Buddhist studies, buddhist practice and the trope of authenticity
In conversation, in the lecture hall, in the Dharma centre and in the public teaching, Buddhists and students of Buddhism worry about authenticity. Is the doctrine defended in a particular text or is a particular textual interpretation authentic? Is a particular teacher authentic? Is a particular practice authentic? Is a phenomenon under examination in a scholarly research project authentically Buddhist? If the doctrine, teacher, practice or phenomenon is not authentically Buddhist, we worry that it is a fraud, that our scholarship, teaching or religious life is vacuous, or at least that it is not really Buddhist studies or Buddhist practice. It is hard for me to remember a conversation of any length with a Western or Tibetan colleague, or with a serious advanced student in which the term “authenticity” or a cognate did not arise, and in which that term did not function as a term of approbation.
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