I’ve noticed a cycle permeating the Buddhist forum I’ve been a member of for just shy of a decade. At almost regular intervals, there is a clash of egos, a banning of the user or ragequitting by the user, and new users come in to take their places. There is almost always one new user who then tries to assert themselves as intellectually superior in their understanding of the Dharma OR is a self proclaimed “newbie” and proceeds to ask questions designed to either provoke arguments or is covert proselytising/witnessing.
I make these observations not as judging the management of the forum, but more as a realisation that no-one is close to the definition of Buddhist as defined by the Buddha himself. I really believe at this stage that the Buddha played the ultimate joke on humanity when he died. He left no set structure to help his followers when he died. Three months after the Buddha died, 500 “senior” Buddhists met and had a seven month long meeting (!) just to decide on how to teach the Dharma. 100 years later, 700 “senior” Buddhists met with the goal to revise and confirm the teachings. Naturally, there were disagreements and the result was the splintering of the teachings into two groups – Theravada and Mahayana. There were further “meetings” and splintering off. One source can be found HERE.
My point is not to “bag out” Buddhism or anything else. It is more of a wake up call to me. No path has a “pure” beginning. No path is The One True Way ™️. And anyone saying otherwise is deluded or just a liar. With this epiphany in mind, I go ahead on my spiritual journey with the understanding that I have a framework to guide me, but any UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) is not to be automatically discarded and I don’t have to justify it to anyone else on the same path as me.
And that’s pretty empowering.