Inspired by a cross-post at Progressive Buddhism and The Reformed Buddhist as well as a post by DjBuddha on the terminology of Buddhism movements in the West.
When we see people cling to sutra’s or rituals or any one aspect of the religion, and are unwilling or unable to accept different ways of learning and teaching, I think we run the danger of making Buddhism a static practice, one that can’t or won’t progress to new and more innovative forms. While the ancient teachers have a great deal to teach us that should be carried forward, we mustn’t forget those who are new to Buddhism, whose knowledge and understanding of the road signs we are pointing to aren’t as robust as what a long time practitioner would have. It is important that Buddhism makes room for new ways of expressing the dharma and for inventive ways of exploring the true nature of self and suffering.
Well we all “cling” to our rituals and sutras as well as to aspects of our practice such as meditation or nembutsu. All is at the same level without one exceeding another. A good analogy is the misunderstanding of when people talk about evolution and expect it to infer a progression to a “better” or “perfect” state from a “bad” or primitive one. Instead, view it as random change determined by the culture-base that the Dharma enters into. When the Dharma is introduced to a secular nation it will express itself in a manner different, but not necessarily better than, when exposed to a culture (such as Japan) with a long-history of ancestor worship. Different, yes! But with no determination of one being better than the other.
Static is another loaded term. While static is inferred to be negative. In reality, no changes were made or at least only subtle changes were made, because of its innate adaptability. Static and traditional are not negative only descriptive. The same is true of the terms “modern” or “progressive”. These infer movement only and not whether or not one is Good and the other Bad. Only that one has moved and the other hasn’t.
It isn’t a straight path with polar opposites on each side in an obvious progression from a “bad” ancestrial stock to a “good” modern stock as the picture above demonstrates. And this is how many Buddhists in the West view each other or at least think that we view each other. A steady march from the static, archaic, ritualistic Buddhism of the past to a new stream-lined Buddhism of the future. This is not what is actually happening.
Instead it is a big bushy mess of movement with different schools and sects moving into new environments with new people (different races, socio-economic groups, backgrounds) forming new traditions and retaining older ones.
I can’t emphasize enough that when I say traditional and modern, I do not infer that one is better than the other or that one is superceding the other in any fashion. With the radiation of Buddhism into the West we can expect to find many new and emerging “species” of Buddhism. Some new and flashy ones may shine briefly and then die out (Ohhh. I could name a few but I won’t). Other more archaic forms (not a negative term only a descriptive one) will thrive, maybe more than they thrived in the past.
I still feel that I practice “Horsecrab” Buddhism. Old in form and definately Archiac in nature but if you live on the East Coast those son-a-bitches thrive. Compare that to some species that last only a few million years. But not everyone like horseshoe crabs some people like those fancy new fangled blue crabs. Whatever. To each their own.
Hope this wasn’t too clunky an analogy. Feel free to comment.
[Before anyone else writes something that I have to remove. Here is my point: Buddhism is NOT linear rather it moves in many directions; Traditional or static is NOT bad, just a description; progressive is NOT good, just a description of change; I DO NOT prefer horseshoe crabs to blue crabs because one is tastier than the other but rather I can respect that fact that sometimes you don’t need to change in order to adapt.]