Journal Article

Clouding Self-Identity: Śaṅkara, <i>Saṃskāra</i>s, and the Possession of King Amaruka

Neil Dalal

in The Journal of Hindu Studies

Published on behalf of Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Volume 5, issue 3, pages 283-292
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 1756-4255
Published online September 2012 | e-ISSN: 1756-4263 | DOI:
Clouding Self-Identity: Śaṅkara, Saṃskāras, and the Possession of King Amaruka

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Prior to his possession of King Amaruka in the Śaṅkaradigvijaya, Śaṅkara soothes the doubts of his disciples and argues that knowledge of his self as non-dual brahman is unwavering. He claims he will remain as a disinterested witness to his erotic practices and will not forget his true identity or duties. This article takes up the striking fact that Śaṅkara does indeed forget his identity, is consumed by his pleasures and royal responsibilities, and must be reminded by his disciples. Why and how would a liberated person forget his or her identity? Is it theoretically possible that the liberated person can be overwhelmed by desires and sense pleasures? These questions and the possession episode allude to the issue of mental impressions (saṃskāras) somehow clouding the Advaitin’s self-knowledge. This article explores the nature of saṃskāras in Śaṅkara’s writing and their effects on identity and self-knowledge. I use this discussion as a means to interpret the Amaruka episode from an Advaitin perspective, and to argue that saṃskāras allow for a complex and porous personal identity.

Journal Article.  4191 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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