Ever since embarking on the spiritual scene many years ago, I have always come up against the dead end of interpretation. Any text or teaching that goes back to some dead teacher of several thousand years meets the same end. In some regards, this sometimes seems worse by the incredible variety of Buddhist interpretations.
However, throughout the years, a more fundamental problem to interpretation seems to be at play. I will put this in the framework of practice though it can be even more far ranging. Namely, whatever practice I adopt seems doomed to be led by my prior beliefs into where I am heading. As Ven Sujato has mentioned, if I am a Christian I will see Christ in my meditations…and the same will apply to whatever deity or orientation I might harbor as a fundamental reference. So Abhidhammists will see ‘mind moments’ as Ven Sujato also concludes.
In other words, whatever we cherish in our minds we will somehow (re)create as an outcome. I somehow came to think that the deep jhanas as described and experienced by someone like Ajahn Brahm would be the exception. I mean, how can your mind create a state where all your senses shut down. How can the mind fabricate what some would also throw into the realm of placebo with such physical repercussions? Or can’t it?
If the mind can literally create anything, why couldn’t it also create realms of jhana that are so deep as (at least seem) to be cut off from the senses? But this is only one example of the discussion I wish to begin. We could take any other form of practice. The noting practice of the Western vipassana style (inspired by Ledi and Mahasi Sayadaws, etc.) wishes to lead to a state of “non reactivity” for example. And so it does, many practitioners will tell you. Same problem. Because the mind is led by its belief in attaining a certain mind state, it creates it; leaving the adept convinced that this is the objective truth that the practice has engendered. Or is there just brainwashing happening at a subtle level that the practitioner can’t discern?
So what? Mind is the forerunner of all things, so said the Buddha. That is what started me on the Buddha’s path to begin with. And though he hasn’t failed in many domains to expound this, wasn’t he also victim of the same problem? After all, he was also motivated by belief. That there must be a way out of suffering. That there must be a way of escaping the cycle of rebirth and attain the deathless.
A lot of questions to consider, I know. But the basic question remains: can a practice really be objective in its results? Or, put in another way, can there really be an objective truth out there that is independent of where we are coming from?