Hey, thanks for starting this thread Retro.
My opinion is (and I suspect others would share this view too) is that Buddhism should indeed have sovereignty over 'Buddhist' matters but this shouldn't be misconstrued as privileged access to or monopoly over the dhamma
, which is really more than 'Buddhism' (although one might argue that Buddhism has articulated a path to the dhamma in a particularly incisive way).
I agree with what some of you have said about poor academic studies of Buddhism. The study of Buddhism in the discipline of Religious Studies can sometimes be problematic insofar as such an approach misperceives its methodology (modeled after the now passe idea that all modes of scholarship should follow that of the natural sciences) is more 'objective' than the scholarship of the practitioner which is seen as 'less objective' because of his/her commitment to tradition. Such an approach attempts only to analyse Buddhism descriptively, seeing no merit in concerning themselves with doctrinal claims and practices. What an impoverished approach, I say! But I think in this day and age, committed Buddhist scholarship is increasingly being accepted in secular academes, which in my view is a good thing as it opens up new avenues for enquiry.
For example, this anthology, , presents some interesting views from Buddhist commentators who are committed to both secular academic enquiry and dhamma practice. Most of them are Mahayanist though but their ideas are relevant to the study and development of the dhamma on the whole. If you can find the book in a library, some of the chapters are worth a read. There are two reviews of the book online: , and
All in all, to come back to my initial point about Buddhism vis-a-vis the dhamma: I'd like to think of the emancipatory possibility of the dhamma as a horizon
. A horizon, by definition, cannot be conquered or owned for it is ever-receding. But a horizon can orientate us and set the distance for our pursuits. A horizon is what makes any journey (and by implication, any destination) possible, even if the horizon always recedes. A horizon can be seen and followed by anyone (not just 'Buddhism')--if they care to look and risk the journey.