It seems quite common for many in the west to pick and choose parts of Buddhism that they like and form a combination of beliefs and practices by similarly picking and choosing from many other religious or spiritual paths as well as picking and choosing parts of scientific thought. This can turn into a belief that all of these religions are really identical while failing to deeply understand and practice any one of them.
David N. Snyder wrote:1. Less interest in rites, rituals, and ceremonies. This attachment is a hindrance to the Path to awakening (sīlabbata-parāmāso), so perhaps a useful cultural item. Many in the west came to Buddhism out of skepticism and wanting something beyond traditional rites and ceremonies, so perhaps a positive development.
It's noteworthy that aversion to rites, rituals, and ceremonies is also indicative of attachment. Much in life is arbitrary and it's easy to fall for the illusion that replacing something unfamiliar and arbitrary with something familiar and arbitrary is somehow less arbitrary.
It's also worth considering that following various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. It can be helpful to start with external practices to develop these skills before moving to more subtle forms of practice.
David N. Snyder wrote:2. Mindfulness meditation for stress-relief, self-help. Perhaps a good skillful means, but it could lead to the practice being relegated to a self-help exercise or a fad and then never take root as a religion in the West.
If the practices lead to some kind of partial or temporary relief from stress, that's still better than nothing. There's a risk that a partial fix will result in many people not seeing a need for the full solution offered by the path, but there's also the possibility that others will see the value from the fragmented portions of the path they encounter and will seek a more complete understanding to take their practice further.
David N. Snyder wrote:3. Rebirth as irrelevant, not necessary to the practice or for being Buddhist in the West. The suttas are permeated with discussion of rebirth . . . here I was this person, this was my name, my family, etc. Or perhaps a skillful means as well to allow more people access to the Dhamma and out of suffering who otherwise may not have been interested, feeling that rebirth belief is "too religious" or traditional.
This often is a problem because of attachment to views of materialism and annihilationism which are called out as wrong view in the suttas. Beliefs in wrong views does not preclude the possibility of practicing other parts of the path (this overlaps with #2 above) and through the practice these understandings can change. There is no requirement of blind faith to practice the Dhamma, so these views are not entirely incompatible with the ability to make a degree of progress along the path.
David N. Snyder wrote:4. Left-wing politics, left of center or socialist. During the time of the Buddha there were several rich merchants who gave land and built monasteries to the Sangha and the Buddha never condemned their acquisition of wealth. On the other hand, left of center politics seems compatible with less attachments, compassion, and generosity.
This is complicated. The Buddha praised compassion and equanimity and not imposing one's preferences on the private choices of others. At the same time there isn't much support in the suttas for using state sponsored force to take wealth that is not given by the rich in order to satisfy a wish for a different wealth distribution. It would seem that developing good will, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in all areas of life would better agree with the teachings of the suttas. Perhaps part of the answer here is to develop a culture that openly values and rewards willful generosity in order to end the assumption that people must be coerced into generous behavior.
binocular wrote:5. Compliance with modern Western science and culture, even at the expense of canonical references.
This seems to overlap a bit with #1 and #3 above. Regarding culture, it's easy to assume that something familiar and arbitrary is somehow not arbitrary at all. Regarding science, it has provided so many benefits and such an improvement in worldly conditions that it has earned a deep respect and reverence from much of the population. The unfortunate outcome is that it creates the possibility of thinking that every displeasurable experience can be solved by an alteration of worldly conditions. Only after seeing that even the best worldly conditions can still be seen as insufficient does the true value of the Dhamma make itself known. A similar situation exists with the ability for wealth to improve worldly conditions and its inability to ultimately provide a state of unchanging pleasantness.