Shankara Philosophy

Shankara Philosophy

According to Bhagavad Geetha, God says, ‘Whenever Dharma (righteousness) is disturbed, Adharma (Villainy) quickly fills its place. Then I am obliged to intervene’. He may do so by directly descending as an avatar or by infilling certain chosen persons to accomplish his task of restoring Dharma.

When the very foundation of Vedic religion or Vedanta system based on Prasthana Traya, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Geetha was under threat, it appears God selected Shankara to accomplish the task of upholding the great values of Sanathana Dharma.

Traditional biographics written in Sanskrit agree that Shankara lived just for 32 years. Out of 21 works on the life and times of Shankara (first among the trinity of philosophers), Anandagiri’s ‘Shankara Vijaya’ and Madhava Vidyaranya’s ‘Shankara Digvijaya’ are considered more authoritative and widely accepted. According to those and as it is most widely accepted by statisticians, Shankara’s birth took place 2806 years ago.

We at this time know well that late Varaaha had his own way of looking at the ancient saints and Acharya Trayas (the trinity of philosophers). He provided the following clarity on Shankara Philosophy and scribbled an artwork too, to support the script:

At Kaladi, on the bank of river Purna in Kerala, lived a deeply pious couple Sivaguru and Aryamba belonging to Nambudiri caste. This childless couple prayed to Lord Chandramoulisvara on Vrishbhachala near Kaladi and got a son. This boy, Shankara, was extraordinarily brilliant and mastered all Shastras at a very young age.

Unfortunately, father Shiva guru died soon, leaving young Shankara entirely to the care of his mother Aryamba. Shankara was indrawn by temperament. He had realized the transitory nature of the world. His father’s death made him decide to embrace Sanyasa (Monastic life). Mother’s love and attachment made him feel the need for her permission to become a Sanyasi.

One day when he was taking bath in the river Poorna, a big crocodile caught him, Shocked by this, his mother kept wailing in a high pitch, on the bank. The boy was struggling for life. He felt that he would die in peace, if he mentally became a Sanyasi. He appealed to his mother to permit him to become a Sanyasi, and the mother had no alternative. She permitted him to become Sanyasi. Mysteriously the crocodile left him. When the boy had to take formal Sanyasa, his mother most unwillingly gave him permission with a rider, that he should be by her bedside at the time of her death. Shankara was just eight years old, when he became a Sanyasi.

A very great monk (considered to be the incarnation of the great Serpent Adishesha), lived in a cave on the bank of Naramada. Shankara hurried to him. The monk had known through his yogic vision that the boy Shankara was an extraordinary Sanyasi. He was waiting for his arrival. Shankara became his disciple. After a vigorous training, that stretched for three years, Shankara was commanded to go to Kashi, the heart of all learnings, sacred and secular.

At Kashi, Shankara’s preaching of Advaita (which means non-dual) Vedantha is based on his commentaries on Prasathana traya. Brahman is the only reality without a second, which appears in this world with multiple names and forms. Among the many disciples gathered around Shankara was Sadananda, who later became well known as Padmapada, one of his four chief disciples.

On an occasion, Shankara had a strange encounter with an untouchable. After exchange of a few words with this untouchable, he realized that it was none other than Shiva (Almighty, the motivator of the entire universe) appearing as a Chandala. The last vestige of ignorance was removed from his mind. He became perfect Guru.

Shiva directed Sanakara to go to Badrinath in Himalayas. There he renovated the old temple of Narayana. Then he moved southwards. Many scholars became his disciples.

Shankara’s Advaitha Vedantha holds the view that basic truth behind this universe of multiplicity is one and one only. When his writing and teachings brought innumerable followers around him, his theory of conquering ignorance to see the truth has brought the masses around him. During his tour in South India, Kaapalikas of Srisailam and Ganapathyas of Gokarana, who were following some abominable practices, got transformed in to the Vedic way of life.

Shankara established four monasteries in India. They are: Sringeri Sharada Peetham in Shringeri, Karnataka (Main – Southern India); Jyotirmath (also known as Joshi Math), Uttarakhand (Northern India); Govardhana Monastery at Puri, Orissa (Eastern India); and Dwaraka Peetha at Dwarka, Gujarat (Western India). His trusted disciples managed these institutions. Shankara’s devoted life and his simplicity guided these institutions to spread Advaita Siddhanta and infused renewed awakening in Vedic religion for many years. After Shankara, Indian society enjoyed a harmonious life.

Subsequent to Shankara’s time, people in India were forced to face the oppression by fanatical Muslim rulers, and there was a tyrannical development in caste system. The secular nature of Vedic religion was under a formidable threat. Then it has appeared to be the time God had the responsibility to intervene. Coincidential birth of  Ramanujacharya has taken place, and the community presumed it as a happening to accomplish the task of restoring Dharma.

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