Self and Self-Transformation, 2-3

I. Alternative Oikonomies of the Self






Body Made of Words

Charles Malamoud



Paradoxes of Immortality

Wai-yee Li



Transformations of Subjectivity

Wendy Doniger



Madness and Divinization

Guy G. Strousma



2. (pp. 19-28) Charles Malamoud : "A Body Made of Words and of Poe:tic Metres".

p. 19 how a Brahman.a fareth from truth unto untruth

"for him to say : "Now I go from truth to untruth," let him say : "Now I am just what I am, idam aham ya evasmi so'smi."" [S`B I.1]

{Thus, the declaration "I Am that I Am" (S^emo^t 3:14)) is a confession of deliberate untruthfulness on the part of YHWH.}

S`B = S`atapatha Brahman.a

pp. 19-20 how a Ks.atriya temporarily becometh a Brahman.a

p. 19

"when a ks.atriya undergoes diks.a ...,

p. 20

he becomes a Brahman.a ..., but he is afraid lest the deities ... that define him as a ks.atriya ... abandon him ... . In order to prevent this loss and this exclusion, he makes an offering before the diks.a ... : may I become a brahman.a and still retain ... my ks.atriyahood." [AB VII 23 sqq]

AB = Aitareya Brahman.a

p. 22 cosmic s`ilpa

"wonderful divine s`ilpa ... are the cosmic masterpieces ... of celestial luminaries, the craftmanship of which enables the cosmogonic god Prajapati or Kas`yapa to stabilize the earth and to decorate the sky (KS XXXVII 9; TA I 7, 1)".

KS = Kat.haka Samhita

TA = Taittiriya Aran.yaka

p. 22 chanda-s (metres) of the varn.a-s (castes) [according to JB I]



stanzas of __ verses each

with __ syllables per verse













JB = Jaiminiya Brahman.a

p. 23 new body for ascending to heaven

"the sacrificer gets a new body ... with which he will be able to go up to the sky ... . He cquires this new self, this atman, by the recitation of these poems called s`ilpas. These s`ilpas effect a metamorphosis in him and compose for him this ... refined new self. This perfect self is described as chandomaya, made of chandas, of poetic meters. ... . ... from this transmutation of the sacrificer into a self made of words and meters : the sacrificer whose self is so sublimated must offer his sacrifice to his own self (he must be atmayajin) rather than to the gods (S`B XI 2, 6. 13)."

pp. 23, 26 "Thou are Veda : thou art that."

p. 23

"BAU VI 4, 25 ... as soon as a son is born, the father ... whispers in his ear, "You are Veda," vedo'si. ... tat tvam asi, "You are that.""

p. 26

As 80 {cf. the 80 mahasiddha-s of Bon?} * 10,800 (there being "10,000 muhurta periods in a year"), "The Veda is made up of 864,000 syllables". [S`B X.4]

BAU = Br.hat-Aran.yaka

p. 25 re-assembling of the body of Prajapati {cf. re-assembly of the body of Oseiris, et.c}

"Prajapati ... is laid out, ... broken ... . ... Prajapati wishes to reconstitute himself ... (S`B X 4, 2, 3). He says to Agni, "Put me back together.""


3. (pp. 29-56) Wai-yee Li : "Paradoxes of Immortality and of Enlightenment in Chinese Literature".

pp. 30-2 Xue Wei

p. 30

[9th century Chr.E.] "Censor Xue Wei of Qingcheng, in the eponymous story in Sequel to the Record of Dark Mysteries (Xu xuanguai lu) by Li Fuyan ... [transl by Douglas Wilkerson, in Kao 1985, pp. 266-9], falls sick for seven days and then lies in a deathlike coma for twenty days. He finally wakes up and ... tells them the circumstantial details ... . ... "When I first got sick, I felt oppressed by the heat. ... Suddenly ..., I forgot my sickness. I ... took my cane and left, not realizing it was a dream. {Apparently, this is a variation of the "dream of false awakening" (and not an astral projection).} Having left the city, my heart rejoiced ... ." ... As he swims in elation, he wonders (aloud) how humans may have greater mastery in water by borrowing the fish's form. A fish who overhears him brings an emissary bearing the Lord of the River's decree on Xue Wei's transformation. The decree ... enjoins "temporary (therefore reversible?) scaly transformation" into "a red carp of the Eastern Pool." ... "Immediately thereafter I was in fish garb. ..." ... From the moment he is caught, ... Xue Wei calls the fisherman, berates the buyer, appeals to his colleagues, cries out to his cook -- but all they can register is the fish's mouth moving. Only with ... death is his spirit liberated {from his fish-body} and able to return to his own {human} body."

