End point of Asubha practice

In the practice of Asubha, consisting of contemplation of the parts of the body as well as stages of change of a corpse, how does one know they have reached the end point of their Asubha practice where doing any further Asubha contemplation will carry no additional benefit?
Is the ending of sexual desire the actual end point of the Asubha practice or is that a milestone, provided if one continues with the practice beyond the ending of sexual desire that it can also lead to a more profound result (such as Magga Phala)?

Enlightened one should see the faults and dangers of all sensory objects. He will see faults in all the pleasurable/agreeable(i.e joy etc) objects → He will not delight in them

He will also see the subha(goodness) of all disagreeable objects(i.e pain,ugly etc) → Thus he will not have illwill in regards to them

I think if we practice asubha, we should move toward that goal.

The endpoint should be to achieve equanimity that leads to the total eradication of all desires.

Take another mendicant who says: ‘I’ve developed the heart’s release by equanimity. I’ve cultivated it, made it my vehicle and my basis, kept it up, consolidated it, and properly implemented it. Yet somehow desire still occupies my mind.’ They should be told, ‘Not so, venerable! … For it is the heart’s release by equanimity that is the escape from desire.’


Before that, the permanent fading away of sensual desires is a good benchmark. The same logic applies. If someone say that they’ve reached the endpoint of asubha practice yet desires still arises in them, then they’ve entirely missed the point.

For non-returners, it always good to upkeep the practice in case they’ve misjudged their attainment or just for pleasant abiding in this current life.

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Do you ask why does one need to practice of “asubha”?

It is for overcoming sensuality.

Cf. SN35.127 = SA 1165:
Pages 100-1 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (162.3 KB)

I feel, such things as asubha practice are especially to tackle extreme attachments. Strong cravings that really can make you mad, and are hard to control.

It is not like something is really ugly, or disgusting of itself ofcourse. For a maggot a decaying body is really attractive, heaven :slight_smile: It is not about how things really are, but about seeing things in a certain subjective way that does not lead to defilements. A wise way to attend to things, careful attention.

I think that if one really starts to see things as disgusting, ugly, repulsive of themselves that is not oke. That is a wrong development. That does not lead to dispassion.

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Yes, good point. Asubha practice is not ‘right view’.

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I would suggest asubha, practiced correctly, results in right view → disinterest & detachment from sensuality. It is also conjoined with understanding & penetration of tilakkhana.

The tenth benefit of kāyagatāsati (14 contemplation types) is

They realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.

Kāyagatāsatisutta - Sutta Central

From the practice perspective (as opposed to theory) your question in general isolates asubha and lacks its relation to the path. Nyanaponika Thera explains that context here:

" One who has chosen the conquest of the five hindrances for a “working-ground” should examine which of the five are strongest in one’s personal case. Then one should carefully observe how, and on which occasions, they usually appear. One should further know the positive forces within one’s own mind by which each of these hindrances can best be countered and, finally, conquered; and one should also examine one’s life for any opportunity of developing these qualities which, in the following pages, have been indicated under the headings of the spiritual faculties (indriya), the factors of absorption (jhananga), and the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). In some cases, subjects of meditation have been added which will be helpful in overcoming the respective hindrances."


Mahā Moggallāna admonished even the fully enlightened to continue to practice asubha towards the pleasant and subha towards the displeasing (that is: mindfulness of the body) as a means of staying uncorrupted:

Here, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu is not intent upon a pleasing form and not repelled by a displeasing form. He dwells having set up mindfulness of the body, with a measureless mind, and he understands as it really is that liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. … When a bhikkhu dwells thus, if Mara approaches him through the eye, Mara fails to gain access to him, Mara fails to get a hold on him. … When a bhikkhu dwells thus, he overwhelms forms; forms do not overwhelm him. … It is in this way, friends, that one is uncorrupted.
~ SN 35.243

This should be relatively easy for the arahant with “developed faculties”:

