For people like me who view Dhamma Wheel through the "new posts" link, I would like to say up front that this thread is being posted in "The Dhammic free-for-all" section. If you aren't a fan of having religious beliefs questioned I respect you, have no wish to offend you and would like you to consider this note as a warning.
In the few weeks I have been here I have been surprised to find many westerners who have taken on the religious beliefs of Buddhism. I don't mean some of the more sober, rational views that seem connect with ordinary life.
It would make more sense to come across intelligent, thoughtful, otherwise modern Asians doing this. You grow up in a culture where a set of beliefs are dominant and those beliefs seep into you, giving you a propensity to accept them.
I think human beings have a drive toward "religion", by that I mean having/making a mental map of the world, a map they can relate to and one that offers some comfort.
I also think, like S.N. Goenka ( who would not agree with these thoughts ), that people are wrongfully impressed by sensations. Sensations are just sensations. Sensations are not descriptions of reality. Just because a person is depressed doesn't mean their life is that bad. Just because a person feels confident, doesn't mean s/he has ability. That is just how they feel.
My opinion is that many people think If they feel something, they have found something real.
I'm guessing these two things are behind "the new orthodoxy/myth set" of most Westerners ( may not be true for everyone ). I've experienced many powerful sensations through meditation over the years. I've read some of the less questionable ( by western secular standards) Buddhist beliefs and I have felt a psychological/emotional gravity towards calling myself a Buddhist when combined with those strong sensations giving a "sense of reality" to things.
I also think many westerners reconcile with some of the more unfounded beliefs of Buddhism by using generous interpretations of those beliefs. I've been finding this harder to do by actually reading the suttas and seeing what is emphasized there.
I realize things get lost in translation, but even allowing for that I just have not been able to find support in the suttas for the cool sounding interpretations westerners have.
No offense or disrespect to anyone. I'm just thinking out loud and I put this thread in a section reserved for provocative topics.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.