Happy Asubha day! (February 14th)

Asubha isn’t just for Feb. 14th though. If you’re serious about your practice, it’s all asubha, all the time.

On this directory, you’ll find a nice PDF file of 32 body parts in pali, and 16 languages, with pictures.
Also a video of the same file with pali chanting of the 32 body parts, pronunciation sounds correct to me.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1F1jAFUCQtTBagqt1CrnVBQrQhinWUpa6

In EBT, it’s 31 body parts, not 32. Theravadins added the brain, and inserted it, poetically, right next to feces.

Another fun memory association with the number 31: I don’t think the brand is international, but in the USA, there’s 31 flavors of ice cream, one for every day of the month.

A local advertising agency, Carson/Roberts, advised a uniform identity and image under the name Baskin-Robbins 31 Ice Cream. Their recommendations included the “31®” logo to represent a flavor for every day of the month, Cherry (pink) and Chocolate (brown) polka dots to be reminiscent of clowns, carnivals and fun …

For the serious practitioner, there’s a different flavor of asubha you can explore for every day of the month, or even more frequently than that.

excerpt from AN 6.29

(3. STED 31asb: 31 non-beautiful body parts for removal of kāma-rāga)

“Puna ca-paraṃ, bhante, bhikkhu
“Again, and-furthermore, Lord, a-monk,
Imam-eva kāyaṃ
(In) this-very body,
uddhaṃ pāda-talā
up (from the) feet-base,
adho kesa-matthakā
below head-hair-(on)-top,
Taca-pariyantaṃ
Skin-enclosed,
pūraṃ nāna-p-pakārassa A-sucino
Full-of many-*-things Im-pure.
paccavekkhati:
(he) reflects:
‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye
There-are in-this body:
kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco,
Head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin,
maṃsaṃ nhāru aṭṭhi aṭṭhi-miñjaṃ vakkaṃ,
flesh, tendons, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys,
hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ,
heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs,
antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ,
Large-intestines, small-intestines, stomach, feces,
pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo,
bile, phelgm, pus, blood, sweat, fat,
assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā muttan’ti.
tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucous, fluid-in-the-joints, (and) urine.
Idaṃ, bhante, anus-satiṭ-ṭhānaṃ
This, Lord, (is a) practice-to-be-recollected.
evaṃ bhāvitaṃ evaṃ bahulīkataṃ
Thus developed, thus pursued,
Kāma-rāgap-pahānāya saṃvattati.
sensuality-(and)-lust’s-removal (this) leads-to.

(4. STED 9siv: stages of corpse decay, for removal of self and conceit Asmi-māna-samugghātāya)

“Puna ca-paraṃ, bhante, bhikkhu
“Again, and-furthermore, Lord, a-monk,
Puna ca-paraṃ, bhante, bhikkhu
Again **-further, venerable-sir, the-bhikkhu
seyyathāpi
just as
passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body

1. Swollen,blue,festering

sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
Ekāha-mataṃ vā
One-day-after, or
Dvīha-mataṃ vā
Two-days-after, or
Tīha-mataṃ vā
Three-days-after **,
uddhumātakaṃ
swollen,
vinīlakaṃ
(or) Turned-blue,
vipubbakajātaṃ.
(or) festering,
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

2.crows, hawks, devour

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
kākehi vā khajjamānaṃ
Crows ** devoured (it),
kulalehi vā khajjamānaṃ
Hawks ** devoured (it),
gijjhehi vā khajjamānaṃ
Vultures ** devoured (it),
sunakhehi vā khajjamānaṃ
Dogs ** devoured (it),
siṅgālehi vā khajjamānaṃ
Foxes ** devoured (it),
vividhehi vā pāṇaka-jātehi khajjamānaṃ.
Diverse ** insects-born-inside devoured (it),
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

3. Skeleton with flesh, blood,

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhika-saṅkhalikaṃ
Bone-chain, (skeleton)
Sa-maṃsa-lohitaṃ
with-flesh-(and)-blood
nhāru-sam-bandhaṃ
Sinews-together-bound,
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

