Cover image for Apparitions of the self : the secret autobiographies of a Tibetan visionary : a translation and study of Jigme Lingpa's Dancing moon in the water and Ḍākki's grand secret-talk
Apparitions of the self : the secret autobiographies of a Tibetan visionary : a translation and study of Jigme Lingpa's Dancing moon in the water and Ḍākki's grand secret-talk
Jigme Linqpa, 1729 or 30-1798.
Uniform Title:
Gsaṅ ba chen po ñams snaṅ gi rtogs brjod chu zla'i gar mkhan. English
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 360 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BQ966.I32965 A3 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Janet Gyatso is Associate Professor of Religion at Amherst College

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This exceptional volume combines concise and felicitous translation with clear commentary and insightful analysis. The literary genre "secret autobiography" is religious and self-revelatory; this translation of two pieces by Jigme Lingpa (1730-98) forms the core of the study. What lends considerable interest to this work is the comparison Gyatso (Amherst) makes between Tibetan literature and Western literary theory. Contextualized in the historical, religious, cultural, and overall Asian framework, the book serves as a model of innovative scholarship. After a brief introduction the two texts are translated with copious notes and subjected to Western critical literary analysis. The discussion of subversive dakini figures and their implication for gender studies enhances this volume, and the analysis of autobiographical self-figuration--while of special interest to scholars of Buddhism--sheds light on all cross-cultural religious autobiography. The presentation is fresh and masterful and moves the exploration of Tibetan religion and culture forward in a significant way. Recommended to historians of religion as well as Asian and Buddhist scholars at the undergraduate level and above. L. L. Lam-Easton; California State University, Northridge

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Technical Note on Translation Policies
Introduction. The Secret Autobiographies of Jigme Lingpap. 3
I Translation
A Word to the Readerp. 4
Dancing Moon in the Waterp. 15
Dakki's Grand Secret-Talkp. 55
Notes to the Translationp. 63
II Background
Chapter 1 Autobiography in Tibetp. 01
Chapter 2 The Outer Face: The Life of Jigme Lingpap. 124
Chapter 3 Treasure Discovererp. 145
Chapter 4 Master of Experiencep. 182
III Readings
Chapter 5 No-Self Self and Other Dancing Moons
Chapter 6 The Dakini Talks: On Gender, Language, and the Secret Autobiographerp. 243
Epilogue: Subjectivity without Essencep. 265
Appendix 1 The Autobiographies and Biographies of Jigme Lingpap. 273
Appendix 2 Lists of the Former Lives of Jigme Lingpap. 275
Appendix 3 Table of Episodes in the Secret Autobiographies of Jigme Lingpap. 278
Notesp. 281
Bibliographyp. 311
Tibetan Sourcesp. 311
Secondary Sources and Critical Editionsp. 321
Interviewsp. 338
Indexp. 339