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Adi Shankaracharya - A Study

 

In the holy land of Bharata, the science of Advaita has been considered as the only true science from time immemorial. The Sruti confirms this by saying, `sa brahma vidyAM sarvavidyApratiShThaaM atharvAya jyeShThaputrAya prAha' – muNDaka Sruti. Other Darshanas like Vaisheshika etc., tantras and agamas, though non-dualistic, are structured as per adhikAra bheda or the qualification of the aspirant and act as steps leading to the final state of Kevaladvaita. The scriptures have declared in unison that the greatest of the Purusharthas – Moksha, is achievable only through Vedanta Darshana and that only this deserves to be called Brahma Vidya. Vedanta refers to the Upanishad Darshana. To summarize the essence of the entire Vedanta Darshana and systematically present this science, Bhagavan Sri Vedavyasa Maharshi authored the Sariraka sutras. These sutras are commonly known as the Brahma sutras. Bhagavad Gita describes the Vedanta Darshana in a simpler and lucid style. Upanishad, Brahma sutras and Bhagavad Gita – the triad represent the three spectacular peaks of the Vedanta Mountain and are referred to as the Prasthana traya.

The Vaidika Darshana has reached the zenith of spiritual truth by declaring `brahma satyaM jaganmithyA', and has left behind all other Shastras in the world. the credit for firmly establishing this truth, on the basis of the proof of the Sruti and other scriptures, logic and self-realization, goes undoubtedly to Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Every mumukshu is greatly indebted to Srimadacharya for having taught this science of salvation. It is very difficult to historically establish the facts related to the divine life of Srimadacharya. Scholars from all over the world have studied the life of Acharya with deep interest and have come out with several facts. There are a lot of contradictions in the views of these scholars. The important biographies of Srimadacharya, which may be considered as authentic proofs are:

1. Shankara Digvijaya of Madhavacharya

2. Shankara Vijaya of Anandagiri.

3. Shankara Vijaya of Chidvilasa Yati.

4. Shankara Vijaya of Vyasachala

5. Shankara Vijayasara by Sadananda Vyasa

6. Acharya Charita by Govindananda Yati

7. Shankarabhyudaya by Rajachudamani Dikshitar

8. Brihat Shankara Vijaya by Brahmananda

9. Keraliya Shankara Vijaya by Govindanatha

10. Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri

Among several of the Acharya's biographies, works like Padmapadacharya's Vijaya Dindima, Chitsukha's Shankara Vijaya and Anandagiri's Shankara Vijaya have been lost. Other than these biographies, Linga Purana, Kurma Purana, Vayu Purana, Shiva Rahasya, Guhya Sahasranama of Sri Guhya Ganapati, Mahashodashi Hridaya of Siddha yamala and other Puranic and Tantric works detail the life and greatness of Srimadacharya. To estimate the actual period of the life of Srimadacharya, it is better to refer to his Sutra bhasya rather than seek other sources of reference. Acharya, in his Bhashya, has relevantly illustrated the names of certain Kings, cities and the details of the people who engaged in debates with him. A close examination of these details should help one reach a conclusion regarding Acharya's date.

All traditionalists and scholars have agreed that the duration of Acharya's life is 32 years. This is confirmed by the verse:

aShTavarShe chaturvedI dwAdashe sarvashAstravit |
ShoDashe kR^itavAn bhAShyaM dwAtriMshe munirabhyagAt ||

`Sri Shankaracharya mastered the four Vedas at the age of eight. He mastered all the scriptures by the age of twelve. He composed his magnificent Bhashyas at the age of sixteen. He attained Maha Siddhi at the age of thirty-two.' Though this seems to be unbelievable, it is certainly not impossible. The long and glorious history of Bharata reveals the advent of many such great men like Rama, Krishna and Acharya Bhagavatpada.

Scholars of Kanchi mutt have concluded that the Acharya incarnated during the period between 508 B.C. and 476 B.C. They have quoted as proofs, Brihat Shankara Vijaya, Atmabodha's Prachina Shankara Vijaya, Punya Shloka Manjari and other works. They have also declared that the Acharya incarnated on the Vaishakha Suddha Panchami Ravivara of Nandana Samvatsara, and that he attained Maha Siddhi on the Kartika Suddha Ekadashi of Raktakshi Samvatsara. But research has proved beyond doubt that the period of Acharya's advent is certainly not B.C.

