Ikkyu wrote:All I'm asking for is empirical evidence. Evidence that Buddhist enlightenment is any more real than the ecstasy Christian and Muslim mystics sense. That it's more real than Hindu moksha or the Nirvana of the Jains. To all these individuals the goal may be equated with the end of suffering. People experience these things independent of Buddhism
All the experiences you mentioned, along with all [other] delusions and hallucinations, are self-evidently real, and will be reflected in real biochemical processes measurable by an outside observer. The issue you're driving at is that hallucinatory aspects of experience (such as, we presume, the experience of Brahman in Hindu moksha) are derived through a kind of kink in one's own mental processing, such that it no longer refers to a real external object but still refers to an imagined external object
However, the 'internal' reality of the mind as it is witnessed by itself (and not the physical reality of the brain that may be witnessed by the mind of a neuroscientist btw
) is said to be the sole focus of Buddhist teachings. Sorry I can't find a reference, but I'm sure you could at least glean a matching impression. Delusion and hallucination, therefore, is less of an issue for Buddhism than it might be for most other belief systems, since if such experiences occur, they are to be examined for what they are rather than blindly accepted or dismissed for what they may or may not tell us about the outside world. When Buddhists still find themselves compulsively making grandiose claims about Reality, either to others or as internal dialogue, they are advised to rein them back -to the point at which what's left of them is rationally self-evident to them- and re-focus on something more down-to-earth such as breathing. There are plenty of examples of this in the literature (including online video/audio content).
Ikkyu wrote:while I am aware of the concept of Pratekyabuddhas it just doesn't add up to me that this "enlightenment" is anything other than a very convincing bio-chemical experience created by neurotransmitters in the brain, as are all experiences, arguably.
Correspondence with a deeper 'Reality' becomes more of an issue, I understand, later in the process of becoming fully enlightened, but in the early stages, we still have truisms
such as the 1'st 2 of the 4 noble truths to keep us occupied, rather than speculations about God or immortality. In the 'Pratekyabuddhayana for example -still an 'early stage' for us 'maha/vajrayan-ists' (although we still may not have got that far yet)- the 5 skandhas are established to be a major focus of meditation, but at present, they are not contradicted by the findings of modern science, including (in particular) the corresponding science of neuropsychology.
Rather than grasping at the assumed possibility that Buddhism is somehow 'false', those who are distressed by it may be better off finding a belief system -such as materialism (with its assertion that there can be nothing after death for us to worry about)- that doesn't affect them so negatively - The Dalai Lama has repeatedly gone on record to claim that it's usually better (i.e. safer) to follow one's parents' belief system rather than find a new one. However, many of us in the 'rising' generations in the west, myself included, have parents who grew up influenced by the 'hippy' movement to the point where their own belief systems most reflect those that would have seemed alien to our grandparents. The foundation from which we draw our worldviews therefore embraces more than just Christianity and western materialism.
In any case, how many sane
people always make 'The Truth' their 1'st priority in life?