Some of you already know me. I'm 24, born and raised in America, but I'm also a citizen of the UK (UK citizenship inherited from my father).
For those that don't, I can't really say how long I've been a Buddhist, because though I've talked about Buddhism for a long time, my practice has been sporadic and only until recently, have I begun to take it in a manner which could be called "seriously". But the possibility of backsliding is likely. And recognizing the validity of notself, it seems like it would mostly be purely out of vanity if I were to say "I'm a Buddhist." But I have to say that sometimes, in order for people to efficiently have at least a general sense of what I believe without me going too much into detail.
I am neither a Mahayana nor Theravada Buddhist, but would say I am what could be called a "non-sectarian Buddhist," leaning mostly towards Theravada and Zen. I don't believe in the full validity of either sects (Mahayana or Theravada), have disagreements with some of the teachings of both sects, enjoy teachings from both sects, and respect teachers from both sects. Generally speaking, I mostly seem to agree with Retrofuturist's way of seeing things, with perhaps a bit of my own unique views over top of that, that is if they aren't merely unnecessary and vain intellectual projections (papanca). I see the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka (Agamas in the Chinese canon) as the core teachings of the Buddha, but Abhidharma (both Theravada and Mahayana) may offer additional clarity, as can some
of the Mahayana Sutras, including the Diamond Sutra , the Heart Sutra, and probably much of the Prajnaparamita sutras.
I'm still a bit undecided when it comes to all the various disagreements between Theravada and Mahayana, but as it seems to me, it's primarily a disagreement over concepts
and not a disagreement over realities
. So, for instance, though there are no disagreements over core virtues and good practices, there are disagreements over abstractions like "Buddha-nature," and "emptiness". And whereas Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant used to be plain nouns in the usage of early Buddhist literature, over time they become titles and pronouns over which Buddhist sects could argue over. I acknowledge the fact that many Mahayana Buddhists seem to teach a kind of nihilism, founded on a deluded understanding of sunnatta, but at the same time, the teaching of emptiness in the Pali canon doesn't seem to contradict what plenty of other Mahayana Buddhists themselves teach, and the teaching of emptiness in the Pali canon doesn't merely apply to the "person" (i.e. emptiness merely means, "I have no self") nor is it merely a meditative practice, but the more substantial Mahayana claim that everything is devoid of intrinsic reality, based on its lack of intrinsic identity, and so the world is a bit like an illusion. I say this is a "Mahayana claim," but I seem to see Bhikkhu Nananda saying much of the same things in Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought
and suspect that there is frequently overlap in the descriptions of emptiness between Theravada and Mahayana. The obsessive necessity to describe emptiness in metaphysical terms vs. non-metaphysical terms is groundless.
Anyway, also, rather than considering them, "sects," both sects (and all the various sects of Mahayana) can also be thought of as different teaching styles
, none more or less more "pure," though some may focus more on teaching more ultimate expressions of Dhamma than what is merely conventionally skillful (so, some groups are "further along the path," so to speak). In this regard -- for instance, despite the fact that Pureland Buddhism is essentially theologically identical with Christianity, this is perfectly okay, even commendable, because if people sincerely devote themselves to Pureland Buddhism or Christianity, both will lead to higher rebirth. Also, there's no reason that Theravada Buddhists, for instance, might not also benefit from devotional practices, and there's no reason why Pureland Buddhists might not themselves benefit from examining the analytical, empirical approach of Theravada.
...I know the above is long-winded, but in order to give a good introduction of what it is I believe, it was necessary.