Sometimes I feel that my consciousness is separate from my body. How can this be explained in Buddhism? What is this state ? Can consciousness exist externally without physical body?

  • 1
    Ultimately one must ask where consciousness is rooted, and what (if any) is its "locality" I don't think it's the intent of an enlightened being to merely discourse about what consciousness is, but rather to provide the path and the techniques to realize such understanding for oneself.
    – sova
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:10
  • Can you elaborate with references of where consciousness is rooted?
    – user5256
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:19
  • To add to my question, is my consciousness same as yours? Is it possible?
    – user5256
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:21
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    Well we must distinguish some terms -- consciousness is usually what we say when we mean "awareness" ... in a lot of Buddhist literature and scripture consciousness is usually reserved for the sense-consciousnesses which would be like hearing sound or seeing forms, without intellectual filtration, directly experienced. Here is a resource for your in-depth inquiry friend, khandrorinpoche.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/…
    – sova
    Nov 14, 2015 at 18:05
  • @sova When what you're posting helps to answer the question, please prefer to post it as an answer instead of as a comment (reference). Comments are mostly meant to be only for asking questions about the question, e.g. if the question is unclear.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 15, 2015 at 10:44

3 Answers 3


Can consciousness exist externally without physical body?

In The Immaterial World this is possible. There might be times you fee so in meditation. Maybe when you enter Infinite Conciousness Absorption but even without this there maybe instances you may fee so.

What is this state ?

You been born in an Immaterial World.

How can this be explained in Buddhism?

You have generally have Nama & Rupa. In Immaterial World you just have Nama but not Rupa.

Sometimes I feel that my consciousness is separate from my body.

This is not possible as I would believe you to be human hence having Nama and Rupa, in which case conciousness cannot exit without a physical body. This is the case in any other plane of existance other than The Immaterial Worlds.

  • 1
    Aren't these planes of existence inside us?
    – user5256
    Nov 14, 2015 at 16:57
  • Yes. You can experience some of the Bliss in these plans here and now through deep meditation but you are still here hence you have a body. There maybe times you might "feel" that your consciousness is expanding, but this just a feeling. Even when you have not properly got Infinite Conciousness Jhana there might be times you might feel your conciousness expand. You still have your body even when you are in Infinite consciousness Jhana. Nov 14, 2015 at 17:07

Can consciousness exist externally without physical body?

Mind can exist without the physical body, i.e. Nama can exist without Rupa. Mind is not dependent on a physical body, whereas the physical body is fully dependent on Mind and cannot exist without it. The physical body cannot do anything before an intention arises in the Mind.

Some beings in other realms are "mind-only". They have no physical body and therefore no locality, hence they cannot be located in space. Since they have no physical body and therefore no ear-faculty, they are not able to hear Dhamma teachings.

These beings can be found in the Immaterial Realm (Arupa Loka).

What is this state?

One can gain access to the Immaterial Realm, e.g. through the Four Formless Jhanas.

How can this be explained in Buddhism?

The 31 Planes of Existence teaches about the different realms of existence and how to gain access to them.

The Abhidhamma teaches about Nama-Rupa.

The practice of Samatha Meditation will grant a being access to the Jhanas and thereby the different realms.

The practice of Vipassana Meditation will grant a being access to insights into how reality functions, e.g. the 3 marks of existence, how the Mind works, how the Mind-Body-Complex works, thereby beginning the process of purification of Mind by destroying the root defilements.

The degree of purity of Mind corresponds to which realms a being can access/be reborn in.

To add to my question, is my consciousness same as yours? Is it possible?

Yes, Consciousness is the same. Consciousness is not a thing, its a "knowing". One of the reasons this is not understandable intellectually, is because we use conventional language to talk about phenomena that cannot be reduced to conventional reality.

The Buddha once said that it is okay to use conventional language but do not be fooled thereby.

Consciousness is the basic awareness of an object and nothing more. It only exists as a taker of objects. One will understand this when practicing Vipassana meditation. One will clearly see how there cannot be conscious experience without consciousness is present.

Let me give you can example from daily life, which you might have experienced. You are reading a good book or watching a movie and then someone calls your name. You are absorped in the book or movie and therefore do not hear the person trying to get in contact with you. How is that? The sound from the other person is still there, yes?

That is because consciousness is not at the ear-sensebase at that moment. Consciousness is at the eye-sensebase. That is why you did not register the sound from the other person. The sound is still there but you are not aware of it, because consciousness did not take that object, at that particular time.

One can only be aware of one object at a time. Mind can only arise to one object at a time. It might feel like one is aware of multiple objects at a time, but that is because Mind is shifting very rapidly and mindfulness is not strong enough to register that.


Can you please elaborate as to what you meant by "Sometimes I feel that my consciousness is separate from my body."

In the Dhamma 6 types of consciousness are mentioned, the eye consciousness, ear, taste, smell, body, and mind. Thus, substituting 'eye consciousness' to your statement above, would mean that you are able to see your body from the outside, i.e. you were able to look at your body as if looking at someone else's body.

Therefore if you can help elaborate your state, then your following questions of 'How can this be explained in Buddhism? What is this state ?' could be better addressed.

May you be well and happy.

  • It is like this - I know a thought is rising, then it gets hold of my attention, I know that it is going to act in certain way , which is going to produce karma, subconsciously getting registered, even before i get to decide, the action was already carried out by my body senses. Before I used to act based on what i thought was right, I used to get angry when things didn't go my way. After reading books on Buddhism, Now I watch my thoughts rise and fall. It amuses me to see how my senses are conditioned and what I am feeding it with. I could separate consciousness from body senses.
    – user5256
    Nov 15, 2015 at 16:04
  • from what you describe, you are being mindful of the mind and mind objects (i.e. thoughts, feelings). This is good. However, I am not clear when you say 'I could separate consciousness from body senses.' Nov 15, 2015 at 16:26
  • I don't how to explain. I just know there is something beyond my sense.
    – user5256
    Nov 15, 2015 at 16:42

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