This may be the best academic characterization of Buddhism I’ve yet come across:
Now when we look at this kind of panoply of changes wrought in the Buddhist tradition in the West and in Asia as a result of Buddhism’s interaction with the West, we might panic. We might say: »My God, It’s no longer authentic. It’s changed.« When we do that, we must remember to go back to ask the question: »What is Buddhism anyway? What makes a doctrine Buddhism?« Buddhism is fundamentally about solving a problem, and the problem is suffering. It’s fundamentally about a diagnosis of the cause of that problem, and the cause of that problem is attraction and aversion grounded in confusion. It’s grounded in the conviction that once we recognize that, the elimination of that confusion can solve the problem, and in a path to that solution. None of that has been abandoned; none of that has been fundamentally transformed, even though its articulation is transformed in countless ways.
This is also from the article referenced in the last post – http://info-buddhism.com/Buddhism_in_the_West_Jay_Garfield.html