Apparitions of the Self is a groundbreaking investigation into what is known in Tibet as "secret autobiography," an exceptional, rarely studied literary genre that presents a personal exploration of intimate religious experiences. In this volume, Janet Gyatso translates and studies the outstanding pair of secret autobiographies by the famed Tibetan Buddhist visionary, Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798), whose poetic and self-conscious writings are as much about the nature of his own identity, memory, and the undecidabilities of autobiographical truth as they are narrations of the actual content of his experiences. Their translation in this book marks the first time that works of this sort have been translated in a Western language.
Gyatso is among the first to consider Tibetan literature from a comparative perspective, examining the surprising fit--as well as the misfit--of Western literary theory with Tibetan autobiography. She examines the intriguing questions of why Tibetan Buddhists produced so many autobiographies (far more than other Asian Buddhists) and how autobiographical self-assertion is possible even while Buddhists believe that the self is ultimately an illusion. Also explored are Jigme Lingpa's historical milieu, his revelatory visions of the ancient Tibetan dynasty, and his meditative practices of personal cultivation. The book concludes with a study of the subversive female figure of the "Dakini" in Jigme Lingpa's writings, and the implications of her gender, her sexuality, and her unsettling discourse for the autobiographical subject in Tibet.
An investigation into what is known in Tibet as "secret autobiography", a literary genre that presents a personal exploration of intimate religious experiences. The text focuses on the secret autobiographies by the Tibetan Buddhist visionary, Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798).
About the Author:
Janet Gyatso is Associate Professor of Religion at Amherst College.
"Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) was among the greatest of all Tibetan Buddhist Teachers. Gyatso has translated two highly esoteric accounts he wrote of his own spiritual development and achievement, Dancing Moon in the Water and Dakki's Grand Secret-Talks. This book will attract readers from as many disciplines as Gyatso herself so effectively musters." - Religious Studies Review
"The "secret autobiography" is a rarely studied Tibetan literary genre in which intimate religious experiences are assessed by the author in a confessional mode. Situating Lingpa's works in the context of Buddhist philosophical principles, Gyatso raises the question: How is autobiography possible if the self is ultimately an illusion?" - Tricycle
"In this ambitious book, Janet Gyatso breaks new ground in the field of crosscultural comparisions of autobiography. Challenging the conventional assumption that autobiography is a uniquely Western genre, Gyatso proves not only that Tibet has produced a large number of spiritual autobiographies but also that "Tibetan autobiographies are prior to and uninformed by modernity and/or the West". This book provides an important contribution to Buddhist studies and to autobiographical studies. - The Journal of Religion
"The book Apparitions of the Self by Jenet Gyatso is most welcome. It is in the best traditions of the standards of research and publication that is fast becoming a hall mark of your Buddhist Tradition Series. Congratulations on your enthusiastic program of Buddhist publications that will always be a beacon of height to scholars and lay readers." - Lokesh Chandra
"This exceptional volume combines concise and felicitous translation with clear commentary and insightful analysis.... What lends considerable interest to this work is the comparison Gyatso ... makes between Tibetan literature and Western literary theory.... [Apparitions of the Self] serves as a model of innovative scholarship." Editorial Review
"Gyatso surveys this landscape from a host of perspectives, adding to her Buddhalogical expertise a sensitivity to literary theory and comparative studies. Her sharp intelligence and thorough consideration are evident on every page. This book will attract readers from as many disciplines as Gyatso herself so effectively musters." - Religious Studies Review