Welcome to DhammaWheel. My two cents.....
Academic commentators tend to take a more contextual approach to the study of Buddhist texts (as they should for they have a responsibility to further the agenda of the academy: free and open inquiry). That is, they see Buddhist doctrine and practice as culturally and historically dependent. But when taken to the extreme, academic commentators sometimes wrongly assume that the 'right' way to read Buddhist doctrine and practice is to read it descriptively. This is exemplified by the approach of Buddhology. The shortcoming of such an approach is that the truth claims of Buddhist doctrine and practice are marginalised.
Monastic commentators, on the hand, tend to be more committed towards tradition (as they should for they have a responsibility to further the agenda of the Sangha: maintain the Dhamma for future generations). That is, they see Buddhist doctrine and practice as authoritative. But when taken to the extreme, monastic commentators sometimes wrongly assume that all Buddhist doctrine and practice apply equally to all situations, regardless of time and place. I can't say which monastic scholar is like that, but I'm sure we have encountered this kind of attitude in commentators from other religions. The shortcoming of this approach is that it fails to be sensitive to the specific, unique needs of individuals in different sociocultural contexts.
Having said that, most commentators these days, academic or monastic, are informed by each other's approaches. We see this, for example, in Bhikkhu Bodhi's attempt to read the commentaries contextually. I don't know if Gombrich attempted to experience the truth claims of Buddhist doctrine and practice in his everyday life, but I do know that many contemporary academic commentators (e.g. B. Allan Wallace, David Loy and Sallie B. King) are also Buddhist practitioners who are committed to tradition, even as they attempt to think about Buddhism critically.
Or to put it another way, some people would take an absolutist position and say, 'You either accept everything as true and authoritative or nothing at all.' Yet, others would take a relativist position and say, 'Well, if nothing is true for sure, then nothing is authoritative'. I think the path of the dhamma avoids these extremes.
Last edited by zavk
on Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.