Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to ripen others

(5.76) I should discreetly describe others’ good qualities
And pass on any I hear about,
But, should my own good qualities be mentioned,|
I should simply acknowledge any I might have, without pride.

One of the most effective ways of developing good relationships with others, and to help others develop good relationships with each other, is to make a habit of praising everyone’s good qualities.  People then think good about one another and allow them into their lives.  Admiring faith opens the door and allows people in.

Usually when we see somebody engage in some virtuous action or somebody is praised for some great deed, externally we may say, “yeah, that person is great.”  But internally, we say, “but…” and we quickly catalog all of their faults.  We find it really hard to just genuinely rejoice in others virtue.  Spontaneously, our jealousy offers some counterpoint of how the person is faulty.  Shantideva says instead we should praise the other person and develop genuine joy.  When I see some good quality in my colleagues, I try make a point of telling them how much I appreciate their example.  When it is not awkward to do so, I try sing my colleague’s praises with others whenever I can.  If it is said sincerely, without expecting anything in return nor any ulterior motive, it is almost always well received and then the person identifies with being somebody with that good quality.  Ripening others is not hard:  see others’ qualities and genuinely praise them for it.  People are starved for love.  Give it to them.

I have a nephew who has made a few mistakes in his life and as a result has been shunned from the high-achieving end of my family.  But he has this young daughter who he loves with all of his heart, and he really is a good father with her.  Nobody sees it, though, they just see his failings.  Standing in judgment over him doesn’t make him do any better, it just makes him feel rejected and causes him to reject the otherwise good advice of those who are judging him.  But a few simple words of praise, showing him that you see the good in him, helps him identify with his goodness within.  Seeing the good in people helps them identify with it, and this, more than anything else, ripens them.  Venerable Tharchin says when a new person walks in the center door, he views them as “the future holder of the lineage.”  Scary thought that the future of the lineage will one day rest on our shoulders, but because he sees that in us – he genuinely sees it – we naturally start identify with that and start living up to that.  I would almost go so far as to say all we need do to ripen all living beings is see and relate to the good in others.  Just keep doing this until they are all Buddhas.  Ignore the rest, don’t engage with the rest.  If you resist the rest, they grab on tighter to it.  If you ignore it, it withers on the vine.

As a Sangha, it is particular important that we do this.  We should never talk badly about the other people in the Sangha, even if they talk badly to us about others we don’t agree.  When we hear people talking badly, it can sometimes be awkward.  Sometimes all we can do is say nothing.  If we agree with them, we feed their inappropriate attention.  If we disagree with them, they might become further entrenched in their wrong view and seek to defend it.  Sometimes we can say something like, “sorry you see it that way.”  This doesn’t agree, doesn’t disagree and shows that it depends upon the person’s point of view.  Depending on the relationship we have with the other person, we might even be able to say, “hey, you shouldn’t talk like that.  Focus on the good.”

When we are praised, we shouldn’t don an armor of false humility saying, “no, no, I am but a fool” when in reality we think we are wonderful.  Externally, we should just say, “thank you for your kind words, they mean a lot.”  Internally, we offer everything to the Spiritual Guide at our heart.  If we ourselves are praised we can avoid pride arising simply by recognizing that any qualities we may have are simply the qualities of our Spiritual Guide.  In reality, our contaminated samsaric aggregates have no good qualities of their own.  Anything good we have about ourselves comes from the blessings we have received from the holy beings or the good examples we have seen in others.

It is also one of the most skillful ways of improving our own virtues.  By rejoicing we create the cause to acquire whatever skills we are rejoicing in.  If we genuinely appreciate the good qualities we see in others, we will naturally start to emulate them ourselves.  The way we become better is primarily through emulation.  Our normal reaction is to be jealous of the good and to judge the bad.  Instead we need to emulate the good and learn from the bad.  If we do this, the rest will take care of itself in time.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Dealing with unsolicited advice

(5.74) When others offer wise advice or admonishment
That, though unsolicited, is nevertheless beneficial,
I should accept it graciously and with respect,
And always be willing to learn from it.

Sometimes I think it would be a good idea if people who attended Dharma teachings were forced to sign a document before they entered that had two commitments on it:  (1) I acknowledge that the Dharma teaching I am about to receive is personal advice for how I need to change, not an explanation for how everyone else around me needs to change, and (2) I vow I will not give advice to anybody who doesn’t ask for it.

