Meditation on the Impurities of the Body

Asubha Bhāvanā, or Meditation on the Impurities of the Body is the skillful contemplation of the thirty-two impure parts of the body, in their true nature. It is a common misconception that lay people should not meditate on Asubha or the Impurities of the Body as such meditation would destroy family life and life as a lay person. However, this meditation is in fact extremely beneficial to our lives. To understand this, let’s take the example of what doctors and nurses do for a living. They see this repulsive side day in and day out and still manage to have good family lives! Asubha Bhāvanā, gives us insight into the true nature of life since our bodies are always deteriorating and impure in reality. It helps us immensely in recognizing and understanding topics such as impermanence, as well as in controlling lust and attachment towards the human body.

Sit in a comfortable position with the mind alert. Slowly reflect on these thoughts…

  1. Since head hairs on this body are rotting away, smelling, living on a filthy body, and deteriorating, head hairs are disgusting to see and touch.
  2. Since body hairs on this body are rotting away, smelling, living on a filthy body, and deteriorating, body hairs are disgusting to see and touch.
  3. Since nails on this body are rotting away, smelling, living on a filthy body, and deteriorating, nails are disgusting to see and touch.
  4. Since teeth in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, teeth are disgusting to see and touch.
  5. Since skin on this body is rotting away, smelling, living on a filthy body, and deteriorating, skin is disgusting to see and touch.
  6. Since flesh in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, flesh is disgusting to see and touch.
  7.  Since sinews in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, sinews are disgusting to see and touch.
  8. Since bones in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, Bones are disgusting to see and touch.
  9. Since bone-marrow in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, bone-marrow is disgusting to see and touch.
  10. Since kidneys in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, kidneys are disgusting to see and touch.
  11.  Since the heart in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the heart is disgusting to see and touch.
  12. Since the liver in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the liver is disgusting to see and touch.
  13. Since the diaphragm in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the diaphragm is disgusting to see and touch.
  14. Since the spleen in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the spleen is disgusting to see and touch.
  15. Since the lungs in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the lungs are disgusting to see and touch.
  16. Since the bowels in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the bowels are disgusting to see and touch.
  17. Since the small intestines in this body are rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the small intestines are disgusting to see and touch.
  18. Since the contents of the stomach in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the contents of the stomach is disgusting to see and touch.
  19. Since excrement in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, excrement is disgusting to see and touch.
  20. Since the brain in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, the brain is disgusting to see and touch.
  21. Since bile in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, bile is disgusting to see and touch.
  22. Since phlegm in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, phlegm is disgusting to see and touch.
  23. Since pus in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, pus is disgusting to see and touch.
  24. Since blood in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, blood is disgusting to see and touch.
  25.  Since sweat on this body is rotting away, smelling, living on a filthy body, and deteriorating, sweat is disgusting to see and touch.
  26. Since fat in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, fat is disgusting to see and touch.
  27.  Since tears in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, tears is disgusting to see and touch.
  28.  Since grease in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, grease is disgusting to see and touch.
  29.  Since saliva in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, saliva is disgusting to see and touch.
  30. Since mucus in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, mucus is disgusting to see and touch.
  31. Since fluid of the joints  in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, fluid of the joints  is disgusting to see and touch.
  32.  Since urine in this body is rotting away, smelling, living in a filthy body, and deteriorating, urine is disgusting to see and touch.

Four Elements Guided Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position with the mind alert. Slowly reflect on these thoughts…

Pay close attention to your body. In the head, we have hairs and they are like leaves on a tree. They fall when they are ripe. If all of your hair is detached, it will drop on to the earth. Let’s say all of this hair came out from our head and on to our hands. We will not keep it. We will throw it away, and it will gradually decay and transform into soil in the earth. Therefore, hair is something that transforms into soil, and it is pathavi dhātu.

