Re: [INDOLOGY] saśarīra

Aaron Sherraden aaron.sherraden at
Wed Dec 18 15:56:34 UTC 2019

Dear all,

Triśaṅku's sacrifice is certainly loaded with terminology (e.g., ṛtvij,
sruva) pointing the audience towards envisioning a proper vedic affair, so
I would certainly agree with Dominik that there is an intentional resonance
between the Vedas and the epic.  And our understanding of "saśarīra" is
likely to be colored similarly.  Also, the question of saśarīra vs.
svaśarīra is a great one.  The Triśaṅku episode appears somewhat
noncommittal in a distinction between the two, though I suspect other
genre's may have more to say on the subject -- which I suppose is one thing
I am hoping to sort through by posing my original question.  On a quick
glance through just the Triśaṅku episode (VR 1.56.10-1.59.33), however, I
noticed a few things:

1. saśarīra is a bit more common.  By my count, it occurs nine times versus
svaśarīra's five (with one occurrence splitting the prefix sva- and
declining it adjectivally)

2. svaśarīra shows up in a few different situations, but it is notably
never said by Triśaṅku himself.  It first shows up when the story's
narrator (Śatānanda) introduces Rāma to the character Triśaṅku.  Its only
other occurrences are when Viśvāmitra is either discussing Triśaṅku with
Vasiṣṭha's sons or addressing Triśaṅku directly.

3. Both Śatānanda and Viśvāmitra seem to use the two terms
interchangeably.  Viśvāmitra even says them in adjacent verses (e.g.,

4. Because Triśaṅku never uses svaśarīra, his direct statements of his
intent to go to a heavenly realm always use saśarīra.

5. Of course, the Triśaṅku episode presents a special complication when
considering whether a body is one's own or not.  Triśaṅku is not, in a
sense, in his original body when he approaches Viśvāmitra -- he was cursed
to be *caṇḍālarūpin*.  Viśvāmitra even suggests that Triśaṅku will go to
heaven in the cursed *caṇḍāla* form and uses saśarīra in his dialogue
(1.58.4).  That Viśvāmitra is confident that Triśaṅku would enter heaven in
such a form is especially significant when viewed in comparison to the
Śambūka story.

I'm sure there is more to be unpacked here, but this is an initial glance.

With best wishes,

On Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 4:53 AM Dominik Haas <dominik.haas at>

> What could also be noted is that when *saśarīra* is used, it does not
> always mean that one simply keeps the mortal body and "physically" goes to
> heaven, the *brahmaloka* or any other place. As result of performing the
> Agnicayana (or one of its subforms, the Nāciketacayana), a new body is
> obtained after death. Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa III 11.7.3 reads: *sáśarīra evá
> svargáṃ lokám eti*, ‘*embodied*, he goes to the heavenly world.’ But this
> obviously has to be a new body (so *saśarīra* might be opposed to
> *svaśarīra*?) .
> Personally I'm convinced that there were quite a few overlaps between
> "Epic-yogic" and "Vedic-ritualistic" (broadly speaking) ways of imagining
> the goal of salvation (argued here:
> My point is that there were different views about the way of embodiment in
> the afterlife (the polysemy of the word *ātman* was helpful in this
> case), and people constantly "remixed" and blended ideas from various
> sources. This might also be relevant in some way for the Epic stories and
> for Triśaṅku and his sacrifice.
> Best,
> Dominik
> ---
> __________________
> *Dominik A. Haas, BA MA*
> PhD student, University of Vienna
> dominik.haas at
> ORCID: 0000-0002-8505-6112 <>
> <>
> <>
> Am 2019-12-17 03:23, schrieb Aaron Sherraden via INDOLOGY:
> Thank you very much for all these helpful responses -- I have a few great
> new paths to explore and look forward to hearing about any more that this
> list may conjure up.
> My mistake with regards to the role of *tapas *in the Triśaṅku story --
> it was, of course, Viśvāmitra whose *tapas *caused a bit of a stir, not
> Triśaṅku's.  Many thanks to Dr. Goldman for steering the list in the right
> direction.
> All the best,
> Aaron
> On Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 3:56 PM Robert Goldman <rpg at> wrote:
> Of course, technically, Triśaṅku does not seek to enter the heavenly
> world(s) through *tapas*, but rather by having a sacrifice performed on
> his behalf for this purpose. Thus he first approaches Vasiṣṭha,
> then Vasiṣṭha's sons and finally, in his cursed form, Viśvāmitra. Then
> there are also various accounts of mortals who are able to travel to heaven
> in their earthly  bodies on a temporary basis, such as Arjuna at Mbh. 3.43
> ff.  and Dilīpa at *Raghuvaṃśa* 1. 75 ff. etc.
> Dr. R. P.  Goldman
> Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South
> and Southeast Asian Studies
> Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies MC # 2540
> The University of California at Berkeley
> Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
> Tel: 510-642-4089
> Fax: 510-642-2409
> On Dec 16, 2019, at 12:18 PM, Uskokov, Aleksandar via INDOLOGY <
> indology at> wrote:
> Hi Aaron,
> Perhaps not relevant directly, but you could look at Sabara's commentary
> on Mimamsa-sutra 1.1.5, where a statement from the Brahmanas that the
> ritualist attains heaven in his own body along with the ritual implements
> is discussed.
> Best
> Aleksandar
> Get Outlook for Android <>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at> on behalf of
> Tieken, H.J.H. via INDOLOGY <indology at>
> *Sent:* Monday, December 16, 2019 3:14:20 PM
> *To:* Aaron Sherraden <aaron.sherraden at>;
> indology at <indology at>
> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] saśarīra
> Dear Aaron,
> In my article "The Mahābhārata after the Great Battle", WZKS XLVIII (2004,
> app. 2005) I deal with Yudhiṣṭhira, who is the only one of the Pāṇḍavas to
> arrive in heaven with his body because he is without sin (see p. 36).
> I think (but am not certain) you may find a pdf of this article on my
> website.
> Herman
> Herman Tieken
> Stationsweg 58
> 2515 BP Den Haag
> The Netherlands
> 00 31 (0)70 2208127
> website:
> <>
> ------------------------------
> *Van:* INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at] namens Aaron
> Sherraden via INDOLOGY [indology at]
> *Verzonden:* maandag 16 december 2019 21:02
> *Aan:* indology at
> *Onderwerp:* [INDOLOGY] saśarīra
> Dear list members,
> I am wondering about appearances of the word "saśarīra" and/or "svaśarīra"
> in various contexts.  I have encountered saśarīra/svaśarīra in the episodes
> of Triśaṅku and Śambūka from the *Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa*, but would be curious
> to know of other places where these or similar concepts show up.  In both
> of these episodes, the goal of Triśaṅku and Śambūka is to enter some sort
> of heavenly realm or divine form (variously referred to as divam, gatim,
> svargam, devatvam etc.) with their body.  Also in these episodes, Triśaṅku
> and Śambūka have gone rogue to engage in *tapas *as a way of achieving
> this goal.
> An example from each of the *Rāmāyaṇa* episodes:
> guruśāpakṛtaṃ rūpaṃ yad idaṃ tvayi vartate |
> anena saha rūpeṇa saśarīro gamiṣyasi || VR 1.58.4 (Triśaṅku episode)
> śūdrayonyāṃ prasūto 'smi tapa ugraṃ samāsthitaḥ |
> devatvaṃ prārthaye rāma saśarīro mahāyaśaḥ || VR 7.67.2 (Śambūka episode)
> I am especially curious about the use of "saśarīra" in similar ways, but I
> am open to any use of the term from the literature at large.
> With thanks in advance,
> Aaron
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