December 07, 2008

Nitty-Gritty Dharma

Inquiring Mind's 25th anniversary issue is themed—buddhistically enough—"Sickness, Old Age, Death and the Path of Practice." It's been out for a while now and it's a great read. In it Ajahn Sumedho pays a pretty harrowing visit to a Thai hospital to contemplate autopsies, but "after the aversion and proliferating tendencies stopped," he writes,

I really began to observe the decaying process. Strangely enough, I found it quite beautiful—the way nature disposes of things. My judgments of beauty had been created on a conventional level, but in the here and now—being with the aversion and the disgust—I didn’t feel repelled at all by the process of decay. It was quite marvelous to watch how life consumes and takes away. The human body was being recycled into the ecosystem.  

No one ever said Buddhism was for the faint-hearted, and contemplation-of-death practices can present Westerners with a real challenge. But when the monk next describes his Catholic mother's funeral, the nitty gritty of Buddhist practice comes as a welcome relief. See for yourself—read Ajahn Sumedho's "It's Like This" here. (Cautionary note: Not to be read at meal time.)

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