Body-hairs in this body is also like head hairs. they get detached from this body. When all these body hairs are detached from the body, they fall onto earth and decay until they transform into soil. It is like those ripe leaves on a tree falling onto the ground and changing into soil after their deterioration. Nails of this body grow. They get cut at some point. Nails that were cut were thrown away onto the ground. These transform into soil with time, and we don’t even notice it. In this way, nails on these fingers and toes mix with soil in earth and vanish forever. Teeth are also something that transforms into soil. Teeth get decayed when they are still inside our mouths. Teeth rot, decay, and get crushed. Teeth that break from the mouth fall into the ground and decay until they transform into soil. How many teeth of countless people may have fallen onto the ground and transformed into soil? Teeth are something that transforms into soil. They are pathavi dhātu. This skin is also like that. The skin gets scratched. This skin suffers from various things such as injuries, scabies, and eczema. This skin contracts, wrinkles and when we grow old, it rubs off. Someday when this skin falls onto the ground, it will disappear into the soil.

Tendons are also like that. These tendons also fall onto the ground and decay, transform into soil, and vanish someday. We all have bones in our bodies. We all have a skeleton. How many countless skeletons we may have had in our past lives? In each life, we thought the skeleton like what have now is ours. There is a skull inside this head. There are neck-bones inside the neck. There are collar-bones. There are bones inside hands, elbows, and wrists. There are chest-bones, back-bones, waist-bones, thigh-bones, knee-bones, and calf-bones. There are lots of bones inside this body. One day, all these bones will fall onto the ground and decay, transform into soil, and completely vanish. There is bone-marrow inside our bones. This bone-marrow also decays, transform into soil, and vanish together with bones. There will be a day that kidneys also fall into the ground. Then they will decay and transform into the soil. The heart will also decay and mix with the soil. The liver will also fall onto the ground. It will also decay and transform into soil. The lungs expand when we breathe in. They shrink when we breathe out. These also fall onto the earth, decay, and transform into soil. Then, there is the small-intestine in this body. It is like a large, coiled rope. There is also a large-intestine. All of these rot and mix with soil in the earth. They transform into soil by decaying. What we ate leaves our bodies as feces, which also transforms into soil after some time. In this way, all these things have the nature of transforming into soil. They are pathavi dhātu. There are also things in this body that dissolve.

Bile in this body dissolves in water and vanishes. It is āpō dhātu. There is also phlegm in this body. It is a foamy liquid. It also dissolves in water and vanishes. It is āpō dhātu. Pus in this body forms when blood has rotted. It is a yellowish liquid. That pus also dissolves in water and disappears. Pus is also āpō dhātu. There is also blood in this body. Blood also dissolves in water and disappears. Blood is āpō dhātu. In this body, there is a liquid that forms throughout this body, from the head to the soles of the feet. It is called sweat. It also dissolves in water and disappears. Sweat belongs to āpō dhātu. Fat is a sticky thing that comes out with sweat. It also dissolves in water. There are also tears in this body. Tears come out from the eyes and also dissolve in water. Tears are āpō dhātu. In this body, mucus also flows and come out from the nose. Sometimes it comes out suddenly. Mucus also get dissolved. We have saliva in this body which flows. Right now, it doesn’t come out from our mouths because we swallow it and close our mouths. If we do not swallow saliva that flows in the mouth, it will come out. If that is the case, we will have to either wipe it off or wash it away. Also, there isurine in this body. Urine also dissolves in water and vanishes. It is āpō dhātu. These are the things that belong to āpō dhātu. They dissolve in water. All these can be found in this body.

There is also heat in this body. This body is created with that heat. When that heat increases, we sweat and get fever. When food and drink goes inside this body, that heat digests them and helps the body to absorb its nutrient. This happens by tējō dhātu. It is also this tējō dhātu that ages this body. It also deteriorates this body until it get destroyed completely. All these are impermanent things.

Next, this body has things that blow with wind. Air that comes to the throat blows away with wind. Air that comes out from the back also mixes with wind and blows away. Air we breathe in also blows away with wind. Air that we breathe out is of the same nature. This air that we inhale and exhale also blows away with wind. There is also air that moves here and there inside this body. This belong to vāyō dhātu.

So, you can see that these are the things that we have in our body. The things that transform into soil are pathavi dhātu. Things that dissolve are āpō dhātu. Things with the nature of warmth are tējō dhātu. Things that blow are vāyō dhātu. This is what we have. The Buddha taught us to contemplate well the fact that these kinds of things are in this body. He taught us to divide up this body like a butcher that sells cow-meat after he killed a cow and cut its flesh into pieces. That is when we can see the truth of this body. Then the attachment we have will become weakened and disappear.