I heard about this on the radio a year or two ago. Blew my mind. We are 90% made up of tiny organisms. 90% of what I call “me is actually a collection of bacteria and microbes. Read the article in Scientific American. Wow! The headline is a little misleading. Its not so much that we have bacteria in our bodies, it’s more that our bacteria constitute most of our body.

I also have to say, that from a Buddhist perspective this is very helpful information. Saying that there is no self doesn’t mean we don’t exist in a relative way. it means that 90% of what we think is our self, could easily be described as many different kinds of bacteria all hanging together yet not really an individual “me at all. More like an “us”. Then there is the water and minerals, gasses and… well whatever else makes up the 10% of me that’s not bacteria.This made me look at it in a completely different way. Everything that could be called “me” is just hanging together temporarily in the form of me. Not solid, not permanent and definitely not independently existing. I depend on all that bacteria to hang together in an interdependent way, just so I can have this body for this life, and that bacteria must be reproducing and dying all the time so its not even this body for this life. It’s all so trippy… Like I said it blew my mind!

(Scientist friends please excuse my ignorance. Buddhists please also excuse my ignorance. I’m just trying to describe my own process of grappling with this information)


Over the past 10 years or so, however, researchers have demonstrated that the human body is not such a neatly self-sufficient island after all. It is more like a complex ecosystem—a social network—containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth and especially intestines. In fact, most of the cells in the human body are not human at all. Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to one.

via How Bacteria in Our Bodies Protect Our Health: Scientific American.