Podcast | Studying And Practicing With “The Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta — An Analysis Of The Bases Of Power”: 32 Parts Of The Body (4 of 7)

Series introduction:

While I reference some non-Buddhist material most everything in the notes and podcasts for this series on The Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta are solely my effort to relate considerations, questions, experiences, explorations, suggestions, interpretations and practices involved and associated with this sutta.

This series comes via seven categories/blog posts/podcasts:

  1. Introduction; the key encapsulation/encoding/summary paragraph of the whole sutta which includes and weaves in the four powers; and a reading of one of two translations for the sutta
  2. Unpacking of the hindrances and the other of two translations for the sutta
  3. A (type of) situational awareness
  4. 32 parts of the body
  5. Perceptions of night, daytime and light
  6. “Psychic Powers,” practice combinations and miscellany
  7. Summary, findings, observations and comparisons

In more detail, the four Iddhipāda — sometimes translated as bases of psychic power, bases of power, base of spiritual power, wings to success, accomplishments, or roads to power — are:

  1. chanda: desire; enthusiasm; purpose; wish
  2. viriya: persistence; energy; effort; will
  3. citta: intent; consciousness; knowing mind; mental development; devoting mind to; heart-mind
  4. vīmaṃsā: investigation; inquiry; discernment; discrimination; reason; interest; intelligent curiosity; [(perhaps a new contribution, or for chanda:) balanced and helpful enthrallment, fascination]; feedback and fine tuning, adjustment; learn from doing

Along with aiding our even mundane accomplishments and mastery, perhaps the Iddhipāda play a significant role in approaching will — the way one decides on and initiates action — and at the core of The Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta is an analysis of will along with instructions for its training, development, and use.


32 Parts Of The Body

Practice Warning Disclaimer: There are ‘accounts of a mass suicide by monks disgusted with their own bodies, which reportedly happened after the Buddha had praised seeing the body as bereft of beauty.’ If you’re getting a clear “no” when considering these practices please don’t do them for now. Also please look into this topic more deeply if there’s any doubt before engaging in these practices as I take zero responsibility for anyones actions (other than my own).

Part four of the series addresses the 32 parts of the body mentioned within the sutta. In the first portion I speak without notes while I reference the notes below in the other portion.

Regarding the portion:

“And how does a monk dwell so that what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below? There is the case where a monk reflects on this very body, from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin, & full of various kinds of unclean things: ‘In this body there are head hairs,…..

or translated:

“And how does a mendicant meditate as below, so above; as above, so below? It’s when a mendicant examines their own body up from the soles of the feet and down from the tips of the hairs, wrapped in skin and full of many kinds of filth. ‘In this body there is head hair, ……

Expanded version with metaphor from the Satipatthana Sutta:

4. The Reflection on the Repulsiveness of the Body

And further, monks, a monk reflects on this very body enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head-hairs down, thinking thus: “There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, *midriff*, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine.”

Just as if there were a double-mouthed provision bag full of various kinds of grain such as hill paddy, paddy, green gram, cow-peas, sesamum, and husked rice, and a man with sound eyes, having opened that bag, were to take stock of the contents thus: “This is hill paddy, this is paddy, this is green gram, this is cow-pea, this is sesamum, this is husked rice.” Just so, monks, a monk reflects on this very body enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head-hairs down, thinking thus: “There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, *midriff*, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine.”

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: “The body exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.

The Foundations of Mindfulness
Satipatthana Sutta
translated by
Nyanasatta Thera

Podcast notes:

  • Is there a skillful, wholesome, wise counterpart to the provisions bag metaphor? Could going through a provisions bag be a means for identifying the aspect of nourishment too? These unclean things need care and maintaining so knowing them in order to also how to relate to them internally and external?
  • Why this order for the 32 parts?
  • Also divided into 5 mostly external parts, 13 internal parts, 13 bodily substances and (then) you’re in, I mean urine . . .
  • why no sexual organs or sexual fluids?
  • joint fluid’s similarity to sexual fluids?
  • urine’s involvement with sex organs?
  • joint fluid and urine are listed last
  • sex organs covered/included indirectly in skin and body hair

Note not directly in audio:

Pretty sure Kilomakam is the Pali word with garnering the different translations of midriff, pleura, diaphragm, membranes, maybe even fascia


