Guru – Brahma Guru – Vishnuh, Guru – devo Maheswarah
Guru – sakshat Param Brahma, Tasmai Sri Gurave namah
[The Preceptor is Brahma; He is Vishnu; He is the God Maheswara.
And, He is verily Brahma Himself. Salutation to such a Preceptor.]
Vidyadhiraja, a learned Brahmin lived in Kaipilli house at Kaladi in Kerala. The family home of Vidyadhiraja was Sivapuram.
Sivapuram is a village about 3 miles southeast of Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. There is a Siva temple in this village. This was where Vishnu, in the form of white boar (Varaha) worshipped Siva. The name of the presiding deity – the Siva Lingam – is “Siva-guru-natha”.
Vidyadhiraja’s son was “Sivaguru”, named after the Lord of Sivapuram. Vidyadhiraja got Sivaguru married to Aryamba, who belonged to Melpazhur, twenty miles southeast of Ernakulam in Kerala.
Sivaguru, and his wife, Aryambal, spent their life in pooja and in giving alms to poor and in other good deeds. This childless couple went to Trichur and performed puja for 48 days to Lord Vadakkunathan (Lord Shiva) at Vrishabhachaleswara temple and prayed for a son.
Lord Shiva melted in their devotion and appeared in their dreams and told them “I am extremely happy with your devotion and you will get what you want. But tell me whether you want a number of dull children or a son who is extremely intelligent, who will live for a short period only.” The couple replied the decision could not be theirs as the Lord knows what is good for them.
Lord Dakshinamurthy, pleased with the reply, was born to Aryambal in the Vasanta Ritu or the spring season at noon under the star “Thiruvathirai” (Arudhra). As the Lord had already promised that he will be born to do well to this world, the child was named Sankara. All the visitors stood in awe at the divinity of the child and said “This is not an ordinary child”.
Sivaguru was delighted to find that the dream in which he had a boon from Shiva had indeed come true. He saw that his son was of a divine lineage and bore the marks of an incarnation.
The mark of wheel on the baby Sankara’s head, the impress of the third eye on the forehead and the sign of the Trishul on the shoulders made wise men decide that he was an incarnation of Shiva.
Sankara was an infant prodigy. The superior genius and the extraordinary intelligence were clearly sprouting in him even when he was a child. This wonder of a child had even by his third year finished reading many books, and by only listening to the readings and chanting of the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas learnt them by heart. The most surprising thing about the boy was that he was a Sruthidhara (a person who can repeat in full, all that he hears just once). Whatever he read or heard got indelibly impressed in his memory.
Sivaguru was extremely happy to find his son endowed with super natural powers. He wanted to perform the boy’s Upanayanam in his fifth year, and then to send him to the preceptor’s house for study. But, Sivaguru died before he could have the Upanayanam done.
After the bereavement in the family, Aryamba moved to her father’s house for some days. But she did not forget the last wish of her departed husband. As soon as Sankara reached his fifth year, she returned back to her own home and performed Sankara’s Upanayanam as per the Holy Scriptures. Thereafter, she sent Sankara to the Gurukulam to study.
Sankara’s Guru was charmed by his devotion to learning. The correctness of Sankara’s pronounciation of words and the sharpness of his intellect fascinated everyone.
In a short span of two years, Sankara was proficient in the Upanishads, Puranas, Itihas and Vedas. He also mastered the various philosophical systems like Nyaya, Sankhya, Patanjala and Vaisesika. Indeed he was as well versed as Bruhaspati, the teacher of the Universe.
Once some pupils were arguing about the number of seeds inside a melon. Young Sankara said that the number of seeds inside that melon would correspond to the number of gods who created the universe. When the children cut open the melon, they found only one seed !
In accordance with the Gurukulam rules, Brahmachari Sankara used to go out for alms every day. One day he went to the house of a poor Brahmin for alms. That day they did not even have a handful of rice. The housewife, not knowing what to do, gave Sankara an Amla fruit (Indian Gooseberry). With tears, she told him of their very poor condition. The woman’s terrible poverty deeply moved Sankara. Standing there, he composed and sang a hymn to goddess Mahalakshmi, the great mother who removes poverty and misery.
