Sri Adi Shankaracharya as an Incarnation ‘Avataram’ of Lord Shiva & the first Vishwa Guru of Kaliyuga
The Supreme power assumes form from time to time to bring erring humanity back to the correct path. Leaving His all pervading spirit unaffected, He incarnates choosing a form, place and time. The form and nature He takes will depend on the cause and circumstances leading to the Avatara. Avataras differ in the vehicles or medium through which the Supreme manifests itself, according to the requirement. This is understandable as whenever we find the emergence of a great personality of Superhuman strength advocating or championing the cause of the eternal principles and values of life and Dharma and achieving great things,The ultimate purpose of an incarnation is always the re-establishment of right values, of Dharma in the world.
Sri Bhagavatpada Shankaracharya, was not only a great thinker and the noblest of Advaitic philosophers but he was essentially an inspired champion of Hinduism and one of the most rigorous missionary leaders in our country. No matter what superlative we wish to apply to Adi Shankara’s genious, words would scarce suffice to describe even an iota of the mystic we know as Shankara!
Pressing need for Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada Acharya’s avatar
When the Vaidic mode of communion with the ultimate was in jeopardy, with the rejuvenation and reassertion of its wisdom being a pressing need, Adi Shankara strode like a majestic lion across the country taking all other lions in his stride and converted even die hards making them opt for the path illumined by Upanishads, such a powerful leader was needed at that time when Hinduism had been almost smothered within an enticing entanglements of atheistic views and consequently the Hindu Society came to be disunited and broken up into numberless sects and denominations each championing a different new point and engaged in mutual quarrels and endless argumentations.
It was into such a chaotic intellectual atmosphere that Sri Shankara brought his life giving philosophy of non-dual Brahaman of the Upanishads. It can very well be understood what a colossal work it must have been for any one man to undertake in those days, when modern conveniences of mechanical transport and instruments of propaganda were unknown.
A peerless mystic
Also as a peerless mystic, Adi Shankara could well have united his ambit to only the fortunate ones. He could as well have been totally reclusive and stayed away from it all. Yet, he chose to illumine the path of divine in an exemplary manner propounding his wisdom among even the uninitiated common, ordinary people, in a manner suited to the listener’s capacity. He was fully awakened and totally aware of the intricacies of the unknown, yet he was humble and wise, as only the truly great ones can be.
In His missionary work of propagating the great philosophical truths of the Upanishads and rediscovering through them the true cultural basis of our nation, Acharya Shankara had a variety of efficient weapons in his resourceful armory. An exquisite thinker, a brilliant intellect, a personality scintillating super think tank with the vision of Truth, a heart throbbing with industrious faith and ardent desire to serve the nation, sweetly emotional and relentlessly logical, Adi Shankara was the fittest Spiritual General to champion the cause of Upanishads. It was indeed a vast program that Shankara accomplished within the short span of 20 effective years for at the age of 32 he had finished his work and had folded up his manifestation.
From masculine prose to feminine soft songs, from marching verses to dancing songful words, be in the halls of Upanishadic commentaries or in the temple of Brahmasutra expositions, in the theatre of his Bhagavad Gita discourses or in the open flowery fields of his devotional songs, His was a pen that danced to the rhythm of His heart and to the swing of His thoughts. But pen alone would not have won the war of culture for our country. He showed himself to be a great organizer, a far sighted diplomat courageous hero and a tireless servant of the country.
Before the advent of Sri Shankara numerous ritualistic cults engendered unclear practices which cried for reform. Sri Shankara completed this task. He gave them a new, purer and purposeful outlook. Working through its own tradition, each system or cult was helped to discipline mind conduct and practices, to be able to progress with the higher forum of truth. The evils were cleansed in the practice of rituals and a place was assigned to each cult in what may be described as a `federation of faiths’ with the prospect of leading its rotary to the understanding of Upanishadic ideal. Refinement of religious beliefs and practices leads to refinement of character and social respectability.
Lord Shiva’s Grace
It is stated that Sri Shankaracharya was born of Lord Shiva’s Grace to his parents. Kalati or Kalady is a beautiful village Kerala. Even today this fine village may be seen on the bank of river Poornaa. There lived an orthodox Namboodri brahim family .devoted to Lord Shiva. named Shivaguru and Aryamba.
