You make repeated claims that what you teach, your method of meditation and personal investigation, is a means for uncovering the universal law of nature, a law that has nothing to do with any particular religion or philosophy, a law that operates irrespective of rites and rituals. In fact, you seem to express disdain for religious ritual, that it has no place in the search for truth.
And yet we listen to you chant in Pali, the ancient language of the Buddha, for 30 minutes in the morning, all through breakfast and lunch, and following each instance of meditation instruction. No one but perhaps the assistant teacher understands what is being said. To the rest of us it's just melody, and if played excessively loudly, as it is at your Indian centers, an annoying and irritating melody. Is this not ritualistic?
Meditators take only two meals a day, and may not eat after noon. This is a tradition among monks of certain schools of Buddhism, a tradition that began long ago because walking to town to beg food three times a day took too much time and was thus impractical. Granted, full-time meditators need less food than they otherwise might normally need. But the noon prohibition seems to be following tradition for the sake of tradition.
You claim in your lectures that you are entirely uninterested in notoriety. In fact, you teach that the pursuit of fame, honor, and social acclaim is “madness,” a manifestation of ignorance of the law of Dhamma. It seems to me, however, that the erection of a one kilometer high, gold-plated pagoda outside Mumbai by your organization is not only a towering monument securing your reputation as a great Dhamma teacher, it is also a huge waste of money and human labor, and seems as well to have nothing to do with the pursuit or propagation of science.
The claim is repeatedly made in your taped discourses that Dhamma is a universal law of nature, a science of the mind, the science of liberation. Yet you refuse to reveal the method's complete philosophy and operational principles on the very unscientific grounds that by tradition such information is provided to the meditator on a need-to-know basis. Does this not violate the ethical foundation of science, which calls for full disclosure of all operating procedures and data? On what grounds is a scientist justified in withholding such information?
Knowledge through experience
You claim the only way to know something is through direct experience, that intellectual knowledge of impermanence is by itself not enough to lead to liberation, or at least a better quality of life, and that meditators must practice awareness of the body to feel impermanence. If you yourself do not claim to be enlightened, liberated, or otherwise no more than another aspirant walking the path, on what grounds other than an appeal to authority do you claim that your method will lead to complete liberation? Aren't you just passing on second-hand information? In what way is this claim unlike other unverifiable religious claims that certain practices will lead to an eternal afterlife based on the scriptural authority of a supernatural being?
You claim that the Buddha taught Vipassana and that he taught the same scanning method you teach at your centers. Yet there seems to be no textual evidence to support this claim. There is also an absence of evidence that thousands of people across northern India once practiced Vipassana. Where is the evidence?
You teach that the idea of “I” is a fiction, that human experience is composed of the fives khandhas – body, feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness. What is it, then, that needs liberating? If all compounded things are conditioned, such as human beings and human experience, isn't my decision to follow the path (or not), to react (or not), likewise conditioned? If there is no “I,” but also no strict determinism, then where are such decisions made? By what? And for what purpose?