The Buddha’s teachings extend from a commonplace understanding and view of the world to transpersonal realisations beyond the ordinary and everyday reality we inhabit. The transpersonal domain of inquiry includes the meditative absorptions and the realisation of Nibbana!
The perceptions we call the ‘formless absorptions’ are relevant to Dhamma-Inquiry. They are not accessible through the noosphere*. They are transpersonal in nature - they have nothing to do with our personal ‘reality’. The meditative absorptions are non-subjective forms of experience. As a consequence of this, it is important to point out, the Buddha’s teachings include areas of inquiry that are inaccessible from a secular vantage point.
Secular Buddhism does not have the requisite ‘language game’ to incorporate a discussion of the ‘transpersonal’ teachings of the Buddha. It can make ‘indirect’ references to the Buddha’s transpersonal teachings in a way that detracts from the ‘lived’ experiences - in and of themselves. Even the Buddha, could only point the way! However, his teachings and practical instructions go beyond the ambit of Secular Buddhist teachings.
Jhanic experiences are a fundamental requirement for the direct ‘knowledge and vision’ of the liberation teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha required them in order to discover the liberating Dhamma in all its aspects and particulars.
When different areas of inquiry get confused we get lost in the thicket of views! The liberating Dhamma is like a lost city in a dense wilderness. The Buddha found a path in that wilderness that leads to the lost city of liberation. This was a simile that the Buddha used to help us understand what he was trying to share with us for our welfare and liberation.
If, Secular Buddhism is unable to point to forms of understanding that go beyond the secular frame of reference then, what is its purpose in a Buddhist context and beyond? Is it merely a spring-board to more effective forms of Dhamma-Inquiry? Is it an entry-point to the Buddha’s teachings for people who are committed to secular ideology - and nothing more? At worst, could it be a sign of the dumming-down of Buddhism to fit the mind-set of the secularly challenged? A sign of the degeneration of the teachings foretold by the Buddha?
The Buddha gave us the gift of open Dhamma-inquiry. We need to recognise this gift and treasure it! We are interested in the liberating Dhamma - this is not a dress rehearsal?
An example of transpersonal insight from the early Buddhist texts:
“Ananda, as long as I had not attained & emerged from these nine step-by-step dwelling-attainments [including Nirodhasammapati] in forward & backward order in this way, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening.” - AN9.41
Phalasamapatti is attained by each of the four kinds of noble beings just after attaining the knowledge of the path, and it can be cultivated and extended by them as well. Nirodhasamapatti however, can only be entered by non-returners and arahats.