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

If you have not read the post, “Manomaya Kaya (gandhabba) and the Physical Body“, you may want to read that before reading this post.

1. One could visualize the manomaya kaya or the “mental body” as the “life giving energy field” (it has some fine rupa too) overlapping the solid physical body. The working mind, cittaja kaya (thought stream) is in the manomaya kaya, and it is associated with a very fine rupa called hadaya vatthu, and that is where the thoughts arise. 

2. When the manomaya kaya is attached to the physical body, thoughts are generated in a mechanism that involve both the hadaya vatthu and the brain (together with the nervous system in the physical body). This is why the “thinking ability” degenerates as one gets old. However, the hadaya vatthu does not overlap the brain; it overlaps the physical heart.

  • Brain is a part of the physical body and is the interface between the physical body and the mental body (manomaya kaya).

3. Not only the mind, but the other five “internal senses” (pasada rupa) are born with the manomaya kaya at the time of rebirth (patisandhi). All these are very fine rupa, that our eyes cannot see. Thus one can visualize the manomaya kaya as an “energy field” that overlaps the physical body and provides the vitality to the inert physical body.

  • The Buddha compared the situation of a manomaya kaya separating from the physical body to a sword pulled out of its sheath, or a snake shedding its skin. Once the manomaya kaya comes out, the body is like an inert log. And that is exactly what happens when one dies; the vitality is gone the instant the manomaya kaya comes out.

4. This manomaya kaya is called “gandhabba“.  When a person dies, if he/she has more kammic energy left in the human “bhava“, then the gandhabba just comes out of the dead body.

  • Until a suitable womb is found matching its kamma seeds (“gathi“), this gandhabba may stay in that form for even years.

5. The gandhabba also has the ability to see and hear, actually with much more flexibility; the capabilities of the eye and ear pasada rupa  are diminished when working with physical eye and physical ear.

  • Of course the gandhabba does not have touch, taste, and for the most part smell sensations, because its body is so fine.
  • When the manomaya kaya is separated from the physical body, “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 things far away). Both those are done via “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 travelling to deva loka in a time comparable to the time taken to “stretch a bent arm”.

6. When the manomaya kaya (gandhabba) is merged with the physical body, “seeing” and “hearing” is also done with the help of the physical eye and the physical ear. It is like being inside a military tank and using the sensors mounted on the tank to see and hear what is going on outside.

  • Now, “seeing” is done with the help of the physical eye: the “eye” (eye indriya) of the manomaya kaya is well inside the physical eye, and objects are “seen” through the physical eye. 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 any of these  three “physical instruments” (brain, eyes, ears) gets damaged, the ability to think, see, or hear can be degraded or lost.

7. However, actual “seeing” and “hearing” are still due to the two pasada rupa (internal eye and internal ear) associated with the manomaya kaya.

  • For example, have you ever wondered how we can judge the distances as we move around avoiding bumping in to things and each other? The physical eye does not have the capability to “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 pasada rupa, and not in the eyes or the brain.

8. gandhabba cannot smell, taste, or touch, because its body is very fine and thus no physical contact can be made. But it has a way of taking energy form “gandha” (aroma) and that is why it is called gandhabba (“gandha“+ “abba“, where “abba” means taking in).

9. The hadaya vatthu of the manomaya kaya (gandhabba) overlaps the physical heart when the two bodies are together. However, in some situations the manomaya kaya can separate from the physical body, and that is what is called the “out-of-body experience (OBE)”.

  • Normally, it 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”, 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”: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/woman-body-experiences/story?id=22825927
  • Of course there are many books written 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”, have been written by Robert A. Monroe based on his experiences.

Next, “Gathi (Character), Anusaya (Temptations), and Asava (Cravings)“, ……….

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