This essay takes a comparative approach to the question of politics in the work of Emmanuel Lévinas. Oona Eisenstadt finds political potential in Lévinas’s idea of the Jewish “stubbornness” that refuses a utopian messianic age and persistently devotes attention to the present. But how can this capacity for stubborn persistence be developed? Twelfth-century Zen Master Dōgen grapples with the question of whether Zen’s emphasis on enlightenment in the present moment encourages an uncritical acceptance of the world as it is. His notion of “practice-enlightenment” neither defers enlightenment to a future state nor reduces it to the simple acceptance of reality. Rather, enlightenment is the very exertion of effort necessary for practices such as meditation. Here, practice-enlightenment becomes a model for strategies—embodied ritual practices—that develop our capacity for compassionate mindfulness and thereby train us to maintain the urgency of the face-to-face relation in political contexts.


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pp. 113-125
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