4. Skeleton with blood smeared,

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhika-saṅkhalikaṃ
Bone-chain, (skeleton)
nim-maṃsa-lohita-makkhitaṃ
without-flesh-(and)-blood-smeared,
nhāru-sam-bandhaṃ
Sinews-together-bound,
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

5. Skeleton no flesh no blood

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhika-saṅkhalikaṃ
Bone-chain, (skeleton)
apagata-maṃsa-lohitaṃ
without-flesh-(and)-blood
nhāru-sam-bandhaṃ
Sinews-together-bound,
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

6. Skeleton bones scattered

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
Aṭṭhikāni apagata-sambandhāni
bones dis-connected,
Disā-vidisā-vikkhittāni,
In-This-direction, that-direction, scattered.
aññena hatth-aṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) hand-bone,
aññena pād-aṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) foot-bone,
aññena jaṅgh-aṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) lower-leg-bone,
aññena ūruṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) thigh-bone,
aññena kaṭiṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) hip-bone,
aññena piṭṭhikaṇṭakaṭṭhikaṃ
here (a) back-bone,
aññena sīsakaṭāhaṃ",
here (a) skull,
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

7. Bones like pearls

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhikāni
bones
setāni
white,
saṅkha-vaṇṇap-paṭibhāgāni
Pearl-color-similarity.
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

8. Bones 3 yrs old

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhikāni
bones
Puñja-kitāni
(in a) pile-******,
Tero-vassikāni
Three-or-four-years-old.
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
evaṃ-an-atīto’ti.
such-(it has)-not-gone-beyond.
Seyyathāpi vā pana
Just-as ** ****

9. Bones to dust

passeyya sarīraṃ
(he) should-see a-body
sivathikāya chaṭṭitaṃ
in-a-cemetery, cast-away,
aṭṭhikāni
bones
pūtīni
putrid,
Cuṇṇaka-jātāni.
powder-(it has been)-reduced-to.
So imameva kāyaṃ evaṃ upasaṃharati:
he in-his body thus reflects:
(insight refrain)
‘ayam-pi kho kāyo
my-self-also, indeed, (my) body
Evaṃ-dhammo
such-(is its)-nature,
Evaṃ-bhāvī
such-(it will)-become,
Idaṃ, bhante, anus-satiṭ-ṭhānaṃ
This, Lord, (is a) practice-to-be-recollected.
evaṃ bhāvitaṃ evaṃ bahulīkataṃ
Thus developed, thus pursued,
Asmi-māna-samugghātāya saṃvattati.
conceit-(and)-pride’s-uprooting (this) leads-to.
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if done properly maybe can even get to see the actual body parts in reality in mortuary…

_/_

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for good effects can also do all night observation among graves and maybe get to have some visitors too…:rofl:

really… but have to have mosquito net cause apart from the visitors… there are also those mosquitoes too…

as part of the work that most Medical staffs has to handle irrespective of time and day…

:anjal:

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For a mosquito… WE are the dinner-and-a-movie.

I am one of those lucky people who smell GREAT to mosquitos. I have actually had friends at outdoor events note, comment and laugh TOO long.

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I guess these practitioners could be said to be very serious, indeed.

The way I have thus far read it, the Buddha encouraged the right thing for the right time.

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"If you’re serious about your practice, it’s all asubha, all the time

???

I am not sure this is a helpful statement. Is practice about liberation? Yes. Is it all about liberation? No! The practice is about the cessation of suffering in a social context, and the skillful means of how to do that.

Is this incorrect?

In a way…it’s true isn’t it? If everything is impermanent, then everything is subject to decay…hence asubha. With respect :anjal:

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Is impermanence subject to decay?

entrophy in everything, yes yes but asubha is not imperanence it is a specific and not unfailingly skillful method.

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The full on asubha with divine eye, or asubha with good samadhi and visualization, done all the time, requires proper training from qualified teachers, and one has to be not prone to depression or unstable states of mind. But I’m not exaggerating when I say it should be done all the time, for one serious about attaining arahantship. There’s clear and consistent, abundant exhortation by the Buddha to practice in this way. AN 4.14, AN 6.29, SN 51.20, SN 47.20, AN 8.63 just to name a few prominent examples off the top of my head.

