Filed in Politics

The Politics of Enlightenment: Interview with Robert Thurman

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THE POINT OF DISCUSSING a Buddhist platform is not to generate something altogether new and exotic, but to reinforce enlightenment-oriented tendencies and to mobilize active Buddhist participation in American politics.

It is a misunderstanding to think that enlightenment is some sort of final escape from life and that the doctrine of the unsatisfactory nature of samsara obviates any need for involvement with other beings or social responsibility. Because nirvana is selfless, there is no self that enjoys a state of being beyond the world. Selfish habits that dominate unenlightened living may be dissolved, but that leaves the aggregates of body and mind just as present in the world as they ever were. Buddha himself remained deeply engaged throughout his life after his enlightenment. Wisdom and compassion are ultimately inseparable, wisdom being the complete knowledge of ultimate selflessness and compassion being the selfless commitment to the happiness of others.

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