Acharya, in his Sutra Bhashya, has illustrated the names of cities like Srughna, Mathura, Pataliputra etc. (Sutra Bhashya – 4-2-5). Indologists have revealed that the city of Pataliputra drowned in 756 A.D. thus, the claim that Acharya belonged to 500 B.C. does not seem to be valid. Generally, in Sanskrit literature, one finds the illustration of the names of several famous cities and personalities. It is not true always that the author has personally seen those places or personalities. Hence, facts such as these may only be considered supportive in determining the actual date but a final conclusion cannot be reached on their basis alone.

Sri Sureshwaracharya, the direct disciple of Srimadacharya has quoted the Buddhist Acharya Dharmakirti in his Brihadaranyaka Bhashya as follows: `triShveva tvavinAbhAvAditi yaddharmakiirtanA'. It is well established that Dharmakirti lived between A.D. 635 and 650. This proves that Srimadacharya is of a later date compared to Dharmakirti. There is not much confusion in establishing the facts regarding the dates of Jain and Buddhist authors since most of them have indicated their dates in their own works. A Buddhist Acharya named Dingnaga has written in the sixth Karika of his work Alambanapariksha, `yadantarj~neyaruupaM tadbahirvadavabhAsate'. The same sentence may be found in the sutra Bhashya. Dingnaga, who was a disciple of Vasubandha, lived in 5^th century A.D. sutra Bhashya quotes another sentence, `buddhibodhyaM trayAdanyat saMskR^itaM kShaNikaM cha – 2-2-2'. This sentence is from a work called Abhidharmakosha written by Gunamati, who lived between 630 and 640 A.D. thus, it may be concluded that Acharya's advent happened after 640 A.D. Now, let us examine the date of Acharya's Siddhi.

It is well known that Kumarila Bhatta lived during Acharya's lifetime. When the two great men met, Bhatta was a very old man and Shankara was about sixteen years old. Historians have found that Kumarila Bhatta lived during the rule of the Tibetan king Sang San Gampo, who lived between 627 and 650 A.D. some works also relate an incident in which Dharmakirti, disguised as a servant, served Kumarila Bhatta to gain insights into the secrets of Brahmana dharma. So, probably, Kumarila Bhatta lived till 670 A.D. the famous playwright Bhavabhuti, who was a direct disciple of Kumarila Bhatta, lived between 700 and 740 A.D.

The famous scholar Vachapati Mishra, who has written the Bhamati Vyakhyana on Acharya's sutra Bhashya, has recorded that his work Nyayasuchinibandha was completed in 841 A.D. he has disproved the allegations of Bhaskaracharya (not to be confused with Sri Bhaskara makhin, the author of Saubhagya Bhaskara, commentary on Sri Lalita Rahasya Sahasranama) over sutra Bhashya. A Jain scholar named Prabhachandra, who lived in 800 A.D. has also refuted the claims of Bhaskaracharya. This proves that Bhaskaracharya lived before 800 A.D. and by then, sutra Bhashya was already popular. This refutes the western claim that Acharya's period is between 788 and 820 A.D.

Sarvajnatma Muni, the direct disciple of Sri Sureshwaracharya has declared that his work Samkshepashariraka was written during the rule of king Manukuladitya. Manukuladitya is one of the two Vikramadityas of the Chalukya dynasty. Even if he is assumed to be the second of the two Vikramadityas, the historians conclude that his rule ended in 747 A.D. Srimadacharya, who was the Parama Guru of Sri Sarvajnatma Muni, should certainly have lived at least fifty years before this date. In a work named Darshanaprakasha, written in 1638, a quote from an old work Shankara Paddhati may be seen. This mentions that the Acharya attained Siddhi in 720 A.D.

According to the Guru Parampara of Sringeri, the year of Acharya's birth is Chalukya Vikramabdha 14, which is actually 684 A.D. this fact is accepted by scholars like Baladeva Upadhyaya and others. All these proofs indicate that Srimadacharya lived in the last half of 7^th century A.D. it may thus be concluded that the date of Acharya's life is approximately between 688 and 720 A.D.