That same sutta which Aminah linked (SN 54.9) also occurs in multiple EBT vinayas. Notice the Buddha didn’t say people shouldn’t practice asubha, after that incident. He didn’t change the program, he added another technique 16 APS, that was particularly effective in helping people get the pleasant abidings of jhanas.

Thus, in AN 6.29, he first 3 jhanas (pleasant abiding), are listed first, then perception of light, and then the asubha practices. Once one can easily access pleasure, with 3 jhanas, the body also goes through a sublimation of energy, undergoes physiological changes, such that when the body is strong and robust, mind is sharp, clear, strong, then contemplating asubha is like a surgeon who’s used to seeing blood and gore all the time. No big deal. For people with weak bodies, weak energy, then their mind tends to be more frail, prone to fear and depression as well. You see this when people age. When they’re teenagers, full of vigor, they drive fast and recklessly. When old, they drive super slow and careful.

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To my mind this argument would be more compelling if there weren’t any (nevermind many) other suttas that didn’t mention ashuba practice in the description of the path to becoming an arahant.

This isn’t to negate the value of ashuba practice, nor to say it isn’t an excellent tool for awakening - just as you point out the Buddha didn’t stop teaching it after the tragic Vesali incident. My point here is to question how suitable it is to suggest that the seriousness of any single person’s practice (without even any reference to their ‘point of entry’) can be measured by whether they do ashuba “all the time”.

As mentioned, what I get from what I’ve seen of the Buddha’s teachings so far is that the only thing we should be aiming to do all the time is the appropriate thing. If, for instance, the mind happens to be distorted with a lot of aversion rather than lust, I’d really have to wonder if ashuba would be the best recommendation.

Saying that, from your discussion of the jhanas I can see your focus seems to be on those already quite developed and have already gone a long way to smoothing out the more coarse defilements.

In any case, I think Ajahn Brahm offers a pretty good example of the virtues of not being too serious too much of the time. :wink:

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By your argument, no teen should ever then suicide. Yet many tragically do, to no benefit, acquiring bad kamma, simply because their impulse control is weak, their passions hot, and their ignorance as yet unappreciated in themselves.

Also the weak minds of old people? Reality check, Buddhist. You can probably cite exceptions, many exceptions, in monks and nuns.

I’m not sure if impermanence is subject to decay. What I understand about impermanence is that it is constant. In other words, you can always be assured that with whatever you come across in life it is bound to cease at some point. This is why we practice. :grinning::anjal:

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Ideally people should practice wholesome actions through body, speech and mind. That is the 3rd, 4th, 5,th and 6th steps of the Noble eightfold path. With the 6th step (Right effort) they will develop the ability to become aware of the defilements in their minds and also importantly, how to work with them. Asubha is in the first foundation of mindfulness- kayagatasati pabba, the mindfulness of the body. Meditation practitioners should be aware of the purpose of their meditations, or if their minds have been ‘hijacked’ by defilements, in the process. If Asubha meditation is making someone depressed, then they should do something which will bring happiness, like divine abodes, qualities of the buddha, dhamma, sangha, etc. or even just anything to make them happier - pleasure and mastery activities, according to cognitive behavioral therapy as well as exercise. The purpose of asubha is to reduce craving and attachment towards the body, stop the future ‘seeking’ of a new sense based body (through clinging and becoming) of the sensual (kaama) plane, as well as fostering a sense of letting-go and renunciation (nekkhamma). This is helpful in reducing craving as a hindrance and not infrequently paves the way into jhana, when otherwise it might have been a blockade. Asubha furthermore helps some in dropping the idea that the body is the self (…which leave behind the idea that the mind is the self- which can be worked in through EBT based vipassana).