The hymn, consisting of eighteen verses, known as “Kanakadhaara Stotram” (kanaka – gold; dhaaraa –shower) moved Goddess Mahalakshmi. She appeared before him and said, “My dear child, the members of this poor family, in their past lives, did not perform any meritorious acts. How will I bestow on them, wealth and riches?” Sankara then replied to the Mother, ” Dear Mother, this lady just now gave me an Amla fruit, when she had nothing else.That, by itself is a meritorious act. If you wish to favour me, please free this family from poverty.”
While even very intelligent students took at least twenty years to acquire mastery of all scriptures, Sankara was able to acquire that mastery in just two years with the blessings of his Guru.
Hence, Sankara was permitted to return home long before the expiry of the prescribed term at the Gurukulam.
Sankara as a Brahmachari, now lived at home and devoted himself to learning and teaching. He continued to study various philosophical systems existed at that time.
But it was the serving of his mother that was for him his all-important duty and his greatest discipline. He ensured his mother’s comfort and happiness by attending on her and serving her.
Sankara’s measureless proficiency in studies and uncommon skill in instructing brought him much renown, and within a few days his fame spread on all corners. Even aged scholars in large numbers began to come to him for a deeper study of the scriptures.
Sankara’s early life was marked by several miraculous exploits that single him out for a divine role.
The devout Aryamba used to go for a bath to the river Purna everyday. And on her way back home, she offered worship at the shrine of Kesava who was her family deity.
River Purna was adored as a sacred river. The river was far off from Sankara’s house. Yet, his mother, with great steadfastness, went to the river every day for the holy bath. Once on a hot summer day, Aryamba went to the river as usual, but even after a long time, she did not return home. Sankara went in search of her. As he was walking along the riverbank, he saw her lying unconscious due to exhaustion. In deep misery, he wept profusely and started nursing his mother back to her senses and then slowly led her way back home.
Sankara was ardently devoted to his mother, and no words can portray his feelings on seeing the condition of his mother. All in tears, he sent forth a prayer to God saying, ” Lord, You are indeed omnipotent. If You only wish, anything is possible. I cannot bear to see this suffering of my mother. Be gracious and bring the river closer to our house. Then, there will be no more suffering for my mother.” Day and night he was immersed in this one appeal to the Lord.
The All-merciful Lord responded to the prayers of Sankara. During the night, it rained so heavily that the river changed its course. Breaking through its north bank, the Purna River began to flow by the side of Sankara’s house.
Even today one can see the river has taken an uncharacteristic turn towards the Math shrine in Kaladi.
This miraculous incident was a big news and spread within a few days to all corners of the area. People came in groups to have a sight of this wonder boy.
Rajashekhara, the ruler of Kerala came to hear of Sankara’s divine powers. He himself was a very well read man, including the scriptures. Coming to know of the unprecedented depth of scholarship and the abundance of divine power in a Brahmin boy of seven, the ruler desired to meet him. He sent his chief minister to Sankara, with the gift of an elephant and extended an invitation to meet him at the Palace.
When the minister in all humility told Sankara of the king’s desire, Sankara said, “Dear Sir, of what use is an elephant to me? I live only on alms, my clothing is very simple, and my daily round of duties consist of prayers, study of Vedas, teaching, and the service to the Guru. O minister, please carry this reply of mine to the King. Also, please inform him that a Ruler’s primary duty is to ensure that all the Citizens duly perform their duties and lead righteous lives.” With these words he declined the invitation to meet the King.
Sankara’s turning down the invitation of the Ruler did not make him angry. On the other hand, being a learned King, Rajashekhara became even more drawn towards the Wonder boy.
Accompanied by the ministers, the ruler himself arrived at Kaladi one day to meet Sankara in his own place. He saw Sankara, and all round him were seated Brahmin scholars engaged in scriptural study. Sankara cordially welcomed the king showing him the respects due to royalty. In years he was but a boy, in demeanor and conduct he was one of the eminent and wise.
