where women were likely objectified, and the causes of lust were to be “blamed” on the bodies of others.
I’d like to see discussions about lust as centered not on body parts, or with a focus of men objectifying women and blaming them, but on a mindful and compassion based discussion of how our minds produce thoughts and attachments that are unskillful, and the blame rests only with our own inabilities to manage these unskillful thoughts in a healthier way.
Put another way, it seems to me that what creates attraction and physical longing for another is intellect, personality, body language, communication, empathy, humor… among many other complex traits. If we are focused on lust as a desire for body parts alone, we might consider more deeply scrutinizing the level of our thinking and processing.
But I think it’s unfair that those with certain perspectives can claim victimization and be protected/unmoderated in their own attacks.
As you noted it would be good to return the thread to its original point of departure: celibacy, ashuba practice and such.
But as a final word: the guidelines apply to all, no-one is ‘protected’, if you see something inappropriate flag it. That said, I’d find it a shame if you felt anything in our/my conduct has been uneven and you’re welcome to send a PM to ‘moderators’ if you want to take that further.
AN7.51 Bound to one’s gender
People are sexual beings and are going to respond sexually to other people. It’s normal, and so it takes a great deal of dedicated effort to switch off those natural responses.
I’ve found (1 females perspective) that striving to be free of conditioned responses to sexuality is a complex issue, and goes through phases over time.
There have been times when my body and conditioned drives make it very difficult to be calm and peaceful - and forget about equanimity!!
At those times I use all kinds of means, from contemplating the inconstancy and unsatisfactoriness of bodies, male and female. All the way to dealing with attraction to specific people. If one can’t avoid them, then one needs to come up with a means to counter the feelings/drives in the here and now. Yes I’ve done the “carcass of a dog draped accross their shoulders”, and while not the best way to approach things, sometimes needs must.
One particular reflection that I found helpful was wearing a ring that looked very pretty but was very uncomfortable and after a few hours became painful. It was a great reminder that just because something is attractive on the outside, doesn’t mean it won’t cause suffering, and to be a reminder of skillful actions, until they become automatic.
I’ve found the important thing is to be aware that these are just tools toward and end… and not to confuse the many techniques for ‘reality’.
This is also not just restricted to the human drive of reproduction and desire for physical connection - I’ve also applied it to my thinking mind.
My human natural inclination is to enjoy thinking. It’s the monkey mind, the attached mind, the unwise mind… Just the other day, when struggling to meditate, I had the sudden image that our brains, when we die, quickly become just an ooze of smelly sludge
This image has really helped crack the illusion that our minds are something special, that My Mind is something special. The same with all physical imperatives.
Of course, being able to see past our human conditioning via
But personally this doesn’t always work in all situations.
I try to follow the middle way - but when I don’t live up to those Standards, I excersize compassion towards my self… It’s a long and challenging path
Metta to all
I agree with you, Mara P. A very thoughtful post; thanks.
I just hate to see the blame that is placed on, as in this case, a woman’s physical properties as an excuse or trigger for a man’s unskillful thoughts or inappropriate behavior. I’ve used the asubha meditations but find that these practices might cut the top off the weed, but they don’t get at the root. The weed just grows again. And, an unintended consequence (maybe the point of my whole post) is that these practices objectify women and cause some men to look at women with blame or contempt.
So how can we talk about asubha practice without it coming off as an attack on a gender or someone else’s body?
It would be nice to pinpoint this a bit further before continuing the discussion.
And if it can’t be pinpointed, maybe we should just drop it for the sake of not creating more bad vibes? Doesn’t seem worth it if it makes people feel alienated or targeted in some way.
I think the EBTs and the story in this case was about male monks. They were stories and not meant to be generalized overviews about the state of asubha practice. They were not edited for 21st century sensibilities of Western cultures.
