Gandhabba Sensing the World – With and Without a Physical Body

June 10, 2016

1. Physical bodies are just temporary shelters for the gandhabba. In a single “human bhava” or the “existence as a human”, gandhabba could be using one to hundreds of different physical bodies; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein” and “Gandhabba – Only in Human and Animal Realms“. In between two consecutive “physical lives”, the gandhabba is in the nether world or “paralowa“; see, “Hidden World of the gandhabba: Netherworld (Para Lōka)“.

  • Thus all racial and cultural divisions that people fight daily are meaningless; those identities change as the gandhabba “switches physical bodies” from life to life. In principle, a Chinese may be born as a “black person” in Africa or as a “white person” in Europe in the next life. However, adjacent lives are normally in similar geographic locations, because of the condition for matching “gathi“. Still, in the next “human bhava” — which may come after billions of years — one’s gathi would have changed drastically.
  • As more and more people start grasping the Buddha Dhamma, most of the violence in the world could reduce. Along that line, one who may be born to poverty in this life may be born a wealthy person in the very next life (if enough merits accrued), and vice versa. All these struggles we go through are only for an insignificantly short time in the scale of sansara (cycle of rebirths) or even compared to the duration of a single human bhava (which could last many hundreds of years). Thus it is wise to “invest in the long term”.

2. When inside a physical body, the gandhabba‘s sensory system is shielded, and that is where our physical sense faculties (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mana indriya in the brain) are used as intermediaries; see below.

  • When outside a physical body (and waiting for a suitable womb), the gandhabba cannot eat or physically touch tangible things, because it does not have a dense body. But it can see, hear and smell (very fine odors). Furthermore, it uses a very sophisticated sensory system (not light or sound waves) to see and hear, which we will also discuss briefly below.

3. The Buddha analyzed the world in many different ways. Here we discuss another such analysis, since it can provide different insights about the gandhabba.

  • We have six sense faculties (indriya or äyatana) in order to sense six different types of “matter” (rupa) in our world. There is a subtle connection between our six sense faculties and the types of “matter” in our world. We will discuss this connection.
  • By the way, indriya and äyatana have totally different meanings. For example, eyes are indriya when we just happen to see things, but they BECOME äyatana when they are used for pleasure, i.e., to deliberately look at sensual things to enjoy them. Only an Arahant uses his/her sense faculties are indriya all the time. We will use just äyatana hereafter since  indriya are included there.
  • This is another way to define and analyze our world. Everything in our world belongs to those 12 äyatana. Sometimes they are called 6 ajjhatta äyatana (or internal äyatana or sense faculties) and 6 bahiddha äyatana (things in the external world that we sense).

4. These are listed in Pali in #6 of the post, “What are Dhamma? – A Deeper Analysis“. In English:

  • We touch the densest material (pottabba) out there with our bodies (kaya).
  • We taste next less dense tastes (rasa) with our tongues (jivha).
  • We smell with next less dense minute particles with smell (gandha) with our noses (ghana).
  • We hear using vibrations propagating through air (sadda) with our ears (sota).
  • We see using photons propagating through space (varna) with our eyes (cakkhu).
  • Our consciousness  arises via dhamma  in the mind plane with our minds (mano).

5. The last type of rupa (dhamma) are not solid matter, but just energy; see, “What are Dhamma? – A Deeper Analysis“. They are not yet condensed to the suddhashtaka stage.

  • Thus dhamma do not occupy space (äkasa) and are in the mind plane or the mental world.
  • All other five types of rupa occupy space, and are in the material world.
  • So rupa cannot be translated as “matter”. This is discussed in “Our Two Worlds : Material and Mental“. This is why sometimes it is better use the Pali words.

6. It is actually through a complicated process that a gadhabbaya sees, hears, etc  while being inside a physical body (karaja kaya) such as ours. I have explained the basics in “Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises“, “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction“, and many other posts.

