Anyone who practices, studies or even considers Buddhism eventually faces the question: What can it do for me and for humanity as a whole?
More a spiritual practice than a religion, Buddhism does not point to a God to worship. While a higher state of consciousness is one of its goals, so is a moral, ethical way of life. Compassion for others is a cornerstone of Buddhist philosophy, for, at the most essential levels, all life is connected. The modern scientific concept of quantum entanglement in physics substantiates this. To hurt another is literally to hurt ourselves; to uplift others is to uplift the whole.
Life is Suffering (but It Doesn’t Have to Be)
In the book “Why Buddhism Is True” by Robert Wright explores how Buddhism can enhance human evolution. The author characterizes Buddhism as a spiritual practice and benevolent ideology with mindfulness meditation as its centerpiece.
The way Robert Wright substantiates that “Buddhism is true” starts with its foundational tenet: “life is suffering.” Indeed, the human condition is rife with opportunities to suffer. Even the most privileged among us must face a range of issues and eventually grow old and die.
Add to that the fact that our nervous systems are mismatched for the life circumstances most people face, and this sets the stage for tremendous internal suffering. Our brains work well for hunter-gatherer groups; however, they are less of a match in a world that’s becoming increasingly complex. “The monkey mind” and a chronic feeling of stress (fight or flight) are some of the results.
Becoming the Watcher: Buddha Nature
Mindfulness meditation is an antidote to the mind-generated type of suffering (and some would say ALL suffering is mind-generated.) “Becoming the Watcher” of our thoughts, emotions and habitual mind patterns are the first steps to transcending them. Being still and observing mind activity from this center point is the heart of mindfulness meditation.
As the Watcher dimension strengthens, we are less swept away by temporary mind patterns. Something more substantial and connected to life emerges: Buddha Nature.
Those for whom this state of consciousness is primary could be called “Enlightened,” or at least well on their way. They may still have nagging thought patterns, but they no longer identify with them. They see that who we really are transcends any concept, experience or passing emotion.
Evolving Past the Ego To Pure Potential
The ego and persistent “mind stuff” are at the root of all problems in this world, both personal and collective. These illusions keep us trapped in fear, greed, separation and mistrust – all forms of suffering.
So, can Buddhism enhance human evolution? It can certainly assist us in evolving our minds and nervous systems to better meet our changing world. It can help reduce suffering, provide a moral compass and increase our capacity for joy, peace, creativity and innovation. And as humanity transcends the ego and reaches higher and higher levels of consciousness, who knows what might be possible?