Body

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The body (kàya) is the physical structure of the individual. According to the Buddha’s analysis, the body is one of the five constituents that make up the individual and is made up of the elements of solidity, fluidity, caloricity and space (Digha Nikaya 2. 294). He describes the body as ‘material, made of the four elements, derived from mother and father, maintained on rice and gruel, impermanent, liable to injury and abrasion, being broken and destroyed, bound up with consciousness and dependent on it’ (Digha Nikaya 1. 76). Following the medical theories of the time, he identified thirty two significant body-parts – hair of the head, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, muscle tissue, ligaments, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, stomach, faeces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, body oil, saliva, nasal mucus, lymphatic fluid and urine (Majjhima Nikaya 1. 57). The Buddha recommended sometimes contemplating the unpleasant aspects of the body, not because he believed that the body is disgusting, but to balance the general tendency to regard only its pleasant and desirable aspects. A more complete and balanced understanding to the body can help lessen personal vanity and cool sexual desire. However, the Buddha also said that physical attractiveness is a blessing so long as it does not arouse vanity (Amguttara Nikaya 3. 47).

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