Isn't it possible that whatever they have realised is just a psychological effect? Doing continuously hard practices leads to affect their mind and they tend to believe that, yes, this is the truth. They started lying to themselves that they know the truth? I just want to know the truth.

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    I have a friend who is a Doctor in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), a field that I am unfamiliar with. I am sure he knows about HCI. After all, he has a Doctorate in the field. But I myself knows nothing about HCI. Am I wrong in believing he is an expert? So while your question claims to be about religion, it really is about how to judge the expertise of an individual without having any expertise himself. I'm reading your question as saying: "How can anyone who haven't realized [FIELD_OF_KNOWLEDGE], claim that [PERSON] realized [FIELD_OF_KNOWLEDGE]?" Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 15:06
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    @TariqAli your reasoning applies to science since it is objective and reproducible. You trust your doctor friend because you also know that other doctors in his field will tell you the same thing about HCI. But in the case of religious and spiritual statements - there is no objective knowledge to validate the authority's claim on. It's like someone saying that they know X is going to heaven. How can you verify a claim like that? They themselves have never been to heaven so how can they claim to know that someone went there ? Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:32

6 Answers 6


You write:

Isn't it possible that whatever they have realized is just a psychological effect? Doing continuously hard practices leads to affect their mind and they tend to believe that, yes, this is the truth. They started lying to themselves that they know the truth?

It is indeed possible and even surely the case for some people who claim to have realized "truth" or God. Some people indeed mistake psychological states or other external circumstance for a realization of said "truth".

However, some people speak of something entirely different — a dimension of consciousness that transcends psychology, words, ideas, logic, and change. The beauty of it is that it transcends all of our ideas of what a spiritual realization might look like, as well.

Miraculously it can be witnessed but cannot be comprehended, nor even conceived.

I just want to know the truth.

That is the only way — wanting to find out the truth for your self.

But there is an unfair catch — there is no way to prove such people are wrong. You can only try to see for your self that they were right, by following their practice, or even your own path.

The good news is that many paths lead to that same place. Underneath the distinct structures, philosophies and cosmological nonsense of most religions, you will find people who speak and preach the same thing. See here for example: What is god for religious people?


Much investigation has therefore been done in finding out what in matter of fact Buddha says when he says "Be a lamp unto yourself" (old rendering), or "Be an island unto yourself" (new rendering).

We find this exhortation in a number of texts throughout the Small Vehicle canons of the Theravādin (the Pali canon), the Chinese (the Āgama), and the Tibetan (the Kanyur).

The best known instance is that of the Dhammapāda (238) of the Pali canon where it says: Be an island unto yourself!

... We find a slightly different rendering in the Pali Mahāparinibbāna Sutta where it says: "Therefore, Ānanda, be islands unto yourselves,

... In years gone by the Pali word dīpa used to be rendered as "lamp" following such passages as "extinguish the lamp of disease (ignorance)!" (telappadīpo āropito.) which we equallly find in the above Pali Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. Walpola Rahula, in his 'What the Buddha taught' points to this discussion.

You also have Nietzsche's aphorism, translated as:

The hypocrite who always plays one and the same part ceases at last to be a hypocrite.

Human All Too Human, 51.

So that's a dilemma: how can we be a lamp unto ourselves -- if our self deception can transmute into "fact".

Wittgenstein asks at the beginning of his Tractatus:

This book will perhaps only be understood by those who have them- selves already thought the thoughts which are expressed in it—or similar thoughts

Perhaps (all) this amounts to (is) the idea that to know the Truth is to conform to someone else's expression of it. e.g. the Buddhist text, The Awakening of Faith in Mahayana, which is an early expression of "original enlightenment" begins with the dedication:

May all sentient beings be made to discard their doubts, to cast aside their evil attachments, and to give rise to the correct faith in the Mahayana, that the lineage of the Buddhas may not be broken off.

I'd conclude that Truth is best reached by doubting what we believe and then finding out who else agrees with what's then left. Nothing is fool proof, and you could always try the opposite, but I reckon it's a good way to understand or learn any philosophy. Afterall, original thinking does tend to depend on prior knowledge.

As to "hard practices", I think these have some use, or they would've died out. Even if that use is just intersubejctive


Yes! It is absolutely possible that they are deluded. It is possible the Buddha was deluded. Or that there never was any Gautama Buddha. Deluded persons, pretty much by definition, don't realize they're deluded. So anybody who tells you she, the directors of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, or Jesus Christ, discovered the Ultimate Truth, might be a deluded person speaking from ignorance. Or you might be deluded, and misunderstanding what you hear. If there is objective truth, there surely isn't any objective human knowledge. Only a subject knows things, and only subjectively


Truth is a tricky concept in that our various descriptions of 'truth' are bound up in the inter-dependencies of the language and concepts we use to describe it. Countless philosophers have debated what it means for something to be true, yet ultimately the contingency of our conceptual model on fallible perception (perhaps even positing thoughts themselves as a kind of perception) means we cannot ever fully describe truth independent of those conceptual limitations.

