Americans interested in Buddhism are being fed the more esoteric, high level teachings while missing the basics, often under the instruction of visiting lamas and other spiritual teachers, reports the Buddhist magazine Tricycle (Summer).
In an interview, Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace says that the dilemma is most evident in Tibetan Buddhism, where Tibetan lamas visiting the U.S. alter teachings to fit into the format of retreats, weekend workshops and one night lectures. Lamas find little interest among American participants in such Buddhist basic teachings as renunciation, ethical discipline and the cultivation of compassion, and in a “supply and demand” situation will highlight what people want to hear — newer advanced teachings, such as attaining one’s inner Buddhist nature.
Even if they have wealthy benefactors that take care of them, lamas still rely on retreat and conference participants for their travel costs and operating expenses and have to cater to their hosts interests (even if they try to convey that basic and advanced teachings are important). For all the interest in advanced, esoteric teachings, Wallace finds little if any evidence that American practitioners are achieving Buddhist holiness and enlightenment, which is marked by the state of meditative concentration, contemplative insights and paranormal abilities.
He concludes that with the lack of contemplative rigor as well as the effect of commercialization, “Tibetan Buddhism runs the danger of losing its integrity in the West and being totally assimilated into an amorphous New Age culture.”
(Tricycle, 92 Vandam St., New York, NY 10013)