Sai Baba Magick and Puttaparthi Mountains
31st of March, 2008 - 12:33
A few days back, as our route took us to Bangalore, we also spent a few days in Puttaparthi, the ashram of Sathya Sai Baba, the famous Hindu teacher, considered by his followers to be an avatar.
Taoist-Maoist Indiana Jones
31st of March, 2008 - 12:29
The gurubhai seers of Radhakund have now realized that I have become a Tantric and a Buddhist Sannyasi, and concluded that my fame deserves to be spread...
Theravada 4 Eva
27th of March, 2008 - 13:41
To adopt a new conceptual framework, to revise the old, or neither, or both? Thoughts in principle on evolutions, revolutions and renunciations, on current emphases and future possibilities.
Shankara, Bhagavata-purana and Advaita-vedanta
25th of March, 2008 - 4:08
The first installment in exploring earlier themes of Vedas, Advaita, Buddha, Brahmanas and so forth in some further detail.
Anger Danger
24th of March, 2008 - 16:14
With my recent writings on the evolution of my views on Hinduism, featuring a departure that to many is irreconcilable and to some also unforgivable, expressions of anger have again become a theme of some contemplation to me.
Question to Readers
23rd of March, 2008 - 5:30
I don't really have a very clear picture of the demographics of the current Vraja Journal readership. Here's a question to the readers.
Gods Forsaken, Paradise Lost
22nd of March, 2008 - 19:44
Being a Buddhist means I no longer believe in god. Right? Well, let's be a bit more nuanced here.
Buddha, Vedas and the Brahmana culture
21st of March, 2008 - 13:30
Buddhism earned the nastika (atheist or infidel) label owing to the Buddha's rejection of Vedas. However, rejecting the Vedas isn't as black and white an issue as one might assume. This is a look at the Vedas the Buddha knew of.
From the Sahajiya Watcher
20th of March, 2008 - 13:03
A gem from recent feedback from Harry Krishna, a self-appointed sahajiya watcher.
Exclusive Devotion
18th of March, 2008 - 10:45
I wish to write a few words on the "exclusive devotion" theme of an earlier entry to clarify my views on bhakti.
Exit Madhava
16th of March, 2008 - 10:41
Yesterday, Advaitadas commented on my exit in his blog. These are some reflections on his message.
Style Revision
16th of March, 2008 - 5:52
Following the change of spirit, the form of the journal has undergone a due transfiguration.
Vraja Journal - Disclaimer
15th of March, 2008 - 15:57
What's the future of Vraja Journal? It'll continue, albeit in a somewhat different spirit. Please read this disclaimer before reading any further.
Dharma Reloaded
14th of March, 2008 - 18:37
Many readers of this journal have been wondering about the evolutions in my slant on things and my spiritual direction in general. Time has come to address matters in definite terms.
Vilasa Kunja Status
12th of March, 2008 - 16:13
I'm aware Vilasa Kunja and the rest of the sites (except for Vraja Journal) are down. Here's the latest on that.
Asubha: Meeting Corpses and Death
9th of March, 2008 - 16:51
Walking around the ghats of Varanasi, death is a common sight. The large piles of firewood tell their story of the volume of corpses daily burnt.
Our Shared Journey
4th of March, 2008 - 15:03
There was an earlier blog on misleading, commenting on the feedback of someone who came forward in a rather pointed manner about it. This is something, slightly retouched, I wrote to a friend who asked whether I truly felt I had misled someone.
Delhi to Varanasi
1st of March, 2008 - 13:25
Reaching New Delhi, booking train tickets, killing a few extra hours, observing the ominous Buddha-presence, moving towards Varanasi...

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Asubha: Meeting Corpses and Death
Posted: 9th of March, 2008 - 16:51
Walking around the ghats of Varanasi, death is a common sight. There are two main burning ghats where the deceased are brought, Harischanda Ghat the smaller, and Manikarnika Ghat the larger. The large piles of firewood tell their story of the volume of corpses daily burnt. If you are faint-hearted, I suggest not reading the blog beyond this paragraph.

Ten Meditation Objects

Visuddhimagga, an old encyclopedic Pali text, details ten different phases of the body that can function as meditation objects in what's technically called asubha-meditation. They are:

(1) swollen corpse, (2) discolored corpse, (3) decomposing corpse, (4) fissured corpse, (5) corpse gnawed by animals, (6) corpse with bones scattered, (7) corpse hacked up and scattered, (8) corpse still bleeding, (9) worm-infested corpse, (10) skeleton.

The Buddha recommends asubha-meditation, or the perception of the foulness of the body, especially as an antidote for lust and complacency. One of the classical Buddhist austerity practices is living at a graveyard, as there one can observe the reality of the different phases of the human body and be well in touch with the reality of temporary existence. Some of the specifics and merits of asubha-meditation are discussed in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119).

Views at the Ghats

While I haven't had access to the entire array given above, I've taken the available opportunities to make deep impressions on the mind. It is one thing to take a photo, and yet another to intently observe in a manner that etches an image deep into the mind. Clear images of the different facets of reality are assets worth collecting.

As the first among the sights I saw an elderly woman, recently deceased, lying on a bamboo stretcher with her mouth stuck wide open, showing the rigor mortis and the stiffness of the body after life departs. The sight that followed was one of the corpse of a man in his forties in the early stages of burning. The bodily fluids in his head were coming to a boil and forming large bubbles around his facial area, his legs were already roasted to the bones from below.

Today's walk across the ghats brought me to a pyre where lied a slowly roasting body with nothing but the skull with some flesh attached to it, clinging to the black and roasted chest by the spine. The two men, wishing to set the spirit on his journey, began beating the skull with thick bamboo poles, causing the roasted remnant of a carcass to dance his final dance.

Further down the ghats along the bank of the Ganges there was a corpse floating down the stream, heavily swollen and discolored. Perhaps he had drowned, or perhaps he was among the classes of people that aren't burnt but are discarded into the river in whole. As I watched the corpse float by, a crow took the opportunity to land on this floating human island, standing on the corpse's head and pecking off chunks of meat from around its neck.

The stay in Varanasi has so far checked items 1-7 off the list of 10 — not too bad for a three day yield! The rest are rarer to come by, as burning the dead is a common practice, and there are rarely discarded bodies lying around. No doubt my future adventures will cover the rest and leave me with sights of the whole spectrum of bodily destinies.
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