Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Metaphor of the Body - Buddhist Dharma Class

I found this quote in the Shambhala Sun
"Most of our feelings and commonplace ideas about our lives are based on the metaphor of the body, a thought so foundational to us we can't even begin to know how to question it

In Buddhist Dharma class I was assigned with a group to explain the metaphor of the body in the conversation between King Milinda and Nagasena.  

King Milinda and Nagasena
The following phrase in the conversation (below) seems very important. It is repeated for ego and the chariot and I think you could equally plug in the word body.

" . . . (the body) is, nevertheless, your majesty, but a way of counting, a term, an appellation, a convenient designation, a mere name . . . there is no (body) here to be found."

One can relate to the body  to a laundry list of parts:

"Are nails . . .teeth . . . skin . . . flesh . . . sinews . . . bones . . . marrow of the bones . . . kidneys . . . heart . . . liver . . . pleura . . . spleen .. lungs, etc.  (the body)?

 Again, the answer is no, these again are a way of counting, a term, an appellation, a convenient designation, a name for: nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews ....etc..
Nagasena also says " . . . the word (body) is a mere empty sound. . . what (body) is there here . . . there  is no (body)."

Then there is actually no mention of the word body until the passage below. I am not sure how to exactly interpret it. I feel like this is a key to something. 

 "Your majesty, you are a delicate prince, an exceedingly delicate prince; and if, your majesty, you walk in the middle of the day on hot sandy ground, and you tread on rough grit, gravel and sand, your feet become sore, your body tired, the mind is oppressed, and the body-consciousness suffers."
Maybe although there is no body there is a body-consciousness that feels tired, sore and suffers.  It perhaps this is what Ava said  "we are not the body, and we are also not devoid of the body." If we were devoid of the body we wouldn't be tired, sore and oppressed by the hot sandy ground.

So, I have read, In Buddhist teachings "there isn't a body per se but instead a variety of momentary mental events."  When the delicate prince feels the hot sandy ground on his feet, this is a mental event produced in consciousness when an object called foot activates inner sensors that awaken awareness in a particular way, maybe the awareness of being sore, tired, oppressed.. "Likewise, seeing, hearing, and all sense perceptions are mental events stimulated by apparently physical objects. . . All experiences arise when consciousness is activated by a sense organ meeting an internal or external object."
King Milinda and Nagasena

So I guess now when I think metaphor of the body I think what does the word metaphor mean?





a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

"“I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,” said Mark, who was fond of theatrical metaphors"

synonyms:          figure of speech, image, trope, analogy, comparison, symbol, word painting/picture

So maybe the word body, itself, is the metaphor.  The word body is "a figure of speech . . . which is not literally applicable."  The word body is an analogy for skin, hair, nails, teeth, etc. but skin, hair nails and teeth are not the body. There is not literal body just the metaphor of body. 

That's what I came up with.

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