This entire page is an interesting discussion.
I've found it interesting and thought-provoking too and would like to thank ancientbuddhism for the thread.
I don't ever see the day that it will be appropriate to accuse, for example, Rinzai Zen, of not being "Buddhist." All of these medieval Japanese schools that emerged 1500 years after the Buddha have been sheltered under the umbrella of the term "Buddhism" for so long, that it's not likely that Buddhism in the west will mean anything other than the cocktail of practices that has developed over the centuries.
Yeah, I don't think we're going to see too many heated debates over whether Zen folks should be calling themselves Buddhist.
I'm just saying that influence, adaptation, and syncretism are hardly new in Buddhism so we should maybe be careful about singling out Western Buddhism as particularly egregious. Even in among the established Buddhist movements and sects you can find examples of "prosperity Buddhism", for instance.
Now, in the west, we have Secular Buddhism, and "mindfulness" practices, that even thogh they don't mention the name of Buddha, or suggest outright that they are Buddhist, it's largely implicit that these concepts are derived from "Buddhism."
My argument would be that we should distinguish between mindfulness programs that do not claim to be Buddhist, and centers/programs/teachers that do. I can't see much basis for objecting to the former. Buddhists don't have a monopoly on meditation practices, even if some of these practices originated in a Buddhist context.
Self-described Buddhist teachers presenting distorted or incomplete versions of the dhamma are a different matter. This may not be a simple question either; my point is just that it's a different question.
The core struggle, it seems to me, and this issue has been well identified by others, is that the historical Buddha set down an entire body of teachings that are largely being ignored by most western Buddhists. Were these teachings outdated, or peculiar to modern times, I could see some reason to accept that they could be corrupted, or reformed and modified to suit modern expectations. What is compelling to me, however, is that to really dig deep into the Suttas yields a treasure trove of Dhamma that has universal and timeless utility and appeal.
Yes, agree with you there! Part of the issue, I think, is that the body of teachings is large, stratified and diverse. Anyone can come up with several distinct "Buddhisms" depending on which suttas are prioritized. Not to forget that a significant portion of Theravada practice actually comes from the Visuddhimagga, It can be a surprise to students that certain practices and teachings -- presented as though they came straight from the Buddha's mouth -- are not from the suttas at all.
As we found out during the controversies over "ethno-Buddhism" in Burma and Sri Lanka last year, some traditional Buddhists appear to have a better grasp of the Jataka tales than the core teachings.
It's been awhile since I looked at the relevant scholarship and I don't have it at hand, but I remember reading that the Mahasamghikas ans Sthaviras tended to emphasize different parts of the canon, with the Mahasamghikas placing relatively greater emphasis on the more mystical elements, and the Sthaviras more inclined to bring out the analytical/rational side of the teachings. Someone correct me if I am wrong though.