When I first started attending Dharma teachings, all I could think about was how my now wife, my parents, my friends, etc., needed to hear this.  It was so clear to me that the Dharma was the solution to all of their problems.  This attitude pervaded my first many years of Dharma study, and I fooled myself into thinking this was my bodhichitta talking – seeing Dharma is the solution for all the problems of all living beings (except apparently me).  When I had my final meeting with my teacher, Gen Lekma, before I left for Europe, I asked her for some parting advice.  She said, “train in the first of the three difficulties.”  I guess that was her subtle way of telling me I need to identify my own delusions.

Most people, though, will just react defensively when we point out their faults and delusions.  Most people will instead just find a bunch of faults in us when we do so, and then we will enter into a destructive cycle of escalating mutual resentment.  They will seek to show why we are wrong and will actively work to reject our advice, even if it is exactly what they need to hear.  This is why, for ourselves, we should never offer people advice about what they need to do unless they are asking us with a mind of faith.  Yes, this is a high bar.  Intentionally so.

But sometimes people will still give us all sorts of unsolicited advice.  Let’s face it, most human speech is the cataloging of the faults and failings of others.  People are usually not shy telling us what we are doing wrong; and even if they are, behind our backs all sorts of things are being said about us.  This is just part of modern samsara.  No point wishing it was otherwise, instead we need to find a healthy way of responding to it.

Shantideva points the way:  we should graciously accept it and be willing to learn from it.  We must listen, without reacting, just listen.  Just because we are Dharma practitioners, especially if we are Dharma teachers, we expect everyone to listen to us.  After all, we have the Dharma.  We know…  We have to look at this trait. We must be open to advice or criticism, be rid of our proud minds.  We should never think, “I have nothing to learn from this person.”  We often switch off as if there is nothing to learn.  I remember once, many years ago when I was active on NKT-chat, I had some personal problem that I went to Kadam Lucy about.  After she gave me some typically great advice, I thanked her and said it was great to have somebody I could go to and get wisdom from.  She said, “why don’t you ask on NKT-chat?”  I said, “I answer their questions (arrogantly implying that they couldn’t answer mine).”  Without missing a beat she said, “oh, that’s funny.  I find I have something to learn from everyone.”

Instead we should think “what can I learn from what others saying?”  Often when we’re listening we’re just waiting to speak.  That’s not listening, it is a big mistake.  Just waiting to speak is not listening.  We need to learn to just listen – to listen with an open heart.  If we learn to listen well, then we’ll even hear the sound of Dharma whistling through the trees.

(5.75) To anyone who speaks the truth,
I should say, “You have spoken well”;
And whenever I see others perform meritorious actions,
I should offer praise and develop genuine joy.

Of course in modern conversation we would never use a stilted phrase like “you have spoken well,” but the sentiment we should express is the same.  I met somebody shortly after college who was unlike anybody I had previously met.  He had two amazing qualities I have ever since sought to emulate.  When he was shown to be wrong, he would admit it and change his views on the spot.  When those he was discussing with were wrong, he would just ask questions – questions which when answered helped the other person realize they were wrong without feeling attacked.  He was a devout Christian, which for me at the time seemed like a contradiction – how could somebody be such an intellectual and a Christian at the same time (the arrogance of youth…).  He said, “I was atheist before.  But since then I have been convinced by the weight of argument.”  Wow.  It’s reminiscent about the stories of old where spiritual masters would enter into debate with the condition that whoever lost would have to change their views.  Sadly, this almost never happens today, but we can choose to be like the masters of old.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Being quiet is more than just making no noise

(5.72) I should not behave in ways that disturb others,
Such as moving furniture noisily
Or opening and closing doors loudly,
But always delight in humility.

Shantideva here is encouraging us to be thoughtful, considerate.  We need to be especially mindful of what might disturb others.  Taking care to not disturb others is a real discipline that we must try to improve until we become just like Geshe-la, caring about everything and everyone.   It goes without saying we should be considerate to others who are meditating and try not to disturb them by making loud noises, etc.  But being quiet is much more than just not making noise.

A very senior practitioner once had as their email name “stillnesswithin.”  I love that.  While it didn’t work out too well for that particular practitioner, it is still a perfect name we should strive for.  Just as we should not disturb others’ meditations by making a lot of noise, we also shouldn’t disturb our own meditations with a bunch of internal noise.  In the teachings on engaging in retreat, we are encouraged to find a quiet place, free from distractions, and of course that is very important.  But it is far more important that we create within our mind a quiet place, free from distractions.  We need a stillness within.

