Prisons of Freedom: An Interdisciplinary Study of Contemplative Practices in Great Perfection Buddhism

Author: ORCID icon
Geisshuesler, Flavio, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Germano, David, AS-Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation scrutinizes the dominant appreciation of Buddhism as a religion of freedom and the concomitant celebration of contemplation as a self-liberating, happy, relaxing, skillful, and present-centered practice. Relying on a transdisciplinary approach that integrates traditional textual-historical analysis with emergent investigations from the cognitive sciences, it exposes the pervasive trope of imprisonment in Buddhist descriptions of meditation. More specifically, it targets one of the most famous Buddhist traditions, the so-called “Great Perfection” (Dzogchen), to critically reexamine meditation and to slightly shift our understanding of such practices. Over the course of ten chapters, each one of which weaves together the history of the Great Perfection, evidence from Buddhist scriptures, and the latest findings from the cognitive sciences, the study demonstrates that meditation is a dialectical process, according to which the overcoming of imprisonment is the best way to increase our freedom. In this spirit, it encourages future researchers to study contemplation in contexts where confinement, structure, and repression still reign supreme.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Meditation, Buddhism, Great Perfection, Consilience Approaches, Cognitive Science, Contemplative Studies, Plasticity , Trauma, Direct Transcendence
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: