(8.52) We might feel that what we are attracted to is not impure;
And yet we want to copulate with others’ bodies,
Which are just cages of bone tied together with muscles
And plastered over with the mud of flesh!
(8.53) We have enough impurities of our own
That we constantly have to contend with;
So why, out of an obsession with the unclean,
Do we desire other bags of filth?
From an objective point of view, a human body is just that – a bag of filth. Can we deny this truth? They are just cages of bone tied together with musles and plastered over with flesh. This is manifestly obvious, and when put in these terms, absolutely disgusting.
Yet our attachment makes us believe that these objects are pure. And non-attachment informs us that they are not, that they are impure. Yet we do not want to hear that. We don’t even want to think about that because we think doing so will ruin our enjoyment. So which is the mind that we are relying upon – our wisdom or our attachment? The attachment or the nonattachment? Attachment arises from ignorance, nonattachment from wisdom. Why is it that we do not even want to accept any reasoning that Shantideva is putting forward, why don’t we want to accept the absurdities that Shantideva is pointing out? Why not? Even though our wisdom is saying actually Shantideva is right, he is right.
Perhaps some people think that they are practicing Tantra by having sexual attachment. People say all the time, ‘look at those Dakinis’. When somebody says this, they are just revealing that they don’t know what Tantra is all about. Such a view of Tantra actually results in the most horrible of karmas – it creates the cause for the degeneration of Tantra in this world. People who teach so-called Tantra classes are creating the karma that every time they find a pure spiritual path that teaches Tantra that they will take it for worldly reasons. Or worse, they will encounter false teachers. Such people will be amongst the last to be liberated from samsara.
It is impossible to practice Tantra on a basis of anything other than non-attachment. Tantra is a transformation of the impure into the pure. How can such a transformation take place when you are conceiving the impure to be pure? It is our disgust for the contaminated objects of samsara that cause us to wish to generate pure forms with our minds.
We can distinguish the mind of attachment from the mind of non-attachment by the direction it moves. The mind of attachment moves outwards, towards the object, and becomes glued within it. The mind of non-attachment is a withdrawing inwards as we let go. This enables our mind to stabilize.
OK, now we look at the question, “what is it about bodies that we are so attracted to?”
(8.54) “It is the flesh that I enjoy.”
If this is what you like to see and touch,
Why do you not want it in its natural state –
When it is devoid of mind?
We already looked at this one above. It is not the flesh we enjoy, if it was, we would equally enjoy having sex with a corpse.
(8.55) Any mind that you desire
Can be neither seen nor touched,
And anything you can see or touch cannot be mind;
So why engage in meaningless copulation?
So then we say, we are attracted to their mind. But if we are attracted to their mind, then we would wish to mix our thoughts with theirs in a conversation or think deeply about their writing, why bother with the sexual activity? Why do we find their bodies attractive when what we are appreciating is their mental qualities? It doesn’t make any sense. Further, we may know people who have many mental qualities, yet we don’t find them to be attractive. If it is their mental qualities we find attractive, then why do we not wish to have sex with “ugly” people with beautiful minds?
(8.56) Perhaps it is not so strange
That you do not realize others’ bodies are impure,
But it is very strange
That you do not realize your own is.
Do we think of our own body as impure? No. As a result, we have attachment to it.
If we were to contemplate the nature of our own body then of course we would realize it is impure. We don’t typically see others bodies at their worst, such as when they are going the bathroom or when they stink. But we do know what our own body is like. It’s gross, really. Yet others bodies are the same. And even if they are not, since we know our own body is disgusting, why would we wish to do things with it? Do we typically play with unclean, disgusting things? And why would we want to rub something as unclean as our own body onto something else that we find to be beautiful? Do we rub or excrement all over a clean marble countertop?
How many people reading this actually want to think in these ways. There is so much resistance in our mind to even thinking this way because we know if we do, we will no longer derive the same sort of enjoyment we used to out of sexual activities. But Shantideva already pointed out that the pleasure we get from sexual activities is not even remotely worth the effort or the negative karma.