Being a Devotees of Shiva Though rich, they led simple life Both the husband a wife were well educated. and very generous.
They were worried only about not having any children even after long time. They made vows an appeals to all godsand Temples. At last, suggested by unknown old Sanyasi, they went to Trishur (Trishwaperurur old name) for rendering devotional service to Lord Shiva Vaddukum Natha.(meaning the Lord of North Direction) The divinely graceful idol of the Lord Shiva attracted them. They spent many days there with a feeling that serving Him is the only way known to them One night Vaddukum Nathan appearred in their dream. It was a wonder experience.. Lord Shiva posed a question to them.. I am pleased with your steadfast devotion. I shall- grant your prayer. But there is one question, Does it suffice if you are given only one son of short life who will be a Maha Sanyaasi A great Ascetic or do you want many children of long life but dull wits?”
Would the Lord Shiva who is not easily accessible put an easy question? The couple who had such boundless faith in Lord Shiva found completely a different way out. They left everything to His decision only. Then the Lord said, I Lord shiva myself will be born as your son,& will become an universal spiritual teacher.the “Vishwa Guru” So, saying, He disappeared. Shivaguru and Aryamba felt very happy and stayed there for several more days offering their worship and service to Lord Shiva Ishwara. Afterwards they returned home.
A divine & beautifull son was born to Aryamba by the full Grace of Lord Shankara The baby was then named Shankara. Calculating according to solar calendar, the auspicious day has been said to be the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Vaishakha. Shukla Panchami.The devotees celebrate – “Shankara Jayanti On that- day every year.
Shankara, being a divine incamation grew up right from his childhood as a prodigy in every respect. It is said that at the age of eight he had understood the four Vedas. By the time he was twelve years of age, he had understood all branches ofknowledge. And by sixteen he had written commen- taries on those Vedanta which are considered to be his major works. Sharp as his intellect was, so was his heart very broad. At The first year of his age he had learnt both Malayalam, his mother tongue, and Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas. During his second year he was able to read and write in these languages. During his third year he was able to read and explain epics and mythology. Thus is it stated in some books written about him.Even at a young age Shankara, had become proficient in Prakrit Magadhi and Sanskrit languages. Considered from an ordinary standpoint, one might feel that much of this may be an exaggeration. But instances of child prodigies endowed with a divine gift of brilliance are not uncommon.
At the age of five Shankara’s Upanayana was performed. By that time his father Shivaguru passed away.Only the mother had to bear the responsibility of bringing up the child
Shankara was sent to the nearby Gurukula on the banks of river Poornaa. Under the guidance of Guru he studied the Vedas and its branches and also all other subjects. His brilliance brought credit to the entire Gurukula. From an incident that happened during his stay at the Gurukula one can understand his deep concern for the poor and distressed persons.
There is a convention that the pupils in a Gurukula should get their food by begging. Accordingly the boy Shankara went round to beg. He stood at the door of a house and shouted, “Mother, please give alms. He repeated the appeal twice. There was no reply. He repeated it several times. Then a woman came out and stood with a sad face. There was nothing in the house to offer to this boy. Hence that piteous look. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Shankara understood the situation. “Mother, I shall be content with whatever you give me. Thereby may there be no scarcity in your house,” he said. But how to give anything when there was nothing? What is there to give? At last she remembered the gooseberries grown in the backyard. She brought some gooseberries and gave them to Shankara. Shankara then prayed to Shreedevi, the Goddess of Wealth, to show her mercy on this humble and virtuous woman. Then, as Written in the books, there was a shower of golden gooseberries in the house. This means that as a, result of Shankara’s prayer to the Goddess, that family became rich and Prosperous.
Shankara stayed in the Gurukula for eight years. By then he made such a thorough study of all the subjects that he had them at his finger-Ups. More than any other subject, he was greatly interested in the Vedanta, the most advanced part of the Vedas, which is said to be the very came of spiritual truth. This is the highest and the culminating point of all knowledge. “By knowing which everything will be known, and that is what the Vedanta aims at,” say the learned. Even at such a tender age Shankara was attracted towards that goal. This shows the greatness of his personality.
