Huseng wrote:I look forward to the day when we can offer spaghetti, not rice, to the preta.
Lol. That's the best thing I've read in a long time. If you ever write a book, that should be the last sentence.
And how about a mandala offering of muffins?
Why not apple pie too!
Buddhism is readily adaptable. If you look at the artwork this is most readily apparently.
Here is a Buddha from Gandhara:
Here is a Buddha from Korea:
Notice that the latter looks a bit more Korean than North Indian...
I'm fine with offering kimchi to the Buddhas of the ten directions, but spaghetti, muffins, apple pie or even Icelandic prune cake would just as well be suitable.
It will happen, though, the adaptation to new cultures. It already is. Ajahm Brahm in his dharma talks has spoken of this change. He said he wanted his temple to be suitable for Aussies and not just a reproduction of a temple in Thailand.
The immigrant communities in western nations tend to reproduce their version of Buddhism from home in their new countries. You also get kind of ethnic lines unconsciously drawn. The biggest factor is language. If a Buddhist temple operates entirely in Cambodian or Chinese, then it excludes everyone who doesn't know those languages (unfortunately including the kids of immigrants who might not speak their parents' language well or might not even know it).
And the truth is those kind of temples I imagine don't really want to be cosmopolitan. They serve a function of a community center as much as a religious institution. Religion comes second. I've seen this in both a Vietnamese temple as well as in a Chinese temple back in Canada. They nominally make an effort to include the average canuck with an interest in Buddhism, but not really -that- much effort.
I mean for example the first time I walked into a Foguangshan temple in Canada I was approached by this lady who more or less asked what I wanted. Not even a hello. I asked what kind of activities they have going on. Well, she handed me a pamphlet. They got meditation class once every two weeks Saturday morning and that's in English. The rest of the temple operates in Chinese. The second time I went to a Foguangshan temple was here in Tokyo where one nun told me I probably shouldn't attend the Sunday service because it might be troublesome. Another one was later mocking me and the other white guy asking which of us spoke better Chinese. Haha so funny that the bairen
know a bit of Mandarin.
I was kind of surprised that a nun of all people would be so racist.
Incidentally even in Tokyo, another Asian country, that temple doesn't really attract many Japanese. It is for Taiwanese expats. The locals are kind of sort of welcome, but like in Canada, not really...
Foguangshan is an interesting case in that it is a huge international organization with branch temples the world over, but at the end of the day it is a Chinese Buddhist organization for Chinese people. That isn't bad or sinister, but just reveals something about their approach and organization. On the western side there might be a lot of people interested in Buddhism, but from their angle they either don't know how to work out a positive interaction (or maybe just don't want to).
In any case, in such an environment do you expect the locals to really want to settle down in a temple where you're not entirely accepted? I mean be honest -- you're not accepted as "one of them" and they don't really want you there. They won't chase you away, but you won't want to devote long years of your life to such an organization. You might show up for the occasional event and bake sale, but serving on the board of directors or attending regular dharma talks in a language you don't understand?
That's why temples in the west are either known as "ethnic" or for predominately middle-class educated natives. There's little in-between.
It'd be nice if we could have cosmopolitan temples, but the language and cultural divide is quite clearly there.
Odd thing is that in the English speaking world a lot of the most well read and knowledgeable people on Buddhism are not Buddhist. They're researchers at universities who know heaps more than the average Buddhist. They don't practice, but they know a lot about the philosophy, rituals, history, etc... they're also the ones who write the quality books on Buddhism. It isn't necessarily monastics or even devoted lay Buddhists writing the quality books on Buddhism -- it is the non-Buddhist researchers.
Personally I think Buddhist thought should be done by actual Buddhists and not a bunch of armchair intellectuals who coin phrases like "Philosophical Buddhism" and claim to do that sans all the distasteful "Buddhist Religion". You see that kind of nonsense in academia all over the place.
So if you're going to make a Nalanda in the west, you'll first need temples where muffins and spaghetti are on the altar and THEN have properly educated and intelligent Buddhist scholars and meditation masters running a Buddhist university.