It would probably be much easier to teach Buddhism if it were taught under the rubric of ‘mysticism’ along with Vedanta and Neoplatonism. Christian mysticism would be included along with Jewish and Islamic mysticism. Let’s say we put the whole package together for a three semester course (my philosophy professor attempted this). There is certainly enough good material to teach such a course. Walk into any good academic or theology library. There it is. A feast for the mind.
I would shamelessly use Thomas McEvilley’s marvelous work, The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. This fantasy course of mine would be fascinating. It would not be for those who are disposed to materialism or those who believe the empirical sciences are the whole enchilada.
With such a course, the goal would be to help the student realize that the so-called mystical path has been in all great cultures. It constitutes the most interesting part of religion but is sometimes persecuted or just ignored or you might even say, forgotten as with the example of Neoplatonism.
If I could I would tack on another semester which would be about the use of hallucinogens in shaman and religious culture. There is plenty there worth exploring. I would dust off my old copy of John M. Allegro’s book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross extending the lectures to Vedic Soma (we now know its main ingredient which was cannabis), LSD-25, DMT and Ayahuasca to name some of the more important hallucinogens.
My sense of this, it would help to put Buddhism where it belongs which is a way to reach direct and immediate experience of the transcendent which is beyond the iron cage of materialism (let’s remember that materialism is a philosophical position, not a science). It would help to keep Buddhism out of the hands of those who can’t see beyond their empirical noses who may not know it yet, but are evil—almost to the marrow! I have researched enough history to know that the 20th century was, perhaps, the most evil civilization that man has created thus far. It came very close to all out nuclear war during the Kennedy Administration (new information was released in the 1990s which confirm this). How we justify such evil I find the most astonishing thing of all. And this same justifying mindset wishes to secularize Buddhism.