So, suppose then that there is such a thing as objective transcendental truth. Such a thing, were it to have any meaning at all, must be beyond and prior to our descriptions of it, immediately accessible and overwhelmingly self-evident. Perhaps that's amazing, but it's also wholly mundane, since that's exactly what this, just this, is. Make of it what you will.

  • On a side note, looking at my phrasing here, I suspect I've read too much Nietzsche.
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 16:05

As related to the buddhism part of your question, self-delusion is always a risk in any system of practice. And with awareness of these risks Siddhartha Guatama instituted two epistemological checks built in the framework of his thinking. One designed for external sources and the other the types of delusion that arises within us because of our own minds.

  • The necesity of self-verification (ehipassiko) as a check on appeals to authority; and
  • The necesity of constant self-awareness of Avidyā --which can be translated as a type non-congnitiveness or delusion based on things like emotionality which dulls our ability to see clearly-- and it's sub-category Moha --ignorance of cause and effect.

The principal of ehipassiko teaches that you are to believe nothing on authority. You verify for yourself if something is true or not.

The principle of Amoha (a negation of Moha) teaches now that we've avoided external delusion, be vigilant of those varieties of delusion which rise from within.

So to answer the question posed (as it relates to buddhist practice), yes it is a continual possibility. But going through (not around or above) that tension, or the working with what are called the "unwholesome roots" of kamma (Lobha, Dhosa, and Moha) are inextricably part of the the buddhist practice, at least as I'm aware of it from Theravadan and Vajrayanan teaching. It's not an external concern, but one central to the "truth" being sought, insofar as that truth is individual.

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    Excellent answer, however, there is one item missing: the truth which is self-evident -- or that which must exist for one to have the question and the thought at all. In other words: Who is the seeker? These types of "truths" which arise need a name, perhaps a priori. For the Jews, God is one such truth -- for they saw him create them, without which they could not exist to have the doubt. For them (and all from that history), the Tree of Knowledge and the serpent started the process of (self-)doubt. Nakedness (the shame of self), for example, was the first act of it.
    – Marxos
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 18:05

Yes, it is certainly a considerable and plausible explanation that what they have experienced is entirely a psychological effect. Tho, what then is the psychological or neurobiological cause of this effect and how might knowledge be obtained regarding such a claim or explanation?

As to your question:

How can anyone who hasn't realised the truth claim that Mahatma Buddha or any other person in history realised the God or Truth?

I am not sure what you mean by either "realised the truth" or "realised the Truth".

Truth is simply a condition of statements which is satisfied what what is said is corresponds to (matches, fits) what is (the world, the case, states of affairs, etc.)

Given this condition, it is useful in cases of adjudicating knowledge claims to distinguish what is true (correspondence of utterance and what is empirically verified) from what is "true to [you; me; us; or, them."

While it may be "true to [you; me; us; or them]" that "[you; I; we; they] have been divinely [inspired, contacted, communicated to; revealed to; et cetera]" such claims are epistemically limited to their status as self-knowledge.

For example, a mystic or a lay person may describe an experience as "God spoke to me" and for all intent and purpose this description may be sincere and the experience meaningful to them. It is, however, impossible for the claim to be verified by anyone else (much less falsified - how would you demonstrate that God had not spoken to them?) Such is a distinction of self-knowledge from empirical and axiomatic knowledge claims.

So, to answer your question, "How can anyone who has not X claim that someone else has X" it is worth considering the mundane answer to "how?" that people use their words. Of course, if someone who has not X and has spent a long time trying to X it may be psychologically advantageous to claim that someone else has X.

As for your stated intention to "know the truth" consider that truth is not a statement of what is. That is instead what true statements are. Truth is rather the state or condition of correspondence between what is and what one says is what is. And that is all it is. The phrases "truth of tomorrow", "one truth" and "truth of the physical world" etc. are thus epistemically vacuous. Rationally assessing a statements truth value requires logic as well as sense perception. To know the truth value of a sentence requires the empirical verification of what is said is. Knowledge is in fact empirical verification of what is (else how do you know what is?) Descriptions of what is admit of degrees, but truth value is exclusively either true or false.

For example, the following statements can be empirically verified:

  1. the moon is roughly 239,000 miles from the Earth.
  2. the moon is more than a mile away from the Earth.
  3. the moon is closer to the Earth than the Sun.

All three statements are true. Not a single statement purports the exact distance between the two spheres perigees. All three statements can be falsified and empirically verified. When you empirically verify the statements of what is, you know the content of the statement. And this is the point: the distinction between truth value (exclusively true or false) and knowledge of the statements content.

So, what to make of the claim that "God spoke to me"? The person who makes the claim sincerely and has a memory of the time "God spoke to them" can only describe the case and claim it as "true to them". There is simply no way to also know that "God spoke to them" except if "to know" is used to mean "agree". There is, however, a vast epistemic difference between agreement and verification. Hence, statements of self-knowledge - even mundane statements such as "I feel glad" - are not rationally assessable as either true or false and empirical knowledge may not be claimed in instances of self-knowledge.

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