Buddhist Sisters And St. Augustine: On The Interpretations Of The Body

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On the Interpretations of the Body Both the Buddhist nuns and St. Augustine agree that the body affects how the soul attains enlightenment, but they disagree on the role that the body plays in this process. The Buddhist nuns contend that humans must reject the body in order to achieve enlightenment because the body is a hindrance to the soul, while St. Augustine emphasizes that the body is an instrument that humans must utilize to refine their souls as a means to achieve enlightenment. Thus, both St. Augustine and the Buddhist nuns disagree in their interpretations of the fundamental purpose of the body, specifically in how the body affects the soul and whether the relationship between the body and soul is symbiotic, where both coexist to …show more content…
Because of their different interpretations of the purpose of the body and the relationship between body and soul, both St. Augustine and the Buddhist nuns offer different understandings of why humans cannot utilize the body to uncover truth, or a genuine understanding of the world as a whole. St. Augustine contends that humans cannot use their body to unveil truth because the body is rooted in corruption, while the Buddhist nuns contend that humans cannot use their body to unveil truth because the body eventually will decay. Still, both St. Augustine and the Buddhist nuns agree that once humans accept the premise that the body is not a reliable source of truth, they can enable their soul to become enlightened by using their bodily sins to refine their soul or by rejecting their body, respectively. However, they each have different views on how bodily suffering influences the human path to enlightenment. While St. Augustine argues that bodily suffering enables the soul to attain enlightenment, the Buddhist nuns argue that humans must abandon …show more content…
While St. Augustine contends that the body aids in the refinement of the soul, the Buddhist nuns would disagree with this premise because of their different understanding of the body’s purpose. The Buddhist nuns argue that humans must reject the body and its related passions, desires, and worldly attachments to attain enlightenment. Subha, a Buddhist nun who has attained enlightenment, serves as a key example of how rejecting the body enables the human soul to attain an enlightened state in which desires hold no value. When pursued by an undesired man, she asserts, “Your mind is out of control, full of passion. But I am serene; my passion is gone. I am clear and my mind is free in every way” (Therigatha, 16). She contrasts her pursuer who has desires and physical attachments with herself, who has renounced desire and worldly possessions. Her use of the word “free” to describe her mind elucidates that she has enlightened her soul by rejecting her body. Additionally, the way she contrasts herself with the man demonstrates how bodily passion distorts the control of the soul. Moreover, she claims, “there is nothing in heaven or earth that I want. I don’t even know about desire – what is it? – only that the root has been cut out through the Great Way” (Therigatha, 18). Subha explains how her

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