This topic resonates with me, and I did take the time to listen again to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s talk this morning. I admire and respect him very much.
Yet, I still have the sense that the Buddhist world has largely lost sight of what the historical Buddha was teaching, and has lost appreciation and perspective as to how important these original teachings are. I feel that later developments in the ‘Buddhisms’ “papered over” the Dhamma, such that, but for Sutta Central and a notable few other resources, the Buddha’s Dhamma would be virtually inaccessible for most Buddhists.
I liken this dilution of the Dhamma to what might occur if the same modifications happened to Einstein’s science and theories about how the universe, time and space work. Perhaps in 100 years, Einstein’s theories will be coopted by others, and rewritten into a form that no longer resembles his original tested and recognized theories. In theory, if students studied a Einsteinian physics that was really not true to Einstein’s theories, would not that be a disservice both to the students and to Einstein? If students in the future understood E=MC2 to be E=MC3 (or worse, that Einstein never taught E=MC2?) , might that not be a source of problems? Might that distorted approach be a real disservice to those students trying to understand how the universe works?
My gripe is that sometimes bad science distorts or disguises the real science. I have a feeling that the Buddha was, in some ways, a scientist and a teacher. He tried to figure out how our minds and our human lives work, and what we can do to optimize these lives and free ourselves from human suffering and conflict. Just as Einstein worked at these problems of time, energy and space, the Buddha presented solutions to human suffering. I submit that much of what came along in the centuries after the Buddha’s passing, and the passing of his monks and nuns, served to distort his teachings, and deprives to this day the ability of many to understand what Buddhism really is and can be.