Also talking about genitalia is talking about the image that is presented. The dhamma is focused on the sensory nature of existence and deals with sounds, sights, sensations, smells etc (see the suttas talking of attraction between the genders) as this provides an avenue to work on these different modalities in lust can arise.
To hold the owner of genitalia responsible for lust of the observer doesn’t happen in the dhamma as far as I know. Hence there is no need for moderate dress in a temple, even though this is culturally excepted and that seems reasonable to me. Clearly there are no dress codes while outside in the community.
According to the Vipallasa sutta the human mind sees that which is disgusting as not disgusting (if not desirable). So this ignorance needs to gently challenged which is why the four foundations of mindfulness (specifically the mindfulness of the body) contains many methods (elements, asubha, decomposition, of the body) of doing this. Some would say that enlightenment, or even controlling the hindrances would not be possible without this.
Glorifying sex is one thing, but it wont lead to letting go of craving. Biologically many things are normal, of course but that, like anger, genocide etc doesn’t make us better adjusted to live in harmony in society, find peace in this life, or even attain enlightenment.
Maybe this practice also is not proper, but it works here …
When ever I see a form that stir up body and mind, I take time to observe and deconstruct it by removing all types of make ups and basically make everybody into monks and nuns. Then it usually is enough, but when the feeling still resides, I start doing ordinary body contemplation’s (32 parts)
SN 35.127 contains an interesting account of how young monks were advised to deal with lust (excerpt):
At one time Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja was staying near Kosambi, in Ghosita’s Monastery. Then King Udena went up to Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side, and said to him: “Master Bhāradvāja, there are these young monks who are youthful, black-haired, blessed with youth, in the prime of life; and they’ve never played around with sensual pleasures. What is the cause, what is the reason why they practice the full and pure spiritual life as long as they live, maintaining it for a long time?”
“Great king, this has been stated by the Blessed One, who knows and sees, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha: ‘Please, monks, think of women your mother’s age as your mother. Think of women your sister’s age as your sister. And think of women your daughter’s age as your daughter.’ This is a cause, great king, this is a reason why these young monks practice the full and pure spiritual life as long as they live, maintaining it for a long time.”
[if this fails, contemplate your own body. If that fails, use sense restraint (on your own senses)]
It is clearly not in line with the teachings develop up ill-will towards women in the name of asubha practice.
Eric, this is a good approach you’re taking, it seems to me. The asubha practice focuses on the “foulness of the body.” As I mentioned before, I feel there are aspects of this that are problematic and even puerile, in a sense, in directing attention to others’body parts as foul or capable of what we perceive as foul acts. Thanks for posting the excerpt from SN 35.127 .
For myself, having worked with 8 precepts over the last years, I did employ what you’ve described; to view women that I meet as akin to a beloved and respected sister or mother. In this way, the association is friendly, positive, and supportive, but equally if not far more effective as the base and often coarse asubha practices.
Asubha isn’t the entire practice of removing lust- its one tool among many- different things work for different people, but it does play a part. The Buddha says the person who does these practices will fall into equanimity or aversion. I think he says even aversion is a step in the right direction compared to attachment. I appreciate that where the ‘body beautiful’ is nearly venerated, if not exploited to make money, asubha would seem ‘counter-cultural’. Then the Buddha never said his path was an easy one unlike one was lead by ones cravings (and therefore in the direction where the rest of society was headed- commodifying women’s and men’s bodies, for example).
Asubha isnt about demonising. When many have developed distorted attitudes towards women (like objectification for sexual gratification), sexual organs, what is disgusting, what is not etc., this is a return to reality. It reduces craving, and frankly may even enable true affection, rather than unmitigated craving based purely on physical attraction.
On further consideration, I think even though the aim or goal of asubha is to see the much softer “unattractiveness” — the methods are definitely designed to elicit the disgust response. I mean, you don’t see or think of a festering corpse (or really a corpse at any stage of decay, except maybe skeletal) and think “oh, merely unattractive”. Like Mat has said it’s a movement away from the extremely powerful natural impulse, using a powerful method.