p. 31

[late 16th to early 17th centuries Chr.E.] "In "Censor Xue Attains Immortality in Fish Garb" by Lang Xian ..., a much longer vernacular story ... anthologized in Constant Words to Awaken the World (Xingshi hengyan), compiled by Feng Menglong (1573-1645), metamorphosis leads to ... immortality. Xue Wei is ... censor of Qingcheng, site of a sacred Daoist mountain ... and its famous temple dedicated to Laozi ... . ... . ... Xue Wei-as-carp is killed and prepared as part of a sacrificial feast devoted to summoning Xue Wei's soul as he lies unconscious."

p. 32

[18th century Chr.E.] In the "Japanese version of the fish story, Ueda Akinari's (1734-1809) "Dream Carp" ("Muo no rigyo") in Ugetsu Monogatari, ... the monk-painter Kogi ... dreams of entering the lake and roaming with all sorts of fish. ... Here the god of the lake decrees Kogi's temporary transformation ... . ... . ... his carp state is described as "dream among the reeds." ... being caught and killed ends in Kogi "waking up from his dream." Toward the end of his life, his ... painted fish "detatched themselves from paper or silk to roam and play in water.""

Kao 1985 = Karl S. Y. Kao (ed.) : Classical Chinese Tales of the Supernatural and the Fantastic. Bloomington.

p. 33 paradox of immortality

"the paradox of human immortality, which brings together alienation from and ultimate preservation of the human body".

{cf. "he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." [Euangelion of Ioannes 12:25]}

p. 33 qualities absent from the Taoist sage

no __

wu __

Z^Z __


















1:7; 6:57




Z^Z = Z^uan-zi

p. 34 speciously paradoxical literary juxtapositions (in the Z^Z)

"Descriptions of supernatural powers are often juxtaposed with acceptance of death and loss as "destiny" (ming, ZZ 6.50-52) or supreme oblivion of life and death, as in "Discourse of Making Things Equal" :

"He rides on clouds, astride sun and moon, and roams beyond the four seas.

Death and life are for him no change, let alone the wherewithal of profit or harm!" (ZZ 2.20)."

p. 34 "Aerial journeys are not yet associated with the state of undying (busi) in the Zhuangzi."

p. 34 insensate trance as the way to immortality (according to the"outer chapters" of the Z^Z)

"the 1200-year-old Guangchengzi advises the Yellow Emperor :

"... Be without sight and without hearing ..., and your form will rectify itself. ... When your eyes see nothing, your ears hear nothing, your heart or mind knows nothing, then your spirit will guard your form, and your form will have lasting life" (ZZ 11.82)."

p. 36 Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan declared (C^C 1:26) : "I will follow Peng and Xian to their abodes."

"If Peng is ... Pengzu, who is supposed to have lived 800 years, and Xian is Wu Xian, who earlier in the poem urges Qu Yuan ro leave Chu to undertake aerial journeys {astral projections?}, then "Peng and Xian" would point to ... immortality and shamanistic power."

C^C = C^u-ci ('C^u Words')

p. 37 Red Pine

"I turn inward to ... seek the origins of the Right Breath. In the vastness of empty quitude, ... in nonaction, ... I hear of Red Pine's pure dust, And wish for his sway in the teachings left behind." [C^C 5:106]

" "Empty quietude" (xujing) and "nonaction" (wuwei) ... are employed as ... the pursuit of a more literal immortality under the tutelage of Red Pine, Master of Rain in the court of the legendary Shennong emperor."

pp. 37-8 prince Qiao

p. 37

pp. 37-8

"The Yellow Emperor is out of reach,

I will follow Prince Qiao, make merry and play. I dine on the Six Breaths, drink pure dew, Rinse my mouth with the glow of southern mid-day sun Holding therein radiance of clouds at sunrise. I preserve the unblemished purity of the spirit's brightness. Refined breath enters, crude and soiled are removed." [C^C 5:107]

[p. 37] "The Yellow Emperor is "out of reach" ... because ..., as he rides a dragon and ascends to heaven, his ministers try to hold on to the dragon's "beard" and the emperor's bow, but to their considerable distress, the beard breaks off and the bow falls down. [LZ^ 1b-2a]

By contrast Prince Qiao,

[p. 38] known in immortality lore as the player of sheng-pipes who can make phoenix cries and "roams along the banks of Yi and Luo Rivers" [LZ^ 6a], is one of the prototypical {musical-instrument-}"playing immortals.""

