Paṭikkūlamanasikāra | 32 Parts of the Body


1. Paṭikkūlamanasikāra

Paṭikkūlamanasikāra is a Pāḷi term that is generally translated as "reflections on repulsiveness".

It refers to a traditional Buddhist meditation whereby 31 parts of the body are contemplated in a variety of ways.

In addition to developing sati (mindfulness) and samādhi (concentration), this form of meditation is considered conducive to overcoming desire and lust.

Along with cemetery contemplations, this type of meditation is one of the 2 meditations on "the foul"/unattractiveness (Pāḷi: aśubha)

2. Translation

Paṭikkūla (Pāli) literally means "against" (paṭi) "the slope" or "embankment" (kūla) and has been translated adjectivally as "averse, objectionable, contrary, disagreeable" and, in its noun form, as "loathsomeness, impurity".

Manasikāra (Pāli), derived from manasi (locative of mana thus, loosely, "in mind" or "in thought") and karoti ("to make" or "to bring into") and has been translated as "attention" or "pondering" or "fixed thought".

In contemporary translations, the compound term Paṭikkūla-manasikāra is generally translated as "reflections on repulsiveness" or, adding contextual clarity at the expense of literal accuracy, "reflections on repulsiveness of the body".

Alternate translations include "attention directed to repulsiveness" and "realisation of the impurity of the body".

3. Benefits

This type of meditation is traditionally mentioned as an "antidote" to sensual passion.

This is also one of the "4 protective meditations:

  1. Paṭikkūlamanasikāra
  2. Anussati (recollection of the Buddha),
  3. mettā (benevolence) practice
  4. recollection of death.

In individual discourses, this type of contemplation is identified as a contributor to a variety of mundane and transcendental goals.

For instance, in the Girimānanda Sutta (AN 10.60), Ānanda’s recitation of this and other contemplations immediately cures an ailing monk.

In the Sampasādanīya Sutta (DN 28), Ven. Sāriputta declares that meditating on these 31 body parts leads to "the attainment of vision, in 4 ways",

and briefly outlines how this method can be used as a springboard by which one "comes to know the unbroken stream of human consciousness that is not established either in this world or in the next".

In addition, in the Iddhipāda Saṁyutta's Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 51.20), this meditation subject is used to develop the 4 bases of power (Iddhipāda) by which one is able to achieve liberation from suffering.

While the Pāḷi Canon invariably includes this form of contemplation in its various lists of mindfulness meditation techniques,

the compendious 5th-century Visuddhimagga identifies this type of contemplation (along with Ānāpānasati) as one of the few body-directed meditations particularly suited to the development of Samādhi (Vism. VIII, 43).

4. Objects of contemplation

In Buddhist scriptures, this practice involves mentally identifying 31 parts of the body, contemplated upon in various ways:

head hairs (Pāḷi: kesā), body hairs (lomā), nails (nakhā), teeth (dantā), skin (taco),

flesh (maṁsa), tendons (nahāru), bones (aṭṭhi), bone marrow (aṭṭhimiñja), kidneys (vakkaṁ),

heart (hadayaṁ), liver (yakanaṁ), pleura (kilomakaṁ), spleen (pihakaṁ), lungs (papphāsaṁ),

large intestines (antaṁ), small intestines (antaguṇaṁ), undigested food (udariyaṁ), faeces (karīsaṁ),

bile (pittaṁ), phlegm (semhaṁ), pus (pubbo), blood (lohitaṁ), sweat (sedo), fat (medo),

tears (assu), skin-oil (vasā), saliva (kheḷo), mucus (siṅghānikā), fluid in the joints (lasikā), urine (muttaṁ).

In a few discourses, these 31 body parts are contextualized within the framework of the mahābhūta (the elements) so that the earth element is exemplified by the body parts from head hair to faeces, and the water element is exemplified by bile through urine.

A few other discourses preface contemplation of these 31 body parts in the following manner:

And further, the monk reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin and full of various kinds of unclean things:

The 31 identified body parts in Paṭikkūlamanasikāra contemplation are the same as the first 31 body parts identified in the "Dvattiṁsākāraṁ" ("32 Parts [of the Body]") verse (Khuddakapāṭha 3) regularly recited by monks.

