Certainly, this Saha land has many difficulties. But then I'd say Ksitigarbha's practice gains even more merit for any bodhisattva. Also, since the practice of prajnaparamita, seeing of buddha-nature is an attainment encompassing and above all, as one can receive the teaching from a buddha directly, there's hardly any better way.
However, it takes more than prajna to become a Buddha -- one needs bodhicitta
driven by karuna
or compassion which is developed in the wastelands of samsara. I think the result of merely having prajna
or merit and bodhicitta is becoming a pratyeka-buddha
. Some say understanding of emptiness leads to compassion, but perhaps it is more case by case according to individual vāsanā
and so on.
But let's look at it how could Chan be the optimal path. Realising the nature of mind is the starting point of Chan. Those who haven't seen it yet can only aspire for entering the gate but they know nothing of what is inside. Thing is, among the many aspirants only a few can pass the barrier. Then those who actually do may or may not perfect it in a single lifetime and become buddhas.
Do they become a samyak-sam-buddha or just realized to a certain point on the Bodhisattva bhumi
There are many Chan (Zen/Seon) teachers in the west now. A couple of them have been involved in scandals and many lack proper education in Buddhism. While we can see literally hundreds of Dharma-heirs but there might be only a handful of some worth. This is just to show how many are those still outside the gates but claiming they can enlighten students. I think I feel somewhat similar to Ouyi who perceived that there are many false Chan teachers, so people should rather practise buddha-remembrance.
This is unfortunately the truth. On the other hand, there are a number of growing organizations, most notably Dharma Drum Mountain and Foguangshan, which preserve orthodox Chan practises and also have systems in place to ensure quality control. If you want the real deal so to speak you probably have to go to one of those organizations. It might not be as fashionable and cool as being a Zen Roshi with a sports car or whatever, but it is the real thing.
Right now in the west Madhyamaka could be another option. It has enough texts translated to English to have a good basis for study. (Yogacara, Tiantai and Huayan are far from that level.) Madhyamaka is a great choice because textual study and reasoning can help making a clear difference between true and false. Just like Pure Land practice, Madhyamaka theory is a good appandage for Chan. Also, and this I haven't yet heard about, one could actually take up Madhyamaka as a complete path.
Madhyamika is rather popular as is anything written by Nagarjuna. That area seems to be dominated by Tibetan traditions at the moment. For example Garfield's translation of Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
uses a Tibetan translation and his own understanding relies on Tibetan interpretations and he pays no attention at all to Chinese commentaries and interpretations. There is Lama Tsong Khapa's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
which of course would draw the attention of any Gelug-pa practitioner. Moreover, Tibetan traditions venerate and study Nagarjuna's works as absolutely fundamental and key, so inevitably any westerner studying Tibetan Buddhism will be exposed to Madhyamika thought.
Unfortunately despite there being actually an enormous amount of commentaries on Nagarjuna in China and elsewhere in East Asia, much of it is either left to the realm of scholars or just ignored. The Sanlun school 三論宗 for example produced many thinkers who might be called the Madhyamika successors in China. The most notable figure being Jizang 吉藏.
That might actually reflect trends in scholarship right now. Scholars doing Tibetan Buddhism have a lot of consumer support to work on Tibeto-Madhyamika topics, while not so much support exists for similar studies regarding East Asian developments in Nagarjuna's thought. People want Chan, not Sanlun.
I think one could take up Madhyamika as a complete path and I believe some still do. It is an area of study in present day Chinese Buddhism. In such an environment where sectarian lines are rather fuzzy and organization boundaries have less to do with philosophical doctrines, people have the freedom to devote their energies to one area like Huayan, Chan, Tiantai, Sanlun, etc...