Beyond Enlightenment: Buddhism, Religion, Modernity

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What is enlightenment? For Buddhists it involves the discovery of the truth of duhkha-pain, suffering, and sorrow-followed by the realization that duhkha can be brought to an end. In like manner, Protestant Christians speak of enlightenment as a moment when, touched by God, one becomes aware of one's own escape from eternal-damnation. Likewise, European philosophers have imagined an age of Enlightenment, a time of individual freedom and social equality. In all three cases, enlightenment, as insight into reality, is conjoined with enlightenment, as a state of harmony and peace, beyond politics.

Beyond Enlightenment treats the political implications of this apolitical ideal. It is a sophisticated study of some of the assumptions underlying, and ramifications involved in, the study of Buddhism [especially, but not exclusively, in the West], and of the tendency of scholars to ground their study of Buddhism in particular assumptions about the Buddha's enlightenment and a particular understanding of religion, traced back through Western orientalists to the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation. Richard Cohen's book will be of interest to buddhologists, indologists, scholars of comparative religion, and intellectual historians.

About the Author:
Richard S. Cohen is Associate Professor of South Asian Religious Literatures at the University of California, San Diego

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This book has ambitious scope, it explores and critiques Western notions of enlightenment that have structured the study of Buddhism.'

- Nayanjot Lahiri, Professor of History, Delhi University, India

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Richard Cohen

Richard S. Cohen is Associate Professor of South Asian Religious Literatures at the University of California, San Diego. This is his first book, though he has published numerous articles in such venues as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and History of Religions. He is now working on a study of Buddhism and counterculture.

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Table of Contents

1 A benign introduciton 1
2 A place of exceptional universal value 35
3 A tale of two histories 69
4 The anthropology of enlightenment 108
5 What do gods have to do with enlightenment? 149
6 A baroque conclusion 181
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