Please read a more recent post about this here.
The Jain concept of Ashucht states that the body is composed of blood and water. It is prone to disease and old age.
This was discussed at an event held by the Young Jains UK on Sunday 17th August 2008 –
Thinking that the body is unclean.
This body is made up of impure substances like blood, urine, and faecal material, etc.
I will discard my attachments for such body and engage myself in self-discipline, renunciation and spiritual endeavours. The body is made up of substances that decay very easily.
Asuci Bhavna – Impureness of the body
Under this reflection, one thinks about the constituent element of one’s body. It is made of impure things like blood, bones, flesh, etc. It also generates impure things like perspiration, urine, and stool.
The soul, which resides within the body, remains unattached to the body. The soul is alone, pure, and liberated. The body ultimately becomes nonexistent, but the soul is eternal.
Therefore emotional attachments to the body is useless.
Every man is most deeply attached to his body. In fact all pleasures and pains are of our body. Our attachment to our family and our worldly possessions is in the ultimate analysis attachment to our body. But what is this body? When the self withdraws from the body what is its condition? Even when the self does not withdraw, what does this body consist of? How do various diseases arise in our body? Why does it gradually decay? If we give deeper thought to all these questions we find two important aspects of our body:
(a) Without the existence of the spirit (soul) within it, it is nothing but a conglomeration of dirt and diseases.
(b) Even with the existence of spirit within, it is constantly under the process of decay and deterioration.
To keep these aspects of the body constantly in mind is called Asuci Bhavana. The constant reminder of these aspects blunt our attachment to our body and keep us alive to the fact that self is something distinct and different from body, and the body can be best utilised not for enjoying the transitory objects of the world but for liberating the self from the shackles of karmas. This Bhavana is called ‘Asuci’ as it points out to the impure aspects of the body. This is required to be done to mitigate our attachment to the body and not for cultivating hatred towards it, as misunderstood by some. All the roads of Sadhana – roads of self-realization – are requires to be traversed through body and it is this body which is the best vehicle to take us to the final destination. It is therefore, quite necessary to take its proper care and to keep it properly nourished, healthy and efficient. What is discounted here is indulgence in material objects of life to satisfy the indisciplined cravings of the body, so that it remains a fit and efficient vehicle to carry us safely in our spiritual journey.
This concept is part of the 12 Bhavnas (Reflections or Thoughts). Some people believe that there are 16 Bhavnas. The following explains what the Bhavnas are. (Taken from http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralsm/affiliates/jainism/jainedu/12bhavna.htm)
Jain religion puts a significant emphasis on the thought process of a human being. A person’s behavior and his actions are the reflection of his internal thoughts, day in and day out. It is not the action but intention behind the action results in the accumulation of Karma. Hence, one should be very careful about his thoughts, how he thinks, and the subject matter of his thought.
To make room for pure thoughts, and to drive out the evil ones, Jainism recommends to reflect or meditate the following twelve thoughts or Bhavnas.
The twelve Bhavnas described here are the subject matters of one’s meditation, and how to occupy one’s mind with useful, religious, beneficial, peaceful, harmless, spiritually advancing, karma preventing thoughts. They cover a wide field of teachings of Jainism. They are designed to serve as aids to spiritual progress, produce detachment, and lead the aspirants from the realm of desire to the path of renunciation. They are reflections upon the fundamental facts of life, intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.
The reflections are also called Anuprekshas, longings, thoughts, aspirations, or Bhavnas.
Pravin K. Shah
Jain Study Center of North Carolina