Among the several biographies of Acharya, the universally accepted one is the Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya. This is a Maha Kavya composed of sixteen Sargas. At the end of every Sarga, the name of the author is mentioned as `iti shrImAdhavIye'. This establishes that a poet named Madhava authored the work. But who is this Madhavacharya? There are three great personalities of this name as per historic records. The great scholar and the Shankaracharya of Sringeri Sarada Peetham, Sri Vidyaranya Yati was known as Madhavacharya in his Purvashrama. During the same time, king Bukka of Vijayanagara had a minister named Madhava. Sri Vidyaranya's brother Sayanacharya had a son named Madhava. All the three of them were great scholars. But undoubtedly the greatest and the most famous of them was Sri Vidyaranya. Sri Sringeri Sarada Peetham has recognized Sri Vidyaranya as the author of Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya. Even the common devout public have chosen this Shankara Vijaya over other biographies for study and Parayana. The reason for this, besides the illustrious image of Sri Vidyaranya, is the simple and lucid style of the work, its depth and literary brilliance. Some scholars who do not accept Vidyaranya as the author of this work, quote the following reasons to support their claims:

1. As per the orders of Sri Sacchidananda Bharati Mahaswamigal of Sringeri, Kashi Lakshmana Shastrigal has authored a work called Guruvamsha Kavya. This work contradicts Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya in many ways. It is simply not possible that a person belonging to Sringeri Peetha would author a book contradicting Sri Vidyaranya, the previous Acharya of the same Peetha.

2. The author of Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya has called himself `vageShA navakAliDasaviduShaH'. There is no recorded fact that Vidyaranya was known as Navakalidasa.

3. Twenty-four Shlokas found in the fourth Sarga of Rajachudamani Dikshitar's Shankarabhyudaya are also seen in Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya's twelfth Sarga. Dikshitar lived in seventeenth century and Vidyaranya in fourteenth century.

4. Poets like Bana, Dandi and Mayura lived before the advent of Srimadacharya and scholars like Bhatta Bhaskara, Sri Harsha and Abhinava Gupta lived after Acharya's era. Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya describes that Acharya held debates with these scholars and defeated them. It is highly unlikely that a great scholar like Vidyaranya would make such a mistake.

5. The list of works authored by Vidyaranya, quoted in other works, does not list Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya.

6. There are numerous grammatical errors in the work. It is again unlikely that a great scholar like Vidyaranya would commit such mistakes.

These are the objections raised by certain critics. It is very simple to counter these allegations.

1. Kashi Lakshmana Shastrigal was a scholar associated with Sringeri Sarada Peetham. To show his respect to Sri Mahaswamigal, he has written the following sentence: "sacchiDananda bhAratI nirmApite". There is no proof that this work was read and certified as authentic by Sri Sacchidananda Bharati Mahaswamigal. Most poets in the court of Mysore Maharaja have quoted the king's name in their poems. It does not mean that the king has actually read and certified all those poems.

2. Madhavacharya's brother Bhoganatha is known as a very great poet. So, it is not really erroneous to assume that Madhavacharya was also a good poet. Moreover, Madhavacharya became a Sanyasi and assumed the title of Vidyaranya towards the end of his life. No authentic records have been found regarding Sri Vidyaranya's Purvashrama.

3. It is highly probable that Rajachudamani Dikshitar has reproduced certain verses from the older and the more famous biography of Acharya, authored by a universally accepted authority like Sri Vidyaranya.

4. Shankara Digvijaya describes incidents, which involve deities, Devas and supernatural beings. Ramayana and Mahabharata, considered as parts of history, are also abundant with such incidents. The chief aim of the author is to effectively describe the victorious exploits of Acharya and to emphasize on this fact, he might have used famous personalities belonging to different periods, before or after Acharya, in his biography. Such a poetic liberty is quite justified. There is also a large possibility that people with these names existed even during the advent of Srimadacharya.

5. The authenticity of such a list is not provable.

6. Grammatical errors are found even in the poems of great poets like Kalidasa, Bharavi and Magha. Even Naishadiya Charita of Sri Harsha has errors. The great men have hence declared, "nira~NkushAH khalu kavayaH". Also, since the Kavya is attributed to Madhavacharya, Sri Vidyaranya has composed this in his Purvashrama, possibly at a very young age. This reason cannot be sufficient to reject the authorship of Sri Vidyaranya.

