(8.43) When we are very attached to someone,
We want to see their face again and again;
But, whether we see their face or not,|
The real face always remains covered with skin.
(8.44) If we were to remove that skin,
We would realize that they are not an object of desire
But an object of aversion;
So why do we develop attachment for others’ bodies?
Appearances! Appearances are so deceptive, but we cannot ignore them, we are not prepared to ignore them because they can be so, so attractive. Advertisers know we just cannot look away. It does not matter what somebody is selling, put a near naked beautiful woman next to it, and we’re glued. We cannot resist attractive forms. Why else do they put naked women on billboards to sell anything and everything. If we are honest, we do not want to turn our mind away. We want to mix our mind even further with the object, feeling like there is happiness there. We think, “what is the harm,” “it doesn’t matter.”
And it is not just billboards. Pornography is huge business. Porn addiction is a huge problem. The two most popular porn sites get more monthly traffic than Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Reddit. It’s estimated that 5-8% of all Americans suffers from porn addiction. That’s 15-24 million people. This is not just people who watch porn, but are addicted to it. That’s roughly the same number as those addicted to alcohol and drugs combined! Yet nobody talks about it because there is so much shame. And because it seems so harmless. And because it seems so good.
I wonder if we considered the suffering of the people we watch whether we would still want to look. We frankly do not want to even consider that because it might ruin our fun. Many of them are victims of trafficking. Many more have other serious problems with money, drugs, self-esteem, broken families, abuse (prior and current), and so forth. What drives somebody to become a porn model? Sure, some of them might just really like sex. But what percentage, really, do we think that is. Maybe it started for them that way, just like drug and alcohol use seemly starts with just wanting to have a little fun. But how does it proceed, how does it end?
Many of them are victims of child abuse who feel unclean, and who perversely seek to recreate their experiences voluntarily to feel as if they are reclaiming what was taken from them. Many of them are poor or on drugs and are exploited terribly by the people in this industry. We may think that they do things voluntarily, but we have to ask how lost they are to voluntarily allow themselves to be treated like a piece of meat or an object of exploitation and often abuse.
We also need to think about their suffering from a karmic perspective. They are provoking attachment in people, perhaps millions and millions of people. Look how much you suffer from people provoking attachment in you. They will suffer like that millions of times over in the future.
We also need to think about the karma that we create by being attracted to such things. I had a dream once where I was the sex toy of powerful people who did not even know that I was a living being. Certainly this is our future if we consume things like this. What realm do you think this sort of activity ripens in for rebirth – there is a special hell called the swamp of excrement. Is it worth a rebirth there just to get a few moments of contaminated pleasure. It is also worth recalling the moment of our death. Whatever attachments we have not resolved in life will flare up at the time of death, tempting us to come back into samsara. I had a lucid dream once where I was at the time of my death and I was tempted by various things to see if I would abandon my practice. I knew I was dreaming and I knew exactly what was going on. First, I was tempted by money, but I did not budge. Then, I was tempted by power. I hesitated, but did not move. Then, there were three beautiful women inviting me to their bed. I dived right in. If this was the time of my death, all the effort I had put into my Dharma practice to prepare for the moment of death would have been thrown away in an instant. And I knew what I was doing, but did it anyways. I woke up and thought, “for me, devaputra mara, no problem; tempting demonesses, big problem.” We need to think about these things. We need to force ourselves to consider their suffering and our own. If we do, eventually we will not be able to do this anymore – at a minimum, we might be able to reduce our attachment and cut our addiction. Compassion for their suffering will definitely put a dent in such bad habits.
In the end, it’s just bodies. As Shantideva goes on to describe, just moving bodies, collections of flesh and bone, moving here and there.
I think it’s a perfect example of how stupid attachment makes us. Really. How stupid. We are almost worse than an animal, so stupid.