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The Theravāda Buddhist conceptual map of bondage and freedom Kreag, John Paul


This paper is an examination of the Theravāda Buddhist conceptual map of bondage and freedom. It analyzes in detail the conditions which cause the occurrence of bondage and the conditions necessary to cause its nonoccurrence and the occurrence of freedom. Religious traditions view the human condition as a serious problem and firmly believe it can be resolved. They function in part by drawing conceptual maps which explain "where" man is and "where" he should be heading, i.e., they provide their adherents conceptual schemes or doctrinal patterns which explain the dichotomy of problem and resolution. According to Theravāda Buddhist doctrine, this dichotomy is spoken of as "bondage" and "freedom," technically termed saṃsāra- and nibbāna- (Sanskrit nirvāṇa-). Bondage results from two interrelated conditions: (1) ignorance, i.e., inaccurate knowledge of one's capabilities in a situation or the lack of self-knowledge, and inadequate awareness of the full nature of the situation, and (2) the lack of self-control. Because of ignorance man sees the world as substantial, eternal, and capable of providing lasting satisfaction. Man believes this subjective vision is objectively true and thus establishes himself in disharmony to reality. In Buddhism, nothing is substantial, eternal, or satisfactory. The lack of self-control is the inability to control one's own actions. It refers to one at the mercy of his own habits. Freedom results from two interrelated conditions: insight and self-control. Insight is the objective, clear, direct, penetrative knowledge of oneself and the world. Self-control is complete mastery over one's actions, bodily, vocal, and mental. The heart of the paper is the chapter titled "The Epistemological and Psychological Evaluation of Bondage and Freedom" because bondage and freedom are explained in those terms. Its body is the introductory chapters which discuss the Theravādain conception of reality and causation, conceptual mapping, and habitual behavior and its antithesis renunciation. This paper was written as if it ware to be read by a student of religious studies. The topic is at all times established within the confines of that field. The method of research consisted in the study of original Buddhist works, at times translating myself, and in the study of books and articles published by contemporary experts in Buddhism.

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