If we assume that we were all born in the human world because we craved a human body, I would say it is pretty important to let go of the attachment and craving to the human body, to make progress in this journey. Again, no sutta (or meditation) is an island unto itself, and should be understood contextually, in the dhamma. This is another reason why Right view, which includes the reason and timing of the practices in the N8FP, at the start, is important. Of course it is possible to practice any element of the N8FP at any point, but some overview is very beneficial

with metta

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I think the bhikkhus who hired assassins were probably following a prevalent concept that it was reasonable to die in the name of one’s religious practice. This concept may have helped in going forth and practicing in dangerous places such as jungles and we hear of bhikkhus being attacked by tigers, gorged by bulls etc. It may have led to Jain practices such as ritual suicide, in pursuit of non-harming ironically, which they considered the highest aspect of religion. Wives jumping into their husband’s funeral pyre was a practice up to more recent times in India. We also saw monks setting themselves on fire as a political act of protest.

I deal with the risk of suicide daily as a psychiatrist. Modern suicide doesn’t have that ritualistic or socially sanctioned element that it - people are simply seeking a way out of seemingly impossible circumstances through suicide. They shouldn’t be listening to depressing music, films, books, stories, forums etc and of course shouldn’t be engaged in asubha meditation. Common sense goes a long way… Also a lot of anxiety is raised when discussing suicide but unless someone is already severely depressed or already prone to emotional instability doing asubha meditation isn’t going to make a meditator suicidal. It’s commonly practiced by meditating monks in Asia and widely accepted in all of society there. Lay meditators practice it too. Maybe as a result the concept of the ‘body beautiful’ is watered down and the emphasis on materialism is less (also possibly because of the emphasis on mind and Buddhism). Sex and the body has more emphasis in western culture which perhaps generates the reaction to asubha that it does. Also suicide is relatively more taboo in the western culture and adds to this reaction IMO.

With metta

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So Buddha recommended it to depressed people? I believe the self killers almost invariably make a mistake, and delude themselves if they think it can be done without causing harm to others as well as one’s own kamma.

Aversion is a form of clinging.

One of the reasons why body loathing may be “taboo” in the West is because roughly half the population has already been living with a distorted form. The body loathing is so internalized, and conditioned, that suicide IS a risk for the young, LGBTI, and many women.

To carelessly emphasize the practice as the essence of “serious” practice, on a holiday of great social pressures regarding relationships, is in my opinion hazardous for beings who may just not be as “advanced” or “serious” as you believe yourself to be.

Metta.

The diagnosis of depression didn’t exist in the time of the Buddha. However the Buddha does say that sadness/aversion (domanassa) must be overcome before practicing the four foundation of mindfulness, which includes the Asubha meditation. Practicing the 6th step, before the taking the 7th step, of the N8FP should safeguard against such problems. If that isn’t enough 99.9% of people meditating now are unlikely to practice asubha!

I doubt if someone wanted to commit suicide Asubha bhavana would be the foremost thing in their minds :rofl:.

I’m amused because I see attempted suicide day in day out, at work.

Women in the general population, I don’t think are disproportionately represented in suicide, any more than men. However low self esteem, self-critical attitudes, and worthlessness and especially hopelessness would contribute to suicidal thoughts. Issues with body image are mostly apparent with Eating disorders. People with mental health problems have a raised risk of suicide but that’s a broad brush generalization. Wouldn’t it be nice if people focused on other people’s personality than their dress size or bank balance? I don’t say those things should be completely disregarded in a romantic relationship but if the emphasis is solely or mostly physical and material attributes when those things start to fade away what will happen to the relationship? What happens if someone looses their job or someone more attractive/richer comes along? I think personality attributes weather challenges much better, and generally people become mellower with time and their rough edges tend to rub off as well. But craving being what it is, leads us to desire the most attractive thing, right away, without much regard for long term consequences. If some semblances of rational thinking is to be injected to such an important decision I think it is helpful to enable a bit of delayed gratification. The effects of Asubha meditation is temporary and its a bit of temporary sanity and clear thinking rather than temporary madness… Craving distorts one’s thinking. I believe Ajhan Chah was asked by a young monk weather he could have something from his girlfriend and he had said he could keep a bit of her poo. We often tend to focus on the most superficial 2mm of skin and not what included in the entirety of the body. Its a bit like that man hanging from a cliff, with a tiger about to eat him above, and a serpent in the pit below and then a bit of honey falls into his mouth and he thinks ‘how wonderful life is’!

