May 31 : Two Ways of Seeing the Body

In one context, when we look at our body, our body is just a bunch of filth. It is a factory producing filth because everything that comes out of our body we will always want to cleanse away. Even the inside of our body looks rather disgusting. It is only the skin that we think looks nice. Yet if we pile the skin somewhere else, it really is nothing attractive. In one way, we look at our body and see it as something totally undesirable, to be given up because it is the source of a lot of dukkha. We see our body like that in the context of the Four Noble Truths and try to generate renunciation, the mind that gives up the suffering of samsara and aspires for liberation.

In another context, we see our bodies very differently. When we meditate on our precious human life, we see this body as something very special, to be taken care of because it is the basis upon which we can practise the Dharma. Here we contemplate our fortune in having a human body, which gives us the opportunity to enhance the state of our mind and purify it and develop all the good qualities. In one way, we are looking at our body as something to be relinquished, something that is a big pain in the neck, and in another way, we are looking at our body as something very fortunate, to be taken care of.

The question then arises: are these two ways of looking at the body contradictory? The answer is no. They actually fit together quite nicely. It is just that we are seeing the body in different ways, depending on different contexts, depending upon what kind of perspective we are trying to train our minds in. These two views of the body are not contradictory. In the context of precious human life, the context of our being in samsara, the human body is precious, and we are fortunate to have it. However, in the context of our being enslaved by the twelve links, afflictions and karma, coupled with the suffering we experience as a result of them, the body is then seen as the source of dukkha and something to give up attachment to. Depending upon how we are trying to train our minds, we see our bodies in two different ways. But these ways are not contradictory.

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