First, something to contemplate: Modern Science, as a human endeavor, is based upon the idea known as Verificationism. This states that only facts verified through empirical evidence — based ultimately on our senses and their modern technological adjuncts — can be considered to be true. Everything else, including ideas coming from metaphysics and religion, are just beliefs found to be emotionally appealing.

And because Verificationism implies that the empirical evidence must be ‘objective’ (so that it can be verified by others) many ideas, especially those coming from metaphysics and religion, which Science holds cannot be empirically evidenced, as well as those related to interior personal experiences, such as those found in meditative practices, can never be verified to be true.

So if you are hoping for scientific evidence that enlightenment is possible you will be frustrated. Modern Science doesn’t operate there — by choice.

But here is one interesting truth: no scientist has ever verified Verificationism. That means no one has ever proven that the central idea underlying the scientific method is true. This idea that only something that is verified by empirical evidence can be true is just a belief that has emotional appeal to scientists.

And if you truly contemplate the logical structure of this belief, you will find that the aspects, processes, and rules of ‘reality’ must be true whether or not a human being has verified them to be true. That is, Truth must be primordially present for a thing to be verifiable. Modern Science confuses proof and truth. Truth is not the result of having proof, Truth is the necessary condition for verification to succeed, but does not itself depend upon proof — in all fields of knowledge. And this necessity, coupled with the limitations of present human knowledge, means there is an uncountable wealth of unverified, and often unverifiable, truth opening up for us, because there is more Truth in reality than Science can verify, even if scientists wanted to do so, due to the limits of their model.

Another facet of the answer to this question of whether Enlightenment is possible, is that there is an irreconcilable divide between Modern Science and spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, in their understanding of what mind is. For scientists in general, the mind is just a word for the biochemical operations of the brain. However, for Buddhists, for example, the brain, body, and all perceptions are activity that are collectively referred to as mind, and this includes all the biochemical operations of the brain. Thus these are two totally different and opposing understandings of what mind is.

And so, when asking if Enlightenment is possible we must consider three parts of the complete answer:

First, because ignorance and suffering — the major characteristics of being unenlightened — arise due to causes and conditions related to mind, and we are specifically training our mind to remove the causes and conditions of ignorance and suffering, it would be illogical and incoherent to blankly assert that our practices — if conscientiously applied — might not end our suffering and remove our ignorance. In other words, it is senseless to question the possibility of achieving Enlightenment while conscientiously training our mind using techniques aimed specifically at removing the conditions that keep us from becoming enlightened.

The second part of the answer is that because we have the testimony of a myriad of enlightened beings from many traditions who have all attested to having gone through this process of mind-training and the liberation from ignorance and suffering that it brings, we would be insincere if we complained that there is no proof of such liberation — especially given that the demand of Science for ‘objective’ facts that exclude individual testimony (i.e., personal experience) of the myriad of witnesses to the same basic facts, is based upon its confusion of proof with truth.

That is, the truth is there and is witnessed over-and-over again by independent observers — and over millennia. The problem of untrained minds being unable to verify this truth, is not unlike that of individuals unaided by billion-dollar pieces of experimental equipment being unable to verify any observations of Modern Science. But between the two cases, the real possibility of someone with an untrained mind who is determined to seek out the truth for themselves, is achievable; whereas the great mass of humanity will never have access to billion-dollar pieces of experimental equipment to use to verify the findings of Modern Science.

And of course, anyone who doubts the words of these enlightened beings are invited — as a fundamental aspect of their teachings — to see for themselves if they are not true, by applying the methods and techniques conscientiously to their own mind.

Third, we have detailed training documents that have been honed over the course of millennia, which all describe the same ultimate accomplishments, even though they describe the stages of the process in different terms, and different degrees of ‘granularity’ of the stages. It would be disingenuous of us to argue that they do not — together — verify the possibility of the resulting accomplishment.

And fourth, unlike Science, which operates on phenomena at scales beyond our capability to directly experience ourselves, liberation from ignorance and suffering is entirely accessible to each and every one of us.

This is how any sincere individual would come to know the truth of Enlightenment. Thus, it is not a belief, nor is it just an emotionally attractive idea without proof. It is True before we examine it, it is true because of all the testimony and documentation supporting it, and it is provable by each and every one of us — if we so desire.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
Share this post