It has been my experience that Buddhism has set me from blind obedience when it comes to religious rules. I was free to think what was good spiritually and no one can tell me otherwise.
Is this what sages go through?
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I believe this is something that all truth-seekers go through. Relating to Buddhism, this is succintly answered by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana
Buddhism as a whole is quite different from the theological religions with which Westerners are most familiar. It is a direct entrance to a spiritual or divine realm without addressing deities or other 'agents'. Its flavor is intensely clinical, much more akin to what we would call psychology than to what we would usually call religion. It is an ever-ongoing investigation of reality, a microscopic examination of the very process of perception. Its intention is to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through which we normally view the world, and thus to reveal the face of ultimate reality. Vipassana meditation is an ancient and elegant technique for doing just that.
Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
Is Buddhism a kind of truth seeking mental device?
Or several (theories and pratices).
And if you were to ask, "is a theory a kind of truth-seeking mental device" then I think I'd agree that the answer to that is more "yes" than "no".
I was free to think what was good spiritually and no one can tell me otherwise.
In it the Buddha advises them to "know for themselves" whether and which qualities are skilful -- and, are blameless and "praised by the wise".