For The Sake Of Mother
Many instances that reveal the divine spirit of great men are available at every stage of their lives. It was so in the case of Shankara also. After completing his education in the Gurukula, it was the time when Shankara was at home rendering service to his mother and also teaching some pupils. Aryamba had fallen ill. But still she insisted on having her daily bath in the river Poornaa. Though the river-bed was in front of her house, it had dried up because of summer, and the slender flow of water was far away. Aryamba had to cross the vast sand-bed to reach the water. One day she managed to finish her bath and was returning home. While crossing that sand-bed, not being able to withstand the sun and strain, she fainted and fell down on the way. Shankara got the news and rushed to the spot. He attended to her. When she recovered a little, he brought her home.
The summer might be unbearable and the water might be flowing at a distance across a broad bed of sand. But Aryamba would never agree to change her routine. So the next day, would she not go again to the river for bath? this worried Shankara. He folded his hands in salutation to the river goddess, Poornaa Devi. He prayed to her to flow in full, extending her waters up to their house, in order to facilitate his mother’s ritualistic bath. Maybe in answer to his prayer, or maybe by a seasonal phenomenon or due to both, there was a continuous downpour of rain throughout the night. The next morning river Poornaa was found flowing fully over the breadth of her sands in all her grace and majesty.
The miracle as having brought the distant river very near made all the people of the village Kalady joined the ailing Aryamba in praising and blessing Shankara.
Mother’s Longing And Anxiety
Who is not astonished at the routine of an eight year old boy being engaged in Vedic studies, contemplation on Vedantic thoughts and teaching the same to others? In addition to this he had to attend on his aged mother.
As days were passing like this, one day two Brahmin’s who were both old in years and in wisdom came to Shankara’s house. Aryamba and Shankara received them with respect and treated them hospitably. The guests found the atmosphere of the house extraordinary. They were enchanted by Shankara’s brilliance, modesty and godly qualities. They felt that only to work for the welfare of the world God must have endowed this boy at such a tender age with all those abilities and achievements. While departing, those old men told Shankara’s mother: “May your son live long. May he become a stalwart in establishing the Vedic tradition firmly and gloriously in Bharat which is now passing through a crisis, and may he thereby accomplish the welfare of the world.”
The mother’s heart was also yearning for the same. She prayed to Ishwara to grant her son a long life and to make the blessings of those Magis come true. But how is it that God Ishwara Himself appearing in the dream told, “Your son may have a short life but he will be the teacher of the world”? Then what does the blessing of these old Magis mean? Aryamba was puzzled. But she consoled herself saying, “May it be as He wills it.”
The son seems to have understood her anxiety. He tried to comfort her by saying, “Mother, don’t you see that incidents of everyday life point only to the transitory nature of life? If we make use of all the time at our disposal in the service of God, is there a better fortune than that?”
Shankara, the Ascetic
There is not the slightest doubt about an unseen hand shaping the life of Shankara. As if to confirm this, there happened an incident.
One day Shankara was bathing in the river Poornaa. A crocodile caught his leg and began to pull him into the river. However strong one might be one can’t fight with a crocodile in water and succeed. What could the plight of boy Shankara be then? He felt that his life had come to an end. He loudly called out to his mother. She came running. He told her, “Death isapproaching, mother, as I have been caught by a crocodile. I am unable to free myself from its grip. I see only one way out. I must take sannyasa before I die. Please permit me to take ‘instant sannyasa’. (Taking sannyasa in essence means to give up one life’ and get a new one. So by the decision to take sannyasa he would get over the death caused by the crocodile. Either way he would attain an exalted state. If he survived he would have a new life. If he should die, even then he would have a new life after casting away his body.) The son’s plight and his pathetic appeal moved the heart of the mother. She wasconfused. If he could live at least by becoming a monk, may it be so. She only wanted him to live. So, with a firm faith in Ishwara she gave her consent saying, “My child, may it be according to His will.”
Probably it was the will of God that Shankara should be freed from worldly life. The crocodile left Shankara unhurt and swam away in the water! Shankara. Crossed over the sorrow and misery of worldly life. By mere resolution of the mind, he became a Sannyasi and attained a new life.