Sri Vidyaranya has praised his guru Sri Vidya Tirtha in each of his works. A similar prayer `praNamya paramAtmAnaM shrIvidyAtIrtharUpiNaM' occurs in the current work. Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya has two commentaries: the first is Dhanapati Suri's Dindima and the second is Achyutaraya's Advaita Rajyalakshmi. Dhanapati Suri was a scholar from Punjab and Achyutaraya was a scholar from the banks of Godavari. Both have accepted the authorship of Sri Vidyaranya. Hence it is valid to accept Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya as an authentic biography of Srimadacharya.

Kaladi in Kerala is the birthplace of Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya. This small village is located on the banks of river Purna. This place was deserted and forgotten till the advent of Sri Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal, the 33rd Shankaracharya of Sringeri Sarada Peetha. Mahaswamigal correctly recognized Acharya's house and constructed a grand monastery in memory of Srimadacharya. He also built a Vrindavan over the Samadhi of Aryamba, Acharya's mother. When Mahaswamigal initially visited this place, it is said that the entire area was covered with thick forest and amidst the trees was a small temple dedicated to Acharya. Mahaswamigal who observed the shining lamp in the temple enquired the Archaka and the watchman of the temple. The archaka said: `This is the place, which was once Acharya's residence. This is the place where the funeral rites of his mother were performed. Our ancestors helped him in his mother's funeral and as an act of gratitude, he gave all his land to them and advised them to light a lamp here everyday. We have followed the tradition till today". Mahaswamigal, with his Yoga Drishti confirmed that it was indeed Acharya's residence and constructed a beautiful monastery in its place with the help of the king of Travancore.

Acharya's grandfather is known to be Vidhyadhiraja and his father is Shivaguru. His mother's name, though accepted as Aryamba by most biographers, is also quoted as Vishishta Devi and Sati Devi. Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya describes the auspicious Muhurta of Acharya's birth as `lagne shubhe shubhayute suShuve kumAraM'. There is no mention of Samvatsara and other details. As per the tradition of Sringeri Sarada Peetha, it is accepted as Vaishakha Suddha Panchami. Acharya's Gotra was Atri and he was a Krishna Yajurvedi. He is known to be a Nambudari Brahmana by birth.

Acharya exhibited his brilliance and divinity even as a child. The incident of the shower of golden gooseberries in the backyard of a poor Brahmin lady is well known. The Stotra composed by Srimadacharya in praise of Sri Mahalakshmi, which caused the shower is called Kanakadhara Stotra. There are hardly any people in India who are unaware of this incident and this Stotra. The village to which Acharya went to seek alms is now called `Ponnar Todata'. Two families in this village are extremely affluent even today and they describe this as the result of Acharya's blessings. Their house is famous as `Swarnattillam'. The king of Kerala once read his poems before Acharya. After several years, when Acharya was told that the poems were burnt off in a fire mishap, he recited all the three poems in their entirety before the king. He also entirely reproduced Padmapada's Panchapadika from his memory. This proves that Srimadacharya was a Ekasandhi Grahi. The incident in which he memorized the Shlokas of Saundaryalahari from the walls of Maha Kailasa further supports this fact.

Seeing the achievements of Acharya in as small as lifespan as thirty years, his literary achievements, his scholarship, charisma and travels, it is not surprising that the scholars have accepted him as an incarnation of Sri Shankara Mahadeva. For the purpose of establishing, Sri Rama exhibited Bahu Bala, Sri Krishna exhibited Buddhi Bala and Srimadacharya exhibited Vidya Bala. There is no difference whatsoever between any of these incarnations. There is certainly no harm in worshipping Acharya, the very personification of self-realization, as an incarnation of Dakshinamurthy because the Sruti says, "brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati". Srimadacharya himself says in his Sutra Bhashya, "syAt parameshwarasyApi icChAvashAnmAyAmayaM rUpaM sAdhakAnugrahArthaM – 1-1-20", `Parameshwara assumes, out of his own will, an illusionary form, in order to confer his grace on aspirants'. Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya describes that Srimadacharya, at the end of his incarnation, assumed his original form as Shiva and ascended to Kailasa. Puranas like Linga Purana, Shiva Rahasya, Kurma Purana, Vayu Purana, Bhavishyottara Purana and Saura Purana clearly describe Acharya as an incarnation of Shankara Dakshinamurthy.

