waterchan wrote:Or we can just ignore that and just get people to tick boxes. That's how the government does it! Whoever ticks the Buddhist box is considered a Buddhist.
Yes, and this appears to be how Buddhism came to be an anything-goes phenomenon.
If we insist on truly valid criteria and only count as Buddhist those who understand the four noble truths, the eightfold path, keep five precepts, have read all the basic suttas, practice jhanas, practice vipassana, listen to Dhamma talks, and take refuge solely in the triple gem, then I doubt you will get a large enough sample space for statistically significant results.
Which is why in these things, I avoid trying to develop some kind of objective image of Buddhism, but instead focus on each personal problem as it comes.
For example, the majority of my experiences with people who claim to be Buddhists have been rather negative and uninspiring. Some people suggest that the solution is to have more contact with more Buddhists. Indeed, this might theoretically help. But it may also be financially impossible for a particular person to go through with that plan. Relying on some distant future when I will be fabulously rich and have a lot of time so I can move from country to country seems just utterly unrealistic. So I think a different approach is necessary.