Mind-made body - a question

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Mind-made body - a question

Postby srivijaya » Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:38 pm

Following retrofuturist's open invitation on another board, I have taken the liberty of joining.

I have a request for information which I hope someone will be able to help me with.

I am interested in uncovering as much as I can about teachings concerning the mind-made body. I have read almost identical formulaic passages in several suttas, all of which are similar to the following:

"DN 11
Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta To Kevatta
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
The Mind-made Body
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and 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. 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, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and 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.



The only other instruction I have encountered is in the last paragraph of chapter twelve of the Visuddhimagga where Buddhaghosa explains that one should first visualize the body as hollow, then visualize another complete body within the hollow space which should be then drawn out. This is rather sparse to say the least.

I would be interested to know where Buddhaghosa drew this information from and whether there are more comprehensive teachings on this topic elsewhere within the Theravadan school. Does the tradition of these teachings still survive and has anyone ever met, or heard of, individuals who have attained this?

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:58 pm

Hi Srivijaya,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

srivijaya wrote:I would be interested to know where Buddhaghosa drew this information from and whether there are more comprehensive teachings on this topic elsewhere within the Theravadan school.


In the Tipitaka and Atthakathas there isn’t any more detail than what is supplied in the Visuddhimagga. Indeed whenever the subject crops up in the Atthakathas the reader is usually referred to the Visuddhimagga for more detail.

So, if there are any texts that are more expansive than the Visuddhimagga, i suppose one would need to look for them among meditation manuals from later periods.

Does the tradition of these teachings still survive and has anyone ever met, or heard of, individuals who have attained this?


I don’t know.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammakid » Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:38 pm

This is an interesting topic, one I would like more information on.

What is the purpose of the "mind-made body"? Why would one want to do this type of practice? What are the benefits?

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:07 pm

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:What is the purpose of the "mind-made body"? Why would one want to do this type of practice? What are the benefits?


Firstly, there's the benefit that applies to all supernormal powers, namely, that it permits paññā to be developed with greater ease:

    Now in order to perfect those kinds of higher knowledge, the task must be undertaken by a meditator who has reached the fourth jhāna in the earth kasina and so on. And in doing this, not only will this development of samādhi have provided benefits in this way, it will also have become more advanced; and when he thus possesses concentration so developed as to have both provided benefits [of the higher knowledges themselves] and become more advanced, he will then more easily perfect the development of wisdom.
    (Path of Purification XII 1)

Secondly, in the case of a Buddha, it allows him to do two things at once. For example, he can go on almsround in Uttarakuru while leaving a mind-made body to carry on teaching the Dhamma to the devas in Tāvatiṃsā. In the case of a disciple, however, this second benefit doesn't seem to apply, for the mind-made body that she creates merely replicates whatever she herself is presently doing.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammakid » Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:53 am

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:What is the purpose of the "mind-made body"? Why would one want to do this type of practice? What are the benefits?


Firstly, there's the benefit that applies to all supernormal powers, namely, that it permits paññā to be developed with greater ease:

    Now in order to perfect those kinds of higher knowledge, the task must be undertaken by a meditator who has reached the fourth jhāna in the earth kasina and so on. And in doing this, not only will this development of samādhi have provided benefits in this way, it will also have become more advanced; and when he thus possesses concentration so developed as to have both provided benefits [of the higher knowledges themselves] and become more advanced, he will then more easily perfect the development of wisdom.
    (Path of Purification XII 1)

Secondly, in the case of a Buddha, it allows him to do two things at once. For example, he can go on almsround in Uttarakuru while leaving a mind-made body to carry on teaching the Dhamma to the devas in Tāvatiṃsā. In the case of a disciple, however, this second benefit doesn't seem to apply, for the mind-made body that she creates merely replicates whatever she herself is presently doing.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu


Ahh, this helps very much Bhante. Thank you for the explanation.

