Our Moral: Adi Shankaracharya
Adi Shankaracharya was the first philosopher who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, a sub-school of Vedanta. He believed in the greatness of the holy Vedas and was a major proponent of the same. Not only did he infuse a new life into the Vedas, but also advocated against the Vedic religious practices of ritualistic excesses. He founded four Shankaracharya Peethas in the four corners of India, which continue to promote his philosophy and teachings. These are:
- Vedanta Jnana Peetha, Sringeri (South India)
- Govardhana Peetha in Jagannath Puri (East India)
- Kalika Peetha, Dwaraka (West India)
- Jyotih Peetha, Badarikashrama (North India)
Hindu tradition states that he put in charge of these peethas his four main disciples: Sureshwaracharya, Hastamalakacharya, Padmapadacharya, and Totakacharya respectively. Each of the heads of these four mathas take the title of Shankaracharya ("the learned Shankara") after the first Shankaracharya. Adi Sankaracharya’s biography reveals that he was also the founder of Dashanami monastic order and the Shanmata tradition of worship.
Adi Shankaracharya was born as Shankara in around 788 AD in a Brahmin family in Kaladi village of Kerala. He was born to Sivaguru and Aryamba long after their marriage. It is said that Aryamba had a vision of Lord Shiva, in which He promised her that He would incarnate himself in the form of her first-born child. The life history of Adi Shankracharya tells us that he showed great intelligence right from his childhood. He mastered all the Vedas and the Vedanta in gurukul itself and could recite the epics and Puranas by heart.
Adi Shankaracharya was attracted towards sanyasa right from his childhood. One day, while bathing in the Purna River, Shankaracharya was attacked by a crocodile. Seeing his mother's incapability to rescue him, he asked her to give him the permission to renounce the world. Left with no other option, she agreed to it. Shankaracharya recited the mantras of renunciation and immediately, the crocodile left him. Thus started the life of Shankara as an ascetic. He left Kerala and moved towards South India in search of a Guru.
On the bank of narmada River, Shankara met Govinda Bhagavatpada. Impressed by his knowledge of the Vedas and the Vedanta, he took Shankaracharya under his tutelage. Under the guidance of his Guru, Shankara mastered Hatha, Raja and Jnana Yoga. Thereafter he received initiation into the knowledge of Brahma. Thus was born Adi Shankaracharya, whose aim in life was to spread the Vedic teachings of the Brahma Sutras throughout the world.
The philosophy and teachings of Adi Sankaracharya were based on the Advaita Vedanta. He preached 'Non-Dualism'. It means that each and every person has a divine existence, which can be identified with the Supreme God. The mere thought that human being is finite with a name and form subject to earthly changes, is to be discarded. The bodies are diverse, but the soul of all the separate bodies is the same, the Divine One.