However, quite often there are people who stretch the whole encouragement of critical thinking to include dismissing whatever they disagree with or fail to properly understand. In our present day you have individuals in print who say that since Buddha encouraged people to not take things on the basis of tradition or lineage, then they have the liberty to dismiss concepts that they find disagreeable such as rebirth and karma. In their minds, since the Buddha encouraged critical thinking, they should critically dismiss whatever they dislike. Their interpret right view in such a light -- their distorted vision of critical thought is right view.
This is one reason why actual Buddhadharma will struggle to root itself in present day industrialized nations. There is increasing hostility towards anything that smells of religion. Hence why a lot of Buddhists like to announce that Buddhism is not a religion but a "way of life" or a "path of practice". The result is zazen and exotic oriental culture sanitized of disagreeable religious elements.
I see what you mean. But do you think it's possible that some may use "Buddhism Lite" as a stepping stone to the real deal? We all have to start somewhere. Unless one's karma creates a natural predisposition towards the Buddha's teachings, most people are not going to get it all right away. Conviction develops gradually -- we see things in the dharma that ring true, and we look into it further. As we look into it further, our trust in the teachings grows. Wasn't this exactly the process which the Buddha outlined in the suttas we were discussing above?
If any of us had full, 100% conviction, with no doubts or uncertainties at all, then we would be stream entrants already.
In my own case, if I hadn't run into some pop dharma as a kid, I might not have formed a favorable view of Buddhism. If I hadn't formed such a view, I might not have been open to trying out meditation. If I hadn't experienced benefits from meditation, I might not have decided to take a more serious look at what the Buddha taught. And so on.
This is likewise a problem even in countries where Buddhism has for centuries existed. Here in Japan it is hard to find Buddhist clergymen who actually address the problem of samsara. My friends from mainland China likewise seem to think Buddhism is a feudal superstition.
How dismaying. Do you see any signs of a resurgence? Maybe we should have a thread called "Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the East".
As the fruits of industrialization and adoption of materialist thinking appear fewer young people in particular will see any point at all in Buddhism. To them it is just a foolish superstition. What's real and real important is money, science and popular culture. If you're given an education where no thought of past or future lives is given, why would you ever spend an ounce of strength on liberating yourself from samsara? The whole point of Buddhadharma is liberation from samsara.
Still, wouldn't you say there's a fair amount of concern, particularly among young people, regarding environmental issues, factory farming, social injustice, and many other societal/issues? Many of these match up quite well with Buddhist ethics.
Also, although liberation from samsara is the ultimate point, I'm not sure I'd agree it's the whole or only point. The Buddha also taught the way for present-life happiness and the way to a good rebirth. The books by Hsing Yung which I've read seem to have this "triple level" Buddhism in mind.
Incidentally, the teachings I just outlined are unpopular in English language Buddhist publications.
Yep, "renunciation" and "restraint" aren't exactly topping the charts. But that's why I think it's important that we don't frame it as a black-and white choice between mindless indulgence and total renunciation; i.e., either ordain or party like it's 2099. There are steps in between, degrees of renunciation anyone can practice regardless of their life circumstances. The buddhadharma can be applied to all situations.