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby stuka » Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:57 am

srivijaya wrote:Following retrofuturist's open invitation on another board, I have taken the liberty of joining.

I have a request for information which I hope someone will be able to help me with.

I am interested in uncovering as much as I can about teachings concerning the mind-made body. I have read almost identical formulaic passages in several suttas, all of which are similar to the following:

"DN 11
Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta To Kevatta
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
The Mind-made Body
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and 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. 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, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and 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.



The only other instruction I have encountered is in the last paragraph of chapter twelve of the Visuddhimagga where Buddhaghosa explains that one should first visualize the body as hollow, then visualize another complete body within the hollow space which should be then drawn out. This is rather sparse to say the least.

I would be interested to know where Buddhaghosa drew this information from and whether there are more comprehensive teachings on this topic elsewhere within the Theravadan school. Does the tradition of these teachings still survive and has anyone ever met, or heard of, individuals who have attained this?

Namaste


Hello, and Welcome to Dhamma Wheel, srivijaya.


It seems to me that within the framework of the Buddha's Noble teachings, this practice is intended to explore the limits of one's imagination, with what appears to be an emphasis upon how one's imagination can run wild and carry one off.

The Buddha ultimately discards such practices, in favor of his own practice of seeing and knowing anicca, anatta, and dukkha:

DN 9
Potthapada Sutta
About Potthapada

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"I teach the Dhamma for the abandoning of the gross acquisition of a self, such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now. If the thought should occur to you that, when defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, one's abiding is stressful/painful, you should not see it in that way. When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.

"I also teach the Dhamma for the abandoning of the mind-made acquisition of a self, such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now. If the thought should occur to you that, when defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, one's abiding is stressful/painful, you should not see it in that way. When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.

I also teach the Dhamma for the abandoning of the formless acquisition of a self, such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now. If the thought should occur to you that, when defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, one's abiding is stressful/painful, you should not see it in that way. When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.


(From Thanissaro's notes:

Of particular interest here is the Buddha's treatment of the three "acquisitions of a self." The first — the gross self — refers to the ordinary, everyday sense of identifying with one's body. The latter two — the mind-made acquisition and the formless acquisition — refer to the sense of self that can be developed in meditation. The mind-made acquisition can result from an experience of the mind-made body — the "astral body" — that constitutes one of the powers that can be developed through concentration practice. The formless acquisition can result from any of the formless states of concentration — such as an experience of infinite space, infinite consciousness, or nothingness. Although meditators, on experiencing these states, might assume that they have encountered their "true self," the Buddha is careful to note that these are acquisitions, and that they are no more one's true self than the body is. They are one's acquisition of a self only for the time that one identifies with them. The Buddha goes on to say that he teaches the Dhamma for the sake of abandoning every acquisition of a self "such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now."



There are suttas in which the Buddha describes s monk "flying through the air while sitting, diving through the earth as if it were water, disappearing here and reappearing there, etc., (and again, this is also boilerplate language that appears the same every time I have seen it), and I note that in every instance, this immediately follows the Buddha's description of one who is sitting in meditation having "created a mind-made body". All of these various miraculous activities happen as visualizations through the "eyes" of this "mind-made body".

Have you ever dreamed that you were flying? I have, many times. It seems so real. But it is not.

Have you ever believed that you were so very right about something or someone, only to find out conclusively and with much suffering that you were mistaken? I have, many times. The "truth" I thought I saw so clearly seemed so real. But it wasn't.

It seems to me that it is this sort of insight that the Buddha is pointing to here.

This whole description, though, is usually given in the course of a progression of practices that the Buddha had engaged in, before finally coming upon his own practice that brings true liberation: that of seeing and knowing anicca, anatta, dukkha in all things Including in all of the practices that precede this one).
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammakid » Sun Jan 11, 2009 5:20 pm

Hello Stuka,
Seems like you're right on the money with this analysis. I'm interested to see what everyone else has to say.

