Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) and Manōmaya Kāya
Re-written October 24, 2019; revised January 30, 2020; February 16, 2021; July 16, 2022
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 human existence or human bhava. That manōmaya kāya is pulled into a womb when a “matching womb” becomes available, which 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.”
- More details on the two types of “bodies” at “Manōmaya Kaya (gandhabba) and the Physical Body.”
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.
- We experience the world with the “mental body” or the manōmaya kāya (also called a gandhabba.) This is explained in “Ghost 1990 Movie – Good Depiction of Gandhabba Concept.”
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 physical body’s help to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and recall memories. One can think of the manōmaya kāya as “trapped inside” the physical body. Physical eyes need to capture images of external objects; ears need to capture sounds; the nose helps smell; the tongue helps taste, and the body’s nervous system feels the touch.
- The brain analyzes all those “signals” and transmits them to the five pasāda rūpa located in the manōmaya kāya around the hadaya vatthu.
- The brain is part of the physical body and is the interface between the physical and 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 leaves, 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 leaves the dead body. Then it will wait until another suitable womb becomes available. The manōmaya kāya is 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 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.”
How Does the Gandhabba See and Hear Outside the Physical Body?
6. When outside a physical body, gandhabba sees and hears differently. Seeing does not involve light, and hearing does not require air.
- Perhaps the best way to think about this is how Brahma sees. As we have discussed, Brahma does not have physical eyes and ears. A Brahma is just like a gandhabba.
- Furthermore, Brahma realms are well above the Earth, and there is insufficient air for sound to travel. Brahmās can hear without sound waves traveling through the air. In the same way, they can see without light. Those mechanisms are not perceivable to us.
- That is why they can see and hear over very long distances. This is meant by “Dibba cakkhu/Dibba sota” or “divine eye/divine ear.”
- Therefore, gandhabbas can see and hear over long distances. That does not require light/air or (physical) eyes/ears.
7. Therefore, a gandhabba can see and hear more flexibly. The capabilities of the physical eye and physical ear are much limited.
- A gandhabba cannot smell, taste, or touch because its body is too subtle (it is more like an energy field. Thus, it cannot make physical contact.
- 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 suttā 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
8. 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 considered sensors mounted on that military tank.
- Therefore, seeing and hearing 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.”
9. 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 to 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 simultaneously and judge the 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)
10. 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).”
- In his book “Travels,” the famous author of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton (1988, p. 307), mentions his ability to “shift my awareness out of my body and move it around the bedroom.” He says, “..I didn’t think anything about it… I assumed that anybody could do it..”.
- Recently, a woman described how she thought that “everybody could do it”: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/woman-body-experiences/story?id=22825927.
- A series of books, including “Journeys of the Body,” has been written by Robert A. Monroe based on his experiences.
Near-Death Experiences (NDE)
11. Only a few people can experience OBE at will. Typically, OBE happens under stressful conditions, most commonly during heart operations. These have a unique name of near-death experiences (NDE.) The following video provides a good summary:
- Of course, there are many books on NDE. “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel (2010) gives detailed accounts of NDE case studies experienced by people undergoing heart operations.
- A recent book, “Dying to be me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing,” by Anita Moorjani (2012), describes the NDE experience in detail.
Our Thoughts Do Nor Arise in the Brain, and We Do Not See With Our Eyes
12. The mind-door is the hadaya vatthu in the gandhabba or the manōmaya kāya. Thoughts arise in the hadaya vatthu in the gandhabba, even when the gandhabba is INSIDE a physical human body. See “Gandhabba Sensing the World – With and Without a Physical Body.”
- “Seeing” happens in the cakkhu pasāda rūpa in the gandhabba. When outside a human body, that cakkhu pasāda can see by itself.
- When inside a human body, that cakkhu pasāda is shielded by the body. In that case, the visual signal must come through the eyes, processed by the brain, and that signal is transmitted to the cakkhu pasāda rūpa.
- Sometimes, people are born with the cakkhu pasāda rūpa, but the optic nerve (or the physical eye itself) may be damaged. They cannot see because the brain is not getting a signal from the eyes. But if the gandhabba can come out of the body, it can see by itself without needing the help of the brain. The following video clearly illustrates this situation.
- However, in other cases, one may be born blind because one may not have the cakkhu pasāda rūpa. In that case, even if the gandhabba comes out of the body, it would not be able to see.
- All five sensory faculties are in the gandhabba or the manōmaya kāya. The brain first processes those signals, and then those signals arrive at the corresponding pasāda rūpa. Each pasāda rūpa transfers the signal to the hadaya vatthu, and it is the hadaya vatthu that really “sees,” “hears,” etc.
A new series of posts discusses life in great detail, “Origin of Life.”