Techniques, Avenues of Approach and Considerations for Development

  • Head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, and skin as entry point. ([These are meditation objects for newly ordained in some of the Thai Forrest traditions] These are visible so we can notice internally and externally as reference points for parts not so noticeable externally)
  • If one has familiarity with Chinese medicine, meridians and five element system — Denny and I did shows on this — it may be helpful to look for comparisons of the 32 parts (order) to Chinese pairing and tripling of organs in regards to masculine/feminine and treasure organs and protector organs like liver and gall bladder
  • visual image vs. word labels as guiding (instructions) for practicing with the 32 parts
  • How are external images of body parts different from living version we can’t physically see the same way? How would one know?
  • technique of scanning through and around the 32 parts without naming or labeling, just seeing and knowing them
  • include the energy interactions with each part while each part remains the primary object of meditation (if addressing the 32 parts individually as well as variations on this) or vice versa where observing (each of the) 32 parts’s energy is the primary object and the physical components are included
  • technique of using whole, entire, total and complete (physical) body awareness at once for the 32 parts; each part individually; and/or other ways of approaching the 32 parts (and how would such a technique be used for samatha?) 
  • What are the (four) elemental natures — earth, water, wind and fire — for each part and combinations of parts? Chinese relegate certain organs for certain elements. How predominate is one element in an organ? What constitutes a balance of the elements in each organ? How might this be different through various times and places?
  • (natural) breath to feel and discern what parts are being noticed and how. Also deliberately breathing into and out of each of the 32 parts
  • How is each part (inter)connected with other parts, the whole body and the external?
  • Can the whole body and each of the 32 parts be meditated on like the given “double-mouthed provision bag full of various kinds of grain” — like if invisible hands of awareness went through the skin sack of the body. And then on increasingly micro levels can contents within be meditated on again in like manner?
  • What are the causes and conditions internally and externally affecting/effecting the 32 parts? Similarly, reflect on when and how various parts are more fully and completely penetrated and noticed
  • death contemplations for each and/or combos of 32 parts to make them less abstract and more immediate. What would the heart look like due to certain causes of death; after certain durations of decay; and given various environments?
  • More esoteric but some reference beings/entities involved with/for each and/or combos of 32 parts and how bhramavihara practice may relate to this
  • It’s interesting to practice returning again and again to one part.  Also interesting to switch between 32 parts randomly or upon distraction (and/with mental labeling of part and/or when theres’s distraction). 
  • What is the relationship of nervous system with the 32 parts?
  • 32 parts condensed down (for easier access) into: 1) skin level, 2) bone and joint/synovial fluid level and 3) everything else in between

Findings, Insights and Noticings

  • Body as convergence point:
    • Human experience is tethered to body
    • Midgard — other realms accessible here
    • Discarding hierarchy, perhaps, in a way, in regards to discarding the type of sameness reflected in the esoteric saying “as above so below” vis-à-vis how this sutta somatically expresses “what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below” [perhaps to add more immediacy to the practice instead of the attention going off into higher and lower gods, spirits, other beings, entities, etc.]
    • Possession? Body as a temple
    • Epigenetics and DNA’s role
  • just like many areas of study if we inquire deeply enough into the functions of the 32 parts to where modern science’s understanding halts we then get into metaphysics, or science beyond our current public understanding; particularly what beings, forces, processes, and energies are involved at these levels, as well as the causes and conditions that come into play and how all this functions
  • what is going on in the unseen realms in the immediate environment that’s influencing and/or “crossing over” into the physicality of each of the 32 parts? How is this happening and why?
  • Could such a deep, immersive, intimate, visceral relationship with the shape and form of physical matter, its design and function — with mastery of the four great elements — then be applied to pretty much all matter (leading to the physical powers mentioned in this sutta)?
  • Naturally that’s speculation from me but in my experience with the 32 parts I spent extra time on the liver and noticing the (possible) benefits on gall bladder (meridian) which is said to protect liver and how blockages along gall bladder meridian seemed to unclog. Liver seemed to (energetically) detox then I noticed how much toxicity there is on many layers: gross and subtle, emotions, moods, attitudes, noises, projections, and all the dukkha or suffering/ stress/ unsatisfactoriness inherent in this current consensual reality

More resources

  • Asubha Sutta — Unattractiveness:

“Monks, there are these four modes of practice. Which four? Painful practice with slow intuition, painful practice with quick intuition, pleasant practice with slow intuition, & pleasant practice with quick intuition.

“And which is painful practice with slow intuition? There is the case where a monk remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, percipient of loathsomeness with regard to food, percipient of non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on inconstancy with regard to all fabrications. The perception of death is well established within him. He dwells in dependence on the five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment — but these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear weakly. Because of their weakness, he attains only slowly the immediacy [1] that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called painful practice with slow intuition.

“And which is painful practice with quick intuition? There is the case where a monk remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, percipient of loathsomeness with regard to food, percipient of non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on inconstancy with regard to all fabrications. The perception of death is well established within him. He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment — and these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely. Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called painful practice with quick intuition.

“And which is pleasant practice with slow intuition? There is the case where a monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment — but these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear weakly. Because of their weakness, he attains only slowly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called pleasant practice with slow intuition. [2]

“And which is pleasant practice with quick intuition? There is the case where a monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment — and these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely. Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents. This is called pleasant practice with quick intuition.

“These are the four modes of practice.”

Note

1.

According to the Commentary, this means the concentration forming the Path. This is apparently a reference to this passage in Sn 2.1:

What the excellent Awakened One extolled as pure and called the concentration of unmediated knowing: No equal to that concentration can be found. This, too, is an exquisite treasure in the Dhamma. By this truth may there be well-being. 2.

Because the description of pleasant practice here contains the standard jhana formula, while the description of painful practice contains no mention of jhana, some writers have taken this as proof that there is an alternative path to awakening that does not involve the jhanas.

However, this reading ignores the description of how painful practice and pleasant practice can yield either slow or quick intuition. Intuition comes slowly when the five faculties are present in a weak form, and quickly when they are present in an intense form. Now, in both cases, the faculty of concentration — which is defined with the standard formula for the jhanas (SN 48.10) — has to be present for the ending of the effluents. Because this is true both for painful practice and for pleasant practice, both sorts of practice need jhana in order to succeed.

AN 4.163 PTS: A ii 151
Asubha Sutta: Unattractiveness
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu



Audio: Studying And Practicing With “The Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta — An Analysis Of The Bases Of Power”: 32 Parts Of The Body (4 of 7)

Published by josh dippold

IntegratingPresence.com

15 thoughts on “Podcast | Studying And Practicing With “The Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta — An Analysis Of The Bases Of Power”: 32 Parts Of The Body (4 of 7)

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