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> My critique about the Zen aspect is that Buddhism is not something you theorize about, it is something you practice.

yes, in principle, but there is a 2500 year old tradition of Buddhist monks theorizing about it at length. whether or not this is a good or true way to practice Buddhism is subject to debate (and they do, at length), but it's just a ground truth here that there is a long-winded scholarly tradition associated with the subject.




>yes, in principle, but there is a 2500 year old tradition of Buddhist monks theorizing about it at length.

Yes but presumably those monks are theorizing about it while practicing it daily.

I was referring to western audiences thinking they get something out of reading about Buddhism without any practice whatsoever.

I suppose you get something out of it, but the bulk of the benefits Buddhism can offer come from the practice,[1] not the theorizing.

[1] Mental exercises meant to train the mind to achieve a balanced state (balancing and strengthening attention and awareness) and then using that trained mind to investigate the nature of one's own mind and personality. It is a type of embodied, introspective psychology.


>I was referring to western audiences thinking they get something out of reading about Buddhism without any practice whatsoever.

This is a good point. Buddhism is something I had an intellectual interest in, but it became a lot of meaningless nonsense at a certain point, especially once you enter the more woo areas outside Theravada like the Tibetan traditions.

It wasn't until I took meditation seriously that a lot of this stuff clicked. I'm no Buddhist, just a humble meditator, but I find a great deal of value in this practice and not in a Western 'its just stress reduction, like deep breathing' kind of way, but as a way to explore and control my consciousness and to have the practice change me in ways I certainly was not expecting. All within a mostly Buddhist framework.

That said, this is true of all traditions on some level. You can't just read the Gospels and learn about Christ and expect any benefits. Living as Christ and following his teachings is more important, but unlike Buddhism, Christianity is not often just intellectualized away as theory like Buddhism is in the West. Why Buddhism gets treated this way is beyond me, I suspect it attracts people with intellectual interests but those types of people are also resistant to following a spiritual path and the tools used on that path like daily meditation or making efforts to be less materialistic or 'attached' to the dramas of the day.

If anything, those things are counter to Western life in significant ways and takes you well out of the mainstream, which can have cultural or economic consequences for you. I already was a standard deviation away from the norm before taking up these practices and now I feel like I'm two or three away. Ultimately, I think its a good thing and put on a path going to places I can't predict.


> Why Buddhism gets treated this way is beyond me

why? it's quite straight-forward actually, and just a historical accident basically. the people that popularized Buddhism in the West were academics. it arrived in America by way of scholars of East Asia. the East Asian folk practices are absolutely nothing like what is practiced in the west, and arguably are not particularly Buddhist, but more like folk religions with Buddhist vestments.

the monastic tradition didn't quite make it to the West though because it was subsumed by the academy instead. however, the academy is no monastery and they really do favor theory to the detriment of practice.




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