I share your dislike of most of those, though I think they’re bastardized versions of “core” Buddhist principles. (Not that there’s really any such thing, because Buddhism is about YOU being your own authority, so honestly it doesn’t matter, ha. I’m not a Buddhist.)
I don’t dislike them. I just listed them to demonstrate how I’m not even a buddhist in outlook. Buddhism is technically any religion that is somehow related to a buddha. Pretty vague. As soon as someone talks about no-self, an illusory self will come in and wrangle what they said to honor the self-illusion. In response to the question “what are you?” Siddhartha Gautama probably said “there is only awakeness” (meaning what seems to be happening) and then one of his followers probably heard that as “I am awake.” There is no I.
Two of them I disagree with:
“Practicing anything such as compassion or loving-kindness with an intention of it having any effect”
We are all the products of our genetics and experiences, and in that sense, free will doesn’t really exist. But whether or not we believe in it will alter what happens. (Not TECHNICALLY, because “what happens” is determined by our genetics and experiences, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.) You seem very fixated on this notion that nothing we do has any impact/everything is pre-determined right now, and while that seems partly true and we are all ultimately just one interconnected system with no real “separation” between us, there are still different iterations of Homo sapiens, different parts of the “whole” that cannot understand the other parts properly. (Man really is an island. I cannot properly understand your mind, just as you can’t understand mine — even if we’re part of the same “whole”) We can’t escape that, which means that while the choices we make to be loving or kind aren’t technically within our control (from a free will perspective — we’re going to choose whatever we’ve been programmed to choose), it’s useful to function as if they are. This doesn’t mean you have to deny the reality of non-self, it just acknowledges that we have preferences. Loving kindness can help facilitate the healing of childhood trauma, which can help bring people back into alignment with the whole, and realize their true nature. (Among other things.) I believe Chaos Theory also supports the idea that love can create change. Whether or not we choose to act as if free will is real will be determined by what we’ve experienced blah blah, but I don’t think “Nothing we do has any impact” is a useful statement. It’s true if you think it is and it’s false if you think it is.
There is no “I,” “me,” “mine,” or “we.” Loving-kindness might happen, compassion might happen, caring might happen. But it makes no difference anyway. What is happening is all that is happening, appearing unconditionally.
I don’t know if I’m making sense and I’m not naive enough to think that I’m offering anything groundbreaking or valuable here, but these are just my thoughts in response to yours.
Re: The idea of training the mind. Neuroscience supports the idea that we can “train” the mind, though our inclination to believe we can and/or should is, of course, determined by our genetics and experiences. ;) Meditation can improve our attention span and help lessen how controlled we are by our egos, in my experience. That it can take people time and practice to “get there” is just a neurological reality, I think.
In the story of time, space, and matter, meditation can make the brain work better and can reduce anxiety and depression and produce other “benefits.” However, there is nobody who meditates. There is nobody who decides to do that or not do that, or who benefits from it. It either happens or it doesn’t. My point is that Buddhism often claims to be related to waking up, but promotes the idea that someone can choose to meditate to change themselves in some way so that they attain liberation. Nobody attains liberation because there is nobody. Liberation is all there is; there are no conditions on it.
It doesn’t seem like there’s any objective reality — each part of the “whole” can experience things differently though, and that experience is their reality.
There are no parts of a whole. This is a misconception of non-duality. There is no separation. There is no “them” that experiences “their” reality. There is only what seems to be happening, and it is seamless, whole, and indivisible, with no witness.
Is any of this anything to you? Feel free to not reply if it seems too exhausting or offer up your thoughts, whatever they may be!
These are very normal questions.