  • However, it is much easier to grasp how a gandhabba sees and hears while being outside the physical body.  Even though most of us may not have had such “out-of-body experiences”, it can happen especially during heart operations; see, “Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)“. Some people have a natural ability to do that on their own, as discussed in that post.
  • Thus, let us discuss how a stand-alone gandhabba sees and hears, while being outside a physical body; this is not only simpler, but provides us with some insights.

7. The actual sense faculties produced by kammic energy at the cuti-patisandhi moment are in the kammaja kaya of the  gandhabba. The fine body of the gandhabba has three components as we have discussed and will again discuss below. The sense faculties are all in the kammaja kaya. 

  • The kammaja kaya of the  gandhabba has seven basic elements called dasaka, meaning entities with ten items (decads). They arise from suddhashtaka, which is composed of eight “items” as we have discussed; see, “The Origin of Matter – Suddhashtaka“. Different types of dasaka are formed just by incorporating one mode of spin (bramana) and one mode of rotation (paribramana); see, “31 Realms Associated with the Earth“.
  • One added component gives rise to jivita rupa (pronounced “jeevitha roopa”); this is likely to come from the spin (bramana) mode, but I cannot be certain. This jivita rupa is in all these other types of dasaka, because that is what “maintains life”. Thus different types of dasaka (see below) arise due to different modes of rotation (paribramana).

8. Now we can list the different types of 7 dasaka (or decads) that are in the  kammaja kaya of the  gandhabba . 

  • Vatthu dasaka (mind; also called hadaya vatthu): suddhashtakajivita rupa + hadaya rupa
  • Kaya dasaka (body plan): suddhashtakajivita rupa + kaya pasada rupa
  • Cakkhu dasaka (eye indriya): suddhashtakajivita rupa + cakkhu pasada rupa
  • Sota dasaka (ear indriya): suddhashtakajivita rupa + sota pasada rupa
  • Ghana dasaka (nose indriya): suddhashtakajivita rupa + ghana pasada rupa
  • Jivha dasaka (ear indriya): suddhashtakajivita rupa + jivha pasada rupa
  • Bhava dasaka (bhava): suddhashtakajivita rupa + itthi or purisa rupa (determines female/male nature of the body)

Again, it is to be noted that jivita rupaitthi and purisa rupa, and the five pasada rupa are not “physical matter”, but modes of energy in spin and vibration of suddhashtaka.

  • This is analogous to different electron orbitals giving rise to different types of molecules in chemistry.

9. A gandhabba is born with those 7 dasakas (i.e., kammaja kaya) and immediately the mind starts generating citta (thoughts), which are vipaka citta and for the most part in the bhavanga. Thus now the gandhabba has a cittaja kaya as well. Note that cittaja kaya is all MENTAL.

  • Almost at the same time, both the kammaja kaya and the cittaja kaya start producing more suddhashtaka giving rise to the utuja kaya. This utuja kaya is similar to the “aura” that surrounds our own bodies; in fact, that aura is part of our own (i.e., gandhabba‘s) utuja kaya. Some people claim to be able to see aura; those with abhinna powers can see them.
  • Thus the best way to visualize a gandhabba is to imagine a human with just the aura (without the physical body). Since kammaja kaya consists of only a few suddhāshtaka, and the cittaja kaya is just thoughts, something like an “aura body” is all a gandhabba has.
  • Right now, this fine body of my gandhabba overlaps my own physical body. All parts of my physical body are in the fine body of my gandhabba (which is a blueprint for my physical body).
  • While waiting for a physical body, this gandhabba can inhale aroma from fruits, vegetables etc and acquire a fine physical body (karaja kaya) too.  Then it expands to the grown size of a human, but of course is too fine to be seen by us.
  • Thus a free-standing gandhabba may have four types of “bodies”: kammaja kaya,  cittaja kaya, utuja kaya, and karaja kaya.

10. This gandhabba can actually see over large distances and hear over large distances and travel instantly to far destinations. Sight does not need light and sound is not carried through vibrations in the air. It is equivalent to seeing and hearing with abhinna powers. In fact, this is how those with abhinna powers can see through walls and hear over large distances; they have control over their gandhabba kaya or the manomaya kaya.