How do we achieve such stillness?  Through the practice of humility.  All noise comes from our ordinary mind.  That’s all our ordinary thoughts are – a bunch of noise.  Kadam Bjorn was somebody who was never far from the clear light.  He spent virtually all of his time centered in it, and would come out only just enough to help people realize they need to let it all go.  He said if we find things complicated, it is because we are complicating them.  There is no complication in the clear light.  Our ordinary mind races from one complication to another unnecessary elaboration, and what good has this ever done us?  None.  But when we allow our ordinary mind to settle down and we can enjoy the silence of stillness, true wisdom can begin to arise.  Samsara is, fundamentally, the elaborations of our non-humility.

We need a humility we’re moving in towards our heart.  We gather inwards, where the five root and branch winds gathering into our heart.  When we are gathered inwards, humble, it is easy to concentrate on virtue.  We are not trying to prove anything or get anybody to think anything in particular about us.  There is no one there thinking anything about us anyways.

Please don’t overlook the importance of this practice.  In Eight Steps Geshe-la gives three reasons why we need to practice humility.  We don’t use up our merit on worldly attainments.  If we have such attainments, we need to use them for others, in particular their spiritual welfare. We accumulate merit because we always put others first, serve them, etc.  There is no inherently existent I.  He says we should view our self or I, the object of our self-cherishing, as the lowest of all.  In this way, our self-cherishing will become weaker and our love for others will increase.  Ghandi said his goal was to make himself zero.

(5.73) Just as a stork, a cat, or a thief
Accomplish their aims with skill and patience,
So should I accomplish my spiritual goal
Of attaining the state of enlightenment.

 What is it about a stork, a cat, or a thief?  They certainly don’t make a big noise about things.  There is a subtlety, grace, stillness, as their body and mind work together in harmony.  We need to be like that walk in to people’s lives, touch their minds, make an impression, and then leave.

The person who first awakened spiritual aspirations in me, a good friend from college, gave me a book on the mind of the ninja.  The essential point was the ninja operates from the shadows.  Shadows here does not mean darkness or negativity, the real meaning was operating from the silence of realizing emptiness.  The ninja engages in their actions silently, unseen, without imposing themselves on the world.  A bodhisattva acts in the same way.  Buddha’s have perfected this.  Buddhas are helping each and every being every single day.  Yet we don’t see them.  Our not seeing them does not mean they are not there, helping us walk in the paths of virtue.  Without Buddhas in this world blessing our minds, this world would quickly fall into spiritual darkness.

Help when no one is looking.  Pray when no one knows.  Give without leaving a trace.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Smile, damn it!

Now we turn to some verses on some very practical skillful behavior we should adopt in our daily life.

(5/71) While I have control,
I should always display a smiling face
And, forsaking frowns and angry looks,
Be friendly and honest towards others.

Sometimes people misunderstand this advice to mean we should fake it.  Inside we might be all upset or disturbed in some way, but externally we put on a show.  Isn’t that repression of our delusions (pretending we don’t have them)?  This is not the meaning at all.  We present a friendly demeanor to others because we internally feel affection for them.  But what if we don’t feel affection for them?  We should realize that any sentiment other than affection towards somebody else is ultimately a deluded feeling.  Knowing this, we try cultivate affection in our hearts and a friendly demeanor externally because we know it is the right thing to do.

Repression only occurs when we believe the delusion to be true but we externally pretend otherwise.  If we know the delusion to be wrong and try direct our mind towards the right thing, we are practicing Dharma.  This is a crucial distinction.  Sometimes people think Dharma practice is all about pretending to think and feel things that we don’t.  That is pretention and repression.  Dharma practice is about realizing what we normally think is wrong and making an effort to move our mind in the direction of thinking and acting correctly.  No, the Dharma way of reacting to people is not “normal” or “natural”, because what is normal and natural is deluded.  But the Dharma way of reacting is healthy, correct and leads to genuine inner peace for ourself and for others.  Dharma practice is about changing our mental habits through a clear understanding why it is beneficial to do so combined with persistent effort and practice.

