Q227. In Buddhism it is said that only humans can attain enlightenment. This seems to put humans on a pedestal and make them separate from other animals. How can this be true when we also say that everything is one?

A. The words ‘only humans can attain enlightenment’ have the same meaning as ‘only you can attain enlightenment’. This doesn’t mean that you are superior to others but that no one else can take the place of you in both attaining enlightenment and getting the whole world enlightened. In other words, only when you yourself are enlightened can you have all other things including other animals enlightened.

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We can’t realise the truth that humans are one with and not separate from other things such as plants and animals or the living and the non-living, until we attain enlightenment. It is said that once you attain enlightenment, all the universe attains enlightenment as well at the same time. That is, you can have a firm belief that we are not separate from other animals and that everything is one, only when you can see things as they are. Even if all other people of the world should get enlightened, their enlightenment can never allow you to enjoy the truth that everything including you is perfectly one, as long as you stay unenlightened.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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