So-called ‘hierarchies’ of Dhamma practice are mutually imposed within indigenous Buddhist communities. The laity have a role, as do the bhikkhus. Both support a ritual symbiosis. And all are invited to practice a contemplative Dhamma. No ‘whitewashing’ there.
Yes I am aware of this and not just in a second hand manner. The metaphor 'whitewashing' is not water-tight, I admit. But as per my qualifications on my deliberately provocative and figurative use of the phrase, I'm trying to point to a certain effect of effacement, a blindsiding.... I'll see if I can come up with a better clarification...
There can, however, be some disconnect of understanding when coming from outside an indigenous community with purely doctrinal points of view and lacking empathy for local custom. Some years ago I reacted inappropriately to a local notion that the Buddha-rūpa in the temple possesses sàk sìt (ศักดิ์สิทธ), a kind of sacred potency which was said to lend to ones meditation practice if petitioned. I mentioned a very proper and concise, sutta based, analysis of what actually gives energy to ones practice. My Thai listeners very graciously replied that they too understand what the suttas say, but that they will still pray to the Buddha-rūpa. Would it have been my hubris to think that they cannot have it both ways; to practice meditation in step with both Dhamma and local custom?
As can be seen across earlier posts, I variously use such phrases as presumptuousness, hubris, unacknowledged layers of immodesty, taken for grantedness, comfort with one's assuredness, and so forth. So it's really a general issue of reflexivity that's in question which may manifest as hubris or any one of these other responses, according to context.
It's not up to me, or any one really, to say whether one can or cannot hold an opinion that others 'cannot have it both ways', as you put it. If that's your opinion - that they cannot practice meditation in step with both Dhamma and local customs - and you have your reasons for thinking so, sure. But in relation to the issue of reflexivity I'm highlighting, it's not so much a question of the actual content of one's opinions as how one puts the opinions into use, how they are operationalised in certain contexts, the function they serve.
Not knowing the specifics of the scenario you highlight, I have to be careful not to presume too much about the actual texture of your interaction with the Thai Buddhist community. But I note that you were forthcoming in acknowledging the 'inappropriateness' of your reaction, which indicates perhaps the work of reflexivity - and hence, an opening for hospitality towards difference and incommensurability. To me, one objective of provoking this discussion is to generate awareness of such irreducible elements of difference that may prompt discomfort or tensions; but this is precisely the reason they ought not be effaced by any presumption that there can be some self-evident way to arbitrate on such matters.
In short, and I hope this is a reasonable assessment, I detect in what you have shared a willingness to accept the difference of others, a willingness to let difference be difference, even as you hold certain opinions. That's the important opening I really hope to keep open with all the longwinded posts of this thread: that there be a space for the otherwise; whatever this 'otherwise' may actually be is secondary to simply letting otherwise be otherwise.