It doesn't get much more esoteric than this. Apparitions of the Self tackles in-depth the complex metaphysics of the Treasure or Terma texts, the hidden teachings which practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism believe Padmasambhava secreted in the minds of key disciples 1,200 years ago. The vehicle for this exploration is the autobiography of Jigme Lingpa, an 18th century Terton (Treasure discoverer), who revealed the Great Perfection teachings. Author Janet Gyatso is an associate professor of religion at Amherst College, and, unfortunately, that is often all too evident in the text, which frequently reads like the academic treatise which it is. But readers willing to skim over phrases like "the hermeneutical nature of the process by which the unformulated is adumbrated" ...will discover a treasure trove of insights into this fascinating aspect of the Vajrayana world. Gyatso provides the clearest and most comprehensive account this reviewer has come across regarding the metaphysical process through which Treasure texts are "transmitted" and offers one of the more complete overviews on the nature of the dakini -- variously considered the Tibetan equivalent of an angel, anima, or even human partner. At the same time, she examines the apparent contradiction inherent in the idea of an advanced Buddhist practitioner, steeped in the concept of "no-self," producing an autobiography about his spiritual achievements. Make no mistake, this is not light reading for a summer day. But well worth the work for those seriously interested in the topic. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche was one of Gyatso's sources for her book, and his own volume, Hidden Teachings of Tibet, serves as the core reference work for anyone interested in the Terma tradition. Tulku Thondup, who has lived in the U.S. since 1980, provides a solid overview of the various types of Treasures, how they are concealed and discovered, details on the so-called dakini script in which they are written, and insights into the Tertons themselves. It is all organized in a format that makes for easy reference. Originally published in 1986, the book was issued in paperback in 1997. Reviewer: Lawrence Pintak is a journalist and author who writes frequently on Buddhism and spirituality.
In this valuable book, Janet Gyatso presents two of Jigme Lingpa's songs and lenghty analysis that is well-reasoned. Her translation is very nice, but I would have enjoyed more original text and less interpretation.