The twelfth Sarga of Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya describes the consecration Sri Sarada Parameshwari in Sringeri. Owing to the fact that Acharya himself established the Peetha, it still continues to command respect from Hindus all over the world. Madhavacharya has accepted this fact by saying, "vidyotate yatra cha tu~NgabhadrA". This is accepted by most of the biographers. As per Sringeri Mathamnaya:

varAho devatA tatra rAmakShetramudAhR^itam |
tirthaM cha tu~NgabhadraakhyaM shaktiH shrIshAradeti cha ||

There are two incidents in Acharya's divine life, which are criticized by ignorant mortals. The first one is his Parakaya Pravesha and mastering of Kama Kala. The second is performing his mother's last rites. Let us examine the first incident. It is not true that the omniscient Acharya, who was an incarnation of Mahadeva was unaware of Kama Shastra. But if he had answered Ubhaya Bharati's questions, it would raise questions regarding his adherence to his Ashrama dharma. Hence, he requested her to grant him a lease of time. When the debate between Acharya and Mandana Mishra started, the topic of the debate was fixed as Brahma Mimamsa – karma Mimamsa. Then how is Ubhaya Bharati's raising of questions unrelated to his topic justified? Well! Mandana mishra and Acharya had agreed upon the topics for discussion. There was no such agreement between Ubhaya Bharati and Acharya. The fact that the Ashrama dharma of Acharya was not violated by the act of Parakaya Pravesha has been explained in detail in the complete biography of Acharya. Interested readers may refer the same on this website.

The second objection raised is Srimadacharya's performance of his mother's funeral rites. From a gross level this seems to be violating the Sastric injunctions. But why did he have to do this? Was he justified in cursing the Brahmanas for as small a reason as their unwillingness to help him? A simple study of his life reveals beyond

doubt, Acharya's calm nature and his unmoving inner stillness. When Ugra Bhairava tried to kill Acharya, he happily agreed to offer himself without the slightest hesitation. So would such a compassionate person curse his own relatives without a valid reason? When Acharya decides to take Sanyasa, he speaks thus to his grieving mother: "In order to obtain my father's wealth, our relatives will surely take care of you. When you reach your end, they will also perform your last rites" – 5-69. Here, he clearly indicates that as a Sanyasi, he has no rights to perform her last rites. He has indicated here that the relatives would surely perform her last rites, at least for the sake of her wealth. Even then, Aryamba insists that Shankara perform her last rites. When Aryamba was in her deathbed, there were none to take care of her. After her death, when Acharya requested his relatives to perform her last rites, they refused rudely. Probably they thought, "The funeral rites do not end in a day. The rites have to be performed at least till Sapindikarana. Who will pay us for all these expenses? What does this Sanyasi have anyway?" Then Acharya had no other go but to perform the rites of his beloved mother himself. When he requested the relatives for fire, he was brutally insulted by them. They did not even lend any help in carrying her body to the crematorium. Acharya accepted this a play of fate and performed the last rites of his mother in the backyard of his house. it seems that Acharya did not actually perform her Karmas till Sapindikarana, but he must have felt satisfied that she had reached the abode of Mahavishnu. The Brahmanas had become Dharmabhrashtas by not helping a young child like Shankara. They had shown no humanity to the dying Aryamba. Hence he cursed them and made them unfit for the study of Vedas. It is evident that the Brahmanas did not have the necessary qualification or the purity of thought and action required for the study of Sruti. In times of conflict, the Shastra says: "sataaM hi saMdehapadeShu vastuShu pramaaNamantaHkaraNapravR^ittayaH" – In times of mental conflict, the learned and the wise should follow their inner instincts.

