Adi Shankaracharya traveled all around India engaging scholars in religious debate. During one such debate, Bharati, wife of scholar Madana Mishra, attempted to defeat Adi Shankara in the topic of Kamashastra – sex. To win this debate Adi Shankaracharya’s performed parakaya pravesha – enter the body of another person.

In the debate between Madana Mishra and Adi Shankara, Bharati was appointed the judge as she was a scholar by herself. Madana Mishra was easily defeated in the debate by Adi Shankara.

Bharati contented that Adi Shankara had only defeated one half of Madana Mishra. To completely defeat him, Adi Shankara had to defeat his wife too.

Bharati soon realized that she could not defeat Adi Shankara in philosophy, so turned the debate towards Kamashastra. As Adi Shankara was a Brahmachari he had no knowledge of sex.

Adi Shankara asked Bharati to give him a month’s time to debate this topic with her.

Adi Shankaracharya then used his yogic powers to enter the body of Raja Amaruka who had just died. Before entering the body of the king, he hid his physical body in a cave and asked his disciples go guard it.

For next one month, in the body of the king, Adi Shankara indulged in sexual activities and learned Kama Shastra.

A month later he returned and defeated Bharati in the debate.

Source: http://www.hindu-blog.com/2012/07/adi-shankaracharyas-parakaya-pravesha.html

Some people say reading Kamashastra is adharmic then what about the above incident?

Is reading kamasutra a sin?

I do have great respect towards Adi Shankaracharya and in no way I am challenging the divine master. However, I am trying to make myself and others clear about Dharma and Adharma.

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    Dharma and Adharma are related to body, according to the Legend AdiShankaracharya took control of other Grihasta's body to learn Kama shastra. So as atman there is no Adharma or Dharma second as the body is of a Grihasta so there is no Adharma. A Grihasta can perfectly learn KamaShastra.
    – Yogi
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 13:24
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    Good Q & let's hope to get diverse answers. The closest meaning of Dharma is Tendency. Everything has tendency - be it person, couples, family or society. SAtvik ppl will have their tendencies aligned with everything, RAjsik-s have it misplaced & TAmasika-s have it opposite. So the proper following of Dharma happens by SAtvika people. Now reading Kamasutra depends on at what level we read it. To read it in tender age is adhArmik, but to read in adulthood can be dhArmik. Again, don't take this as a strict rule. Best is to follow Swadharma or natural tendency or conscience.
    – iammilind
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 13:34
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    I know this site only wants quoting from books, and not really independent analysis. But I feel strongly that this question needs some analysis, which is recognized as an important part of Vedic or Hindu learning and scholarship. Now, followers of Adi Shankara will obviously always try to show him as the supreme in all aspects, and the literature of "digvijayas" are basically hagiographies. There are digvijayas written for every famous acharya, and these books conflict each other when showing debates or interactions, and each one claims its own acharya as the winner. (contd below)
    – RamAbloh
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 20:31
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    In this particular instance, the digvijaya is very likely exaggerating the actual events. Parakaya pravesha is not something Shankara writes about in his own works. Moreover, Mandana Mishra and Bharati are highly respectable scholars who would not stoop so low as to use deceitful tactics to win a debate. Clearly they know even before starting the debate that Shankara is a brahmacari and wouldn't have knowledge of sex. Besides, the debate itself is clearly about Brahman from the POV of purva mimamsa and uttara mimamsa. So once Mishra accepted defeat...
    – RamAbloh
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 20:37
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    ... why would Bharati interfere and ask for a debate on kamashastra? What is there to debate about kamashastra, whose only goal is to teach about pleasure? This is not the style of vAda, which sincerely seeks to establish the truth. Deceitfully diverting the debate onto something irrelevant is not seen in the respectable tradition of Vaidikas. The followers who invent such stories are ruining the dignity and reputation of everyone involved.
    – RamAbloh
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


Renowned Advaitin Sri Vidyarana Swami had written a biography of Sri Adi Shankara. And this instance is also recorded in it.