Mother was grieved about his becoming an ascetic. A few days after this incident, the boy-monk told her about his life’s mission.
He requested her to permit her to leave Kalati.
He was her only son. And was a gift of god to her.
But when she realised that he was born only to render service both to God and to humanity, she blessed him and bade him farewell saying, “Attain great fame, my dear son.”
Shankara requested the elders and his dear friends of neighborhood to have good care about his mother and then he got ready to leave Mother could not control her grief “Shankara,” she said, “will I see yet again once at least before I die? Shankara, having understood mother., heart, assured her, “Mother, remember me at the time death. I will come to you wherever I may be. I am praying to God to grant me the ‘good fortune of serving my mother during her last days.” This was a reply of one who had supreme faith in God. To divert his mother’s attention towards God, he installed at home an idol of Sri Krishna. Leaving his mother to his gracious care, Shankara left Kalati.
A Matchless Guru For A Matchless Disciple
Now Shankara’s main aim was to search for a Guru. His intense desire was to have as his Guru only a person who had realised Brahman. If this is the expectation of a disciple, is not that Guru most fortunate? . Shankara went towards North. He came to the banks of river Narmada after passing through many hermitages. There he found the hermitage of a Mahayogi. And this was Govinda Bhagavatpada. Seeing him in a state of deep samadhi, Shankara’s heart was filled Iwith satisfaction. His expectation had been fulfilled. What did Govinda Guru see when he woke to his conscious state? A boy-ascetic with a bright and radiant face, standing there with folded hands. The inner spiritual development was writ large on his face. After prostrating before the Guru, Shankara introduced himself. He requested that he may be accepted as a disciple. Govinda Yogi felt happy at the very first meeting as h e had found the very type of person – the fittest disciple – for whom he had been waiting. Let alone teaching the pupil the mysterious secrets of the Vedanta, was it not a great pleasure for the Guru to find there a disciple who had not only digested the very philosophy of Vedanta but looked every inch the embodiment of that philosophy? Taking initiation from the Guru in a regular way to ascetic life, Shankara carried on his studies with all devotion.
For the boy Shankara who had obtained a marvellous success in comprehending the Advaita philosophy, “The spiritual Yoga” was very necessary. A person who at his will could forget himself and the world and enter the indescribable state of supreme peace! Such was the Guru. And the disciple was one who was qualified to attain that state. This was a preparatory step of Shankara in getting dynamic power which would facilitate the great work he was to do in future. Understanding the truth is different from experiencing it. Govinda Bhagavatpada enabled Shankara to attain this state of glorious experience. The wise who have attained this state call it the experience of the Infinite. This experience gave rich nourishment to Shankara’s personality. The entire world appeared to be full of Brahman to him. After this the only thing that remained to be done was to communicate the bliss he had known and experienced to one and all through Vedanta. This work was assigned also to him by his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada. He was asked to write, in the light of truth he had realised, commentaries on the three basic texts, namely the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahmasutras which are the spiritual treasure troves of Bharat. The Guru blessed him saying, “Whatever you wish, it shall be fulfilled by the power you have acquired from yogic practices.” The next period of Shankara’s life was devoted to the propagation of Vedanta.
0, Mother Parvati, – Give Me Alms’
After visiting many pilgrim centres of this holy land of Bharat, Sri Shankara came to Kashi. His object was to have darshan of God Vishweshwara on the banks of sacred Ganges. His march of religious conquest was to start in Kashi.
Shankara in Kashi felt that his first and foremost duty was to have darshan of Sri Annapurna, the presiding deity of the city of Kashi, that she should give him the first alms. But the alms that Shankara begged of her was unusual:
bhikshaam dehi cha Parvati
“O Mother Parvati, give me alms such as will enable me to attain wisdom and austerity.” The humility and the intense feeling with which he was appealing to the mother of the universe, the radiance which far exceeded the tender age of that handsome boy-monk surprisedeverybody. If some thronged around him to listen to the ecstatic songs dominated by a note of devotion which Shankara sang in his divine voice, many others came to listen to his enlightening discourses on Vedanta. Still many more experienced peace in his company under a spiritual influence. In this way, before long the boy-ascetic won a place in the hearts of the people.
