Asubha (the unbeautiful, or just loathsome) is contemplated in a famous and somewhat notorious (in the West) form of Buddhist meditation which takes this as its name. In order to counteract an unhealthy attachment to the beautiful (subha), one contemplates the unbeautiful. How does one do this? Most commonly, one concentrates on and imagines the process by which the beautiful thing one is attached to will die, disintegrate, and fall apart. This is often practiced, therefore, in cremation grounds, or in specially cultivated areas where donated corpses are left to fall apart through the action of animals and time.
The practice of asubha meditation can be shocking and quite painful. The dedicated practice of asubha typically takes a very long time.
Want to start with an asubha-nimittam (a sign or object of unbeauty)? Try this youtube video. Warning: probably not safe for work, and may be shocking to your sensibilities.
It’s a sad story, but good news for us! Thank goodness that esteemed Language Instructor and a man I’m grateful to call my own Lokkru (teacher) has started putting video clips (podcasts) up on the internet.
And the sad story up now, in two parts, is the story so close to the vast majority of Cambodian hearts: Preah Ko Preah Keo. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this story in Khmer culture. And now, as long as (a) you have an internet connection, and (b) you understand Khmer, you too can watch a version of this story as directed by Lokkru Frank Smith.
Well, it’s a more interesting title than ‘reading,’ which is all this post is about.
This last week I was bound up with a larger than usual share of non-dissertation duties, but I still managed to get through two wonderful, wonderful new books on Buddhism, and a very fun book on Zombies (and therefore about deathpower, and therefore work-related). All highly recommended. Continue reading
This story appears to have captured the imagination of the world. As the story is reported, an 8-year old girl disappeared almost two decades ago near the Vietnamese border, when she was out watching cattle with her brother. The family never saw her again. Until the other day, when a ‘jungle woman,’ who is supposed to be ‘without language,’ ‘naked,’ and ‘walking just like a monkey,’ was captured stealing food from someone’s lunchbox. She was immediately identified as this girl through her possession of a similar/identical scar on her arm, and has been taken into custody by the family. There’s really no other word for it, since the young woman keeps trying to escape back to the forest, ripping her clothes off, etc. Some of the pictures published show villagers crowding around staring and pointing. It’s all a rather piteous spectacle. The sheer number of photos also indicate that she’s been under the lens for far too long in her brief period of return. Continue reading
Lots of reading this week: The new Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, almost completely on Cambodia; David Graeber’s big book on anthropological value, Thom Hartmann’s atrocious but well-intentioned eco-nightmare, and Alfie Kohn’s lovely caution against bribing your kids.
Ever since James C. Scott’s “Weapons of the Weak,” the concept of the remembered village has been a powerful notion with which to critique the all-too-cynical understandings of those who hearken to a past to critique the present. ((Most famously, perhaps, Hobsbawm and Ranger’s annoying and still-influential Invention of Tradition. Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger. 1983. The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
)) It may be a ‘conservative’ move, but that is never the only thing it is. In an era of rapid mechanization of agriculture and the attendant landlessness and poverty that produced in Malaysia, Scott conceived of the ‘remembered village,’ a possibly romanticized vision of the village prior to the ravages of the Green Revolution, as a way of offending against and criticizing the rise of mechanized, feral capitalism by those who were suffering most from it. After all, in that situation, it was hardly those who were profiting the most who made the most frequent appeals to the order of the past (though they did so as well, usually to indicate that the respect they were due was no longer coming, as a result of the poor morals of the poor).