Measuring the effects of any religion or spiritual practice can’t be measured by any physical or scientifically accepted means, yet for many something more holds a presence in their life. Is Buddhism spritual or religious? Would we call the Buddha a person, a deity or just a beautiful story?

We can’t see or measure subjective experience, so we can’t judge directly the effect Buddhism is having on someone else’s mind and heart. But we can see how they act and treat other people. We can hear what they say about what they’re experiencing inside.

What we find is that Buddhism works. For millennia, Buddhism has been making people more aware, caring, and skillful. All you have to do is meet someone who’s been practicing meditation a lot to know that. In our own time, hundreds of thousands of Americans are reporting that even a modest Buddhist practice has made their life better — they’re calmer, happier, and not as carried away when strong emotions arise. They’re kinder to themselves and others.

But it’s really important not to burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations. Change comes very slowly. You’ll also see that when you meet a Buddhist meditator, even one who’s been at it for a long time. Don’t expect perfection. We’re working with patterns of ignorance, greed, and anger that have developed over a lifetime — if not much longer. Change comes slowly for most of us. But it does come. If you stick with it, that’s guaranteed. Buddhism works.

This is not an attempt to convert anyone to Buddhism. There is no need for that. But those who think of themselves as spiritual but not religious can find a lot in Buddhism to help them on their personal path, however they define it.

When I first encountered Buddhism, what struck me was its absolute integrity. I saw that it was not trying to manipulate me by telling me what I wanted to hear. It always tells the truth. Sometimes that truth is gentle, softening our hearts and bringing tears to our eyes. Sometimes it is tough, forcing us to face our problems and cutting through our comfortable illusions. But always it is skillful. Always it offers us what we need. We are free to take what we wish, learn something within and apply it outwardly from there.

What greater thing could anyone do?

Peace and Love, Jim

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