The Zennist brings up an interesting set of issues in his current post. Taking on the in vogue Stephen Batchelor, among others, he writes:
One can deplore the incursion of secularism into Buddhism by the likes of Stephen Batchelor and others. But one cannot stop the advance of secularism except by really understanding Buddhism from its own side in which the Buddha is allowed to speak for himself. This is a key matter because there are books about Buddhism that are essentially products of eisegesis. In other words, these books amount to the author reading his or her own ideas into Buddhism when such is not in the Buddhist canon. Stephen Batchelor’s book, Buddhism Without Beliefs, is a perfect example of eisegesis. He interprets Buddhism as being secular, or somewhat the same as being fit for a modern secular world.
A number of modern Buddhist authors have a strong inclination to read into Buddhism what is, essentially, not there, seeing modern ideas in the Buddha’s teachings, instead. This, to be sure, is eisegesis (read into)—not proper exegesis where the meaning of what the Buddha said is drawn out hopefully making it clearer for the reader—but not fundamentally altering his teachings.
I tend to find The Zennist a bit stodgy and fundamentalist at times. However, I find these comments compelling in some respects. It's very true that there are plenty of books, teachings, and teachers out there who have bent Buddha into a pretzel trying to fit into the lives people already have. And then there are folks like Mr. Batchelor, who claim to have stripped the "trappings" away, while doing so through the trappings of their modern, "Western" filters.
I actually don't have much issue with secularism "creeping" into Buddhism. Many of the practices that occur in religious settings can also occur in secular settings - and there's benefit in both. It's not terribly important to me to "guard" the tradition. However, I do think it's valuable to have clarity about Buddha's teachings, and to be wary of people who suggest that they have the "pure" way figured out. What do you think?