A corpse in a respective state of decomposition could not be considered to be an ideal aid for meditation. Yet when in Thailand, you may come across certain practices that may have you believe otherwise. There are in fact, countless Buddhist monasteries across the country where monks practice the above mentioned mean to meditate. Wherein they introspect sitting in front of a rotting dead body. We bring to you in this publication a concise presentation on the intense meditation rituals from Thailand.
Unusual Buddhist Meditative Techniques
1The Unusual Practices
This whole practice of meditating in the presence of a corpse could be traced back to certain ancient sects of Buddhism and Hinduism. While in Thailand, you may get to witness instances belonging only to the former category. For the Buddhists, this particular form of meditation was said to have been approved by the great Buddha himself. Wall paintings and manuscripts have been discovered, which belong to a long bygone era, and depict persons in meditative postures, in front of various cadavers, some of which were infested with worms, or even been picked upon by crows.
2The Philosophy Behind the Techniques
The grotesque sight, to go with the stench of decomposing flesh, as per the teaching of the Buddha is said to bring about detachment, an essential stepping stone to Nirvana. When in Thailand the weather of the tropics adds their individual element to the whole process. The whole process which stresses on the transiency of the universe, is looked upon by the monks as a potent mean to imbibe the gospel of selflessness into one’s being. The more selfless one could be, the closer they would be to attaining nirvana.
The corpses which are selected for the procedure, are generally that of a child, or of a young adult who would have died unexpectedly. The family in most cases donates the body to the temples, hoping to usher blessings upon the soul of the departed, and peace upon those who survive. From the perspective of the monks, the young of the society represent the innocent, unselfish, unambitious and the satisfied. A somewhat more pristine state of existence when compared to the older, more corrupt lot. Hence the philosophy springs, that if something so beautiful could decay, then the pride and ego of the living, sure stands on sifting sand.
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3The State of Affairs
The abbots, who look after the functioning of the monasteries at Thailand, which are also known by the name of wats, get a lot of liberal allowance from the government in Thailand, to go ahead with innovative meditation practices.
Certain practices may be an exclusive intellectual property right of the respective sanctuaries. At a temple in Nong Bua Lamphu, a monk sits and meditates on what appears to be hot oil. At another monastery called Wat Tham Mangkon, the nuns meditate while floating in a pool. At Wat pai Civilsai, meditation takes place within a box of pythons. Monks otherwise have known to be meditating in caves and burial or cremation grounds, where the omnipresent darkness is said to enhance the powers of concentration of the meditating individual or group. Forest monks are a class of ascetics who meditate for weeks, while ton the walk. Not even once during the entire period while they meditate, do they stop to rest or sleep. The practice in local tongue is known as dhutanga.
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It is not only to the monks of Thailand, who resort to these extreme measures when it comes to meditation. There are tribes and nomadic dwellers in the country, who through meditative procedures are known to make connections with their previous lives. The process known to be and described as excruciating, to say the least.
Another meditative technique which is common among the monks and the commoners alike, is the practice of total silence for a period of ten days. The country of Thailand, is spotted with monasteries and temples which provide a meditative retreat for the visiting tourists. Among other procedures, the visitors to these institute are made to stay awake during the last three days of their stay. The deprivation of sleep, according to some Buddhist scriptures is said to be among the first stepping stone for the attainment of nirvana.
The very purpose of meditation according to the Buddhist, is to attain insights into the spiritual plane, and partake of the fruits that are on offer. The intensity of the procedure, in respect to its awkwardness, in the eye of a common tourist, is only a measure of the potency of the respective procedure, from the point of view of someone who practices the artform.
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