Astral projection and astral travel has been discussed in every culture across the world for thousands of years.
All of the great religions have touched on the subject in some way, but none have perhaps dove as deep or written so broadly on it as Buddhism.
But just what does Buddhism teach about astral travel and lucid dreaming, and how can it help us in our own practices? This article will break down what has been said, and how you can use that knowledge in your own life to help further your own practice.
What does Buddhist scripture say about astral travel?
Unlike the Bible, which speaks about astral travel in couched terms and metaphor, Buddhist scripture is incredibly open about the subject.
One of the most famous verses discussing out of body experiences is a passage detailing the eight knowledges of the monk, which says:
When their mind has become immersed in Samadhi like this, they wield the many kinds of psychic power; multiplying themselves and becoming one again; going unimpeded through a wall, a rampart, or a mountain as if through space, diving in and out of the earth as if it were water, walking on water as if it were earth, flying cross-legged through the sky like a bird, touching and stroking with the hand the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful, controlling the body as far as the Brahma realm (link).
This passage matches perfectly with the descriptions of thousands of practitioners around the globe, and goes on to include oddly specific details like ascending up into higher realms and meeting with enlightened entities.
It can only be taken as a clear and literal passage describing an out of body experience.
The Kevatta Sutta
In Buddhist teaching, the Kevatta Sutta refers to a passage where Buddha was challenged by a rich property owner, who demanded that he demonstrate his spiritual powers.
Buddha refused, expressing that the way was not to be found by demonstrating powers to people who may not understand them and would disbelieve without experience.
Instead, the way is described as a personal journey, and while a man could be shown a path, it is far more impactful for them to walk it themselves and gain a personal understanding of it.
As he describes this, Buddha acknowledges that there are the three miracles that have been experienced; psychic powers, telepathy, and instruction.
And as Buddha breaks down these miracles, his description of the miracle of psychic powers again mirrors perfectly the modern descriptions matching astral travel.
Lucid dreaming and Buddhism
Lucid dreaming can be a powerful tool for anyone on the path of learning how to project their consciousness outside of their own body, as it teaches you to take control of your own mind and direct your thoughts in a manner that most people aren’t able to do.
However, lucid dreaming is not Astral Projection, but the two phenomena can feel very similar. You can read our guide breaking down the differences here.
Tibetan Buddhism in particular has a strong lineage of lucid dreaming, following a particular style of lucid dream practice called Dream Yoga. But a closer examination of the practice might suggest that it is far closer to astral projection than it is lucid dreaming.
By following this practice, Tibetan Buddhists believe the dream work can help your body and mind gain essential skills for well-being and discipline by traveling to places and experiencing things that your body is not able to.
This Dream Yoga primarily takes the form of repeating experiences that have already happened to you, working through them, perhaps in a different way than what happened in reality.
But once a person has practice in Dream Yoga, they can supposedly awaken their consciousness, which lets them travel to different places, meet and speak with others; including enlightened beings, fly, and shift into different forms.
This description perfectly matches the experiences of people who have documented their astral travels. Furthermore, the methods used to achieve these lucid dream states are eerily similar, and include:
- Keeping the body still and comfortable as you meditate or sleep
- Staying calm and patient throughout the process
- Letting go of fear and other negative feelings
- Regular practice with conscious purpose and clear intent
Phowa, the final travel
One of the principle goals of any spiritual practice is the ability to fully control one’s own consciousness.
Phowa, or, mind-stream transference, is one of the obvious end results. After a lifetime of practice, as a monk knew they were dying, the purpose of phowa was to use sacred meditative practices to permanently transfer their consciousness out of the body, severing their connection to the physical world at the moment of death, and ascend into the Astral Plane.
Support for the practice isn’t just found in Buddhist texts. Many Hindu texts, including Saiva and Sakta scripture, also mention the ability to leave the body at the moment of death, controlling where the spirit should end.
However, for most of us, unable to live a live of ascetic practice like a true monk, phowa, and consciously controlling our spirits as we come to the end of our lives, is something that we will never have to consider, and serves more as an indication of what can be done if one follows this practice to its limits.
What can Buddhism teach us about how to astrally project ourselves?
The Five Hindrances
According to Buddhist practice, one of the best methods of learning to astrally travel is to achieve a state of being where the five hindrances of Buddhist scripture no longer have a hold on you. The five hindrances are:
- Sensual desires
- Laziness or sloth
These beliefs, held hundreds of years ago, are still incredibly similar to our own knowledge of astral travel. One of the biggest things that can hold people back from being able to successfully astrally project is fear, or other negative emotions.
Learning to let go of negativity and push forward without fear was understood to be as key to astral travel then as it is now.
How to learn astral travel
Aside from what to avoid, Buddhism promotes methods for learning astral travel that are similar to what is in use today, including:
- Conscious practice
- Meditation and self-control
- Visualization of your spiritual body
For further information on how to learn, you can read our beginner’s guide on astral projection.
There’s no doubt that Buddha was an incredibly wise and perceptive man. Most people would never have been able to cast away all of the worldly pleasures that being a prince could bring, to instead live an ascetic life as a monk.
But Buddha realized a fundamental truth. There is far more to existence than just the physical world around us. We are surrounded at all times by worlds and entities that most people never even begin to experience.
Learning how to astrally travel is the first step on the journey to opening up your mind and living a life of consciousness and intent. Remember, there is never a better day to start than today.