The warning about aversion is mainly against suiciding from too much disgust with the body (specifically, your own — not gendered or anything). Many may find metta/BV practice much more suitable and that’s perfectly fine.
I would hazard a guess from my general familiarity with the suttas that asubha practice occurs in the EBT’s much more frequently than metta/BV practices. It is definitely said to lead to samādhi, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was used to go all the way to unbinding.
The issue isn’t that the body either is, or should be regarded as beautiful. The body just is what it is. But the Buddha said aversion is ultimately unskillful, and needs to be overcome and abandoned. If it plays a temporary role in helping to counteract intense lust, well OK. But that’s an extreme measure and it is not something to be dwelt in.
Finding something attractive or finding something repulsive are two sides of the same coin; lobha and dosa are two sides of the same coin. These are just two possible conditioned, subjective responses we can have to what we encounter. Neither reaction provides information about what the thing one is reacting to is in itself. Both led to the projection of illusions.
The Buddha warned that having a mind filled with aversion leads one to further unskillful desires like the desire to expel, subjugate, blame, control and overpower.
Also, there is scant basis in the Buddha’s teaching for drawing sharp distinctions between the mind and the body, and most of the things we regard as “mental” seem to arise in dependence on bodily organs and their contact with forms. So one can’t go around finding various people’s bodies disgusting while at the same time experiencing metta, karuna mudita and upekkha toward the “real” person. Where is that real person? The person is a conditioned phenomenon inseparable from the conditioned phenomena transpiring in and around their body.
If you are trying to live chastely and without sexual craving, there are many techniques that don’t involve the aggressive outward projection of loathing onto the object of your craving. As in most cases of craving, the best antidote is simply to attend to one’s thoughts, and gently turn them away from sexual fantasies about real or imaginary persons. Another technique is to direct close mindful attention onto the various places in your own body where the sexual response is experienced. Sexual craving is actually analogous to many kinds of bodily pain, and it can be mentally “deconstructed” in the same way as other kinds of pain.
This is fallacious and just plain wrong. Regular people regularly experience compassion for people afflicted by diseases that make them look hideous or gross. Parents think baby shit is nasty but still have compassion to change diapers. There are suttas that talk about how to have a healthy mind despite a sick body, so there is a clear distinction between body and mind. And compassion is not dependent upon the other having either an attractive body nor peaceful mind or virtuous character, but solely on the basis of the fact that one knows that the other can suffer, and that like you, they’d prefer not to. One can have compassion for a hideous disease ridden leper you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole who is also a thieving murderer, and one doesn’t have to have overcome desire and aversion completely to do so.
Interesting exchange. But I think it mixes up different issues:
I agree with this. Our experience is a mind-body one. For example, when we feel angry it is not just a mental experience.
However, I am not sure that this follows:
So I agree with this:
But not this (for the reasons explained above):
I would rather say that we have compassion, despite peoples physical-mental failings:
“Regular people regularly experience compassion for people who are afflicted by mental states that make them hard to cope with…”
Perhaps this can add something to our thoughts on the disgust we naturally feels toward certain kinds of bodily excretions. I think the Buddha thought they are to be overcome by the wise, just as the kind nurse overcomes them to attend to he sick:
“A nurse endowed with five qualities is fit to tend to the sick: He is competent at mixing medicine; he knows what is amenable or unamenable to the patient’s cure, taking away things that are unamenable and bringing things that are amenable; he is motivated by thoughts of good will, not by material gain; he does not get disgusted at cleaning up excrement, urine, saliva, or vomit; and he is competent at instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the sick person at the proper occasions with a talk on Dhamma. A nurse endowed with these five qualities is fit to tend to the sick.”
They usually get over that stage pretty quickly. And any attempt to cultivate dispassion toward a baby by reflecting on the fact that it’s body is full of excrement, urine and nasal discharges would be kind of weird.