Canto 9 of Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya records this incident. Shankara decides to enter the body of King as:

Sankara said to his disciple Padmapada "Here lies dead the renowned. king Amaruka, having more than a hundred wives of exquisite beauty. I am thinking why I should not enter into the body of this king and revive it by Yogic power, and thus live in his palace amidst these women through his body in order to gain knowledge of sex-love and achieve the status of an all-knowing person. I shall thus have an opportunity to make a direct study, as .a witness, of the manifestation of love in women and their behaviour under its influence."

PadmaPada (who was disciple of Shankara) asks whether it is right to do such or not ?

In reply to this proposal of the great Sannyasin, Padmapada gave his cautious reply as follows: "There is nothing unknown to an omniscient personage like you. Yet, I shall speak a few words out of my love for, and devotion to, you. It seems, in days of yore, a great Yogi named Matsyendra, entrusting his own body to his disciple Goraksha, entered into the body of a dead king and thereby got access into his palace. While the Yogi thus reigned as the king, ptosperity attended that kingdom. Timely rain brought bounteous harvests. Observing all this, it occurred to his ministers that some great soul must have entered into the dead body of the king. So they advised his consorts to use all their amorous skill to keep the king completely absorbed in love sports, so that he might not leave the body. The king got so immersed in the emotional display of these women, their amorous advances, soft laughter, sweet songs and lovely dances-that he forgot everything about Samadhi and spiritual matters, and behaved exactly like a sensuous man. Coming to know of the change that had come over his teacher, the disciple Goraksha, after duly preserving his teacher's body in a secure place, came disguised as a dance instructor and got access to the inner apartment as a dancing instructor for women. He attracted the king's attention, and by instructing him about spiritual truth, he destroyed the king's thirst for sense enjoyments. By regaining his power of Yoga, Matsyendra was able to leave the king's body and re-enter his own. From this it is seen how strong and irre-sistible sense attraction is. Besides, to abandon the vow of Brahmacharya is sinful, too. All these of course are matters too well-known to you. How great and how unparalleled in excellence are our holy vows, and how ignoble and wretched is sexuality? If a personage of your type goes after the latter, the whole world will get degraded by following your example. The Dharma of Sannyasins is already at a low ebb, and it has been your life-work to re-interpret and restore it to its pristine purity. All these are matters very well known to you. It is only love of you that prompts me to speak in this vein."

Then Shankara replies to PadmaPada and justifies his action as Dharmic as:

After Padmapada finished, Sankara who excelled Brihaspati himself in learning, spoke thus: "What you have said is only a partial appraisal of the situation. Now, hear the whole truth about it. In one who is absolutely non-attached, desire for sense enjoyment will not arise, This was the case with Sri Krishna when he lived with the Gopis. The continence of one who knows the Yogic practice of Vajroli will remain unbroken. Sankalpa, the brooding imaginative association, is the cause of desires. I am without that failing, even like Maha-Vishnu. One who is without any Sankalpa may live in Samsara without being affected by it; for the real root of Samsara has already been destroyed.  The commandments and prohibitions of scriptures are applicable to men in ignorance who live with the deep-rooted conviction that their body is their self. In the case of one who has realised even here that the Self, which is called 'he', is without all contacts and is the relationless and eternally pure spirit-of one who is established in this supreme teaching of the Vedanta-the commandments and prohibitions of Sastras' have no application. There is only clay in all pots that are made of clay. Similar is the case with all objects born of Paramatman. He and the world supposed to be born of Him are not different, the world having no existence apart from Him. How can one who realises the whole world as a mere appearance, be affected by anything? If a person performs Yagas and Yajnas in dream, will he derive any benefit from it? All fruits are non-existent for one who has realised the world as a mere appearance. Let a hundred Yagas be performed, or let hundreds of men be killed. Neither the good nor the bad effects of such actions will affect a knowing one in the least, as he has no sense of agency with regard to all actions flowing through his instrumentality. The Upanishads say that not a hair of Indra was affected, though he killed Trisiras, the son of Twashta, and offered the bodies of ascetics as food for wolves. The Vedas also say that though king Janaka performed many Yajnas and charities, he did not get further embodiment to enjoy the fruits of these ; for, by virtue of his knowledge he was absorbed in the Bliss of Paramatman for ever. A true knower will thus be free from all sinful effects, like Indra, and from enjoyable fruits like Janaka. For, he is free from any sense of good and evil. So, even if I indulge in the enjoyment of sex-love with this body, no evil will result from it. However, in order that the world may not be misled in respect of virtuous conduct by observing my example of a Sannyasin indulging in the practice of sex-love, my proposal is to gain the experiences of sex-life through the body of another person whose dead body I am going to enliven by temporarily identifying myself with that body."

