During the life of the Buddha in India, just as it is in India today, there were all kinds of spiritual teachers known as gurus teaching a vast array of different spiritual practices. Students of meditation often wonder why insight meditation should be chosen as a spiritual path over other practices. The answer is in the nature of the practice itself. Despite some elements of the religion that might give that impression to one who is not very familiar with its tenants, Buddhism has never been about imposing one view or another on its practitioners.
Buddhism does claim, as all religions do, that its teachings are independently true and accurate, but what makes the Buddha’s teaching unique is that he did not expect anyone to take his teaching as gospel. The Buddha explained that the profound distinction between his teachings and those of others lies in the fact that the teaching is true not because it was said by the Buddha. It is true because you can verify its accuracy.
To prove to us that what he said is right, the Buddha gave us a very simple method to observe the body and the mind so that each of us can test for ourselves the validity of his claims. This method is simple enough that it is direct for everyone. That is, we do not need to rely on well educated scientists to run experiments and then interpret and report the results to us. Each of us can conduct our own experiments and see the results for ourselves. The method is no secret. It is to observe what we are doing in the present moment and as that moment changes, we change our observation along with it. By sticking to the present moment in this way, we can eventually understand how the mind works. That discovery is liberating because, once we know why we are trapped in suffering we can finally do something to free ourselves of it.
As a result, insight meditation is accessible to everyone even those who have significant doubts about Buddhism or religion in general. Not only does one not have to accept all of the Buddha’s teachings, but this is the staring point that we expect from you. The only pre-requisite belief you need is that a person should systematically observe the world objectively for herself and, based on these observations, make up her own mind about what is right and wrong. So, please, don’t take my word for it. See for yourself!