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby srivijaya » Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:48 am

Dear Dhammanando,
Many thanks for the welcome and the reply.
Dhammanando wrote:if there are any texts that are more expansive than the Visuddhimagga, i suppose one would need to look for them among meditation manuals from later periods.

Intriguing. I imagine if there are such works then they would be very old, virtually impossible to locate and certainly untranslated.

Stuka, thanks for your quote which places this practice in its proper context, as a means to an end.

I personally feel hesitant in ascribing a value judgement based only upon the scant materials I have read (if indeed this is all there is) as I suspect it may be incorrect. It is easy for anyone to conclude that (as this practice has no relevance within the modern school) it has, by virtue of that fact alone, demonstrated itself to be inefficacious.

That Buddha thought it important enough to teach to some monks is evidenced by its inclusion. There are practices which attracted Buddha's censure and this, even the most uncharitable must concede, was not one of them.

At the end of the day, if this practice has vanished, then any speculation is academic. I had the impression that it had, although one can never be 100% sure. I once heard some vague (and probably incorrect) anecdotal evidence to the contrary - hence my query.

Many thanks to all who have read and replied.

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:56 pm

Because of the process of rebirth, I think that the body is made by the mind already.

From the Dhammapada

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

By "mind-made body," the Buddha seems to mean an intentionally mind-made body, a body made by mind that is noble, worthy of a Buddhist, delightful, and strong.

In one's own life, this means acting morally, meditating to develop self-discipline, and taking care of one's body through proper diet and exercise. One's kamma from this life lays the basis for the structure of the body in the next. Regarding the body as "hollow," is simply another way of describing anatta, with regards to the body.
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:26 pm

Greetings Individual,

However, it says nothing about "mind precedes all physical states".

Nor do I recall anything in the suttas that says anything to this effect either.

Metta,
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Individual » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:16 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

However, it says nothing about "mind precedes all physical states".

Nor do I recall anything in the suttas that says anything to this effect either.

Metta,
Retro. :)

That's one particular translation, sorry... I should've probably used a different one. The Pali used there for "mental states" is "manopubbangama dhamma". I don't know Pali very well, but this seems to be mano+pubba+angama (maybe not). PTS dictionary defines this word, in their entry on mano as "directed by mind, dominated by thought," and there's some more info on pubbangama in their entry on pubba "going before, preceding".

Ah, I just found a detailed break-down of the grammar here.

Anyway, despite the grammar, consider the context. Within the context, speaking is not strictly a mental act, "acting" is not simply a mental act, and suffering is not merely a mental act.

So, considering all this, Ven. Thanisarro translates it as:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Phenomena are preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.


And Ven. Narada translates it:

http://www.mettanet.org/tipitaka/2Sutta ... go-e2.html
Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they.

Gil Fronsdal translate it as, from what I remember, "All experiences are created by mind, led by mind, made by mind."

Also, there's a certain sutta (can't remember which, though, somebody please help me out) where the Buddha refutes materialism and idealism by saying that nama and rupa are conjoined, that nama is not "of its own effort" (something to that effect) and neither is nama, but that the two are co-dependent.

Also, in disputing that all material is conditioned by mind, it seems like you have little basis to even say that there is such a thing as "science".
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby stuka » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:28 am

srivijaya wrote:
Stuka, thanks for your quote which places this practice in its proper context, as a means to an end.