Upanishads are known as Vedanta. Thus, the philosophy advocated by the Upanishads is called Vedanta Shastra. The analysis and the recognition of the actual relationship between the Jiva, Prapancha and Ishwara forms the basis of this Shastra. All Darshanas like Sankhya, Bauddha, Jaina, Charvaka etc. try to explain the same concept in their own ways. However, only Vedanta advocates Advaita whereas Sankhya and other Darshanas advocate Dvaita. The sects of Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita were non-existent during Acharya's period. Bhartrprapancha and other Vedantins of yesteryears advocated Upasana as the means for Moksha. Acharya however rejects this concept. The Guru Parampara for Advaitins starts with Adi Dakshinamurthy and Narayana and includes great Acharyas like Vyasa, Shuka etc. Some people accuse that the time gap between Shuka and Gaudapada is immense and use it as a means to call the entire Parampara false. But Acharya himself has indicated in his Taittariya Bhashya that there have been several Advaita Acharyas before him. The above lineage has listed the important among them. However, other than Gaudapadacharya's Mandukya Karikas, no other work belonging to the pre-Acharya era is available. After Panini wrote the great work on grammar called Ashtadhyayi, earlier works on the same topic by scholars like Shakalya etc., were lost. Similarly, after Lord Mahadeva himself in the form of Acharya wrote the incomparable commentary on the Sutras, earlier versions of the same expired.

Acharya has proved beyond doubt that not only Vedas but also Puranas like Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata, Skanda, Shaiva etc., Bhagavad-Gita, Smritis like Yagnavalkya etc., Agamas like Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa also advocate Kevaladvaita. He also makes it clear that Shaiva, Shakta and Pashupata tantras advocate Kevaladvaita. The Suta Samhita says that though Sankhya and other Darshanas are routed in Kevaladvaita, to raise the Sadhaka to the level wherein he is capable of grasping the truth of Advaita, they act as steps and initially preach Dvaita to a certain extent. But this must not become a cause for naming them as scriptures advocating Dvaita.

Just a commentary or Tika is not eligible to be called a Bhashya. The necessary lakshana for a commentary to be called a Bhashya is described in Vishnudharmottara and Parasharopapurana as follows:

sUtrArtho varNyate yatra vaakyaiH suutraanusaaribhiH |
swapadaani cha varNyante bhaashyaM bhaashyavido viduH ||

The sutras have to be explained with independent sentences, but never deviating from the actual content of the sutras. The explanation should also self-elaborate itself. Such a commentary alone may be called Bhashya. This lakshana is explicitly seen in Acharya's Bhashyas on the Prasthana Traya. When a doubt is raised, he answers the same in a meaningful sentence and then goes on to elaborate. Thus, Vyakarana Bhashya, Shabara Bhashya and Shankara Bhashya – only these three may be considered as glorious examples of Bhashyas written in Sanskrit.

Why is Acharya referred to as Bhagavatpada? It is common to refer to great men as Bhagavan as a mark of respect, like Vedavyasa Bhagavan, Bhagavan Panini etc. but the word `Bhagavatpada' is used only in the case of the great Acharya. Probably, even Govinda Yati came to be known as Govinda Bhagavatpada only much later. Advaitarajyalakshmi Vyakhyana describes the word as follows: Bhagavati means Aishwarya or Lakshmi. Pada refers to feet. One, whose feet are rich (lakshmIvAn) is called Bhagavatpada. Acharya exhibits incredible Aishwarya due to his incarnations as Vishnu etc., and also due to his great disciples like Padmapada and others. Bhaga means Anima and other Siddhis. The feet, which are in possession of these, are called Bhagavatpada. Vishnu, Brahma and Indra are called Bhagavan. Since they sit near the feet of Acharya, he is called Bhagavatpada.

Some ignorant people accuse Acharya's Advaita as Pracchanna Bauddha Mata or perverted Buddhism. Gaudapaadaachaarya clearly refutes this by saying "naitat buddhena bhaaShitaM" – these are not Buddha's words [Mandukya karika]. If some commonness is all that is sufficient to call Advaita as perverted Buddhism, Jainas are all Madhvas because they also claim that the Jivas are innumerable. All Vaishnavas are Muslims because both describe the glories of Heaven or Vaikuntha.

