We know the that the mind is a powerful thing, its so powerful sometimes it could conjure up spiritual experiences that we think was real. For example seeing hell (christian version), seeing ghosts, people thinking they have been to deva realms, speaking to jesus, meeting the buddha and having psychic powers etc.
Did the Buddha ever speak about this and how to avoid this? I think this is an important question because there is the possiblity of anyone of us dhamma followers having a spiritual experience. I think it would be important to know that we are having a real spiritual dhamma experience compared to an experience of delusion.
The way to ensure reality is to always cross-check progress against the suttas, and be familiar with them according to individual experience:
“There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.”
—Majjhima Nikaya 95
On an advanced level the Visuddhimagga describes imperfections of insight (XX, 105).
Yes cross-checking progress with the suttas is the only method I can think off, I wonder if there is anymore?
And what is accomplishment in good friendship? It’s when a gentleman resides in a town or village. And in that place there are householders or their children who may be young or old, but are mature in conduct, accomplished in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. He associates with them, converses and engages in discussion. And he emulates the same kind of accomplishment in faith, ethics, generosity, and wisdom. This is called accomplishment in good friendship.
The Buddha didn’t recognise anything beyond the physical and mental.
There are only two methods of arriving at right view which are interconnected, the voice of another (reading suttas), and appropriate attention (investigation) (Anguttara Nikaya 2, 125-6). Sutta study provides the knowledge enabling attention to be appropriate.
The early discourses seem less concerned with whether a spiritual experience is real or not and more with whether one understands those experiences correctly or not. A few examples of this that come to mind:
In DN 1, the Buddha describes the many wrong views that arise from meditators misinterpreting memories of past lives
Also in DN 1, Brahma assumes he’s a creator god, as do the other beings that appear in his realm, due to not understanding the bigger picture
In suttas like MN 8 and MN 105, the Buddha discusses monastics who overestimate themselves and think they’ve reached full awakening, due to attaining the jhānas or from other experiences
It seems to me that, for the early Buddhists, the special spiritual experience is less important than the results of that experience. Did it lead to right view or wrong view? Did it lead to a reduction of defilements? And if there was an inner transformation, did it last or did it disappear after some time? Important questions for any practitioner, I think.