Western Dharma centers have always been, to one degree or another, a Buddhist version of an outpatient clinic for the not-so-mentally-disturbed. People join Dharma centers because they have mental issues that they find difficult to deal with on their own and believe they can find help through Buddhism. When I was at one Dharma center in Oregon, which was quite large, it easily fell within the four corners of an outpatient clinic for people who had mental problems that were not of a severe kind.
These Dharma centers, I must say, function in a spiritual vacuum as if Buddhism had not a mystical bone in its body; as if it were an ancient Indian form of psychotherapy. Bluntly speaking, Buddhism could not care less about making a happier, kinder samsaric world for those who are enamored with it. The Buddha taught awakening, that is, to see the Dharma which is pure Mind.
“The dharma obtained by me is profound, of deep splendor, difficult to see, difficult to understand, incomprehensible, having the incomprehensible as its scope, fine, subtle, the sense of which can only be understood by the wise” (Catusparisat Sutra).
The Dharma the Buddha discovered was wholly of a spiritual nature which could only be awakened to by the inmost self (pratyâtma). This Dharma was not in the corrupt psychophysical body, it was beyond it.
Just how Buddhism turned into an outpatient clinic for samsara’s troubled souls is difficult to explain. My guess is that it was through the practice of seated meditation that this happened, at least part of it. Meditation produced therapeutic results for those who engaged in it. In addition, this meditation could be practiced in a spiritual vacuum. It is very close to Dogen Zenji’s meditation shikantaza which translated means, solely engrossed in just sitting. There is nothing spiritual in such meditation since it is dependent on the psychophysical body; putting it into a certain ritualistic posture.
Along with meditation came the psychologization of Buddhism which can be administered in a spiritual vacuum. Helping to prop all this up as been the gradual secularization of Buddhism which has turned Buddhism in a materialist religion which questions the postmortem survival of consciousness, karma, and rebirth.
Buddhism has, in my opinion, turned into two Buddhisms. One for the prithagjanas (worldly persons) who use Buddhism for what it has to offer therapeutically, and a Buddhism for the spiritually inclined who wish to become awakened, seeing what the Buddha saw.