I love this story! I just referenced it for a friend. So I figured I'd post here for easier access to share in the future. I may or may not of revised the text. I can't recall. I used it as a piece of literature a couple times teaching when discussion the topic and theme of identity. Here is the text I'd share.
An allegory about a man who was devoured by ogres first appears in an ancient Indian Buddhist text of the Madhyamika (the middle-way) tradition. It dates from sometime between 150 and 250 CE and is a somewhat gruesome illustration of the Buddhist notion of the true nature of the self.
“The Man Devoured by Ogres”
A man on a long journey to a distant land finds a deserted house and decides to rest there for the night. At midnight, an ogre enters carrying a corpse. He sets the corpse down next to the man. Soon, another ogre in pursuit of the first arrives at the deserted house. The two ogres begin bickering over the corpse. Each claims to have brought the dead man to the house and wants ownership of it. Unable to resolve their dispute, they turn to the man who saw them come in, and ask him to adjudicate. They want an answer. Who brought the corpse to the house?
The man, realizing the futility of lying to the ogres—for if one won’t kill him, the other one will—tells the truth: the first ogre came with the corpse, he says. The angry second ogre retaliates by ripping off the man’s arm. (What ensues gives the allegory its macabre twist.) The first ogre immediately detaches an arm from the corpse and attaches it to the man. And so it goes: the second ogre rips a body part off the man; the first ogre replaces it by taking the same body part from the corpse and attaching it to the man. They end up swapping everything—arms, legs, the torso, and even the head. Finally, the two ogres make a meal of the corpse, wipe their mouths clean, and leave.
The man, whom the ogres have left behind, is extremely disturbed. He is left pondering what he has witnessed. The body that he was born in has been eaten by the ogres. His body now is made up of body parts of someone else entirely. Does he now have a body or doesn’t he? If the answer is yes, is it his body or someone else’s? If the answer is no, then what is he to make of the body that he can see?
The next morning, the man sets off on the road, in a state of utter confusion. He finally meets a group of Buddhist monks. He has a burning question for them: does he exist or does he not? The monks throw the question back at him: who are you? The man is not sure how to answer the question. He’s not sure he’s even a person, he says—and tells the monks of his harrowing encounter with the ogres.