  • However, since it has only a very fine body (like air), it cannot taste food or touch solid things. In order to use those sense faculties, the gandhabba needs to be inside a solid human body, i.e., it has to take possession of a zygote in a womb and build a physical body. This process is described in “What does Buddha Dhamma (Buddhism) say about Birth Control?“.

11. It is hard to believe, but when a gandhabba builds a physical body (inside a womb), those seven dasakas — each of which are the “size of a suddhashtaka” — determine all critical functions as well as the blueprint for that physical body.

  • The physical body (karaja kaya) of the human is built according to kaya dasaka  and  bhava dasaka, but also takes into account physical qualities mother and father (eye and skin color, as well as size are good examples).
  • When inside a physical body, the external signals that come to the physical body via eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body touches, are converted in the brain into the form that can be sensed by the 5 pasada rupa (they are really the 5 dasakas with corresponding pasada rupa). This somewhat complicated process is discussed in “Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises“, “Gandhabba (Manomaya Kaya)- Introduction“, among others.

12. In fact, the blueprint in the kammaja kaya of the gandhabba has all the details of physical organs as well; when the utuja kaya is formed, it has this blueprint. Some people are born without limbs because past kamma vipaka taken into account by the kammaja kaya.

  • Some are born with physical eyes, but without the cakkhu pasada in the kammaja kaya, so they will never be able to see; they are the ones who are born blind. Similarly, there are those who are born deaf, and sometimes both. That is because the gandhabba does not have the  cakkhu pasada and/or  sota pasada.
  • However, in some cases the  gandhabba may have the  cakkhu pasada, but during birth the optical nerves in the brain may get damaged; in such cases, it may be possible to have vision restored.

13. It is in fact the gandhabba that controls the otherwise inert physical body. There is a carbon copy of all parts of the  physical body (including the nervous system) in the fine utuja kaya of the gandhabba.

  • What is the mechanism used by the gandhabba to control the inert physical body? The easiest way to visualize this is to consider the following: If we put some iron dust on a piece of paper and move a magnet below the paper, we can see that those dust particles move along as one moves the magnet. If we move the magnet in a circle, dust particles move along that circle. In the same way, when the gandhabba moves its utuja kaya, the physical body follows that motion.
  • Thus, what the gandhabba does is similar to what the magnet did in the above analogy. But it is bit more complicated, because moving heavy body parts need much more energy. This is where the physical nervous system comes into play. The brain, in synchronization with the mind (hadaya vatthu), send signals to muscles to move. Energy to move those muscles come from the food we eat.
  • Both the “magnetic nervous system” or the “ray system” of the gandhabba AND the physical nervous system based on the brain are needed to move the physical body.

14. Thus, there are two nervous systems in the body: one is the physical nervous system known to modern science. The other is the very fine nervous system (ray system) of the gandhabba.

  • When they go “out-of-sync” our physical bodies start aching. Even in a perfectly healthy human, it is not possible to maintain a given posture for too long.
  • This is used to impart kamma vipaka by shifting the nervous system (ray system) of the gandhabba away from that of the physical body; then body muscles need to move to the new equilibrium position, causing us discomfort or even pain. 
  • We will discuss more important consequences that can be experienced during mediation in future posts.

15. Physical body is actually used to impart various other forms of suffering as well: It can develop major diseases such as cancer in various parts of the body; body parts can break or injured.

  • The effects that we have discussed above may be the reason that we humans (and animals) have this complicated mechanism involving repeated births in a single bhava using a gandhabba and multiple physical bodies.
  • The brahmas and even devas do not suffer physical ailments; their fine bodies can also last longer times, and do not need to be “regenerated” via this mechanism using an intermediary gandhabba.
  • Another important aspect is that our physical brain slows down the generation of javana citta in a given time. The “signal processing” in the brain the brain is much slower than the very fast generation of cittas in the hadaya vatthu; see, “Citta and Cetasika – How Vinnana (Consciousness) Arises“. Important implications of this will also be discussed later.


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