David, an interesting subject and one that I have been delving into deeply, of late.
Like Kare, I would not have used the term 'baggage'. Here is so,etching that might pique some interest:
What many Americams and Europeans often understand by the term "Buddhism", however, is actually a modern hybrid tradition with roots in the European Enlightenment no less than the Buddha's enlightenment, in romanticism and transcendental ism as much as the Pali canon, and in the clash of Asian cultures and colonial powers as much as in mindfulness and meditation. Most non-Asian Americans tend to see Buddhism as a religion whose most important elements are meditation, rigorous philosophical analysis, and an ethic of compassion combined with a highly empirical psychological science that encourages reliance on individual experience. It discourages blindly following authority and dogma, and little place for superstition, magic, image worship, and gods, and is largely compatible with the findings of modern science and liberal democratic values. While this picture draws on elements of traditional forms of Buddhism that have existed in Asia for centuries, it is in many respects quite distinct from what Buddhism has meant to Asian Buddhists throughout its long and varied history. The popular western picture of Buddhism is neither unambiguously "there" in ancient Buddhist texts and lived traditions nor merely a fantasy of an educated elite population in the West, an image with no corresponding object. It is rather an actual new form of Buddhism that is the result of a process of modernisation, westernisation, reinterpretation, image-making, revitalisation, and reform that has been taking place not only in the West but also in Asian countries for over a century. This new form of Buddhism has been fashioned by modernising Asian Buddhists and western enthusiasts deeply engaged in creating Buddhist responses to the dominant problems and questions of modernity, such as epistemic uncertainty, religious pluralism, the threat of nihilism, conflicts between science and religion, war, and environmental destruction.
The emergence of Buddhist thought on these problems is the product of a unique confluence of cultures, individuals, and institutions in a time of rapid and unprecedented transformation of societies. Many modernising interpreters of Buddhism, both Asian and western, have proffered the theme of the rescue of the modern West - which they have claimed has lost its spiritual bearings through modernisation - by the humanising wisdom of the East. In order for the rescue to succeed, however, Buddhism itself had to be transformed, reformed, and modernised - purged of mythological elements and "superstitious" cultural accretions. Thus the Buddhism has become visible in the West and among urban, educated populations in Asia involve fewer rituals, deemphasises the miracles and supernatural events depicted in Buddhist literature, disposes of or reinterprets image worship, and stresses comparability with scientific, humanistic and democratic ideals. At the same time, these recent forms of Buddhism have not simply dispensed wit all traditional elements in an effort to accommodate to a changing world but have re-invented them.
-- David McMahan, The making of Buddhist modernism.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725
(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •
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