The monarch’s object in coming to Kaladi was to test and measure Sankara’s scholarship. After a brief discussion with Sankara on the scriptures, the ruler realized that the boy was a prodigy, distinguished by intellectual sharpness and extraordinary skill. The king had no doubt that Sankara was endowed with divine powers. Both king and the boy merged into a discussion of scriptural themes for a long while, much to their delight of the scholars around.
The monarch then paid obeisance and laid gold coins at the feet of Sankara, He requested Sankara to accept the gift. But Sankara told the royal King: “Noble King, I am a Brahmana and a Brahmachari. These gold coins are of no use to me. The income from our property is quite sufficient to meet my and my mother’s expenses. There is no want in our home.”
Sankara’s spirit of renunciation and disinclination to receive gifts greatly astonished the king. Holding together his palms in reverence he said, “I salute you; such sentiments are indeed becoming of you and you only. I consider myself blessed indeed. But how can I take back the gift I have intended and set apart for you? Please distribute the money yourself to worthy recipients”.
Without a moment’s delay, Sankara replied smiling, ” You indeed are the monarch of the land. You should be able to know the deserving and the undeserving than a Brahmachari devoted to scriptural studies. While learning and teaching is the duty of a Brahmin, ruler’s duty is to handle wealth and feed the needy. It is for you to distribute this wealth to the deserving.”
The monarch saluted Sankara’s genius and bent his head in reverence. He ordered the distribution of the gold coins among the Brahmins assembled there.
This incident of Sankara’s refusing to accept the preferred money made a deep impression on the ruler’s mind. He understood that Sankara was not merely a scholar well versed in all the scriptures, but the boy was superhuman, possessed of powers that were of divine nature. And he was so much drawn to this boy-marvel that from then on, he visited Sankara’s house regularly to benefit from his holy company.
Rajashekhara was the author of books like Balabharatha and Balaramayana. He read out these dramas in Sanskrit to Sankara and had the corrections made according to his suggestions.
Sankara’s divine quality soon spread all round. And many people came to see him even from far off places. Many scholars wanted to hear an exposition of the scripture from Sankara.
One day a few astrologers arrived at Sankara’s home. After discussing the contents of the scriptures in various ways, the astrologers expressed a desire to look into the horoscope of Sankara. On examining the horoscope, they said that death might overtake him in his eighth or sixteenth or thirty second year.
On hearing this, Aryamba was deeply distressed.
Aryamba was so sad after hearing the astrologers and informed Sankara about it. Sankara had just then entered on his eighth year. It may not be time to leave the world, but Sankara realised that it was time to leave his mother. He knew that there was no possibility of attaining the knowledge of Truth without resorting to monk hood. And in the absence of knowledge of Truth, there was no possibility of achieving liberation from the bondage of life.
Sankara sensed an opportunity now, to talk to his mother.
“The Lord had told you, before I was born, that I would live only for a short period. So why do you worry? You cannot change the Divine Order. So, be brave”.
“In your earlier births, you gave birth to so many children. What is your connection with them now?”
Sankara continued: “After rains, one sees a lot of bubbles on the surface of water. Some bubbles are attached to each other for sometime. Afterwards, they vanish one by one, and merge with the water….We are also like those bubbles. We have to leave one day”.
Aryamba was amazed with her son’s speech! But she did not want to understand anything Sankara said. “ Is this the way to talk to your Mother? Your father is no more; you will go away; then what will I do? Please pray that I should die. If you do, I am sure it will happen. I will go to your father……though I cannot see you married and enjoy my grand children….” She was sobbing.
Sankara did not continue further. But his desire to embrace Sanyasa became stronger and stronger. He was quite determined. One day he found a suitable opportunity to speak to his mother about it and told her of his intention of becoming a monk.
Aryamba started weeping and wailing. Embracing him, she said, ” My dear child, is it right for you to speak such a thing? You are such a tender sapling now. If you become a monk and walk out of home, who is there to look after me? Who will take me to places of pilgrimage? Who will perform my funeral rites when I die? No, no, my dear, as long I am alive, I shall not let you become a Sanyasin.”