During Shankara’s stay in the city of Kashi an incident happened as ill to test his inner development.
The day was about to dawn. Shankara was on his way to the river for bathing. A man Chandala with his pets four dogs came across the road.blocking the way of Shankara, it seems, Shankara asked him to give way” The answer the other man gave was startling. “To which are you asking to move, this body or the Self? Is not this body also made of dust in the same way as your body? Does the Self ever get polluted? And how can the Self which is present everywhere keep itself at a distance? Is there any difference between you and me the way it has pervaded?” It is a situation in which any one might get confounded. But Shankara’s reaction was entirely different. Throwing away all his pride, he fell prostrating at the feet of that man. “This is not an ordinary man. One who has ‘described the nature of the Self in such a simple and lucid language is really not ordinary: He is no other than Lord Shiva Himself with the four Vedas Is not this inner enlight-enment a form of Vishweshwara’s Grace?” he said to himself and felt happy. Shankara even after experiencing the Advaita doctrine was caught for a moment in the illusion of high and low. He offered his salutation to that God in human form who had dispelled his illusion.
One Vishnu Sharma at Kashi prayed with great devotion. “I wish to be freed from the bondage of worldly life, please show me the way, Sir.” He became the first disciple of Shankara. It is this person who later became known as ‘Padmapadacharya’.
Shankara, a scholar of tremendous capacity, had one important task to do. The Upanishads, BhagavadGita and Brahmasutras are sacred scriptures of the Hindus; but it is not easy to understand them. Shankaracharya decided to write commentaries on these texts. He wrote first on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. They became very popular. He was to write the commentary on BrahmaSutras. Hindus believe that Bhagavan Vyasa is still alive in Badari, the pilgrim centre. This centre is located at the foot of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 12,000 feet. Travelling was not easy in those days, about 1200 years ago. ButShankaracharya went to Badari itself to write his commentary on the BrahmaSutras.
Dedicating himself to the service of Ishwara and Bhagavan Vyasa, he launched upon his work. The writing of commentary went on smoothly. It is said that Vyasa himself gave darshan to Shankara and blessed him. As it happened, according to his expectation Shankara continued his work with a new vigour. This doubled his life-span as it were. Mainly this new vigour-call it longevity – was needed for the fulfil- ment of Shankara’s project. The heavy task of spreading the meaning of these great texts was also waiting. Shankara’s mission in life would not be completed without doing this. So in order to carry out this responsibility, a new vigour in the form of God’s Grace and Guru’s blessings was needed. Shankara, having got this, devoted the rest of his life to carry out his mission. This, as may be called, was the period of Shankara’s conquests.
As the first step of his conquests Shankara came to the city of Ruddha. There he was to encounter one Kumarila Bhatta in argument and win over him. Kumarila said, “If you want to debate on Vedanta you should go to MandanaMishra; and if you win over him in an argument, then surely you can expect victory for Vedanta everywhere.”
Mandana Mishra was an outstanding scholar. Even the most learned men would feel nervous to argue with him. He lived in a town called Mahishmati. Shankaracharya went there. Mandana Mishra agreed for a debate.
What is the stake?
The loser should become the winner’s disciple.
Both were stupendous scholars. Who should be the judge competent to decide as to who had won and who had lost?
The wife of Mandana Mishra was Ubhaya Bharat. She too had astounding scholarship. She was regarded as the incarnation of Saraswati (the Goddess of learning). She was made the judge.
The debate with thundering argument and counter-argument on for several days.
Mandana Mishra at last accepted his defeat. As per the agreement he became a sannyasi and disciple ofShankaracharya.
This victory of Shankara was of tremendous consequence, we should say. It was the triumph of Shankara Charya’s teaching. Besides, he got a brilliant person like Mandana Mishra as his disciple. It was this disciple who rendered memorable service to Vedanta and became known as ‘Sureshwaracharya.’
