Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)

Re-written October 24, 2019

Two Types of Bodies – Physical Body and Manōmaya Kaya

1. We humans have two “bodies.” Manōmaya kāya is the “mental body” (with a trace of matter) born at the beginning of the human existence or human bhava. That manōmaya kāya is pulled into a womb when a “matching womb” becomes available, and that is the start of a “physical body.”  Within a human bhava, there can be many “human births (jāti)” with different “physical bodies.” See, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”

2. One could visualize the manōmaya kāya or the “mental body” as an “energy field” (it has some fine rūpa too) overlapping the solid physical body. All vital functions happen in the mental-body. Thoughts generate in the seat of the mind (hadaya vatthu). There are five pasāda rūpa (cakkhu, sōta, ghāna, jivhā, kāya) around the hadaya vatthu responsible for detecting sights, sounds, smell, taste, and touch.

  • That manōmaya kāya can leave the solid physical body under some conditions. Those who have cultivated supernormal powers (iddhi) can willfully come out of the physical body. During heart operations, manōmaya kāya of some patients come out, as discussed below. In both cases, manōmaya kāya can see and hear without the aid of physical eyes and ears.
  • That is hard to visualize for us. But as you read more posts on the manōmaya kāya, you will see that it makes perfect sense.
When Inside the Physical Body Manōmaya Kaya Depends on the Physical Body

3. When the manōmaya kāya is attached to the physical body, the hadaya vatthu needs the help of the physical body to see, hear, smell, taste, feel the touch, and to recall memories. One can think of the manōmaya kāya as being “trapped inside” the physical body. Physical eyes need to capture images of external objects, ears need to capture sounds, nose helps smelling, tongue helps to taste, and the physical body with the nervous system helps to feel touch.

  • The brain analyzes all those “signals” and transmits to the five pasāda rūpa located in the manōmaya kāya around the hadaya vatthu.
  • The brain is a part of the physical body and is the interface between the physical body and the mental body (manōmaya kāya).

4. The seat of the mind (hadaya vatthu) and the five “internal senses” (pasāda rūpa) are born with the manōmaya kāya at the time of human bhava (patisandhi). All these are very fine rūpa that our eyes cannot see. Thus one can visualize the manōmaya kāya as an “energy field” that overlaps the physical body and provides vitality to the inert physical body.

  • The Buddha compared the situation of a manōmaya kāya separating from the physical body to a sword pulled out of its sheath, or a snake shedding its skin. Once the manōmaya kāya comes out, the body is like an inert log. And that is precisely what happens when one dies. The vitality is gone the instant the manōmaya kāya comes out.
Manōmaya Kaya of a Human (or an Animal) is “Gandhabba

5.  When a person dies, if he/she has more kammic energy left in the human “bhava,” then the manōmaya kāya comes out of the dead body. Then it will wait until another suitable womb becomes available. The manōmaya kāya still in the human bhava, but we cannot see it. It is in “paraloka” or the “netherworld.”

  • While waiting in the paraloka, they could inhale aroma (gandha) from plants and food and get a bit denser. Thus the name “gandhabba” (“gandha” + “abba“ where “abba” means “taking in”).
  • That is why the manōmaya kāya of a human (or an animal) is called “gandhabba.” For more details, see “Clarification of “Mental Body” and “Physical Body” – Different Types of “Kāya.”
  • This gandhabba may stay in that form for even years until pulled into a suitable womb with matching “gati.”

6. The gandhabba also can see and hear, actually with much more flexibility. The capabilities of the physical eye and physical ear are much limited.

  • Of course, a gandhabba cannot smell, taste, or touch because its body is too subtle (it is more like an energy field), and thus, cannot make physical contacts.
  • When the manōmaya kāya is separated from the physical body, it can see and hear without eyes and ears. “Seeing” does not need light (one could look at things far away), and “hearing” does not need air as a medium for the sound to propagate (one could hear sounds from far away). Both mechanisms involve “kirana” (or “rays” in English, similar to electromagnetic radiation).
  • Furthermore, the gandhabba can “travel” very fast; it is not physical travel. For example, the suttas talk about the Buddha or Arahants with iddhi powers traveling to deva lōka in a time comparable to the time taken to “stretch a bent arm.”
Gandhabba Inside the Physical Body

7. When the manōmaya kāya (gandhabba) merges with the physical body, “seeing” and “hearing” happens with the help of the physical eye and the physical ear. It is like being inside a military tank. One needs to use the sensors mounted on the tank to see and hear what is going on outside.

  • Now, “seeing” happens with the help of the physical eye. The physical eye is like a camera that takes a picture. The brain processes that image and sends it to the cakkhu pasāda rūpa in the manōmaya kāya. Same with the ear. Thus, eyes and ears can be thought of as those sensors mounted on that military tank.
  • Therefore, the ability to see and hear also degrade with old age, as the physical eyes and physical ears age.
  • The brain is like the computer in that tank that processes the information coming in through the sensors.
  • Therefore, if there is damage to any of these three “physical instruments” (brain, eyes, ears), the ability to think, see, or hear can be degraded or lost. See “Our Mental Body – Gandhabba” and “Brain – Interface between Mind and Body.”

8. However, actual “seeing” and “hearing” still happen at the two pasāda rūpa (internal eye and internal ear) associated with the manōmaya kāya.

  • For example, have you ever wondered how we could judge the distances as we move around, avoiding bumping into things and each other? The physical eye cannot “judge distances”; see, “The Sense of Being Stared At” by Rupert Sheldrake (2003, p.12). Our eyes can see many things at the same time and judge relative distances of all things. This ability is in the pasāda rūpa, and not in the eyes or the brain.
Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE)

9. The hadaya vatthu of the manōmaya kāya (gandhabba) overlaps the physical heart when the two bodies are together. However, in some situations, the manōmaya kāya can separate from the physical body. That leads to “out-of-body experience (OBE).”

  • Typically, that happens under stressful conditions (e.g., what people refer to as near-death experiences (NDE) or when undergoing operations), but there are some cases where people seem to be able to do it at will.
  • A recent book, “Dying to be me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing,” by Anita Moorjani (2012), describes the OBE experience of her in detail.
  • In his book, “Travels,” the famous author of the Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton (1988, p. 307) mentions his ability to “shift my awareness out of my body and move it around the bedroom,” and he says, “..I didn’t think anything about it… I assumed that anybody could do it..”.
  • A similar account has been given by a woman recently who also thought that “everybody could do it”: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/woman-body-experiences/story?id=22825927
  • Of course, there are many books on OBE.  “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel (2010) gives detailed accounts of case studies of OBE experienced by people undergoing heart operations.
  • A series of books, including “Journeys of the Body,” has been written by Robert A. Monroe based on his experiences.

More information at, “Mental Body – Gandhabba” and “Gandhabba (Manōmaya Kaya).”

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