For millennia, Eastern cultures have tried to experience OBEs as a result of states of deep meditation (Becker 1983). Interested in the phenomenon, in 2004, while I was a member of the 21st century Centre of Excellence on Death and Life Studies at the University of Tokyo, I was invited to a panel discussion with Hiroshi Motoyama, who is well known in Japan as a visionary and healer.161 remember I was amazingly surprised to find out that he regularly practises meditation starting at 3 in the morning until 10 in the morning or noon, or sometimes all day long, without skipping a day. This practice enabled him to learn how 'to exit his body at will'. But this is of course not without an effort. According to him: 'Each session of meditation is comparable to a situation where a samurai warrior stakes his life in a sword duel. It is an extremely difficult task to overcome one's self while withstanding the sensation of pain and discomfort.' This state of pain and discomfort may be well related to the long fasting and other ritual practices, which may have altered his brain function in some way. For instance, there is a growing amount of evidence that people who are sensory-deprived for a long period of time have visual imagery similar to OBEs. However, it was only when this sense of pain and discomfort faded away that his consciousness gradually became clear and transparent, allowing him to experience his first OBE. He said:
One morning, during an initial training, I began to feel that the pain and the discomfort were gradually fading away and this was accompanied by my consciousness gradually becoming clear and transparent. It was a peaceful state. Then at the moment when I started feeling peaceful, my soul swiftly went out of my body and I was looking down at my body, which was sitting in meditation, two to three meters above the floor. Even though I, who was sitting in meditation, had my eyes closed, I could clearly see, for example, steps in front of the God-altar, the windows, the ceiling, and the sitting cushion. I felt very strange and mystified, wondering what had happened, but at the same time I also had a feeling that it was nothing extraordinary. In ten minutes or so, I returned to my body. Afterwards, I remember going through a kind of a blissful state for several hours. In less than a month after this experience, I had another experience of the kundalini ascending through the central tube of the spinal cord. This experience enabled me to exit my body at will.
Hiroshi Motoyama holds the view that thanks to his meditative practices he was able to awaken his soul to a higher dimension of consciousness. I took the opportunity to discuss with him some of the features of the near-death experience, such as the meeting with other beings, or God. He believes that there are many ontological dimensions of beings. Interactions among them can take place on both a vertical and a horizontal level. The latter happens on the plane of the same dimension (e.g. we meet and communicate with other people. Such a communication also happens in the rest of the animal and vegetal worlds. In this sense, a plant communicates with a plant, a rabbit communicates with a rabbit, and so on). According to Motoyama, of a different nature is a 'vertical relationship', which happens between beings that belong to different ontological dimensions. An example of this is the meeting with beings of light, or deceased relatives during a near-death experience (NDE). He suggested that such interaction is possible because there is a field (basho) of the same dimension in which multiple beings are simultaneously placed. In one of his numerous publications, he wrote:
In order for beings to exist at all, there must be a basho (i.e. field) of the same dimension in which they are placed, wherein each recognizes the other(s) as homogenous with its own being, as well as recognizing its own being as heterogeneous with other being(s).
Interestingly, Motoyama coined the terminology, 'World of Places' in order to describe the state of Samadhi. He observed17 that:
When the mind and the object are unified, the subject (the mind) becomes Place, and the new unity is sustained and supported at its base
.. . Unless the mind becomes fundamentally Place (Topos), it cannot be united with the object, for if they are separate, they cannot be one.
(Motoyama 1991: 136)
This could be further supporting evidence that Place is indeed the core aspect of the NDE. Motoyama, who is currently a priest in a Shinto shrine in Tokyo as well as President of the California Institute for Human Science, believes that the human soul survives at the death of the physical body as a soul with a distinct individuality, and it forms a community in the spirit world:
Human beings were created, who in turn can create society, religions, science, and art unique to them. Only the human soul can continue to exist, after death, as a soul with a distinct individuality, and it forms a community in the world of the spirits. The divine self dwells in the created things produced in the natural and human worlds; it is always working (preserving) in order that the beings so produced can continue to exist for a certain period of time under a definite order, organization, and energy. It also works on the souls in the spiritual world; it works, preserves and negates them in ways appropriate to them, so that they can be evolved into higher souls.
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