Shantideva’s advice is very similar to Venerable Atisha’s to “always keep a smiling face.”   When we’re with others, we should feel and express affection for them.  What does this mean?  Quite simply, it means we are genuinely delighted to see and be with others.  We appreciate them and their good qualities and it makes us happy to be with them.  Everyone loves to feel loved and appreciated.  We all, inside, feel lonely, rejected and unloved.  Just a simple smile of delight when seeing somebody shines a light into others hearts and lifts their spirits.  In this way we can show that we are their friend as well as do something to make their day a little brighter.  Geshe-la says a bodhisattva is a friend of the world.  We need to see ourselves in this way.

How do we generate such affection?  Simple:  we should focus on and then appreciate their good qualities.  Normally we do the opposite, we focus on and judge others for their perceived faults.  When we focus on and genuinely appreciate others’ good qualities, affection for them naturally arises in our heart.  Just thinking about them brings delight to our mind, and who doesn’t want to feel delighted all the time?  Focusing on and judging others for their faults naturally gives rise to resentment and anger in our mind.  Just thinking about others then puts us in a foul mood.  Who enjoys that?  So we need to decide what kind of person we want to be:  somebody who is filled with delight or somebody who is bitter and grumbling.

We need to be able to say to others, “I will never deceive you” and actually mean it and know it is true.  Everyone has experienced others violating their trust, and it usually makes us never want to trust again.  But that is the wrong reaction.  The correct reaction is to become somebody who is trustworthy.  If we are always honest and trustworthy with others we will create the karma for others in the future to always be honest and trustworthy with us.

Nowadays, everyone is very busy, busy, busy.  We are so busy, it seems we no longer have time for others.  As bodhisattvas, we have to ask ourselves, “what could we possibly be so busy with that we don’t have time for cherishing others?”  Something is clearly wrong if we think this way.  Our priorities have somehow become reversed.  Perhaps we are so busy helping other people that we don’t have time to help somebody right now.  This can happen.  But we shouldn’t be frustrated when them when they come asking for our help in some way.  Instead, we should greet them kindly and say, “I would love to help you, but unfortunately right now I am trying to help XYZ with ABC.  As soon as I get an opportunity, I will help you.”  In our heart, we should wish we were capable of helping everybody all of the time.  Then, when we encounter situations where we are unable to fulfill that loving wish, we can renew our bodhichitta thinking, “only a Buddha can be there for each and every living being, every day.  I need to become a Buddha so I can do the same.”

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Becoming a wish-fulfilling jewel

(5.68) A servant is not rewarded with clothes and the like
If he does no work;
So why do you insist on nourishing this collection of flesh and bone
When, even when fed, its loyalties lie elsewhere?

(5.69) In exchange for paying my body its wages,
I will employ it to create virtue for myself and others;
But I should not grasp it as “mine”
Because such grasping is a form of ignorance.

(5.70) I will regard my body as a boat –
A basis for coming and going –
And to accomplish the welfare of all living beings
I will transform my body into an enlightened wish-fulfilling jewel.

Not many of us have servants, but we do use service providers all of the time.  Do we pay the barber if they don’t cut our hair?  Do we tip the waiter if he doesn’t serve?  Do we pay the Doctor if she doesn’t see us?  We only pay people if they accomplish what we have hired them to do.  Shantideva is encouraging us to enter into a similar sort of contract with our body.  We have hired our body to take us to enlightenment, and we will only pay it its wages of food, clothing and shelter if it ferries us to enlightenment.

Previously, Shantideva was helping us to create some distance from the delusions in our mind by criticizing them.  Now he is trying to help us to stop identifying with our delusions.   In particular, he’s helping us to stop identifying with our body by viewing it as a vehicle.  Most of us don’t take many boats, but we all use cars, busses, subways and the like.  We should start to consider our body as our car, our vehicle for taking us to the city of enlightenment.  We don’t identify with our cars (well, most of us don’t, at least), so too we should not identify with our body.  This is hard, because when somebody talks about our body we have the distinct impression they are talking about us.

When we engage in the meditation on the emptiness of our “I” we check inside our body to see if we can find our “I.”  Sure, our arms, legs, skin and bones are “parts” of us, but we wouldn’t say any one of these things is us.  There is nothing anywhere inside our body that we can point to and say, “that’s me.”  In fact, our language choices even now are pretty clear that our body is not us, we say, “my body,” implying there is a possessor of our body that is not the body itself.  Just training in breaking our identification with our body is incredibly liberating.  When our socks get holes in them or our car breaks down, we discard them and get new ones.  We don’t feel like we are losing ourselves in the process, it is just something we have to do.  Same with our body.