  • 1
    "The Upanishads say that not a hair of Indra was affected, though he killed Trisiras, the son of Twashta, and offered the bodies of ascetics as food for wolves." -- Indra did get punished for the Ahalya incident in Ramayana. I think the intent is very important for the rules of dharma to apply or not apply, even for a god or a realized person. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 18:33
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    @sv. Whether you agree or not when a person is realized then definition of Dharma Adharma disappears for him: Adi Shankara is not quoting out of air there. He is quoting from Kaushtiki Upanishad which states : ‘Understand me only. This indeed I deem most beneficent to man, namely that one should understand me. I slew the three-headed Tvastir; I delivered the Arunmukhas, the ascetics, to the wolves. Transgressing many compacts I killed the people of Prahlada in the sky, the Paulomas in the atmosphere, the Kalakanjas on the earth. Of me, such as I was then, not a single hair was injured...
    – Tezz
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:16
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    ...So he knows me thus – by no deed whatever of his is his world injured, not by stealing, not by killing an embryo, not by the murder of hismother, not by the murder of his father..."
    – Tezz
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:16
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    I-iii-14: Therefore His name is Idandra. He is verily known as Idandra. Although He is Idandra, they call Him indirectly Indra; for the gods are verily fond of indirect names, the gods are verily fond of indirect names.
    – Tezz
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:20
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    @sv. And regarding story of Ahalya you are mixing Vedic and Puranic Indra. The Indra whom Vedas describe are Blueprint for all Indras which were and which will be. While the Indra who was punished in Ramayana is Purandara. He does other Karmas as well other than Vedas describe. For eg. Vedas just call Indra as "Lover of Ahalya" but Vedas do not describe punishment or curse for Indra. This means that Every Indra who were and who will be will be Lover of Ahlaya. But whether that sin touches them or not depends on their state..
    – Tezz
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:27

Shree Adi-Shankarachrya entered into the dead body of king Amaruka through his mastery of Yogic powers. Only to study the effects of action of love or Kama as a Observer. After his decision he discussed this with his disciples.One of them named "Padmapada" on the account of yogi "Matsyendra" cautioned him about possible effects of his action.

Shree Adi-Shankaracharya explained him about this in his own excellent way.

In the case of one who has realised even here that the self is without all contacts, and is the relationless eternally pure spirit, the commandments and prohibitions of the Sastras have no application. All fruits are non-existent for one who has realised the world as a mere appearance. A true knower is free from any sense of good and evil. So even if I indulge in the enjoyment of sex love, no evil will result from it. However in order that the world may not be misled by the action of a Sanyasin like me, I will gain the experience of sex life through the body temporarily.

So by this we can definitely say that this action of "Shree Adi-Shankarachrya" was a Dharmic one as he has done this only to aquire the knowledge for the matter of debate.

Your question -:

Some people say Reading Kamashastra is ADHARMIC then what about this incident?

My explanation-:

As Shree Adi-Shankarachrya was not doing this for his own pleasure but for only to gain true knowladge about lovemaking.His action is totally justified and was accordance with his duty. ie to spread and to rejuvenate Dharma to gain knowladge , to seek the truth , and to debate over religious matters.


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    @mano - Yes thanks , you are welcome , just tried to give one , although more explanation is needed.But Since i haven't gone through whole biography ,so written a short answer. Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 9:14

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