Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Why do we obsess over our body?

(8.178) My body is a frightening, impure form
That cannot move without depending upon mind
And that eventually will completely disintegrate;
So why do I grasp at it as “I”?

(8.179) Whether it lives or dies,
What use is it to me to grasp at this machine?
It is no different from grasping at a clod of earth;
So why do I not give up the pride of grasping “my body”?

Our body is no more than a guest house.  Eventually it will be no different from the earth itself.  Why should we identify with something we know we will be separated from?  Surely our true self would be something that goes on, no?  How is our body any different than our clothes?  We don’t identify with them, do we?

(8.180) As a result of attending to the body’s desires,
I have experienced much suffering without real meaning.
What is the point of generating anger or attachment
For the sake of something that is like a piece of wood?

(8.181) Whether I care for it in the way that I do,
Or allow it to be harmed by others,
The body itself develops neither attachment nor anger;
So why do I feel so attached to it?

(8.182) Since the body itself does not know
Anger when it is insulted
Or attachment when it is praised,
Why do I go to so much trouble for its sake?

How much of our attachment and our anger arise from thinking “I” with respect to this body, and showing so much concern for it? how much attachment how much anger and how much suffering as a result of our attachment and anger, just for the sake of this body?

(8.183) “But I want to cherish this body
Because it is very beneficial to me.”
Then why not cherish all living beings,
For they are very beneficial to us?

(8.184) Therefore, without any attachment,
I will give up my body for the benefit of all;
But, although it might have many faults,
I will look after it while I am working for others.

We need to give our body then into the service of other living beings.  We need to use it for their sake, not for our own enjoyment.  At present we’re very much anchored in this body, so we must stop now identifying with this body.  We must stop considering it to be mine.  We must consider it to be others’, we must consider it to belong to others, and in this way bring our self-centeredness to an end.

(8.185) I will put a stop to all childish behaviour
And follow in the steps of the wise Bodhisattvas.
Recalling the instructions on conscientiousness,
I will turn away from sleep, mental dullness, and the like.

(8.186) Just like the compassionate Sons and Daughters of the Conqueror Buddha,
I will patiently apply myself to whatever needs to be done.
If I do not apply constant effort throughout the day and the night,
When will my misery ever come to an end?

Here Shantideva’s saying it is time to grow up, isn’t he?  We need to put a stop to all childish behavior.  We have discussed before we’ve got to grow up, we’ve got to move on. We must be conscientious now, apply great effort, and become like the actual Bodhisattvas others need us to be, become the actual Bodhisattvas our spiritual guide is trying to create.


(8.187) Therefore, to dispel both obstructions,
I will withdraw my mind from all distracting conceptions
And place it in constant meditative equipoise
On the perfect object of meditation, the correct view of emptiness.

The main point of this chapter is we need to withdraw into our mind, but not be self-centered.  To be able to mix our mind with emptiness, we need to be withdrawn and centered within our mind. It is our attachment and delusions, such as self-cherishing, which draw us out.  We need to be centered, but not self-centered.  Letting go of attachment to wanting things for the self of our self-cherishing is how we do this.  We can do this on the side of letting go of the object of our self-cherishing or at least moving onto the side of letting go of the self-cherishing.

The only way to identify with other’s body as our own is if we understand it is a projection of our mind, we are looking at the fabric of our mind.  It is us.  So the more we go inward, the more we discover others are ourselves.  Then we can be centered, but not self-centered.  It seems like a contradiction to withdraw into our mind, yet at the same time go out to others to cherish them.  But this is only because we grasp at others being outside, when in reality they are part of our inside.  They are most of our inside, actually.  Our ordinary self is only a small part.  Our self-cherishing mind just spends all of its time obsessing about this one small part.

We also need to practice the moral discipline of restraint.  Things will try to pull us out of being centered within our mind in our heart.  We need to realize there is nothing worth going out to because actually there is nothing out there at all.  This is difficult to do unless we become disciplined with our bodily, verbal, and mentally activity.  When we are withdrawn in our mind, we are happy.  When we get drawn out, we become unhappy.  We can experience this directly, and then we know.  When we can withdraw ourselves into our mind and never be drawn out by things, then we will experience our lives as if we are on retreat right now.  Our whole life will become a big retreat.  I once heard a story about a senior teacher having a meeting with Geshe-la.  He hadn’t seen him for several days.  He remarked on how well Geshe-la looked, and he looked at the teacher and said “that’s because I’m always inside.”

This concludes the eighth chapter of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, entitled “Relying upon Mental Stabilization”.

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