What Is Head Hair Anyway?

Ajahn Dtun

What Is Head Hair Anyway?

What is head hair anyway?

Regardless of whether it is long or short, it is just the earth element; but we consider it to be our own, ourselves, and so we keep it clean and give it lots of attention and care. You have probably combed your hair and noticed that two or three hairs have fallen out. When you next see this, try reflecting on them by asking yourself: ‘Are these hairs really who I am, my “self? “’

…Hair is a lifeless object, and yet when it’s on our heads, we think it’s attractive, often looking at it in the mirror, admiring its beauty. But would you believe that your hair is intrinsically dirty?

…If we don’t wash our hair for three or four days it becomes greasy due to the oil coming out from the scalp. We all consider this oil to be rather disgusting, even though it comes from our bodies. Our hair always has to be washed for us to feel good and look clean. Our bodies are no different from our hair.

…I’m just speaking rather matter- of-factly with you; it’s nothing overly objectionable. But go on, just try giving your clothing a sniff; it’s really quite repelling. This shows us that the body, whether male or female, is in a perpetual state of decay, but we fail to see this. Instead we see only the present condition of somebody else’s skin and look on it as being attractive. And so when our eyes see other people they focus on their skin, because we see beauty there. We get stuck right there, stuck on the body as it is at present.

How do the Noble Ones, those who have attained to one of the four levels of enlightenment, deal with this problem? If they are determined to intensify their practice so that they develop or walk the path towards a higher attainment, they will try to perceive right through the person they are looking at by superimposing an image of that very same person in the ripeness of old age and finally as a corpse. They do this with the aim of seeing the impermanence and selfless nature of the body. As a result their minds will be equanimous and feel no attraction towards the other person.

Others may take the approach of instantly bringing an asubha image into their minds by visualizing the intrinsic unattractiveness of the other person’s body, regardless of whether it is male or female. As a result their minds will rest in equanimity, feeling no attraction whatsoever towards that person’s body. These are the methods that the Noble Ones will use to counter the mental defilements.

Actually there are many methods, but we fail to make use of them. Instead we do quite the opposite by allowing our minds to proliferate about the body we are looking at. This only gives rise to more defilement. The magga (the path of practice that leads to liberation) of one who upholds moral virtue and leads a celibate life is to further develop sīla, samādhi and paññā so as to make these factors strong and stable. These three factors can be considered as three very strong armed forces, and when they join together they become one mighty military force. The Noble Ones possess this great force and so they are able to bring an asubha image to mind immediately.

However, people lacking in moral virtue are completely unable to do this, because the sight of other people brings up nothing but defilements in their minds. If greed arises, they indulge in it, knowing no limits. And if anger arises, they allow their minds to be consumed by it.

Ultimately the power of the mental defilements can even cause people to physically harm or kill one another.

These reflections by Ajahn Dtun Thiracitto are excerpted from the book, Sacred Equation, (pdf) pp. 45-49, translated into English by “The translator, Wat Boonyawad.”