Before I begin, I'm not out to debate! These are just my personal 2 cents. Take it or leave it.
I remembered a very good book I read about half a year ago, which was Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene." It was quite mind-blowing, and worth reading. Note: I feel it had much to contribute in the way of anatta, as it makes many statements implicitly agreeing with the Buddha when the Buddha explained the origin of the world as we know it by saying that "this all comes to be, simply due to the existence of the four elements" (heavily paraphrasing there, sorry, can't remember the reference in the Suttas).
BTW: Others have cautioned me that Richard Dawkins is a serious atheist, but his atheism has nothing to do with what I'm about to say. No doubt his atheism will get dragged out as somehow relevant, but I assure you, it isn't relevant to what I'm saying here. I respect him as a Biologist who spoke authoritatively on Biology in that book, and his religious views don't interest me whatsoever here.
Dawkins explains an important and profound concept (relevant to the OP) in Biology, called the "Evolutionarily Stable State
", or ESS
for short. It's very well worth reading about and contemplating (especially vis-a-vis anatta). The concept and phenomenon of the ESS is what I'm going to point at here
, not Dawkins or the other beliefs that Dawkins has.
No doubt I'm not explaining an ESS all that perfectly here, but here's an attempt at a summary: when a given population (of beings) all implicitly agree to operate by a set of (usually unvoiced) "rules" and behaviours such that the population becomes optimally stable over the longer term, then that set of rules can be called an ESS
. An ESS necessarily has the curious property that it resists changes to the rules
. In other words, an ESS, by definition, has a "self-defendingness" built into it. If an even more
stable ESS comes along later, and manages, with great difficulty, to overcome this built-in resistance to rule-changing, then it is an even-more-stable-Evolutionarily-Stable-State.
Over vast stretches of time, the most clever and resilient and "dirty" (from a moral point of view) ESS's will tend to win out. They optimize on success for the whole population, and no other thing. ESS's have no sense of morality, they just work because they work
, and anything goes when it comes to Mother Nature, which is red in tooth and claw. ESS's (when taken in the pure sense of Biology's view on them) are certainty not spiritual whatsoever. They are not like the constitution of a government, where things are formally written down, or reasoned out. This is purely about propagating genes (or "memes", a term which Dawkins DEFINED
in that book). There is no orchestrating God, or supreme patriarch or something, when an ESS is at play. Success itself
determines who wins and loses, and which ESS's win the day. Winner stays, loser pays.
ESS's apply to groups of animals (and other life forms), but it can also apply to groups of humans as well. And it's not just about genes propagating. Memes can also propagate according to their own ESS's. And organized religions, such as Buddhism, can be similarly described as being a "meme".
The OP asked "why is authenticity under-valued".
After thinking over the whole ESS thing for a long time, I answer the OP by saying "because an even-more-successful ESS came along which was less-than-authentic
". Less spiritual? Less conducive to enlightenment? Sure. But ESS's are not out to be spiritual, nor help you to attain enlightenment (as they are not themselves living beings who could possibly think rationally). ESS's are simply patterns
which have the curious quality of automatically forming, over time, in an increasingly-stable population of like beings. ESS's are about a population surviving and thriving using any means possible, no holds barred (admittedly, a "meme" like Buddhism must still have good morality in many ways to remain appealing). There doesn't need to be any evil mastermind behind this whole loss of authenticity of Buddhism. Increasingly-successful ESS's form all by themselves.
That's my big point here.
For example, when Hindu views intermingled with Buddhism in countries like Sri Lanka, the resulting "meme" of Buddhism you find there was an even-more-stable variant of Buddhism than the one the Buddha invented. It's an even more stable and successful ESS. You see the monks acting like Brahmins in many ways, engaging in silabataparamasa (being masters of "priest-lore", with all the intensely important and pious rites and rituals, and pujas, such as Buddha Pujas), and the laypeople really, really get behind it and support it (quite possibly because it provides an even-easier path to Heaven than improving one's sila, thereby increasing the attractiveness of these Hindu views to the wider Buddhist population). Puja is a Hindu-originating word, BTW.
In Thailand, we see Confucianism intermingling with Buddhism to again create an even-more-stable variant of Buddhism than the one the Buddha invented (and Hindu views have snuck in as well). The iron-clad loyalties that Confucius taught make for an aggressive, empirical-style spread of monasteries, within a lineage controlled by the lineage-holder, not necessarily the teachings of Buddha.
Here's a relevant Confucius quotation (from "Sayings of Confucius", translated by James R. Ware):
If those at the top are fond of rites, the people are easy to direct.
Basically, whenever some views (outside of Buddhism) come along, like the ceremoniousness-as-livlihood of Hinduism, or the iron-clad loyalty thing of Confucianism, which have an institutionalism-strengthening quality
, then when they intermingle with Buddhism, they will make for an even stronger ESS than the one the Buddha invented, and they will unfortunately prevail automatically
over time, because of the even-stronger stability (for the population of all Buddhists as a whole, never mind arahantship) that they bring to the table.
The ESS that the Buddha originally built is more delicate, but optimized for enlightenment. The ESS's you often see in modern Buddhism are optimized for long-term survival of the religion of Buddhism itself, not enlightenment.