- For the first time in it's history, all the various strands of Buddhism are able to be examined and compared together.
- Sophisticated scholarship and archaeology allow us to accurately identify what the original teaching's of Buddha probably were and trace their evolution.
- Science and psychotherpeutic theory are much more advanced than they were in Buddha's time and can now be applied to his teachings.
Answers range from the very traditional to the radically reformed. It's like watching Darwin's finch arriving on the Galápagos Islands and seeing it evolve into many specialised species. I suspect that the question is no longer 'what form will Buddhism take in the west?' , but 'how many forms will Buddhism take in the West?'.
Here are a few examples, skewed by my greater knowledge of Zen than other schools. Please share any more examples types you can think of and I'll add them here.
Keeping things as traditional as possible.
Association Zen Internationale:
Traditional dress and ceremony preserved, content sometimes liberalised into therapeutic or Judeo-Christian language.
San Franscisco Zen Centre:
As above, slightly more liberal.
Some modification of teachings and/or form.
Dogen Sangha International:
Ceremony and precepts largely dropped. Zazen-only focus. Some integrative theorising. Reform begun in Japan. Brad Warner combines some Buddhist thought with punk counter-culture.
Teachings and ceremony integrated with Judeo-Christian concepts and culture
In spite of their various expressions, all forms of Buddhism are essentially the same and can be largely taught as a whole.
Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
Western Insight Meditation/Vipassana Movement:
Rooted in the Theravadin Thai Forest and Burmese traditions, liberal, primarily a lay-led movement (no ordination of monks). Leaders include Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzburg.
Integral Movement/Spiritual Syncretism
All or most religious, spiritual and psychological thought are all ways of talking about the same thing and can be integrated into one philosophy. This approach is often associated with New Age thinking.
Tolle is essentially informal accessible zen without formal meditation, using Judeo-Christian, New Age and Psychotherapeutic language
Buddhist techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on depression, stress, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Using a religious format is not necessary.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
Combined with cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness meditation (which is essentially the same as Zazen) is used to treat long-term depression and other issues. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is another variant. Religious/spiritual language is absent. Philosophical content, while close to Buddhism, is adapted and reformulated.