Kaizen (kai_zen) wrote,

Article on Western Buddhism (Source Unknown)

There is an evolving form of Buddhism that has been variously described as either "American" or "Western" Buddhism. It's also sometimes referred to as "scientific" Buddhism.

It's been here for at least 50 years and is growing in popularity and presence since the re-introduction of Buddhism to the west in the 1950s. At first it grew in America through the Beats, but soon spread to Canada, Europe, Australia and other 'western' nations. People like Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki helped that introduction, and writers like Jack kerouac and Alan Ginsberg helped its spread through the counterculture. The arrival of various Buddhist teachers in the 1960s helped stir interest as schools were founded.

However, traditionalists - like in any belief - are fighting against the change. Newness threatens and frightens some people, even though the changes are actually true to the heart of Buddhist philosophy (particularly relevant to the statements made in the Kalama Sutra). Traditionalists often resist change because it underpins their authority.

Basically, Western Buddhism is a return to the core practice, a pragmatic approach shorn of the accumulated gods, demons, superstitions, mythologies and animistic practices like oracles and fortune telling. Even reincarnation is challenged. It strips the debris from the Buddha's words and presents a shining, unadorned way to approach Buddhism.

In some ways, it is very much like Zen, in that it has more focus on daily practice than the trappings of formalized ritual.

Stephen Batchelor, a long-time Buddhist teacher, brought a lot of these issues to the fore in a small book called "Buddhism Without Beliefs." he also writes about it online in an article on "Agnostic Buddhism." There are a few sites dedicated to this approach that you should read.

Western Buddhism discards the theological hierarchy; it really doesn't need the formal structure to control and direct it. It returns to the Buddha's belief that everyone can become enlightened by simple practice and pursing a basic code of ethics. There is no need for the superstitions and claptrap that have been collected over the centuries, usually absorbed through contact with other religions. But a lot of that has become so engrained in traditional practice that it's difficult to see the teachings through the veil of mythology, spirits, dieties and demons.

Western Buddhism is quietly gathering strength. It is not a negative, but rather a very positive change that shows Buddhism is still a vital, growing and evolving belief that has relevance not only to the West, but to all the world.

This effectively sums up my practice. I was glad to see that many others share the same perception. Though ultimately it's insignificant, it's wonderful to see that these ancient ideas are shedding their mystical and mythological excesses, in exchange for the collective mental/conceptual development that we have gone through over the past centuries.
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