Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
c 806-838 AD = 32 yrs
Shankaraachaarya's name appears in Bhavishya Puraan, 3/24; Prophecy about Shankar
Rain of Golden Gooseberry; Aatm Shatakam; Kanakdhaaraa Stotra; Maneesh Panchakam; Nirvaan Shatakam; Kaupeen Panchakam; Saundarya Laharee; Bhaj Govindam;
Shankar and Mandan Mishra; Shankar and Chaandaal; Shankar and a Woman;
Shankaraachaarya was the great teacher of Vedaant philosophy. He was a native of Kerala and died at the age of 32. It defies belief that he produced so much quality and quantity in the area of scriptures within so few adult years granted to him. His translations and commentaries of Bhagvad Geetaa and some of the Upanishad have remained standards all through 1,300 years after his death. His works include "Aanand Laharee" - a book in praise of Paarvatee and "Vivek Choodaamani" - a book on how a person should raise himself to the highest spiritual level. He was the greatest exponent of the A-Dwait view of Vedaant claiming that his exposition of Vedaant on Vedaant Sootra was based on Upanishadik philosophy.
During his lifetime, he established four Math (spiritual centers) in the four corners
of India - Jagannaath Puree in East, Badareenaath in North, Dwaarakaa in West, and
Shringeree in South. The Headquarter of these Math was located at Kaancheepuram in
Tamil Naadu. To the present, his seat is continued and its men are given the title
"Shankaraachaarya". People do not have to agree with his philosophy. His
philosophy may be summarized as "Brahm Satyam, Jaganmithyaa, Jeevo Brahmaiv
Naaparaah" - means only "Brahm is real, the Universe is real and the individual
soul is nothing but God. Because of the ignorance people consider this world real.
About Shankar's Birth
[From US Brahmin Group, May 1, 2013, by B Shridhar]
One day a very reputed Geologist happened to visit Kaancheepuram to have Darshan of the Paramachaarya. After enquiring about his family, the Paramacharya requested him arrange for a diver to dive and take out sand from two different locations of the River Poornaa. One location should be when the River Poornaa (presently called River Periyaar) enters Kerala, before it diverts into entering Kalaadi and the other location to be at Kalaadi itself. Later Paramaachaarya asked him to use the technique of carbon dating to find out the age of the sand from these two locations. The geologist performed the exercise as instructed by the Paramaachaarya and provided the results which was, that the sand from the first location yielded an age of being more than 100,000 years old whereas the age of the sand from the second location in Kalaadi was close to about 2500 years. History says that as Shankar's mother was finding difficulty to go the the River Poornaa to take bath, so Shankar requested the River Poornaa to divert and follow his footsteps (Kal-adi) to flow near his ancestral house to enable his mother to take bath without any difficulty and then later join again to the main course of the river. The Age of the River sand at Kalaadi confirmed that Aadi Shankar was indeed born more than 2500 years back which is 509 BC as per all the Shankaraachaarya Math.
Another Note on Shankar's Birth
Sri Chitsukhacharya's (Sankara's boyhood friend) wrote Sankara Vijaya of which some pages are available with Kanchi Math. It says that Adi Sankara was born in 2593 Nandan year (3102-2593 = 509) 509 BCE, fifth day of bright Moon (Shukla Panchamee) under the star Punarvasu, the year being Vishaakhaa. It has been said that King Hala of Andhra Dynasty had Darshan of Adi Sankara in 494 BC (ref: Indian chronology by Dr TS Triveda).
According to Sri Triveda's chronology we have the following table.
Shankar's Early Life
Having embraced Sanyaas Aashram Shankar did not return home. The mother wept seeing her only child and holds in this life leave her like this. She wondered who would perform her last rites. He consoled the weeping mother, "Mother, Do not grieve. I have been born not just for you but for the whole world. Wherever I will be at that moment, you think of me and I will come to your side. I will be with you in your last moment and perform the duties of a son." And Shankar left home to work for the benefit of the world. He is also known as Shanmat Sthaapakaachaarya (who established the worship of six Deities - Shiv, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesh, Soorya and Skand).
Shankar, in his wanderings in search of a Guru who would bestow on him the formal initiation of Sanyaas Aashram reached the banks of the Narmadaa River. Here he met his Guru Govind Bhagavatpaad. From his Guru, Shankar learnt the A-Dwait philosophy and as per his advice he went to Vaaraanasee, a great place of learning. It was here that Shankar wrote commentaries on the Upanishad, the Geetaa, the Brahm Sootra.
Discipleship of Shankar
(2) During his wanderings Shankar met Kumaaril Bhatt and later his (Kumaaril Bhatt's) disciple Mandan Mishra, a great Vaidik scholar like his Guru. He defeated Mandan Mishra in a debate and Mandan became his disciple. (read Shankar Defeated Mandan Mishra here) He was then named Sureshwaraachaarya.
