From a recent Brad blog I am picking up two things. The first here concerns Buddhism in general, and how westerners have taken to Buddhism.
I am always amazed why Tibetan Buddhism is the most popular branch of Buddhism especially in the US. Richard Gere springs to mind and Robert Turman is well known. Perhaps it is because HHDL targets the west. There’s all the drumming and dancing, and all the revisions suited to Tibetan culture and history – of little relevance to westerners. Briefly I got involved with the New Kadampa Tradition in Manchester. The people were very nice and welcomed me especially as I had just returned from Tibet and had visited Ganden monastery, a place of significance to these people. I went to a Tibetan mass in which all the participants recited a litany. It was the first time I had come across the name Dorje Shugden, and later found out that considering him a teacher was dividing Tibetan Buddhism. I had a nice break at Coniston Priory, and that was the last I had to do with them. For me Buddhism requires enquiry – not faith. Good luck to them, as with all faiths mixed with compassionate practice it made these people better.
Tibetan is so ritualistic and focuses on reincarnation more than the others. It demands faith to such a great extent. Brad says “This is especially true when it comes to American Buddhists. Lots of folks in my home country got into Buddhism specifically because of its teachings about reincarnation, particularly those espoused by Tibetan Buddhists. They do not like anyone questioning their beliefs.” For people who learned at the Church of Reason such ritual and faith seem counter-indicated.
Theravadan seems much more in line because there are so many western intellectuals attached to it. For an approach whose adherents often eschew reason there are so many people who bring reason to the table of Theravada.
I tend to think of Mahayana and Zen as different although Zen strictly, I think, is part of Mahayana. I think Zen is much more readily acceptable to westerners because it becomes all things to all people. I think commitment to true Zen requires much commitment to practise (Zazen) but I also think Zen is better suited to the armchair phenomenon common in the West, in this case armchair Buddhists. But Zazen looks to let mind (reason) and body drop away, not particularly suited to the Reason advocates that profligate in the west because of miseducation.
“It’s too bad so many Buddhists have ruined Buddhism. You can really learn a lot by following the examples folks like Buddha and Dogen left for us.”