These days, every Sanyasi is referred to as Jagadguru – the world teacher. However the qualifications required for a Jagadguru are as follows:

1. He is the knower of all Shastras and also the essence of other religions.

2. He exhibits love for all beings and treats them as himself.

3. He is filled with Vairagya and gives up all worldly pleasures and luxuries.

4. He has no ego or desires. He is ever ready to give up his life for the benefit of humanity.

5. The philosophy taught by him is not his own imagination. It is a valuable wealth handed over to him through an illustrious Sampradaaya. He is able to support the same with scriptural proofs.

6. His Darshana is able to effectively answer all doubts and allegations.

7. The Darshana taught by him does not only describe righteousness but also shows the way to salvation. It describes the nature of Moksha and the means to attain it.

8. The Moksha advocated is not something, which is obtained after death. Thus, there is no scope for will guesses and imagination.

9. The Tatva advocated by him is possible to be experienced. Hence it is a science and not a superstition.

10. He does not call himself as God or the messenger of God. He never imposes his beliefs over others. However, he never hesitates to correct mistakes.

11. His philosophy includes the essence of all other branches of philosophy. It has suitable positions for Karma, Bhakti, Upasana and Jnana. It does not contradict any of these.

12. Since the Lord is omniscient and omnipresent, he is Nirakara as well as Sakara. Though he advocates Nirguna Manasa Puja, Sakara Vigraha Puja is also acceptable to him.

13. His teaches Moksha Shastra to all beings.

14. He does not advocate any cultist symbols like Mudras etc. and follows only the Sruti.

15. He never deviates from his philosophical stand. His Darshana allows people of all faiths to co-exist peacefully.

16. He does not remain actionless after attaining his own spiritual success. He is ever busy in Loka Samgraha.


Acharya is the very personification of these sixteen qualities and hence is aptly called Jagadguru. Srimadacharya has written in his Bhashyas that the Shoodra cannot study the Vedas. The reason is- the Chaturvarnya system was not established by Acharya. This is a Vedic tradition that is prevalent from time immemorial. All Shastras have accepted and supported this system. The sutras themselves mention that the right to study Vedas is with the Brahmana, Vysya and Kshatriya (1-24) in the Apashudradhikarana section of Sariraka Mimamsa. He is not eligible to study the Vedas because of the lack of Samskaras like Upanayana etc. Though the study of Vedas is not for him, there is no ban on his obtaining the ultimate Atma Jnana. The Shoodra is certainly eligible to obtain Jnana from scriptures like Itihasa, Purana etc. This is clearly indicated by Acharya himself in his Bhashya (1-3-38).

To call Srimadacharya a mere monist would be to denigrate his personality and his impact. His life in fact appears to be a meeting ground of Advaita, Dvaita and he has gone beyond all these stages to stand effulgent in the radiant light of the self. Rarely among the great does one encounter such harmonization. Acharya Shankara is one of those god-men who have appeared in the world in historical times in order to establish religion firmly. Shankara's advent took place at a very critical period in the national and in the religious life of India. At that time the Buddhist faith in the Indian sub-continent has passed through many stages of rise and fall for over a thousand years. It had sunk to a condition in which it was not only of absolutely no use for Indian religion and culture, but was positively ruinous. Subjected to the influence of degenerate Buddhism, the eternal Hindu faith had become enfeebled, devastated and disintegrated.

Within two centuries of Acharya's lifetime, India had to encounter the powerful incursion of the Islamic faith. Degenerate Buddhism would not have possessed the vigor to resist the onrush. It was only the immense strength of the Vedic faith, which is eternal and man-made, and is the repository of universal truth, that could stand and did effectively resist the inroad of Islam. The advent, the career, the life work and the teaching of Acharya endowed the Hindu faith with the energy needed for the task ahead of self-defense and survival and ensured the everlasting stability of the Vedic religion by firmly establishing it on very sure foundations. Such a claim for Shankara is amply supported by historical evidence. Has Shankara not come on the scene, it would have been quite within the bounds of possibility that Hinduism got transformed into a veritable Islamistan.