Of course we need to use our body.  We should use it for meaningful purposes, namely practicing virtue.  It gives us the means to practice virtue.  Without our body, could we do so?  Sure, if we were a formless realm god we might be able to, but instead we would be burning up our merit enjoying our absorbed mind.  Our body is essential for Dharma practice.  It gives us an opportunity to create for us a pure body of a Buddha, so that when we are separated from it we don’t have to assume another one ever again.

We must develop a different feeling about our body altogether.  Our attitude needs to be to use it to be able to leave it behind.  While we have the opportunity, we need to strive for a better body, a deathless vajra body.  For me, one of the best ways to develop renunciation and Bodhichitta is to think, in my heart is the substantial cause of the body of Heruka or Vajrayogini.  So our attitude is let’s go in and ripen it.  Why be attached to this horrible thing?  Attachment to this gross form stops us.  We must acknowledge this attachment and do something about it.

This body finally has its use as the passageway to the very subtle body at our heart.  In this way we can have a direction for what we are trying to do with our body.  We can develop distaste and disgust, and develop a strong wish to develop the body of a Buddha.  Why do we stay so attached to this gross form when beneath we will find the deity body?  We must understand what it is that is preventing us from doing that.  It’s attachment to it – looking to it as a source of happiness.  Attachment to this body is preventing us finally from attaining the wish-fulfilling jewel body of a Buddha.


Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  When death comes, we’ll be ready

(5.66) It is suitable to protect it and care for it
Only for attaining spiritual goals –
This body of a human being
Should be used just for practising Dharma.

(5.67) But if you guard it for other purposes,
What will you be able to do
When the merciless Lord of Death seizes it
And reduces it to a pile of ashes?

Shantideva does not hedge his words here – he is saying the only thing this human body should be used for is practicing Dharma.  Any other use for it is, in effect, a misuse.  Are we comfortable with that?  Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme?  How can we understand this?  What does this mean in practice?

No, we are not comfortable with that.  When we think about all of the things we do with our body, it is clear many of them are not practicing Dharma.  Words like this make us feel guilty, like we are doing something wrong, anytime we do anything other than practice Dharma.  This definitely seems extreme to us.  Geshe-la says in Transform Your Life that we need to avoid the extreme of materialism but also avoid the extreme of spirituality.  We need balance.  Here Shantideva is saying the only thing we can do with our body is use it to practice Dharma.  Since we currently use our body in many other ways, does this mean we need to cease all other uses of it?  If we do that, how will we eat, survive and function in this world?  Who can just meditate, attend teachings and work for the center 24/7?  Who will take care of our kids?  Who will pay the mortgage?  Is Shantideva even right about this one?

Yes, Shantideva is right.  The question is why?  We live in a meat-grinder.  Samsara is nothing other than a slaughter house in which all within are perpetually resurrected only to be slaughtered again.  It wouldn’t be so bad if while we were alive we were happy and only occasionally had to experience death.  But how much happiness do we really have?  We are born screaming, go through the unique hell that is middle school, struggle through college, then we can’t find a good job for many years (if ever).  Getting married is nice, until the real work starts the next day learning how to live with somebody.  Often it ends in divorce and tears.  If we had kids we then confront their endless irrationality, late nights, teenage rebellion, worried nights, finding the money to pay for college, only to be taken for granted and constantly criticized for everything we didn’t do right.  We never quite get our relationship right with our parents throughout life, and then they die and it is too late to fix.  We are eventually pushed aside at work by younger people who view us as dinosaurs.  We then discover we didn’t save enough money for retirement, and all that we hoped to do when we are finally free from working is out of reach.  We remain trapped at home, often finding ourselves alone and abandoned while the world passes us by oblivious to our sorrows.  At some point, sometimes much sooner than we expect, we start losing capacity to use our body and mind, develop increasingly severe sicknesses until eventually one of them becomes terminal.  We then face the horror of realizing we have wasted our precious spiritual opportunity on meaningless pursuits only to face death empty handed.  Alone, scared, weak in both body and mind we eventually have our body ripped away from us, often in pain and gasping for air.  And that is just when we are born human.  Our real home is life in the lower realms.  In a condition such as this, what point is there in remaining in samsara.  The only thing there is to do is get out!  Only Dharma practice can save us.

