Brain – Interface between Mind and Body

April 22, 2016

1. Contrary to what scientists believe, our minds are not located in the brain (this is another prediction from Buddha Dhamma that will be proven correct in the future).

  • The “mind door” where citta (or thoughts) arise is at the hadaya vatthu, located not in our physical bodies, but in the manomaya kaya of the gandhabba; see, “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction“.
  • The gandhabba can be thought of as having a very fine body (which weighs much less than a gram) that overlaps the physical body; see, “Ghost in the Machine – Synonym for the Manomaya Kaya?“.
  • The hadaya vatthu overlaps the heart in the physical body. That is why we feel a burning sensation close to the heart when something traumatic happens (like the news of the death of a child or a parent). We don’t say, “Oh, my head felt like burning when I heard the news”. It is the heart area that feels it. (Head may start hurting later, if one keeps thinking about the loss).
  • On the other hand, when we overuse our five physical senses or when we think hard about a difficult problem, it is the head that hurts. Because in those situations, the brain has to do a lot of processing. While watching a movie, our brains work overtime to convert those sense inputs from the eyes (cakkhu indriya) and the ears (sota indriya). When we think about a hard problem, the mana indriya in the brain has to work hard; see below.

2. As we discussed in the post, “Body Types in Different Realms – Importance of Manomaya Kaya“, our physical bodies are temporary shelters or “shells” that are used by our minds (located in the gandhabba‘s fine body) to experience sense inputs from the outside world.

3. As we discussed in those and other previous posts, before entering the mother’s womb and starting to “build a new physical body”, the gandhabba has a very fine body; thus it cannot experience taste or touch, even though some can “digest odors” and become a bit more dense.

  • A gandhabba waiting for a womb is normally about the size of the fully-grown human, but is so fine that at the moment of “okkanthi” or entering the mother’s womb, he/she will enter THROUGH the mother’s body and collapse to the size of the zygote when taking possession of it; see, “What does Buddha Dhamma (Buddhism) say about Birth Control?“.
  • Thus a gandhabba, when outside waiting for a suitable womb, is just like a ghost shown in the movies; of course a human cannot see it even using technological advances. It is much smaller in mass than the first cell formed by the union of the mother and father, the zygote.
  • The physical body grows starting with that single cell (zygote) using nutrition from the mother, and once outside the womb, it grows to the full size by consuming food.
  • Thus it is useful to have this visual, where a physical body of one to a few hundred pounds is controlled by a very fine gandhabba trapped inside it.

4. Once inside a physical body, gandhabba has to use the physical body to interact with the outside world. It is like being trapped in a solid shell. Initially, its mind will be in the bhavanga state (see, “Citta Vithi – Processing of Sense Inputs“) and will not be conscious about its environment, except for body sensations until the eyes, ears, tongue, and the nose are developed.

  • In a human, the signals coming through the “physical senses” (eyes, ears, etc) are transmitted to the five pasada rupa located in the gandhabba; these pasada rupa then pass that information to the hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) also located in the gandhabba; see, “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction“.
  • This is how our minds receive information from the external world.
  • Now the question arises: “How do the sense inputs coming through the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and the body, are transmitted to the pasada rupa located close to the hadaya vatthu?”. Note that the hadaya vatthu is located close to the physical heart.

5. It is the brain that acts as the intermediary between those physical sense inputs and the five pasada rupa. It processes the incoming information to a form that can be understood by the mind (hadaya vatthu).

  • First, the sense inputs coming in to the physical body through the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and the body, are transmitted to specific regions of the brain. This has been well-researched by the scientists over the past hundred years. The following figure shows the specific areas of the brain that analyze the data from the five senses.

Brain and five Senses

  • After this processing is done, science is unable to explain how the mind comprehends the corresponding signals. For example, in vision, there is no “picture” formed in the back of the head; see, “On Intelligence” by Jeff Hawkins (2005) for a nice discussion.

6. The signals for vision, sounds, smells, and taste come into the body through specific body parts. In contrast, the touch sensations can come from anywhere in the body, and is accomplished via an intricate system of nerves:


  • These nerve signals are sent to the brain for processing (see the “touch and pressure” processing area in the figure in #5 above).

7. By the way, it is important to note that the misty gandhabba has a similar “nervous system” that is overlapped with the physical nervous system shown above (Yes. that is extremely fine). This is not quite relevant to the present discussion, but it is there to impart kamma vipaka via the physical body:

  • The physical nervous system has to align with the nervous system of the gandhabba and the latter could change (according to kamma vipaka), which makes our body’s nervous system to go out-of-alignment for proper body function leading to aches and pains; see, #6 of “11. Magga Phala and Ariya Jhanas via Cultivation of Saptha Bojjanga“.

8. Coming back to our discussion, the signals from the other four senses are also sent to specific brain areas (indicated in the figure in #5 above) via specialized neural pathways. For example, the visual signals from the eyes are transmitted as shown below:

Eye Indriya

  • Once those sense inputs from the five physical senses are processed by the brain, they are “transmitted” to the corresponding five pasada rupa in the gandhabba (manomaya kaya) overlapping the physical heart, as discussed below.

