We western lay Buddhists experience the faith in ways that aren’t always well modeled in the EBTs.
In a sense this is only to be expected: We are literate and often we’re very well read indeed, but the EBTs come from a pre-literate culture. The texts understandably never reckoned with a laity like us. We can see this right away when we consider that the Vinaya forbade monks from teaching the laity the scriptures for recitation–a signature premodern move, found often in intellectual history, for textual preservation and institutional integrity. Modern and even literate premodern societies can use other and better methods. But these give rise to an unruly self-educated laity.
What should we do? What shouldn’t we do? What seems needed is a new synthesis, a modern primitive Buddhism that accommodates a literate and spiritually sophisticated laity that wants rather more in the way of spiritual discipline and less in the way of ritual.
I take it for granted that giving should remain central to lay practice, but even that isn’t at all like what it was in ancient times. Conditions change, indeed.