The body (kāya) 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 consists of the elements of solidity, fluidity, caloricity and space (D.II,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.’ (D.I,76).
Following the medical theories of the time, he identified 31 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 (M.I,57). Later commentators added a 32nd part, the brain.
The ancient Buddhists said that body also has nine orifices (nava sotā); the two eyes, ears and nostrils, the mouth, anus and urethra (Sn.197) and two layers of skin; the epidermis (chavi) and the dermis (camma, A.IV,129). They also identified 60 tendons and ligaments (nahāru,Vis.253).
The Buddha recommended sometimes contemplating the unpleasant aspects of the body. This was 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 (A.III,47).
Because of the close connection between body and mind, anyone practicing meditation has to take into account the state of the body. The Buddha said that ‘bodily discomfort scatters the mind to externals.’ (S.V,156). He also said that ‘when the body is tired, the mind is distorted and when the mind is distorted it is far from concentrated’ (M.I,116). Consequently, a relaxed comfortable body is an important prerequisite for successful meditation. See Hygiene, Posture and Yoga.
kāya. Body. Kāyānupassanā-observation of the body.
In Buddhism, purity directly effects man's ability to "see" truth, and "hear" the voice of truth. Man needs that purity in order to be attached to truth, and realize gradual spiritual growth:
Thine eyes are holden. If the eye of thy mind were undimmed. Thou couldst see the glory and the power of truth (GB: 53: 2)
The teaching of Buddha goes as far as saying that "Hearing the truth," man is like a lake, pure and tranquil and deep. To be spiritually purified, man needs to purify the senses. Such purification enables the merger of one 's self with the truth within, that is, attaching oneself with Buddha, the Enlightened One.
“Mind is over body” is a generally held belief, so many faiths follow this saying by putting it into practice through cleaning or purification of the mind. But some have misunderstanding about what cleaning or purification means.
What is meant here is not physical cleaning or purification but only a mental cleansing. There is a story, which helps remind us about the true meaning of cleaning or purification. Here is the story:
There once was a novice who wanted to study and practice methods of cleaning or purification. His aim was to clean or purify his mind, but he had the misunderstanding that he had to clean or purify everything.
He cleaned his body, his robes, the places where he spent time and many other things. He spent his whole day cleaning and every day felt he had to clean something.
One day his teacher asked him, “What are you doing?” he replied, “Sir I am trying to clean things. I like everything to be clean.” The teacher said to him, “You see! You are wasting your time cleaning things! You concentrate on cleaning things so much that you forget to clean or purify your mind, which is the most important exercise of all.
If you only concentrate on the outside things, you will always blame them: the earth is not clean, the sky is not clean, people are not clean! Do you see, though, it is your mind that is not clean? No!
So you see everything as dirty! First of all, you need to clean your mind! Only then will you be able to see everything as clean.” The novice thought it over and understood this. Since then he has cleaned and purified his mind instead of cleaning external objects.
From the story, we can see that the novice misunderstood what cleaning or purification meant. He concentrated on external objects outside of himself.
In fact the uncleanliness was within himself. He was neither clean, nor purified internally. How about you and I? Do we clean or purify our minds?
If we do not, we will always see everything as neither clean nor pure. Turn your attention inwards and clean and purify your mind! The more purified the mind is, the clearer we will see!