Freedom through Inner Renunciation

Śaṅkara's Philosophy in a New Light

By Roger Marcaurelle

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series, McGill Studies in the History of Religions, A Series Devoted to International Scholarship
Paperback : 9780791443620, 269 pages, November 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443613, 269 pages, November 1999

Table of contents



Abbreviations of Works by Sankara

Part One: The Issue and the Methodology

1. Sankara and Renunciation: the Controversy

2. The Basic Types of Renunciation In Advaita Vedanta
3. Five Reference Points for Proper Interpretation
4. Two Unfounded Explanations
Part Two: Sankara and Renunciation

5. The Householder's Path toward Liberation
6. The Main Opposition between Steadfastness in Action and Steadfastness in Self-Knowledge
7. The Yoga of Action and the Means of Self-Knowledge
8. Self-Knowledge and Physical Renunciation
Part Three: Renunciation in Post-Sankara Advaita Vedanta and Hinduism

9. Post-Sankara Advaita Vedanta and Renunciation
10. Sankara and the Value of Renunciation in Hinduism

This first full-length study of renunication in Sankara's Advaita Vedanta shows that Sankara's position has been misinterpreted by both traditional and modern commentators and brings his actual position to light.


This book is the first full-length study of renunciation in Śaṅkara's Advaita Vedānta. It shows that a major misinterpretation occurred concerning Śaṅkara's position on renunciation early within his own tradition, and has persisted amongst modern Indologists. Most interpreters of Śaṅkara understand that he saw the monastic way of living as a sine qua non for full knowledge of the Self and spiritual freedom. But this study brings Śaṅkara's real position to light and shows that, for him, inner renunciation of ego and doership was the only indispensable form of renunciation. Monasticism was quite useful, but not mandatory. Using Śaṅkara's own hermeneutical principles as well as the modern philological approach, Marcaurelle shows the basic processes of interpretation and misinterpretation that can shape fundamental aspects of a spiritual tradition.

Included with the work is a discussion of particular interest given the world-wide revival of Eastern forms of meditation: a clarification of Śaṅkara's view of the value of meditation.

Roger Marcaurelle is Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Universite du Quebec a Montreal.


"This is an outstanding piece of scholarship. The author shows a deep understanding of Sankara's thought. " -- John M. Koller, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

"…Marcaurelle's…treatment of the material is exhaustive, extending over the entire corpus of Sankara's authentic writings; his analyses of individual passages are meticulous and balanced … [The study's] focus … accounts for a satisfying density and rigor of argumentation. " — Journal of the American Oriental Society

"The most remarkable thing about the book is the author's thorough command of Advaita literature coupled with a passionate, keen, and persistent concentration on his thesis. In this he emulates Sankaracarya, the greatest of all Advaitins. The intellectual importance of the book lies in the combination of scholarly expertise and persistence that the author brings to his task. " -- Karl H. Potter, University of Washington