From what the Buddha says above, he seems to point out that is rather a dead end, rather than a means to the end of suffering.
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:56 pm

Hi Retro,

Let's loosely define "mind" for the moment as "citta" and see if we can say if "citta defines at least SOME physical states," at least in terms of how the Abhidhamma describes how the dying-citta of individual "A" gives rise to the patisandhi-citta of Individual "B." Which process presumably conditions the physical conditions of Individual "B's" birth. At lease let's say this if it doesn't drift :offtopic: :rofl:

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:57 pm

I was looking through some pages at some information on the Satipatthana Sutta and noticed this on the mind made body
hope it provides adequate food for thought
http://halfsmile.org/buddhadust/www.bud ... ndMadeBody
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby srivijaya » Wed Jan 14, 2009 9:47 am

Thanks Manapa,
Certainly some food for thought there - a very interesting page. I came across a few additional lines in MN77 which may help throw a little more light on the topic. In addition to the usual formula; "reed from its sheath" etc. there are the following lines:
Again, Udayin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way to create from this body another body having form, mind-made, with all its limbs, lacking no faculty
Here, Buddha uses the words "proclaimed the way" which seems to indicate that he was actually instructing monks, not just mentioning it in passing.
In the same passage, he mentions the benefit those disciples gained from this practice:
And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the consummation and perfection of direct knowledge

That almost reads like an endorsement but sounds very positive in any case.

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby halwilson » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:59 am

srivijaya wrote:I would be interested to know where Buddhaghosa drew this information from and whether there are more comprehensive teachings on this topic elsewhere within the Theravadan school. Does the tradition of these teachings still survive and has anyone ever met, or heard of, individuals who have attained this?

Namaste

Hi srivijaya,

I don't know if this is an example of a mind-made body or levitation, but there is a well-known story in Thailand of a forest monk, Luang Puu Waen:

"In the late 1960's, an airforce pilot noticed a monk sitting on the clouds meditating and when he returned to base made enquiries which revealed that it could only have been over Wat Doi Pang where Waen was staying. Since that time Waen became famous and tales passed around and multiplied. Not long before his death, when asked about this mystifying tale and whether it was him sitting on the clouds, Waen dryly replied, 'You think I'm a bird?'. But seemingly he never actually denied it and so the story remains in the minds and hearts of many Thai Buddhists." ( J. L. Taylor, _Forest Monks and the Nation-State_, p. 164).

Cheers, Hal
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby srivijaya » Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:33 pm

Thanks Hal,
That reminds me of some accounts I heard from a Buddhist friend who had spent time in the forests of Thailand. I guess if monks are on the right path, some at least may manifest siddhis of one kind or another. To boast or even discuss this is discouraged for the best of reasons, as they are not the aim of the path but I would be very surprised if they never happened.
If the account is correct, it may have been a case of mind-made body, as that is the one which the suttas claim can walk through mountains etc.

It seems, though, that there is no systematic teaching of this left within the mainstream tradition, so no way of verifying it one way or another.

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:39 pm

Hi Srivijaya,

srivijaya wrote:If the account is correct, it may have been a case of mind-made body, as that is the one which the suttas claim can walk through mountains etc.


If the account is correct, surely it would be iddhividdhā, the first of the six abhiññā, in which it is one's own body that performs the feats described.

    Here some ascetic or Brahmin enjoys various supernormal powers (iddhividdhā): being one, he becomes many; being many, he becomes one; he appears and disappears; he passes through fences, walls and mountains unhindered as if through air; he sinks into the ground and emerges from it as if it were water; he walks on the water without breaking the surface as if on land; he flies cross-legged through the sky like a bird with wings; he even touches and strokes with his hand the sun and moon, mighty and powerful as they are; and he travels in the body as far as the Brahma world. (DN. 28)

According to the Visuddhimagga's treatment of manomaya iddhi, if Luang Puu Waen (a non-Buddha) had developed this power, the body would not have been able to fly through the air and overtake jet aircraft. It would have just sat on a chair smoking banana-leaf cheroots like the monk himself. :)

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby gavesako » Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:25 pm

Someone apparently asked him later and LP Waen replied that he had projected just an image of himself towards the direction of a certain tree, but it ended up in the sky!
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Re: Mind-made body - a question

Postby appicchato » Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:48 pm

...Waen dryly replied, 'You think I'm a bird?'


This, from a guy well past a hundred (and ninety some years in the robes)... :twothumbsup:
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