His Holiness the Dalai Lama is conducting a Kalachakra for World Peace in Washington, DC. Coverage of the event from Washington news media is a bit hit-and-miss. One writer for the Washington Post expressed surprise that there were attendees wearing "normal" western clothes, not "dripping with prayer beads, swathed in batik or floating along in gauze." They look like normal people! And some of them are lawyers!
Gabriel Riera, also writing for the Washington Post, describes sharing a cab with Buddhist teacher and author Sharon Salzberg and a deranged cabbie who was screaming that the Dalai Lama is a Chinese Communist. No doubt the fellow had read some of the right-wing blogs commenting on His Holiness's remarks on Marxism.
Riera's theme is that Buddhism is gaining acceptance in the West, and he wonders why that might be so. "What's the appeal?" he asks.
Answers provided in the article include finding meaning in life (but see what Mumon says about "meaning") to inner peace. I'd say the primary draw is the same one that drew the Buddha all those centuries ago -- what to do about dukkha.
I also think the dominant western religion, Christianity, is having its own identity crisis at the moment. Those Christians institutions that have not been sucked into fundamentalisms and absolutes seem to me to be struggling a bit to clarify even to themselves what they have to offer a postmodern world. Buddhism is becoming more visible just as more people are looking for an alternative to their religions-of-origin.
How would you answer the question? What's the appeal?