First of all, I don't think Reginald Ray's statements about "rebirth" can be compared to those of. say, Bachelor. It seems to me, from what I've read of both, that Bachelor actively discounts the "notion"--as well as any "notion" or "teaching" that can't be verified by direct observation. He has a "mission," as it were. To my understanding, Ray may have "devalued" the "notion" but he is not actively engaged in divesting Buddhism of it's "cultural trappings" or any elements of doctrine that cannot be directly observed or are felt to be "suitable" for our day and age.
I'm interested to see if Reggie Ray responds, and what he may say.
Having said that, I agree with those that feel "rebirth" is really ESSENTIAL to the Buddha's Dharma. I understand those who felt E Sangha to be inflexible and perhaps even draconian, but the position of the owners and admins was clearly outlined, and clearly stated. I do think allowing discussion about what is or is not an ESSENTIAL factor of the Buddha Dharma is okay, and I commend Dharma Wheel for creating a place for this discussion. But, in my view, any representation that such a key theme as rebirth can be represented as a "maybe" to a newcomer to the Dharma is a misrepresentation. I suppose it comes down to what you want this place, or any place, to be. Is it a good place to find out what "mainstream" Buddha Dharma, in all traditions, is, or is it a place where no position whatsoever is discerned as somehow "reliable?" I leave that to the owners and admins/mods to determine, but I will say that thus far, Dharma Wheel is doing a fine job in my opinion, and represents the best outlet now available.
As for Mt. Meru, this was pre-Buddhist, you know? But it's an interesting topic: does the "fact" that we have a different cosmology now mean that we must no longer offer mandalas in the traditional manner? Must deity yoga sadhanas now place the yidam somewhere other than on a mythical mountain at the center of the universe? Do we understand this to be symbolic or literal? Does adaption to current "science" mean that we must throw out older cosmologies?
We can say that "science" has given us a new cosmology, and that it has "refuted" Mt. Meru....but "rebirth" is of a different category of experience, and thus far is really an article of Faith for most, and not an object of direct observation.
Lastly, just to add some perspective to the issue of "rebirth," and to bring it back to Reginald Ray and his "lineage," I would point to Milarepa's statement, to the effect that initially he knew of rebirth and was frightened, but in the end, he was not concerned in the slightest about birth and death. I think we can say that, on an ultimate level, Buddha Dharma holds rebirth to be illusory, with no reality whatsoever. Since we don't exist on that level, however, we have to understand cause and effect, and consider the impetus to practice, as well as the scope of the path. These things all change if one discounts "rebirth" on the relative level.
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