I've been practicing Buddhism in an agnostic way, i.e. I don't believe in reincarnation but still follow the Buddhist path. Lately I've gotten this feeling that because of my agnostic perspective, I shouldn't follow this path... I listen to Dharma talks, meditate, practice compassion etc. but I feel like I'm telling myself "I don't necessarily have to believe this teaching" way too often. Do you think it's reasonable to practice Buddhism agnostically (more than just being kind in everyday life)?
Well, what’s the difference between a compassionate person and a Buddhist? Hopefully nothing. If you’re using Buddhism as your excuse to meditate and be compassionate, then your practice is not sincere and no merit has been accumulated. But if you practice meditation and compassion because you know it makes you a better person and helps others, then why the need for Buddhism?
Buddhism has a plethora of teachings, some can be dropped, but some must stay. Rebirth is one that must stay. Part of the teachings of cause and effect (karma), is supported by rebirth, because our current lives is the effect and aftermath of our past lives. And our future lives are the effects of our present and past lives.
But if you’ve found yourself constantly telling yourself “I don’t have to believe this” then what’s the point of Buddhism in your life? Live a life of morality, compassion, and common sense, and that’s all you need for a happy life. Buddhism does not equal happiness. Buddhism is only a toolbox to help you build your own happiness. And if you are already using those tools of compassion, meditation and morality to build what you need, then the other tools are unnecessary.
Smile and be well!