There is something discrepancy in this - Kumaaril Bhatt lived in 6th century BC, Mandan Mishra lived in 8th and 9th century AD - how then Mandan Mishra can be Kumaaril Bhatt's disciple? Besides if Shankar met this Mandan Mishra who must have lived in 9th century AD then this Mandan Mishra cannot be Kumaaril Bhatt's disciple? Shankar can also not meet Kumaaril Bhatt also. It seems that there were two Mandan Mishra. OR Shankar was in 6th century BC, not in the 9th century AD.
Shankar traveled the length and breadth of the country. As has already been said it was an age when innumerable evil faiths had sprung up. A religious sect called the Kaapaalik who believed in human sacrifice caught hold of Shankar. Shankar readily consented to offer his body (that of a Sanyaasee) to please their god. However, his disciple Padmapaadís intense prayer to Lord Narasinh was answered and Shankar was saved. It was then that Shankar composed a hymn in praise of Lord Narasinh in which he asked Lord Narasinh, "why did you save this body?"
(3) During his travel in Karnaatak, Shankar met a Braahman couple who had a son who was dumb. The parents lamented that he showed no sign of any kind of response to anything around. Shankar asked the boy, "Who are you?" and for the first time the boy spoke showing indications of being a highly spiritually evolved person. Shankar then said to the parents that he would be of no use to them and advised them to send the boy with him. Shankar named him Hastamalak.
(4) It was during his time spent in Shringeree, that Shankar was met and served by a deeply devoted disciple named Giri who later became Totakaachaarya, showing to the world what devotion to the Guru can do. That dull headed Giri loved his Guru Shankar very deeply. He served him with deep love. One day Giri was late in returning from washing his Guruís clothes. Though it was time for the class to begin and all the students had already arrived, but Shankar waited for this lovable disciple of his. When the disciples wondered and questioned about the delay in beginning the class, Shankar said, "Giri has not yet come." The whole class burst out laughing. The compassionate heart of the Guru melted with deep warmth as the others laughed at his lovable disciple and the Grace sprung forth from him and engulfed Giri who was still on the banks of the river. The class of scholars was wonderstruck when in a few minutes time that dull head Giri came into the hall clapping and singing the praises of his Guru in eight stanzas in Totak meter. No amount of intellect or genius can help as does Guru's Grace. Guru's Grace can bestow knowledge on a person in no time. Since that day Giri came to be known as Totakaachaarya as the hymn was composed in Totak meter.
It is believed that he had some Grihasth people also as his disciples.
As promised to his mother, Shankar reached Kalaadi to be by her side in her last moments. As the Scriptures forbid a Sanyaasee to perform last rites none cooperated with him in conducting the last rites to his mother. However, Shankar using his Yaugik power performed the cremation of his mother in the compound of his house, single handedly. Later, Shankar traveled all over the country winning people to the Vaidik religion.
Besides, although there is no denying that Aadi Shankaraachaarya was a great personality and nobody can belittle him in any way, but the terms Vyavahaarik and Paramaarthik were used even before Aadi Shankaraachaarya.
Works of Shankar
Aatm Shatakam / Nirvaan Shatakam
It is interesting to note that the beat of the chanting of Ganesh Panch-ratnam is like the swaying of the elephantís ears. And in the case of Subrahmanya Bhujangam the wriggling movement of a snake is envisioned.
Shree Shankar founded the principal Math in four quarters of India for the spread of A-Dwait philosophy and appointed four of his main disciples to head them. Thus, Padmapaad was the first head of the Math in Puree (East), Sureshwaraachaarya of the Math in Sringeree (South), Hastamalak of the Math in Dwaarakaa (West) and Totakaachaarya of the Math in Badaree Naath (North).
The four Math established by Aadi Shankar have Mahaavaakya one each as their own.
They are called Chaturaamnaaya Peeth.
Shankar in Other Countries
Aadi Shankar himself was a great philosopher, a child prodigy who had mastered the Ved at the age of eight, was an expert in all branches of knowledge by the age of twelve and had written commentaries on Vedaant by the age of sixteen. In his short life of thirty-two years, he had propounded the A-Dwait philosophy. He is believed to have been born to a Kerala Namboodaree couple by the Grace of God in Kalaadi. Shiv Guru and Aryambaa, though devout and well-to-do, were childless. Finally, they went to Thrissur and prayed to the presiding deity there. Pleased with their devotion, God offered them a choice of one son who may be short lived, but will be a great teacher, or many dull witted children. The couple opted for the former, and they were blessed with Shankar.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/27/13