Meditation on giving your body away

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A guided meditation led as part of an ongoing series of teachings based on Shantideva’s classic text, Bodhisattvacharyavatara, often translated as Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds. This meditation is from Wholesome Fear, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Ven. Sangye Khadro (Kathleen McDonald). Abridged for this teaching by Ven. Sangye Khadro.

Meditation on giving your body away (download)

This is a short meditation on thought transformation, in which we dedicate the four elements of our bodies to the happiness of all beings, putting into practice the action of renouncing self-centeredness and learning to cherish others.

A verse from Shantideva says: “Just like space and the great elements such as earth, water, fire, and air. May I always support the lives of all the boundless creatures.”

In this meditation, we imagine that the four elements that make up our body absorb into the four external elements of earth, water, fire, and air.

First, imagine that the earth element of your body absorbs into the external earth element (the earth element is the quality of solidity—it’s mainly in our bones and flesh.) Your body becomes the stable earth and is used by all beings in whatever way they wish for their survival and happiness. It is used as fields to grow the food people need to eat; it becomes beautiful parks and forests, which are homes for birds and animals, and where people can go to relax and enjoy nature; it becomes the source for precious jewels, gold, and silver, which people can make into jewelry and other beautiful things; it’s the basis for building houses, cities, and roads—and also becomes the materials used to build all those things that are used by people. Your two eyes then become the sun and moon and provide light for all beings. Your flesh becomes food for all beings—fruits and vegetables, bread, cheese, hummus, pizza—whatever they enjoy. Your skin becomes clothing and shoes that people can wear. Imagine all the people and beings enjoying these things, which have been transformed from the earth element of your body.

Then visualize the water element of your body (which is mainly in our bodily fluids like blood) absorbing into the external water element, which is also used by all beings for their survival and enjoyment—it becomes water and other delicious drinks (juice, coca-cola, tea, coffee, etc.). It becomes water people use to irrigate their fields, nourish their thirsty animals, wash their clothes, make fountains and swimming pools where they can enjoy water sports. Really feel how the water element of your body has brought happiness to all beings.

Next imagine that the fire element of your body absorbs into the external fire element and brings happiness to all beings—giving warmth to those who are cold, providing energy to cook their food, giving them light and energy. Really feel that the fire element of your body has brought happiness to all beings.

Finally, imagine that the air element of your body absorbs into the external air element and benefits all beings—giving them air to breath, wind to provide energy (e.g. in places that use windmills). The air element also enables movement: the ability to walk, run, do sports, etc. Air is life, freedom—let yourself be breathed in by all beings, providing life-sustaining oxygen to every cell in every beings’ body.

Now imagine that all the suffering and causes of suffering—negative karma and afflictions—of all beings ripens upon you; and they become free from all of these. Absorb all this suffering and its causes into your self-centered attitude, your grasping at I and mine, and imagine these disappearing into emptiness. The seemingly real I, which appears to exist from its own side, becomes empty.

All that remains is the merely imputed I, and this I now dedicates all your merit and happiness to all beings—you can also dedicate all the merit of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and all other beings; a great big vast ocean of merit—imagine this being received by all beings, and it fulfills their needs and wishes, both temporal and ultimate, up to full awakening.

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