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What Is Buddhist Enlightenment?$
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Dale S. Wright

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190622596

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190622596.001.0001

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Ten Theses on Contemporary Enlightenment

(p.198) Conclusion
What Is Buddhist Enlightenment?

Dale S. Wright

Oxford University Press

That neither Buddhist philosophy nor contemporary standards of thinking would justify Buddhists today continuing to assume, as many traditional Buddhists have, that enlightenment is a preexistent human ideal that is fixed and unchanging for all human beings in all times. Even though Buddhism was founded on the profound realization that all things are impermanent and interdependent, faith in a fixed and independent human nature and corresponding to that nature an unchanging enlightened ideal for life have been maintained throughout much of the Buddhist tradition. We can certainly understand and admire the extent to which the tradition took the image of the Buddha’s enlightenment as the standard against which all others would be measured and on which all forms of human excellence would be modeled. But that timeless conception of enlightenment can no longer be underwritten for us either by traditional Buddhist narratives or by a static conception of human nature. As human practices, capacities, needs, and interests change, so will the images of human excellence that we come to admire and pursue in our lives....

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