All of our concerns about how it is possible to only use our body for Dharma practice fall away if we are clear what it means to practice Dharma.  Dharma has one purpose:  to gain control of our mind.  Delusions make our mind uncontrolled.  Wisdom and virtue make it controlled.  All of the sufferings of life described above kick up their own set of delusions.  Working through those delusions with Dharma wisdom and virtue is practicing Dharma.  Life will still happen one way or the other, but if we view life uniquely through the lens of taming delusions and cultivating virtue, then there is not a single moment we cannot practice Dharma.  Of course we also need to go to teachings, festivals, meditate, etc., but these are just particular forms of practicing Dharma.  Most of our Dharma practice is all the rest.  Since all situations are equally empty, all situations are equally perfect for practicing Dharma.  We still do all that we need to do, we just do it with a different goal in mind.

Practically speaking, what should we do?  We all, more or less, have a daily routine.  Sit down with a piece of paper and write down in one column the different things you do in a day with your body.  Yes, you can even include the different things you do at night with your body.  Then, in the second column write down what practice you will do with your mind while you are doing that thing with your body.  Taking a shower – purification.  Eating – making offerings.  Walking – reciting mantras.  Working – serving others.  Taking care of your kids – training in patience.  Having sex – training in selfless love.  Sleeping – practicing dying.  Or any other practices that work for you.  Then, every day as you go about your daily routine, make a point of engaging in the same practices at the same times. 

In the beginning, this will be hard and will take some concerted effort.  But eventually, it will become routine and effortless.  The shower goes on, the Vajrasattva mantras just start being recited in your mind.  Once you have your daily routine firmly anchored in your practice of Dharma, you will then have the mental space to start doing it in the non-routine moments as well.  When life throws you curve balls or smacks you down with major problems, that’s when we really start practicing because that is when the delusions really start arising.  Conflict with your loved ones – check.  Financial difficulties – check.  Facing unwanted change – check.  Losing loved ones – check.  Yes, it is one struggle after another – but we do work through them with the Dharma we have learned.  If we live our life in this way, it will be our habit.  When death comes, we will be ready.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Intestines fit to suck?

(5.64) If you do not find any essence there
Even when you search with such effort,
Why, mind, do you still grasp this body
With so much attachment?

(5.65) It is so impure, it is not even fit to eat,
Its blood is not fit to drink,
And its intestines are not fit to suck;
So what use is this body to you?

The point is this:  if the body is empty, there is nothing there to be attached to.  All delusions exaggerate and distort their observed object, just in different ways.  Anger mentally constructs objects as somehow having the power to harm us.  Attachment mentally constructs objects as external sources of true happiness.  Ignorance mentally constructs something actually being there when nothing can be found.  If our inner peace is disturbed, all we need do is ask ourselves, “how am I exaggerating?”  If we stop exaggerating – in any way – then all of our delusions would simply disappear.

When it comes to bodies, our two main exaggerations are viewing them as being sources of happiness and viewing something as actually being there.  But we might also exaggerate thinking “mine” when we see somebody else’s body, and then become jealous when they go off with somebody else.

It’s really worthwhile to go around the body and try identify what, exactly, are we so attached to.  Here, Shantideva looks at the body from the perspective of being a good meal.  Anybody for a nice juicy thigh?  A rump steak?  How about fried human breast?  We love guava juices, why not blood?  An entire culture is built around beer, how about that other similar looking liquid?  Can we find even a single thing in the human body that we would be happy to eat or drink?  No wonder women don’t like being looked at or thought of as a “piece of meat.”  Until I read Shantideva, I never thought of sucking on an intestine.  Apparently that is a thing – somewhere.  What is in intestines again?  What comes out of them?

If we still have attachment for our body at the time of our death, our death will be very difficult.  When we die, if we are unable to let go of our body, our death will be painful.  Our desperate grasping at our body will activate contaminated karma, throwing us once again into a samsaric rebirth.  Instead, if we die free of any attachment to our body (indeed with a renunciation wishing to escape forever from such cages of filth), then death will be easy.  We need to prepare for this moment.  All of our Dharma trainings can correctly be viewed as preparation for the moment of death.  If we allow our attachment to our body to remain throughout our life, it will be strong also at the time of death, making us feel like we are being ripped against our will from our body.  Such misery will all but guarantee another samsaric rebirth, with all its troubles.