There is a hilarious quote from Lego Movie 2:
BALTHAZAR: Greetings, Bricksburgians. Welcome to the Palace of Infinite Reflection, a self-reeducation celebrity center. Namaste.
UNIKITTY: Ooh! Sounds spiritual.
BALTHAZAR: It is so spiritual.
“Pop spirituality” is a term some people use to describe this kind of vapid spirituality that relies on things that seem to make people “feel good”, but don’t really provide any lasting self-improvement. It’s like comparing a typical pop song with something like Beethoven. Pop songs come and go, and most are fun, but forgettable, but some music can inspire generations.
Buddhism is frequently used (abused?) in pop spirituality circles because it is seen as inoffensive, non-threatening and therefore “safe” to explore without real commitment. I won’t even get into the plethora of fake Buddha quotes that appear in books and online.
I feel that this is doing a disservice to the Buddhist tradition (all 2500+ years of it), and the many generations of the past who carried it forward, made it work in their environment, and tried to apply the Buddha’s teachings the best they could. For example, when people use it as a way to get ahead in their (self-imposed) stressful lifestyle, without stepping back to analyze why they are in this predicament, or how they are contributing to it, they have kinda missed the point. If they show off on social media how spiritual they are, they have kinda missed the point.
Religions of all kinds typically demand some things from the devout. They are asked to follow certain guidelines or religious proscriptions, or have certain obligations such as pilgrimages, study, etc. Or that religion may simply insist that you stop being such a jackass all the time. 😉
People may see these as a form of control, but as with anything worthwhile in life, it does require a certain commitment, humility and willingness to make small sacrifices. A diet where you’re not actually doing any dieting, isn’t much of diet. You satisfy the short-term cravings, but you still end up overweight and right back where you started.
So, when exploring a religion (including Buddhism), take time to familiarize yourself with the tradition and not just the parts that make you feel good. Consider why they are there, and what long-term benefits to yourself (and those around you) they bring. If you apply even some of those traditions, you may find that you will be happier in the long-run.