#1 I am a new Buddhist. No one in my family is a Buddhist and there is no predominate form of Buddhism in this *hemisphere*. Forget about US Buddhism, there is no predominate form of Mexican or Canadian or Paraguay Buddhism. There is no orthodoxy.
#2 There are 84,000 doors to enlightenment and 84,000 schools of Buddhism, where pray tell is orthodoxy?
There is a form of Buddhism that swallowed all of Hinduism. (Vajrayana) But it didn’t become Hinduism. I like to imagine sometimes that Buddhism is Hinduism repackaged for export.
There is a form of Buddhism that reinvents pretty much all the themes of Christianity (Shin)
There is a form of Buddhism that reinvents snips and snaps of western philosophy and philosopher cults, sort of how Pythagoras triggered geometry/philosophy/magic cults. (That would be the scholastic Buddhism of India, just before it left.)
There is a religion that swallowed Buddhism (Hinduism).
There is monism, the rejection of monism and the rejection of both. We could reject all three of those and these reject this sentence, too ad naseum. All that proves is that there are logical conundrums like “Everyone from Crete is a liar & I’m from Crete.”
With so many choices, who are we to believe, think well of or rely on?
#3 Syncretism is going to happen, lets just be conscious of it.
I think it is a Buddhist theme that we draw tidy boundaries around things that aren’t tidy things. What is Zen Buddhism, say? Does it entail monism, meditation, or burdock root recipes? What is Shambhala? Does it entail living in Colorado and drinking? We have no choice but to assemble a religion out of the goo that is presented by all the means available.
#4 Something things are *not* negotiable.
The Japanese Emperor God of Shingon Buddhism, is out. It’s settled. I don’t care if you got a clever argument about non-duality, attachment to my pre-Buddhist ideas, or an argument from authority (even if it a well chosen teacher/guru that I’m supposed ot select). The Japanese God Emperor is nonsense. I’ll hear none of it. I’d list the rest of things I want no part of: literal belief in magic, gods, etc. I think calling my conscious by a name (the part of my brain that says, you should have done that or good job!), and calling him King Yama is fine as a rhetorical device.
I am not a re-enactor of ancient societies. I must rumage through the ancient vinaya, Prātimokṣa, the ritual and mudras and prostrations and decide what I want to keep and why. Prostrations are good exercise. Rituals add structure to the day. But if I can invent better ones, I will.
#5 No one knows anymore what the Buddha taught.
The Pali cannon is a mishmash of fiction and the winners rewriting history. The Mahayana canon is a bunch of commentaries int the form of Sutras because apparent that is what it took in China & India to be taken seriously. We shouldn’t judge an alien scholarship solely on how we do it. Someday, a 1000 years form now, physics student will look back and laugh at how sloppy contemporary academics were. Back to the topic: The tantric witch doctors, the mahayana sutra writers, the Tibetan terma writers, and that guy writing pop-Buddhist books, they all have something interesting. The all are going to take some heavy handed editing before I can do anything with them.
I would almost go so far as to say, *everyone* has something worthwhile to say, but some sections of the HUMAN canon (have you read it yet? get back to me when you’re done), are too far afield from the field that I prefer– Buddhism. There is less I have to cut and add here, than I would have to cut and add were I to choose, say the Ohio Revised Code as my foundation for religion or ethics (like the atheist seem to want) or Proust and Isaac Asimov as the postmodernist-obscurantists seem to want.
So while I twist the teaching of a man whose teaching we’ve lost track of, I’m doing so fully aware of it and honestly. I know the risks of complacency (only picking the parts of a religion that support how I happen to be right now) and antinomialism (picking only the dictates and consequences that allow me to do what I wanted to do anyhow). Complacency and antinomialism are real. And that is more honest than any orthodoxy can be.