What Would Buddha Do, Part 2?

We live in extraordinary times; unprecedented violence, poverty, and ecological devastation plague our planet and yet more people than ever before are in search of spiritual solutions for all of these problems as well as their own personal ones.

This dilemma has brought me closer to Buddha in recent years, and I carry with me a few seminal ideas that have guided my life so far.

One of them was expressed by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, "Be the change that you want to see in the world." Because the world is so huge, it came as a revelation to me - and also a mystery - that by changing myself I can affect the world.

Buddha was famously practical. He told people to stop analyzing the world and its troubles. He also told them to stop relying on religious rituals and sacrifices, which are external.

Buddha was the avatar of the situation we find ourselves in today, because he refused to rely on the traditional gods or God. He didn't use the social safety net of the priestly caste with its automatic connection to spiritual privilege.

His cure was a waking-up process, in which suffering is seen as rooted in false consciousness, and specifically in the dulled awareness that causes us to accept illusion for reality. While the answer remains radical, its truth offers a way out that may be our best hope for the future.