I'm an older male, actually a grandfather, and a Western convert to Buddhism. I came to Buddhism through meditation and interest in 60's mysticism - Alan Watts, D T Suzuki and the like. I read many books and for many years maintained a regular daily sitting practice, which has rather fallen by the wayside of late. But I think the meditation side of Buddhism was very important to me, I'm naturally drawn to mysticism and feel I intuitively understand it, even though most people think it's just nonsense.
I discovered a Pureland (Jodo Shinshu) sangha in my neighborhood about mid last year. I have gone to the service regularly since then. Actually the Venerable is very pleased to have a new convert as it seems to me converts are very few and far between. I very much like the Teacher and the aesthetics of the liturgy and ceremonies, albeit much is in Japanese (although some teachings are always given in English too.)
It seems to me that if you accept this path, though, you basically give up Buddhism as a kind of D-I-Y path to enlightenment. Pureland is very critical of meditation, which is 'self-power' and doomed to fail - 'only one in a million' can follow the 'path of sages'. Basically part of the message is, don't do it. A recent dharma talk made an explicit point of this.
The thing that drew me to Pureland is that I know I am not a virtuous sage, but just a flawed human with bad habits and problematical behaviours. I actually do believe there is a life beyond (and a life previous) and that I have allowed myself to become corrupted by the culture into which I've been born.
But the obstacle I have with Jodo Shinshu is that in this sense it's very like the Christian religion that I thought I had left - it requires unswerving faith, but you will never know, this side of death, whether the Western paradise is a reality and not simply a cherished belief. It was exactly that which caused me to leave Christianity. One of the reasons I chose to study Buddhism in the first place was that one could arrive at a higher understanding through meditation, even though I have since found out I have an indelible tendency to sabotage my own aspirational goals.
Accordingly, the notion that we're bombu, spiritually inept individuals who can never succeed under their own power, definitely rings true. So it's a bit of a quandary at this point. I have a small Buddhist altar which is my practice place, I have been endeavouring to practice with a Sōtō Zen type of attitude. I feel as though I should continue to make the effort to sit zazen. Not because I will succeed through it, but 'sitting just to sit', as I've always done.
It's not so much a question, as the need to discuss some of this with other practitioners and get their perspectives.