One should understand the self to be always like a king, different from the body, senses, mind, consciousness, and eyes, the witness of their activities. (18).
A sage or seer would have made sense. But why 'king'?
This led to me read Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, supposedly Sankara's source for 'knowledge of self'. I found rather strange explanation in it about the origin of Varna system(Section 1.4).
11. Verily in the beginning this was Brahman, one only. That being one, was not strong enough. It created still further the most excellent Kshatra (power), viz. those Kshatras (powers) among the Devas,--Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, Parganya, Yama, Mrityu, Îsâna. Therefore there is nothing beyond the Kshatra, and therefore at the Râgasûya sacrifice the Brâhmana sits down below the Kshatriya. He confers that glory on the Kshatra alone. But Brahman is (nevertheless) the birth-place of the Kshatra. Therefore though a king is exalted, he sits down at the end (of the sacrifice) below the Brahman, as his birth-place. He who injures him, injures his own birth-place. He becomes worse, because he has injured one better than himself.
I thought brahman and brAhmaNa became rather ambiguous terms here. What really comes out clearly here is Kshatra is higher than Brahman. There is nothing beyond Kshatra therefore it is the highest and hence Kshatriya must be the highest. A lower phenomenon producing a higher phenomenon is rather weird. But weirdness doesn't end there. Why talk about 'injury' here?
I have copied the rest of Varna development below but don't find them much helpful except for another weirdness of Devas being divided into four Varnas.
12. He 1 was not strong enough. He created the Vis (people), the classes of Devas which in their different orders are called Vasus, Rudras, Âdityas, Visve Devas, Maruts.
13. He was not strong enough. He created the Sûdra colour (caste), as Pûshan (as nourisher). This earth verily is Pûshan (the nourisher); for the earth nourishes all this whatsoever.
14. He was not strong enough. He created still further the most excellent Law (dharma). Law is the Kshatra (power) of the Kshatra 2, therefore there is nothing higher than the Law. Thenceforth even a weak man rules a stronger with the help of the Law, as with the help of a king. Thus the Law is what is called the true. And if a man declares what is true, they say he declares the Law; and if he declares the Law, they say he declares what is true. Thus both are the same.
15. There are then this Brahman, Kshatra, Vis, and Sûdra. Among the Devas that Brahman existed as Agni (fire) only, among men as Brâhmana, as Kshatriya through the (divine) Kshatriya, as Vaisya through the (divine) Vaisya, as Sûdra through the (divine) Sûdra. Therefore people wish for their future state among the Devas through Agni (the sacrificial fire) only; and among men through the Brâhmana, for in these two forms did Brahman exist.
Some of the observations I can make here.
- This explains why Sankara choose 'king' as a perfection.
- Loyalty of Brahmins to a god(Agni) associated with their ritual aspect(Note that Iranian counter part 'Atar' doesn't have an IE etymology). This probably explains decline of gods related to IE pantheon in India. The identity of priestly caste is West Asian and not European.
- No, it doesn't imply three fold division of Indian society just like IE society. I would rather think that concept probably was created and preserved by IE bards only. These bards anyway became part of West Asian priestly class in Iran and India. Since we don't see strict division of IE societies in European lands, I would consider even there the concept was just part of bards poems not really the rule imposed on the population.
- It implies appropriation of three fold division concept (chieftain/raja, common people/vis and serfs/swartr/sudra) by a West Asian origin endogamous priestly caste.
- It shows a bit hesitation and creation of a escape passage in claiming priests as the most superior considering the current idea of king as a supreme person.
- This probably explains the triumph of Buddhism only in Sri Lanka. The four fold caste division there had been, raja, bamanu, vindalo, govi(sudra?). Note the primary position of king. Also, the term is 'raja' and not 'kshatriya'. The latter is an innovation of Brahmins in India and not part of IE concept. The term raja is still a cognate with 'rig' of European three fold class system.
Sankara (if at all he existed) had only shown his intellectual dishonesty.