After this event Shankara went to the sacred Srishalila. His intention was mainly to defeat Ugra Bhairava who was notorious in Tantric field such as witchcraft and black magic. That Kaapaalika could not win over Shankara’s pious and spiritual Vedic doctrines. He with his black art even attempted to kill Shankara, but fell himself a prey to it. From Srishaila Shankara went to Gokarna, another famous pilgrim-centre. And then he proceeded along the Sahyadri range to the Mookambika Temple at the foot of Sahyadri hills.
Here he was to get one more great disciple. Prabhakara was a brahmin. He had a son who was a dumb boy. He appeared to be dull. But Shankara felt that he was a yogi. Instead of asking the parents who had brought the boy ‘Why is the boy like this? since when?’ he asked the boy straightaway : “Who are you, my boy?” What else could be so sacred a place as the one where the divine master was standing for the yogi to break his silence? One who was dumb poke in answer, “I am the eternal self and not dead matter.” This was the simplest form of expressing the nature of the self. By the grace of the master, the dull and the silent son of that couple revealed himself to be a great and wise sage. The master felt happy and taking him as disciple, named him ‘Hastamalaka’.
The Four Regional Monasteries Matthas
The next important event in Shankara’s life was his coming to Shringeri. This place is situated on the bank of river Tunga in Karnataka. It is the loveliest of spots. Long, long ago, great sages like Vibhan- daka, Rishyashringa and such others had carried on their penance there. Since then it had been a very sacred place.Enchanted with the tranquillity of that place, Shankara established his first Vedanta JnanaPeetha. He installed there the idol of Sri Sharada, the Goddess of Learning, and placed Sureshwara as the Head of that Sharada Peetha.
In Acharya Shankara’s view the entire Bharat was a holy land. Its welfare and unification was to be based on Dharma only. In connection with this unification, Acharya’s plan was to establish four centres in four corners of Bharat for spreading Vedanta and for guiding persons practising Vedanta. The founding of Sharada Peetha was the first step in this project. This was meant to provide guidance for South India. He established the Govardhana Peetha in Jagannath for the East, the Kalika Peetha in Dwaraka for the West, and the Jyotih Peetha in Badarikashrama for the North. These Peethas are called ‘Amnaya Peethas.
How at Shringeri during his stay Shankara showered his blessings on a disciple called Giri is very interesting. The co- students used to look down upon Girl thinking that Vedanta for him was a hard nut to crack. Once Shankara at the time of his lecture said, “Let us wait for Giri.” The other pupils said, “Why should we wait for him, Sir? A wall is much better than that dullard.”
Shankara felt pained when such a student as was devoted to the service of his master was jeered at. “What do you know about his nature and spiritual achievements? His ability will reveal itself shortly,” said the Master. “Isn’t it enough if Master knows my merit? Should it be made known to others also? Let me not have such conceit” – so Giri used to feel within himself and was serving his master silently. On that day as usual he came late and did obeisance to Acharya. Acharya said with a smile, “Look Giri, We want you to give a discourse on the Self and its nature. We have been waiting for you.”
It was the master’s command as well as blessing. The so-called dullard Giri, in a very modest way and full of devotion expressed in his eyes, presented the very gist of Vedanta in Trotaka Vritta, a highly complicated metrical form, but very enlighteningly as if he was making with all reverence as offering to the Master. The other students felt ashamed of their folly. They apologised to both Acharya and Giri. Shankara, thus revealing the literary ability latent in Giri, called him “Trotakacharya” to make this incident remembered for a long time.
Among the disciples of Shankara the most prominent are four Padmapada, Sureshwara, Hastamalaka and Trotaka. Shankara nominated them as the chiefs of the four Vedanta centres he had established: Sureshwara for shringeri the South zone center, Padmapada for Kalika Peetha of a, Trotaka for Jyotih’ peetha Dwarak of Badari, and Hastamalaka for Govardhana Peetha of Jagannath. He told that at their lives should be dedicated to re-organise ancient Hindu Dharma.
Service to Mother
Meanwhile Shankara felt that the end of his old mother Aryamba was nearing. Accordingly he returned to Kalati. When Shankara came to know that she was to die shortly, he offered ‘Shiva Bhujanga Stotra’ and ‘Vishnu Stotra’ which have a power to save the soul, and prayed that she might die peacefully and attain heavenly abode.
