If I may extend upon some of those blog posts:
It is certainly true that Western colonialism was influential in shaping some of the key characteristics of Buddhism we have today, but it is important to note that Asian Buddhists didn't passively absorb Western interpretations, and it is certainly important NOT to think that Asian Buddhists were 'in the dark' until Western knowledge came along to 'restore' a proper understanding. Reflecting colonial paternalism and Eurocentric arrogance
, Western interpreters of Buddhism of the time did take such a condescending view towards Asian Buddhists, but with the benefit of historical hindsight we really shouldn't slip into such an attitude today. Without going so far as to accuse the author of slipping into such an attitude, I'd like to quickly highlight the AGENCY of Asian Buddhists and their roles in rearticulating Buddhism.
The book The Making of Buddhist Modernism
stresses clearly at the start that Buddhist modernism is a ‘cocreation of Asians, Europeans, and Americans.’
Though it was the case that the West's 'discovery' of Buddhism (through a somewhat fetishistic
fascination with 'the Orient') led to a heavily textualised approach to Buddhism which ignored and denigrated the practices of Asian Buddhists
. Emphasising its 'philosophical' and 'ethical' aspects over its 'religious aspects, such an approach prompted a reconsideration of Buddhism in Asian lands. Asian Buddhists, however, were NOT merely capitulating to Western ideals. Rather, as Gombrich notes, in the case of Ceylon for example the trend of Protestant Buddhism developed as ‘both a protest against the Protestant missionaries (and the colonial power behind them) and in many ways a mirror image of their attitude and activities.’
Gombrich and Obeyesekere also notes, ‘Religion is privatized and internalized: the truly significant is not what takes place at a public celebration or in a ritual, but what happens inside one’s own mind or soul.’
Protestant Buddhism, in other words, was a means for the colonised and marginalised Asian Buddhists of Ceylon to resist imperial domination over their culture, beliefs, and practices--interestingly, by mirroring the attitudes and activities of the colonial West, but reconfiguring them for their own nationalist interests.
These developments influenced the way meditation is understood and practiced. Indeed if not for such developments--which laicised Buddhist teachings and shifted spiritual authority from the monastic clergy to 'individual experience'--meditation would not have been made accessible to a wide audience. But it is important to stress that we shouldn't attribute too much influence to the West, nor think that it was the West that came along to 'restore' meditation practice. To adopt such a view is to slip back into arrogant, condescending attitudes. Rather, it was the coming together of various conditions--and conditions belong to no one
--that prompted such a development.