Sankara remained quiet. Here was a command from the mother not to embrace Sanyasa. There seemed to be no way out of the situation.
Sankara prayed with an earnest heart to the Lord requesting him to make it possible for him to take Sanyasa. He was confidant that the petty desires of men and women including his Mother, cannot stand against the divine will.
Sankara was very clear that he would embrace Sanyasa only with the permission of his mother. And, he was biding his time.
One day, early in the morning, Sankara asked his mother to accompany him to the Purna river for a bath, now that the river was very close to their house.
While Sankara was having bath, all of a sudden, everyone heard a loud shout: “ Ahhhhhh……………Help! “.
It was Sankara who was shouting.
Aryamba turned to him and shouted back: “ What happened, Sankara? “
“ Ahhhhh…. My leg…… Somebody is pulling it…… Ahhhhhhh………Help me!”
Aryamba saw a crocodile, which was pulling her son’s leg. She also shouted for help. But the crocodile continued to pull him down to deeper waters. Between the pull-up and pull-down, Sankara said, ” Mother, saving me is only in your hands now”.
All mothers would do anything, including giving their life, at a situation like this, to save their child. Aryamba was no exception. “Tell me son, what can I do? How do I save you?”
“Give me permission for my rebirth, I will be saved” – Sankara.
“The crocodile will any way eat my son, why does he need my permission to die and be born again?” thought Aryamba. “ Son, I don’t understand what you are saying. I will do anything to save you”.
“Amma, rebirth or Punar janma need not happen only after death. If I totally change the path of my life…… I mean, I change over to the life of a Sanyasin, that also means rebirth. So, I will be saved from death. If you give me permission to become a Sanyasin, then I will change over my life. Then there is a chance that I will survive…… Amma, why don’t we test? In any case, I am going to be swallowed by this crocodile.”
The crocodile had pulled him further. Was there any option for Aryamba? “I gave birth to this child after a lot of prayers. Is this the way to lose my child? Is this the time to think? Is there any hope of saving my child? “, she went through these thoughts.
And finally, she said: “My son, so be it. You become a monk, or whoever you want. As long as you are safe and living anywhere in this world, I give you permission.” She said the above words with great difficulty, sobbing with tears rolling down her eyes, and then fainted.
Sankara chanted the mantras to become a Sanyasin. He thus took Apath-sanyasa (the adoption of Sanyasa when death is near) at once.
Immediately, the crocodile let him go unharmed. Sankara came out of the water as a “nominal” Sanyasin. Why nominal? Because one could be formally initiated into the sacred order of Sanyasa only through a Guru. Till then, Sankara would be only a “nominal” Sanyasin.
Immediately after Sankara came out of the water, a Gandharvan appeared from the water where the crocodile was, and spoke to Sankara: “ Years ago, I was into bad habits and was enjoying in a riverbed when Maharishi Durvasa passed by. I ignored him totally and he became very angry and cursed me to be a crocodile. He also said that the only way for me to get back to be a Gandharvan was to hold the Lotus feet of Lord Shiva when he visited this river sometime in future. Because of this act today, I am free of my curse and you, from the mundane life.” After saying this, the Gandharvan disappeared.
By then, Aryamba got back her consciousness. With her motherly affection, she told Sankara: “Come, my son, let us go home”.
“ Home? Just a few minutes ago you told me that I can embrace Sanyasa……. You know that Sanyasins have no home. How can I go with you?”
Till then, Aryamba thought that she only had a bad dream. But was this for real? She felt as if the weight of the sky had descended on her head. Weeping and sobbing, she said, ” What is this that you say my boy! You are but a child, how indeed can you renounce home now? How can I renounce my own son born out of so much of prayers?”
Sankara did not loosen his resolve. He quietly said:
” Who do you think saved me from becoming a prey to the crocodile? That very God will look after everything”.