LZ^ = Liu Xiang : Lie-xian Z^uan. ('Arrayed Biographies of Immortals')

pp. 38-9 journey inspired by instruction from Prince Qiao

p. 38

[C^C 5:108] "I follow feathered beings at Danqiu,

[p. 53, n. 23 : "Danqiu (literally, Cinnabar Hill) is a place illuminated day and night."]

And stay at the old abode of the undying. ...

[p. 53, n. 23 : There are "the "undying people" (busi min), "the kingdom of the undying" (busi zhi guo), "the fields of the undying" (busi zhi ye), and "the trees of the undying" (busi shu)".]

I breathe in subtle vapors of flying cascades,

And imbibe the splendid flowers of fine jade."

"at the Gate of Heaven ... the ... gatekeeper ... "pushes back" (pai) {thereby opening} ... the gates, whereupon the poet continues his journey {athwart Heaven} with a much more impressive entourage ... : deities of the elements do his bidding; dragons, clouds, constellations become his instruments; he meets the high gods."

p. 39

[C^C 5:111] "Suddenly from on high I catch sight of my homeland of old. ... I long for the ones I have known ... . I ... Restrain my will ... ."

{This juncture of the travel-itinerary is aequivalent to the last glimpse of the mortal world which it had just finished living in, by the the soul of the dead traveling into the otherworld (in accounts from Borneo).}

[C^C 5:112-3] "I ... roam the Six Limits.

Above I reach the Lightning Crack{le?},

Descending, I view the Great Chasm.

No earth in the receding depths below,

No sky in the limitless expanse above. ...

Transcending Nonaction I reach Supreme Purity,

And become neighbor to Ultimate Beginning."

pp. 40-1 deities in Heaven (according to the S^J)

p. 40

[S^J 117:3056] "The world has the Great One,

In the Land of the Center.

His abode fills ten thousand li ... .

p. 41

He ... rises aloft lightly, and roams afar.

Riding the white dragon-rainbow with red banners".

[S^J 117:3060] "I summon Pingyi [p. 54, n. 26 : "emissary of the gods, ... associated with wind, rain, or thunder."] to execute the Wind Lord and punish the Rain Master.

I [the Great One] ... gallop straight ... across Sanwei Mountain.

I push back the heavenly gates and enter the palace of god,

Carry the Jade Maiden and return with her. ...

Lowly encircling Shadow Mountain in circuitous flight,

I now see with my own eyes the Queen Mother of the West. [p. 54, n. 27 : "she is adept at whistling {whistling-swan?} and wears ornaments in her unkempt hair" (Shanhai jing ... 2.48)."]

Her hoary white head wearing ornaments, she lives in caves,

Fortunate indeed to have as her messenger the three-footed crow." [p. 54, n. 28 : "The Classic of Mountains and Seas associates the Queen Mother of the West with "three blue birds," who have been substituted for the "three-footed crow" in some amendations of the text (Shanhai jing ... 2.49, 11.170, 16.199; Sima Xiangru 1993, 105-6, n. 38)."

S^J = Sima Qian : S^i-ji. ('Records of the Historian')

p. 43 according to the BPZ by Ge Hon

[according to 'The Classic of Immortals' (Xian-jin), quoted in BPZ 2.20]


their traits & feats

their designation : __-xian ('__ immortals')


"raise their forms and ascend to the void"

tian-__ (heavenly __)


"roam in famous mountains"

ti-__ (earthly __)


"first die and then are transformed"

s^i-jie __ (corpse-liberated)

BPZ = Bao-pu Zi Nei-pian Jiao-s^i ('Master Who Embraceth Simplicity')

p. 43 statements in writings by Ge Hon

[quoted from S^XZ^ 1.3b-4b, Pen-zu telleth concerning immortals] "Strange bones grow on their faces, uncommon hair covers their bodies. Mostly enamored of hidden depths, ... they have undying longevity ... . ... They are like birds transformed into toads, or peasants into clams : they ... guard their strange breath."

[quoted from S^XZ^ 2.6a, 'Master White Stone' as known to Pen-zu] "people called Master White Stone the Eremitic Immortal,

for in not being intent on ascending to heaven

{This is somewhat similar to the Mahayana bodhisattva's vow not to attain nirvan.a. Is this feature of Mahayana adapted from Taoism?}

to become an immortal official, he is like one not seeking recognition and renown."

