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Rapture in Buddhism,

Manomaya, the "mind-made body."

The Buddha’s Discourses on the Astral Body and

Out-of-Body (OOB) experiences

November 09, 2004

By the contemplative recluse monk Arahatta Jhanananda(Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)

It seems my little biography spurred a great deal of thought and discussion among some Buddhist listservs.  Some people say the Out-of-Body (OOB) experience is a distraction, which I know anything can be if there is attachment to it, but I have found OOBs can be a great inspiration, and at times they were all I had.  But, I also know they are a natural manifestation in some people's journey to nibbana.

I know also those who say OOBs are dream-like have never had one, because this contemplative’s experience with OOBs indicates that lucidity is the defining quality of the Out-of-Body experience.  In fact for this one they are most often far more lucid than the waking state.  This is in part why one who has OOBs will often question the validity of all perceptual phenomena, because the yogi who has given rise to OOBs knows one can not depend on the seamlessness of one's perceived reality.

I have recently been reading through the Tipitaka, or the Three Baskets, as it is translated into English.  They of course are the foundational literature of Buddhism.  And, as many of you probably know the Tipitaka (Pali canon) is the earliest know document that claims to be the spoken word of the Buddha.

While reading the Digha Nikaya (Long Discourse) and the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourse) I have found references to the Pali term 'manomaya' which is typically translated as the "mind-made body."  In the Buddha's description of the mind-made body it is clear to me he was talking about the astral body.  The Buddha even instructed his students in its formation in the Mahasakuludayi Sutta, MN 77

Astral Body, "mind-made body," 'manomaya' (Pali).

Digha Nikaya:  DN 1.2.2, n.49, 1.3.12, n76, 24.2.15, 27.10

Majjhima Nikaya MN 77.30

Lohicca Sutta (DN 12)
 (The Mind-made Body)
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, he directs & inclines it to creating a mind-made body (manomaya). From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties. Just as if a man were to draw a reed from its sheath. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the sheath, this is the reed. The sheath is one thing, the reed another, but the reed has been drawn out from the sheath.' Or as if a man were to draw a sword from its scabbard. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the sword, this is the scabbard. The sword is one thing, the scabbard another, but the sword has been drawn out from the scabbard.' Or as if a man were to pull a snake out from its slough. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the snake, this is the slough. The snake is one thing, the slough another, but the snake has been pulled out from the slough.' In the same way -- with his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, the monk directs & inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties. When a disciple of a teacher attains this sort of grand distinction, Lohicca, that is a teacher not worthy of criticism in the world, and if anyone were to criticize this sort of teacher, the criticism would be false, unfactual, unrighteous, & blameworthy.

Agganna Sutta (DN 27.10)

translated by M. Walshe, Wisdom Publishing
"At a time of contraction, beings are mostly born in the Abhassara Brahma world.  And there they dwell, mind made (manomaya), feeding on delight, self-luminous, moving through the air (space), glorious -- and they stay like that for a very long time."
Mahasakuludayi Sutta (MN 77.30)
translated by Bhikkhus Nanamoli and Bodhi, Wisdom Publishing
"Again, Udayin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way to create from this body another body having form, mind-made (manomaya) ...And, thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached to consummation and perfection of direct knowledge."

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

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