(Perception on Skeletony)


Let's Meditate

In ancient Sri Lanka, a Buddhist monk named Tissa was travelling on foot from Mihintale, a small town, to Anuradhapura, a big city, to venerate the Sri Mahā Bodhi tree, which was a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree in India. The monk met a woman on the way while she was running away from home; she smiled at the monk and walked away. Her husband who followed the woman met with the monk and enquired whether the monk had seen a woman. The monk replied saying that “I saw a skeleton but couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman”. This incident, reported in the ancient writings, illustrates the disciplining of the eye by practicing atṭhika saññā.


One may develop the mind to eradicate defilements by practicing insight within the concentration developed through atṭhika saññā. In order to practice atṭhika saññā, one sits in front of a skeleton or a picture of a skeleton and focuses on the skeleton. By carefully observing the details of the skeleton, from head to toe, one develops a mental image of the skeleton. Once the image of the skeleton is well established in the mind, he or she contemplates on the skeleton while sitting at the same place or after moving to an appropriate location.

Mediation on the Skeleton

Find a suitable place for meditation and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and reflect on the image of a skeleton. Continue reflecting on a skeleton until a clear image of the complete skeleton is visualized.


1. Now, look at the skull. Instead of eyes, there are two large holes where the eyes were. Beautifully painted eyebrows are no longer there. Instead of nose there is a hole. Teeth are exposed. Beautifully painted lips are missing. Earlobes decorated with earrings are no longer there. Cheeks embellished with makeup and perfumes are missing. What remains is only the skull, which is like a dried out pumpkin. My head will also turn into a skeleton like this.


2. Collarbones are connected to sternum and ribs. Ribs are arranged like a bird-cage. Ribs resemble bamboo strips. Along the skeleton run the vertebrae resembling pearls on a string. My body too will become a skeleton.


3. Vertebrae end by attaching to the pelvis. The pelvis resembles the wings of a butterfly. The pelvis supports the hips. Leg bones are connected to the pelvis. Leg bones are like dried out bamboo canes. Leg bones end by connecting to foot bones. Foot bones are hooked to toes.


4. My body too will become a skeleton. On top of this skeleton, muscles are fastened, bound with blood vessels, and covered with skin. I call this structure my body and cling to it. When skin is peeled off, flesh is taken off, and vessels are pulled out, only the skeleton will remain. Others, both males and females also have a skeleton like this. After death, when this body decays only the skeleton will remain. The skeleton too, will decay, turn into soil and disappear. This skeleton is impermanent, impermanent. impermanent. This skeleton is not me, not I , not myself.