S^XZ^ = S^en-xian Z^uan ('Divine-Immortals' Biographies')

pp. 44-5 You Tian-tai S^an Fu ('Poietic Exposition on Roaming in the Tian-tai Mountains'), by Sun C^uo (314-371 Chr.E.) [Owen 1996, pp. 185-9]

p. 44

"Unless one ... ponders the Way ... and ingests asphodel, how can one rise lightly aloft and take abode there {at the visionary mt. Tian-tai}? Unless one lodges one's spirit afar and inquires into dark mysteries, and through steadfast conviction reaches the gods, how can one preserve that place {Heaven} in distant imagining? That is why I let my spirit gallop and my thoughts speed, intoning poems ... . I ... bear such compelling extremes of chanting and imagining".

"Seeing these tokens of spirits, I fare forward.

Drifting {into a trance}, in a trice, I ... go there.

I follow feathered beings at Cinnabar Hills,

And seek the Hallowed Yards of the undying. ...

I cross

p. 45

Spirit Creek and wash myself there ... city of the Undying ... .

Prince Qiao, astride his crane, soars heavenward".

Owen 1996 = Stephen Owen : An Anthology of Chinese Literature.

pp. 46-7 various unsuccessful and successful attempts (involving a requirement ot remain silent whilst undergoing frightening visions) towards immortality

p. 46

"in Mount Hua" beside "a huge caldron burning over purple flames ... Du Zichun is then assailed by visions of an army's onslaught, hordes of fierce and poisonous creatures, anomalous natural phenomena, demons threatening dismemberment, gruesome torture of his wife. He is then beheaded, and he silently bears with the torments ... . ... The caldron where the Daoist has been brewing immortality elixir is swallowed in purple flames." [reference :- TPGJ 16:109-12, from (the 9th century Chr.E.) Sequel to the Record of the Dark Mysteries]

p. 47

Z^on Wu-wei ("To the End Non-Action") "endures in slence temptations ... and visions of terror. But with death and reincarnation, ... forgetfulness overtakes him. ... Thus the stone ... where he utters his inadvertent cry is transformed into the caldron where the elixir is being brewed, once the illusion is dispelled." [reference :- TPGJ 44:276-8, from the He-don Ji]

"With the help of a man who can keep quiet and still from evening till dawn, he [a hermit] is to "chant magical charms, retract vision and reverse hearing [p. 54, n. 38 : "to see without seeing, to hear without hearing"], by morning ... He will traverse the void, step on emptiness, and rule over immortals. ... Without decline or aging, he will not fall sick or die." ... At the moment of failure, flames descend from the sky, and the hermit escapes with the man to a pool (thereafter named "Saving Lives")." [reference :- YYZZ (Xu-ji 4:100)]

TPGJ = Tai-pin Guan-ji, compiled by Li Fan

YYZZ = Yu-yan Za-zu, by Duan C^en-s^i

pp. 49-50 S^i-tou Ji ('Story of the Stone'), also known as Hon-lou Men ('Red-Chambre Dream'), by Cao Z^an (sobriquet Xue-qin)

p. 49

"the goddess Disenchantment ... guides Baoyu through the Illusory Realm of the Great Void (ch. 5). In this dream, Disenchantment introduces Baoyu to ... sensual pleasures, culminating in his sexual union with her sister, Jianmei ("All Beauties-in-One"), and also warns ... about the decline and fall of Baoyu's family and the sad fate of all the women loved by Baoyu. Upon waking, Baoyu has his first sexual experience with a maid (ch. 6). ...

p. 50

Baoyu ... turns is dead maid, Qingwen, into a flower spirit in an elegy (ch. 78)".

"in ch. 1, Voiding-the-Void Daoist copies and transmits the story; in the process he undergoes a cycle of conversion -- starting from emptiness, he apprehends form and feelings and reaches enlightenment -- and renames himself Monk of Feelings".

p. 54, n. 34 Supplement to Journey to the West

There is "Dong Yue's (1620-86) Supplement to Journey to the West, whose protagonist ... transforms himself into the Six-Eared Ape ... . One of Monkey's tricks in Journey to the West is to create legions of replicas by transforming hair on his body into "Monkeys." In the Supplement, these "Fine-haired Monkeys" declare independence, wreak havoc, and call into question the meanings of self-division, relationship between self and role, essence and manifestation."


David Shulman & Guy G. Strousma : Self and Self-Transformation in the History of Religions. Oxford U Pr, 2002.