I came across a quote by the Dalai Lama the other day which struck me as very sensible. I have not always been sure about his ability to see through the illusions of fashionable worldly wisdom and realise that proper spirituality requires the comprehensive rejection of the constantly expanding liberal agenda which, almost by definition, prioritises earthly man over the soul, but on this occasion he was making an excellent point. He had been asked about the suitability of Buddhism for Westerners, and replied as follows: "In the West, I do not think it advisable to follow Buddhism. Changing religions is not like changing professions. Excitement lessens over the years, and soon you are not excited, and then where are you? Homeless inside yourself."
Homeless is a good word to use in this connection. If you are to give yourself fully to a religion it must be a natural fit, a bit like a home. A religion that arose in a totally different environment, as all Eastern regions did, and has developed a very particular mythology, as all Eastern religions have, will never be a real home. At least, in 99 cases out of a hundred it won't be. There will always be a sense of artificiality, and that does not bode well for its effectiveness as a means of spiritual transformation. You can read and learn from the philosophical tradition, and perhaps even employ some of the meditation techniques, but if you try to embrace the religion completely, you will remain on the outside looking in. Far better to resist the lure of the exotic, which will always be transient and so will, as the Dalai Lama said, wear off in time, and focus your attention on what is part of your own heritage which for the great majority of people in the West is Christianity. And if this is true for Buddhism, it is even more the case for Hinduism which is more indelibly soaked in the spirit of a land and a culture.
One might argue against this by saying that Christianity spread through conversion and was alien to many of the people who eventually embraced it. But I don't think this argument is valid. Christianity was a new religion with a tradition and culture that could be developed by its recent converts, and was. The Eastern religions are old and established. They have grown up to cater for a completely different mindset to that which now prevails in the West. For most people in Europe and America they can never be a home and, more to the point, they are not meant to be. The West has a different path to tread, one in line with its own consciousness, and if you are born here that is the path you should be treading. This path is not concerned with enlightenment or self-realisation in the Eastern sense, which is largely a question of forsaking matter for spirit, but of marrying matter and spirit which means uniting the whole of creation within oneself, rejecting nothing except that which rejects God.
There are always exceptions that prove the rule but that does not alter the basic fact of the rule. When the excitement of novelty wears off, where will you be? Homeless inside yourself.