Asubha meditation provides that balance that craving makes us loose.

I think this is an ad-hominem attack and that is considered taboo in the west. Insisting on an artificially ‘flattened’ estimation of everybody is another feature I have seen. Mowing down your positive role-models, teachers and educators isn’t a helpful thing for society. I have been a Buddhist for 45 years and don’t intend to tell you how much Asubha meditation, jhanas, or vipassana I have done, or led.

with metta

Hmmm. I regret that you feel attacked; but I think I wrote out of compassion rather than any defilement.

“If you’re serious about your practice, it’s all asubha, all the time.”

While I might agree serious practice is about liberation, the above quote does not in my opinion rightly represent the Buddha, Dhamma or Sangha. In these, I have faith; these, I would recommend to any random reader, be they experienced practitioners, or absolute newcomers to The Middle Way.

Perhaps we just disagree :slight_smile: May you achieve liberation, may all beings achieve liberation.

I would ask @frankk what he meant by this.

I don’t think celibacy, or being a bhikkhu is a requirement to be serious about one’s practice, or have a serious practice. There were stream-entrants as well as once-returners who were having sex, according to the suttas.

Asubha has it’s place and having only that as a meditation object (sanna) isn’t going to end in Nibbana.

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: “Remain focused, monks, on the foulness of the body. Have mindfulness of in-&-out breathing well established to the fore within you. Remain focused on the inconstancy of all fabrications. For one who remains focused on the foulness of the body, the obsession with passion for the property of beauty is abandoned. For one who has mindfulness of in-&-out breathing well established to the fore within oneself, annoying external thoughts & inclinations don’t exist. For one who remains focused on the inconstancy of all fabrications, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises.”

Focusing on foulness
in the body,
mindful
of in & out breathing,
seeing
the stilling of all fabrications
— ardent
always:
he is a monk
who’s seen rightly.

From that he is there set free.
A master of direct knowing,
at peace,
he is a sage
gone beyond bonds. Iti80

with metta

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I don’t really have anything more to add than what I’ve already said. If people don’t read carefully in context, they will probably misunderstand.

Ajahn Brahm has his serious side. One of the most inspiring quotes of his that I often repeat in my mind is “make this the last time.” (he’s talking about attaining arahantship in this life) Ajahn Brahm I’ve heard from sources, is critical of his monks in his monastery if he catches them being idle and not practicing seriously.

Ajahn Brahm’s teacher, Ajahn Chah, was fierce, and his teacher, Ajahn Mun, even more so. They have their cuddly warm grandfather side for lay people, but for those who are serious about their practice (i.e. arahantship as the goal), there’s a higher standard of conduct and practice expected. Asubha is not an optional part of the program, it’s a healthy chunk of the main course if you read through Ajahn Mun’s biography, and those of his disciples.

The part most people don’t understand is that asubha doesn’t have to be an austere, unpleasant practice. If you have at least the first 3 jhanas as a firm grounding (AN 6.29), you can be just as cheerful eating mangoes and chocolate as contemplating white skeletons. In fact you can experience jhanic bliss as you’re attending to the visual perception internally of a white skeleton as your “samadhi nimitta”. (AN 4.14)

You can even concurrently practice metta and asubha simultaneously. When I come into (visual) contact with another person, I try to train my first response to ignore gender, age, the usual marks people seize, and instead look at their 31 body parts, or just the skeleton, and radiate the pleasant feelings of jhana in their direction. With practice, this can be done with minimum of thought. With practice, this is just as pleasant as being in jhana, or doing metta without jhana, and grounds you in reality and truth, instead of delusions and fantasy.

excerpt from the musical “oklahoma”, with slight modifications, to give you sense of the cheerful emotional flavor that’s possible with asubha:

[Verse 1:]
There’s a bright, golden haze on the meadow
There’s a bright, golden haze on the meadow
The corn is as high as a elephant’s eye
And it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky

[Chorus:]
Oh, what a-subha-ful mornin’
Oh, what a-subha-ful day
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way

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