Shankara’s mother died. Her body was to be cremated. But none of Shankara’s relatives came forward to help. A monk cannot perform the funeral rites of anyone, not even of his parents. Still Shankara- charya felt, is it not a sacred duty to perform the funeral rites of the dead when required to? Shankara had to carry” the body himself with great difficulty to the burning place and light up the pyre. By doing this last service to his mother, he felt gratified.
Shankaracharya paid a visit to Sharada Nilaya in Kashmir known as Sarvajna Peetha (the seat of the all knowing). Those who are not all-knowing are not entitled to sit on it; no one could claim to be an expert in any religion or philosophy without sitting on it. Shankara did not wish to show himself off as Sarvajna. He felt that Sri Sharada Nilaya with Sarvajna Peetha was by itself a place worthy of visit by all devotees. Besides, Kashmir is the crown of Bharat. So he resolved to g 0 there, lest the ancient Hindu religion should perish there.
There are four gates in four directions for entering Sharada Nilaya. Eminent scholars and philosophers had entered it from various directions and had established their scholarly merit But no one so far had adorned this chair of Sarvajna. And also till their no one had even attempted to enter the temple through the Southern gate May be this gate was waiting for Acharya Shankara. only who was from the South! Scholars of many group and communities were waiting for him in ‘ the premises of Sir Sharada Nilaya All were filled with a feeling of reverence to see him who was learned in both Jnana and Vijnana Yet the scholars in religious philosophies of Jaina, Bouddha, Samkhya, Yoga, Nays and Vaisheshika confronted him at the time of his entry to the temple, Shankara defeated all of them in philosophical debate and then entered the temple through the Southern gate.
Acharya went to ascend Sarvajna Peetha. Sri Sharada, the presiding deity of all learning, herself set a test for him. Shankara passed this test also. After this the Goddess Herself blessed him, proclaiming his omniscience. So say the ‘Shankara Vijayas’.
We can take this to be an allegory of all the struggles Shankara had to face in his life. Ascending the seat of Sarvajna situated in Kashmir of the North is a symbol. The meaning of it is that Shankara reached the peak of spirituality. We can get an idea of his greatness from the fact that a person of just thirty had ascended the throne of all knowledge.
The Path That Shankara Showed
By that time the Acharya had probably gone round the whole of Bharat two times. He had travelled from Rameshwara and Kanyakumari of the South to Kashmir of the North, from Jagannath of the East to Dwaraka of the West, and had visited many places of pilgrimage. He got many temples renovated and inspired many to a righteous living.
Sri Shankaracharya showed I example how a man should live. The life should shine forth with pious qualities like knowledge, devotion and asceticism. He preached the way Advaita. That means everything in the world is Brahman and all are one. The world is constantly changing. These changes are neither important nor real. The reality that lies behind all these things and activities Brahman. One should develop an eye to see God everywhere and in everything. People who have that vie, take the whole world for the mother- land, and treat all human beings as their brothers.
Shankara many wrote philosophical book to help the people understand The Sanatana Hindu Dharma. Alongside he wrote man,many beautiful hymns that nourish devotional feelings in people. The hymn ‘ Bhaja Gowindam composed by him has been a very popular song all over Bharat . “If you want to get rid of the miseries of life and fear- of death, pray to Govinda.”
Futuristic plans ofSri Shankara Bhagavatpada Acharya’s avatar
Yet another significant aspect of brilliant leadership is vision and versatility which Acharya Sri Shankara personified in no mean measure, well versed in all shastras, endowed with razor sharp intellect and being dedicated to spreading his message to all, Sri Shankara’s futuristic vision is apparent in the methods employed for propogating the splendor of truth. Direct contact with people, through interunity travel, culminating in the establishment of the four vibrant centres of spiritual learning to cover the entire country.