If the Hindus of today can legitimately be proud of their great Vedic religion, it is in no small measure due to the services of this thirty-two year old monk. This needs to be adequately realized by all especially those belonging to man-made cults and sects who dismiss Acharya as a Mayavadi. It is unfortunate that some people indeed have succumbed to falsehood despite of Acharya's efforts. Shankara strengthened the foundations of the eternal Vedic faith to such an extent that the vigor imparted by him was an unfailing support in later years to the work and mission of people like Madhwa, Ramanuja, Nimbaraka etc. this is an undeniable historical fact. In Shankara's life and teaching and propagation lies embedded the immense vitality, which is responsible for the safe preservation and sure sustenance of the eternal Vedic faith.

To designate Shankaracharya as just an upholder of Monism, just like any other sectist Acharya's is a tone down to his gigantic personality and to dilute his contribution. Not in any of his writings does any evidence exist of one-sided outlook, the narrow vision, the vigorlessness, and the incompleteness, which are the characteristics of most of the later preachers and teachers. Indeed Shankara was the greatest, the noblest and the most luminous representative of expansive, universal and all embracing Sanatana Vedic Dharma. All that is sublime, strengthening, glorious in the Vedanta faith as it obtains today is the handiwork of this distinguished monk, and this is true not only in respect of the philosophical aspect of that faith, but also in respect of its practical side. The resplendent story of Sri Acharya's life is a veritable lighthouse illumining the path of the universal Vedic faith. The deep thought that the Acharya gave to the problem of maintaining intact, the beneficent character of Hinduism in accordance with Varnashrama and suited to the requirements of different times and places and the different aptitudes of its adherents, keeping the great far-reaching Vaidika dharma free from all turbidity and rescuing its ideologically ramified structure from erroneous conclusions, giving greater luster to the glory of his life. By rectifying wrong notions and semi-Vedic conclusions of the theories with the exponents of which he came into contact in the course of his triumphal tour all over India, he gave a Vedic character to all doctrines. He also took steps to preserve the distinct character of these doctrines. This reveals strikingly the generous nature of the Acharya.

The Acharya revealed his identity at the special request of King Sudhanva in the following words: " In the Satya Yuga Brahma was the teacher of the world. in the Treta Yuga, it was Vashista. In Dwapara, Vedavyasa was the great teacher. For Kaliyuga, I am the world's teacher".

The advent and departure of Srimadacharya are both events of past. But his life and message are not set down in the pages of history alone, they have directed the course of Sanatana Dharma and have shed a soft radiance on the inner significance of Vedic Dharma. This becomes clear in the solemn lilting verse with which the Acharya concludes his masterpiece Vivekachudamani.

`Just as a traveler who has lost his way in the desert goes about in futile search of water and getting no trace of it, sinks further into misery, so in this world, man, deluded by illusions and errors, finds no end to his troubles. His whole being seems to be obscured in the blazing sun of worldly preoccupations. Where is the shade? Where is the water that can bring solace? The shade is but truth of Self, the ever-pure, ever-wise and ever-serene. For the person parched by the heat of worldly affairs, the supreme knowledge of the identity between the Brahman and Atman is the cool water'. Glory to this message of the Acharya that shows this eternal majesty of man in his spiritual crisis down the ages.

Even after long centuries, today the mission of Shankara-Bharati is not over. Acharya has not become out of date. Despite the myriad forms of wealth and accomplishments of man today, there is no end to his sorrow and suffering, for his good sense and wisdom are being clouded over with newer forms of error and delusion. Man is being tortured by lust, avarice, conceit and hatred in their various aspects, what is the way out? This way lies solely in man's realization of his own self as being non-different from the universal self. When everything is the self, who remains separate from the self to be hated or envied? Within all men burns brightly the light of an indivisible essential consciousness. Every human being represents the greatest truth of Brahman in the world in the acceptance, realization and propagation of this undeniable truth. The extraordinary life of thirty-two years of Srimadacharya is a living expression of this tremendous reality.

We have to remember the Acharya's life anew today. From his life-message, we have to find the means and inspiration of resolving the many conflicts of life in the knowledge of the self. Salutations to the incarnation of Sri Dakshinamurthy, the greatest teacher of the universe, salutations to Sri Krishna, the Jagadguru, salutations to Sri Vedavyasa, the teacher of the humanity, and salutations to Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the embodiment of all the three great teachers.

shankarAryaswarUpiNI shrIlalitA prIyatAm