The Buddha’s PhD dissertation; what subject was it on? From what I understand, he didn’t write at all. Nor did Jesus. Nor did Socrates. But these three men are all considered wise. How to reconcile the wisdoms of the ages with the scientific method? This is a question that has troubled me recently. Many of the things I have learned that are attributed to the Buddha’s teachings seem very wise, but others leave me asking a fundamentally scientific question: where’s the research?
When I was learning about reincarnation, I had SO MANY QUESTIONS: what happens if you ARE released from the cycle of rebirth? Where do you “go”? What is it that moves on, if not a consciousness? And how was all of this established? The last question nags at me most. How did any of this get established? I would love to read the accounts of the meditators and monks who discovered these truths to be true.
I can just imagine the stories of monks who were proceeding blissfully down the path and then started doing mantra meditation in conjunction with Vipassana three years in. What happened? Did they regress dramatically? Did they become impure again (or whatever you wish to call it)? Did they explode in a flurry of robes? What is it that occurred time and time again to people that led to the establishment of ONE TRUE PATH. And I mean specifics: what HAPPENED to all of these people who have gone down this path?
If there is a reliable method of enlightenment, shouldn’t there be reliable checkpoints along the way that mark progress? I know this isn’t a weight training program, but there ought to be some verifiable measure of progress, no? There is a difference in my awareness since mediating, to be sure, but it’s of such a vague, incommunicable nature that I can’t have any real confidence that I’m progressing in the correct direction.
Perhaps the personal nature of a changing awareness makes it impossible to verbalize. Perhaps the necessity of experiential learning is at the heart of the murky explanations. Perhaps the cycle of rebirth could be stopped by extinguishing all life forms. Seems logical, no? No life forms in which to reincarnate, no reincarnation. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
I suppose you could argue that the process of becoming more interesting, more intelligent, more mature and so forth are equally chartless processes: no map could guide you into becoming a well-adjusted adult. If Vipassana is a parental guideline of sorts, I’m happy to take it, as all of the advice I received as a young person has turned out to be entirely true.
But don’t ask me to explain how I arrived at that conclusion. You had to be there.