Establishing 4 maths in the four quadrants of our country, opening temples, organizing halls of education, this mighty master left nothing undone in maintaining what he achieved. Among the four Maths two of them in the East and West were set up on the sea shore, while the Maths in the North and South were set up in the mountain regions. Sri Sureshwaracharya, who hailed from the north was placed in charge of the Math in the South, while Totaka from the South was sent to Badri in the North. He made it mandatory that the Nampootiris from Kerla should perform Pooja at Badri, while the Brahmins from Karnataka were assigned for Nepal. Likewise He ordained Maharashtra Brahmins to do Pujas at Rameshwaram. This shows what a broadmind He had when it came to leadership in matters of national interest.
Men of realization are of two classes. Some continue in their state of self absolution. They are charged with spirituality to their finger tips and they silently radiate spirituality to others.
Others choose to live in the world, but are not of the world; they love men and objects of the world, not in deed for themselves, but for the infinite in them. By living in their proximity, by speaking with them, one can understand more than what texts could provide.
SHANKARACHARYA The Guiding Light
Acharya Shankara, at the early age of 32, cut asunder all bonds of relation with the ‘world and attained the state of Brahman. Ordinary people will have to spend 32 years even for being able ask “What is the meaning of life?” But the Acharya during his brief life-time had brought about a great religious renaissance all over Bharat. By his memorable works on religion and philosophy he had pointed out the unique feature of our ancient religion. He found fulfilment of his life by consolidating the history of Bharat from the point of view of culture. He gave a concrete form to the truth that the whole of India was one by establishing spiritual centres in various zones.
May the divine life of such great avatar’s be a guiding light to us.
It is said that at the time of MahaSamadhi Bhagvan Sri Adi Shankara left his holy body at three holy places, mental body sukshma sharira at Trishur Vadakkum Nathan Temple Kerala, his physical body Bhoutika sharira at Kedarnath Himalaya and Spiritual body Adhyatmik Sharira at the Pavitra Bhumi Kailas KailashMansarovar.
This signifies that his personality had extended over the whole of Bharata Bhumi.
His message in a nutshell
The message that is contained in elaborate discussions in the Bhashyas of Sri Shankara is often succinctly expressed in a century of verses, in ten verses, in one verse or even half a verse. He has reconciled the seemingly contradictory conclusions of the Upanishads and in the integrated view that He has presented the eternal, impersonal, consciousness Absolute is the Brahman, the one without a second. By His power which is inscrutable ( अनिर्वचनीया ) and called maya, or mitya, He appears as the universe, conditions by space, Time, etc., that are ever changing. The jiva is not different from the absolute Brahman, but due to Upadhis appears to be different and subject to limitations. The Upadhis limit comprehensions and are unreal like limitless space appearing like room space, pot space, etc…
Once the conditioning factors vanish, jiva is seen as one with Brahman as taught in the Mahavakya of the Upanishads. The Knowledge of this oneness is liberation or moksha. Karma and Bhakti help from a distance in the attainment of Jnana by bestowing the needed mental purity when done in a spirit of dedication to Iswara.
In His Bhashya on the topic of meditation, Sri Shankara clearly differentiates the qualification between “seeking to scale yoga’s peak ” and “having scaled the same”. He maintains that one who has ascended the yoga has to simply maintain this equipoise, i.e. till chitta shuddhi is ripe enough to maintain the meditational equipoise, karma has to be done by all in nishkama spirit as a dedication to God.
He has also declared in many places that even the obligatory works done in Nishkama spirit have punya as the fruit. He said that any karma done, having been dedicated to God may not bear fruit is improper, indeed such dedication should make work non-fruitful besides bestowing the required mental purity. He Uses the word “फलसंकल्पस्य चित्तविक्षेपहेतुत्वात्”,- in this Geeta Bhashya i.e. mental clinging to the fruits of actions distracts. Therefore any doer of actions who has given up mental clinging to the fruits is a yogin, his mind concentrated, not being distracted. Hence Karma Must not be neglected.
Though Brahman alone is Absolute Truth (Paramarthika), the knowledge of the objective universe – erroneous form the highest stand point – can still be considered as a relative kind of truth for worldly transactions e.g., a mud pot, though a mud, can still be retained for keeping the water in it.
Every one of the several schools which developed in the past Shankara age, bears the influence of Sri Shankara’s teachings in one form or other. His message boils down to the formula – natural growth, assimilating what is compatible and `co-existence’ with what is incompatible.
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