Does the Buddhist encountering a deva experience something similar to, say, the Carmelite nun interacting with God through contemplative prayer ? If so, how similar (and, for that matter, how different) are these experiences? And what about men and women? To what extent are the religious or spiritual experiences that women tend to have different from the types of experience that men typically identify as religious or spiritual?
With the prior approval of this forum's administrator, I would like to invite you to participate in a new survey that aims to shed some light upon these controversial questions by describing religious/spiritual experience in such a way that comparisons like those above become far more manageable. This survey, called the Enhanced Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (EPCI), uses culturally-independent categories to measure the subjective features of a religious/spiritual experience from your own past and produces a quantitative profile of that experience as a result. Think about sharing your own religious/spiritual experience with us and, by extension, help to resolve the embittered controversy of comparison!!! [FULL DISCLOSURE: I am one of the survey's co-developers and a doctoral student in the Division of Religious & Theological Studies, Boston University.]
If you're ready to take the EPCI at any point, simply go here and look for the survey called Religious and Spiritual Experiences. More information about the EPCI, as well as information about the Quantifying Religious Experience Project of which it is a part, can be found here.
In prior studies, the EPCI has shown that religious/spiritual experiences clearly do exhibit a unique profile, as compared to similar but non-religious/spiritual forms of experience. And with regard to the difficulties mentioned above, the EPCI has also consistently demonstrated its ability to differentiate between the average profile for experiences shared by men and that for experiences shared by women. This can be seen in the following graph, for example, which represents this average profile for each gender (M=Yellow, W=Blue; the actual characteristics have been hidden to avoid biasing your choice of experience toward those very characters).
But I must be perfectly clear about one thing. It would be naïve of anybody to claim that this survey captures all (or even most) of what makes this type of experience such a profoundly significant and influential part of human existence. We are most emphatically not using the EPCI with the intent to minimize or to deny the authenticity of religious and spiritual experiences by reducing them to something other than they are, something more "real" because more scientific in some way. Rather, we developed the EPCI in the hopes of obtaining a clearer understanding of religious and spiritual experiences precisely as they are in themselves.
So, if you've had an experience that you would somehow characterize as religious or spiritual, please consider filling out the EPCI. Once finished, you will receive immediate feedback that allows you to compare your own experience with the experiences of many others who have taken this survey. And if a group of you are interested in taking the survey together (which would offer you feedback comparing the results specifically among yourselves), just PM me and that can easily be arranged.
What's more, you'll be contributing to a good cause! As our way of showing how much we appreciate your participation, each participant who completes the survey can make a donation to their choice of two charities. Come make the world a better place, and start exploring your religion while you do!!!