Attachment to the Body

Buddha taught us to renounce our attachment to our bodies. Our bodies are like ships helping us cross the ocean of suffering to the shores of everlasting peace, Enlightenment. Once we arrive, we discard them, so strong attachment can not be justified.

What does this teaching mean to you? Does it mean giving up cosmetics and going to the gym or spa? At the other extreme does it mean sacrificing yourself to feed a hungry tiger the way the Buddha did? What if your boss asks you to work 80 hrs a week because your store is understaffed? What if you are a policeman? What if your daughter begs you to carry her, and you might hurt your back because she’s too heavy, do you do it anyway?

Meditation subject: the antidote to physical attachment — the mindfulness of the body. Strip off each layer beginning with the skin then the blood vessels, and so forth down to the bone marrow.


4 thoughts on “Attachment to the Body

  1. Discarding attatchment to the body is a bridge to practicing virtue in this moment. The body is a guest house and like a house it has to be cared for or it will not function. Its function is a tool for enlightenment therefore it has great value. Considering the nature of the body giving up attatchment is easier. The middle way approach must have an application here, I suppose a simple interpretation is to not take giving up attachment to far so as to disregard the need to care for the body as one cares for a house. If I was asked to work 80 hours a week I would probably decline as it would reslut in a losing of physical health and that would be foolish – poor health makes being of benefit to others lesson and being a slave to money is a sign of attatchment to this life. I have heard the HHDL say many times that money is for life and life is not for money.

    In daily life so much is for the care of the body, and in my experince it is interelated to caring for the mind; if there is no physical exertion in the day than my mind feels lazy and unfocused, if the body is not cleaned than the mind is restless. From this experince I can conclude that discarding attachment does not mean discarding responsibility. What garden tool that you use properly does not need to be cared for? In order to cultivate a field the tools need to be in working order and when the harvest is in the tools can be discarded, but before so would risk the harvest.

    Also, not causeing harm means not causing harm to oneself also.

    Most importantly this teaching means quickly in this moment grasp the meaning and value of practicing virtue.

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for your carefully thought through response. I really like your garden tool analogy! My question (which perhaps I didn’t state clearly enough originally) is how do we balance our bodhisattva vows to help others without exhausting ourselves. You answered that in part already, although I might counter that the store manager’s motivation might be to put food on the table to feed his family — not to become outlandishly rich.

      How far can we go in stretching ourselves to help others, and what’s the best way to help them? What is our motivation in helping them? These last few questions are a good review of Chapters 1 – 4 of Shantideva.

      Please use quotes and/or cite specific verse numbers to support your reasoning if you have time.

  2. Attachment to the self, obscures our Buddha nature. Cleaning and clearing the mind is essential to seeing the way to renouncing the body. The body is then but a vehicle. Balancing the amount of time we spend nurturing the body is a challenge, and not desiring to hold on to it, to cherish it is too. Shantideva teaches correct view, seeing the body and sense faculties for what they are, matter which decomposes, beginning in verse 60 “Mind why do you protect this body, appropriating it as your own? O fool, if you do not consider as your own a pure wooden statue, why are you guarding this foul machine composed of impurities. First with your intellect, peel off this sheath of skin, and with the knife of wisdom loosen the marrow and examine for yourself, “Where is the essence here?” If searching carefully in this way, you do not see an essence here, then say why are you still protecting the body today.” He later goes on to say “Even though you protect it so, merciless death will snatch the body away and give it to the vultures. What will you do then?”

    • Hi Rebecca — right on track…I like your second sentence. I think you are you implying that purification is necessary in order to eliminate our self-cherishing and attachment to our physical bodies. By abandoning self-cherishing we can realize our true Buddha nature.

      As I said to Lisa, as individuals, we need to determine how much energy to devote to practicing the Dharma, how many sacrifices can we make to help other sentient beings.

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