1st Edition

The Selfless Ego Configurations of Identity in Tibetan Life Writing

Edited By Lucia Galli, Franz Xaver Erhard Copyright 2021
    284 Pages
    by Routledge

    284 Pages
    by Routledge

    The essays collected in The Selfless Ego propose an innovative approach to one of the most fascinating aspects of Tibetan literature: life writing. Departing from past schemes of interpretation, this book addresses issues of literary theory and identity construction, eluding the strictures imposed by the adoption of the hagiographical master narrative as synonymous with the genre.

    The book is divided into two parts. Ideally conceived as an 'introduction' to traditional forms of life writing as expressed in Buddhist milieus, Part I. Memory and Imagination in Tibetan Hagiographical Writing centres on the inner tensions between literary convention and self-expression that permeate indigenous hagiographies, mystical songs, records of teachings, and autobiographies. Part II: Conjuring Tibetan Lives explores the most unconventional traits of the genre, sifting through the narrative configuration of Tibetan biographical writings as 'liberation stories' to unearth those fragments of life that compose an individual’s multifaceted existence.

    This volume is the first to approach Tibetan life writing from a literary and narratological perspective, encompassing a wide range of disciplines, themes, media, and historical periods, and thus opening new and vibrant areas of research to future scholarship across the Humanities.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as two special issues of Life Writing.


    Lucia Galli and Franz Xaver Erhard

    Part I: Memory and Imagination in Tibetan Hagiographical Writing

    1. Between Self-Expression and Convention: Tibetan Reflections on Autobiographical Writing

    Ulrike Roesler

    2. Nested Autobiography: Life Writing Within Larger Works

    David Templeman

    3. From Song to Biography and from Biography to Song: The Use of gur in Marpa’s namthar

    Cécile Ducher

    4. The namthar in Khalkha Dzaya Paṇḍita Lobsang Trinle (1642–1715)’s Clear Mirror

    Sangseraima Ujeed

    5. Reincarnation and Personal Identity in The Lives of Tibetan Masters: Linking the Revelations of Three Lamas of the Dudjom Tradition

    Cathy Cantwell

    6. Traces of Female Voices and Women’s Lives in Tibetan Male Sacred Biography

    Hanna Havnevik

    7. Forest Walking, Meditation and Sore Feet: The Southern Buddhist Biographical Tradition of Ajahn Mun and His Followers

    Sarah Shaw

    Part II: Conjuring Tibetan Lives

    8. Memory, Politics, and Peace in the Autobiography of Sumpa Khenpo

    Rachael Griffiths

    9. Genealogy, Autobiography, Memoir: The Secular Life Narrative of Doring Tenzin Penjor

    Franz Xaver Erhard

    10. The Crafting Memory of the Self. Reflections on Tibetan Diary-Keeping

    Lucia Galli

    11. Family Matters: Women’s Spaces and Quiet Truths in House of the Turquoise Roof and Dalai Lama, My Son

    Isabella Ofner

    12. The Wandering Voice of Tibet: Life and Songs of Dubhe

    Lama Jabb

    13. Bearers of the Past, Bridges with the Beyond: The Complicated Lives of Ordinary Objects

    Charles Ramble


    Lucia Galli is Research Fellow at the Centre de recherche sur les civilisations de l’Asie orientale (CRCAO, Paris, France) and a member of the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE – PSL), where she is currently working within the framework of the ANR/DFG-funded research project Social Status in the Tibetan World (TibStat). She holds a D.Phil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford, UK, with a thesis on the nyindep (nyin deb, ‘diary’) of the Khampa trader Khatag Dzamyag (Kha stag ʼDzam yag).

    Franz Xaver Erhard is researcher at Leipzig University, Germany. He holds a PhD in Tibetan Studies with a dissertation on contemporary Tibetan literature and has published widely on Tibetan fiction and the history of Tibetan print media. His current research project focuses on ‘Secular Life Writing in Early Modern Tibet’ with a study of Kalon Tenzin Paljor’s Autobiography Music of Candid Speech.