If he should wish: ‘May I abide perceiving the unrepulsive in the repulsive and the unrepulsive,’ he abides perceiving the unrepulsive in that. If he should wish: ‘May I abide perceiving the repulsive in the unrepulsive and the repulsive,’ he abides perceiving the repulsive in that. If he should wish: ‘May I, avoiding both the repulsive and unrepulsive, abide in equanimity, mindful and fully aware,’ he abides in equanimity towards that, mindful and fully aware. That is how one is a noble one with developed faculties.
~ MN 152

But still this needs to be actively done, even by the fully enlightened, not for some higher goal, but merely for a pleasant abiding “here and now” i.e. until their parinibbana:

for those monks who are perfected ones, the cankers destroyed, who have lived the life, done what was to be done, shed the burden, attained to their own goal, the fetters of becoming utterly destroyed, and who are freed by perfect profound knowledge — these things conduce both to their abiding in ease here and now as well as to their mindfulness and clear consciousness.
~ MN 107

So, to answer your question: Parinibbana is the end point of asubha.


I feel all those ideas like asubha, anicca, anatta, dukkha are just skillful means to remedy those many moments we see someting in an extreme way, one-sided, only as subha, sukha, atta, nicca. It is about developing a more realistic and balanced total vision, i feel.

That balanced vision is in the sutta’s expressed like this: seeing the gratification in things, seeing the danger in things, seeing the arising, seeing the ceasing, seeing the escape. This realistic balanced total vision does not lead to defilements while one-sidedness does. Delusion is like seeing only one side or aspect of something. This happens a lot, right?

It is not at all, i believe, the goal to get lost in a vision of asubha, dukkha and anatta and see this as the reality of all things. The goal is to develop a realistic, balanced view.

As a human we might experience this or that as repulsive or attractive but that is only our human way of experiencing things. Our (inter)subjective emotional reactions, our tendencies, our views, our ideas, attitudes arising towards what is sensed, are fully (inter) subjective. It is only our karmic vision of the All, being trapped in our humane bhava. It is not reality, it is our-humane reality.

But i do not doubt that there is not really such thing as a repulsive object or attractive object-an-sich.
Except woman, they are intrinsically beautiful :slight_smile:

Developing ones understanding in that directions, like there are really attractive and repulsive things, i feel, can only increase moha. The mind must not become so one-sided. Everybody can understand this is no wisdom and enlightment.

The same with dukkha. It cannot be true that things are an-sich satifactory or unsatisfactory. Such ideas are not, i believe, meant to see and treat as THE reality but as skillful means to develop a more total and balanced view. This view is connected with dispassion, Nibbana.

This question is answered by Luang Ta Maha Boowa in the desana How to Establish the Citta in the Stillness that is Samadhi (pp202-203). This desana is in the compilation Sanditthiko Dhamma, which is available online.
Happy reading.

Do you know why an arahant needs this activity to have a pleasant abiding here and now?

For those times Māra gets into your belly

That aligns with the suttas considering how many times the fully awakened Buddha encountered Mara the trickster!

According to the core teaching of SN/SA suttas, the practice of asubha cannot achieve destruction of the asavas ‘influxes’, the ending of dukkha (= nibbana).

The ending of dukkha requires that one knows (janati) and sees (passati) things as they really are (yathabhuta).

Page 34 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (69.3 KB)

This is about ‘right view’. Asubha is not ‘right view’.

I was wondering whether your conclusion ‘asubha is not right view’ is based on your personal experience or on textual understanding only. Have you practised asubha bhāvanā and if so, what has been your experience?

How about you? Have you practised asubha bhāvanā, and if so, what has been your experience?

That story does not satisfy me. It does not feel like a real answer.

I do not exactly see how these statements show that an arahant is without causes for mental suffering.
It seems to suggest that an arahant still has those causes for mental suffering, and must have still a carefull attention otherwise he will mentally suffer and feel unease, or even enter unpleasant states. I feel that is strange.

Yes, I practised some asubha meditation as well other types of kāyagatāsati. I can say that it helped deepen understanding of tilakkhana, especially anattā.

So, do you consider ‘asubha’ practice is ‘right view’ according to your personal experience?