9. So far we have identified five of gandhabba‘s “windows to the outside world” from his/her “shell” or the physical body: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and the body.

  • What about the “dhamma” that are the finest rupa (these are called mano rupa) that interact with the physical body? This is how we think about “random things” out of the blue. For example, we may be washing dishes in the kitchen, and all of a sudden, thoughts about a friend or a relative may come to the mind.
  • Just like a picture of a dog sitting in the kitchen comes in through the eyes, the thoughts about a friend — who may be thousand miles away — comes through the mana indriya in the head (inside the brain).
  • We discussed this in a previous post: “What are Dhamma? – A Deeper Analysis“.

10. So, how do the signals processed in the brain due to incoming vision, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dhamma are passed to the five pasada rupa and the hadaya vatthu?

  • This is described in detail in “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction“. Those signals are transmitted from the brain region to the heart region (where the five pasada rupa and the hadaya vatthu are located).
  • It is well-known that there are electromagnetic brain waves of different types (alpha, beta, theta, and gamma). I will write a post on this in the future. These waves are called “kirana” in the Tipitaka.

11. When information comes to one of the five pasada rupa, it passes on that signal to the hadaya vatthu by impinging (hitting) the hadaya vatthu. That results in the hadaya vatthu vibrating 17 times, just like a clamped blade vibrates a certain number of times when hit by an object; see, “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction” and “Citta Vithi – Processing of Sense Inputs“.

  • This is the origin of a citta vithi of 17 citta; each citta in a citta vithi correspond to a single vibration of hadaya vatthu. This 17 thought moment time period is the lifetime of a hadaya rupa ( vibrational energy) of the hadaya vatthu.
  • It is a common mistake to take this to mean that any rupa has a lifetime of 17 thought moments. That is a very bad mistake; see, “Does any Object (Rupa) Last only 17 Thought Moments?“.
  • It is not possible to describe these details in one or even several posts. One may need to look through other posts to clarify some concepts. The “Search” button on the top right is a good resource for this task.

12. While the five pasada rupa have to strike the hadaya vatthu to pass on their signals, signals from the mana indriya can exchange information with the hadaya vatthu directly.

  • When the mana indriya interacts with the hadaya vatthu, that also results in citta vithi. Those manodvara citta vithi are not fixed in length.
  • Still only one of the six sense signal can be in contact with the hadaya vatthu at a given time. But since the process is very fast, billions of citta vithi can run through the hadaya vatthu “in the blink of eye”.

13. Therefore, this whole process is best visualized due to the interaction between two overlapping systems: the physical body and the corresponding fine body of the gandhabba.

  • When the gandhabba is expelled from the body under stressful situations, it can float above the physical body, and physical body becomes inert until the gandhabba returns to it; see, “Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)“.

14. Thus it is clear that the brain plays a major role in shaping our future. Similarly, the five physical senses play vital roles too.

  • If any one of the five physical senses are damaged, we lose the corresponding “window to the external world”. If both eyes are damaged we will not be able to see; if the sensors inside the ears go bad, we will not be able to hear, etc.
  • But the most critical is, of course, the brain. If the brain is damaged, signals from other senses will not be processed and we will not be able to interact with the external world, i.e., being brain dead is virtually equivalent to being dead.
  • However, if one’s brain becomes totally damaged due to an accident, for example, it will not affect the gandhabba inside. It is just that the gandhabba will not be able to communicate with the external world. And if damage to the brain results in the death of the physical body, the gandhabba will just come out of the dead body and will wait for a suitable womb.

15. This is why it does not really matter if one is killed by an accident or whether one dies due to an illness or old age. The gandhabba‘s future is determined by his/her gathi, past kamma (kamma seeds), etc.

  • If one is killed in an accident, the gandhabba will immediately be kicked out of the dead body and will wait for a suitable womb, if there is still more kammic energy left for the human bhava (in an accident, that is likely).
  • But if one gets to old age and dies or dies due to an illness — and if one has exhausted kammic energy for the human bhava — then the cuti-patisandhi will happen at that time. If one is to become a deva, a deva will appear instantaneously in the corresponding deva world. If one is to become an animal, an animal gandhabba will emerge from the dead body and will have to wait for a suitable womb to become available.

16. It is also clear why we need to take good care of the body, our sense faculties, and of course our brains. gandhabba‘s (our) ability to make decisions depends on all those faculties working in optimum condition.

  • We have a very short time of around 100 years to get rid our bad (immoral) gathi, cultivate good (moral) gathi, and comprehend the real nature of this world (anicca, dukkha, anatta), and be free from future suffering.
  • We need to try to get to the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana and be free from the four lowest realms (apayas), or at least make progress towards that goal so that in a future life we will have a tihetuka birth that makes it easier to attain Nibbana.
  • In order to accomplish those things, we need to eat well, exercise well, and take care of our bodies to perform optimally. We also need to stay away from drugs and alcohol, and also associate with those who have similar goals (and stay away from those with bad habits).
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