The 32nd body part identified in the latter verse is the brain (matthaluṅga).


hairs of the head, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin,
flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys,
heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs,
intestines, mesentery, undigested food, excrement,
bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat,
tears, grease, spit, mucus, Oil of the Joints, urine,

- and the brain in the head.

/Khuddakapāṭha 3: Dvattiṁsākāraṁ/


kesā, lomā, nakhā, dantā, taco,
maṁsaṁ, nahāru, aṭṭhi, aṭṭhimiñjā, vakkaṁ,
hadayaṁ, yakanaṁ, kilomakaṁ, pihakaṁ, papphāsaṁ,
antaṁ, antaguṇaṁ, udariyaṁ, karīsaṁ,
pittaṁ, semhaṁ, pubbo, lohitaṁ, sedo, medo,
assu, vasā, kheḷo, siṅghānikā, lasikā, muttaṁ,

matthake matthalungan-ti.

Khuddakapāṭha 3: Dvattiṁsākāraṁ /

The Visuddhimagga suggests the enumeration of the 31 body parts implicitly includes the brain in aṭṭhimiñjaṁ, which is traditionally translated as "bone marrow".

5. Methods of contemplation

A canonical formulation of how to meditate on these is:

Just as if a sack with openings at both ends were full of various kinds of grain - wheat, rice, mung beans, kidney beans, sesame seeds, husked rice –

and a man with good eyesight, pouring it out, were to reflect,

‘This is wheat. This is rice. These are mung beans. These are kidney beans. These are sesame seeds. This is husked rice’;

in the same way, the monk reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin and full of various kinds of unclean things:

[as identified in the above enumeration of bodily organs and fluids]...."

In regards to this and other body-centred meditation objects, the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (DN 22) provides the following additional context and expected results:

In this way [a monk] remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or externally on the body in & of itself, or both internally & externally on the body in & of itself.

Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body.

Or his mindfulness that 'There is a body' is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world...."

According to the post-canonical Pāḷi Aṭṭhakathā (commentary) on the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, one can develop "7 kinds of skill in study" regarding these meditation objects through:

  1. repetition of the body parts verbally
  2. repetition of the body parts mentally
  3. discerning the body parts individually in terms of each one's colour
  4. discerning the body parts individually in terms of each one's shape
  5. discerning if a body part is above or below the navel (or both)
  6. discerning the body part's spatial location
  7. spatially and functionally juxtaposing 2 body parts

6. Traditional sources

The name for this type of meditation is found in the sectional titles used in the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Dīgha Nikāya 22) and the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10),

where the contemplation of the 32 body parts is entitled, Paṭikkūla-manasikāra-pabbaṁ (which, word-for-word, can be translated as "repulsiveness-reflection-section").

Subsequently, in the post-canonical Visuddhimagga and other Aṭṭhakathā works, Paṭikkūlamanasikāra is explicitly used when referring to this technique.

This form of meditation is mentioned in the following Suttas in the ḷi Canon (listed in order of nikāya and then sutta number within Nikāya):

  1. Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta ("The Great Frames of Reference", Dīgha Nikāya 22)
  2. Sampasādanīya Sutta ("Serene Faith", DN 28)
  3. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta ("Frames of References", Majjhima Nikāya 10).
  4. Mahāhatthipadopama Sutta ("The Great Elephant Footprint Simile", MN 28)
  5. Mahārāhulovāda Sutta ("The Greater Exhortation to Rahula", MN 62)
  6. Kāyagatāsati Sutta ("Mindfulness Immersed in the Body", MN 119)
  7. Dhātu-vibhanga Sutta ("An Analysis of the Properties", MN 140)
  8. In the Saṁyutta Nikāya's collection regarding the 4 bases of power (Iddhipāda), in a sutta called Vibhanga ("Analysis", Saṁyutta Nikāya 51.20)
  9. Udāyī Sutta ("To Udāyī", Aṅguttara Nikāya 6.29)
  10. Girimānanda Sutta ("To Girimānanda", AN 10.60)

Elsewhere in Pāḷi literature, this type of meditation is discussed extensively in the post-canonical Visuddhimagga (Vism. VIII, 44-145).

In several of these sources, this meditation is identified as one of a variety of meditations on the body along with, for instance, the mindfulness of breathing (Ānāpānasati).