” I am the one born of your womb. I know how much you sacrificed to have me as your son. I will never forget that you opted for ONE intelligent son rather than many children. I know you have nobody except me to love you in this world.”
“What have you achieved other than sadness and sorrow in your life? Before I was born, you were sad for a long time because you had no children. Then you suffered for 9 months, bearing me inside you. Then you were sad because your son was going to live only for a short while. Later, you were very sad losing your husband. Leaving me in Gurukulam, you suffered because you were all alone. For how long do you want to continue this suffering?”
“Like how I have to perform my duties to my mother, I have my duties to the World at large. I cannot postpone it to a period ‘after you’. I did not ask for Sanyas only for me. If you renounce me rather than worry about me, you will also find peace. The sadness and sorrow will not be there any longer for you. The peace and fulfillment you will get in this sacrifice cannot be obtained through any other means, including having me with you, or by accumulating more wealth.”
“Please do not grieve. The whole world will be my home hereafter. All those who will initiate me into the sacred lore will be my fathers. All women who give me bhiksha (alms) will be my mothers. By realizing the Atman, I will gain peace and that peace will be my spouse. All my disciples will be my sons”.
Disappointed and depressed, Aryamba said: “You are my only son. You have a duty to perform the rites of your father and forefathers. Who will do my final rites?”
Sankara said: “As per the sastras, if one lives the life of the Sanyasin as specified without violation, it is said that his forefathers to twenty one generations would get Moksha.”
“ However, I promise you that during your last moments, when you think of me, I shall, wherever I may be at that time, know of it. And I shall reach you. Before life ebbs out of you, I shall help you to have a vision of your chosen deity. That indeed will be the essence of all pilgrimages for you.”
The circumstances which attended Sankara’s birth now came to Aryamba’s memory and she saw that all these happenings were but inevitable. In a voice choked with emotion, she said, “So be it my son, I bless you by heart and soul that you attain your desired goal.”
It was now clear that Sankara’s earnest prayers had reached the Lord. By the grace of the Lord, Aryamba’s entire being was filled with an ineffable joy. She would no longer hinder her son’s ascending to the absolute Brahman. Sankara then prostrated at the feet of his mother. It is said in the Sastras that even a Sanyasin shall prostrate before his mother.
After receiving her blessings on his head, Sankara walked out to have a view of the family deity Sri Keshava. And the sun just rose to view on the eastern horizon.
An eight year old boy full of dispassion towards worldly pleasures and having cast off mother’s affectionate shelter now went about in the eternal quest of the human soul, the search for the ultimate truth.
Those who saw this shaven-headed boy clad in a Sanyasi’s robe with staff and water bowl (kamandala) in hand, could not take their eyes off from him but gazed on in speechless wonder. Loving mothers, who saw him, shed silent tears thinking of his mother.
Sankara was not affected by anything he heard or saw. Inquisitive glances, compassionate sighs, eager queries, nothing affected him. He was indifferent to everything except the Spirit and Reality.
Meditating with a one-pointed mind on the All-pervading Supreme Energy, the soul behind all creation, he walked on. He would cover long distances on foot, ask for Biksha (alms) and accept the food, take rest, and walk on.
Thus, in the quest of the Unknown, he passed through many villages and populated human habitations, towns and cities, crossed many fields and meadows, wild animal infested forests, hills, rivers and rivulets and trod along many unknown paths.
Sankara finally reached Omkarnath by the river Narmada. There he learnt that a great Yogi had been living in an ecstatic trance for many years in a cave. Sankara’s heart was filled with indescribable ecstasy.
Advancing a short distance, Sankara met a few old monks who lived near the caves at Omkarnath and he enquired them of Govinda Bagavatpada.
This boy at an age, when others of his years were still playing with toys and battling with the alphabets, had come alone and on foot, all the way from home in far off South, in search of a Guru!
An old monk told Sankara, ” Child, The holy Yogi Govinda Bagavatpada lives in that cave. He has been in trance for a long time. We have been waiting here, and have grown old in waiting. Blessed indeed are you child! Commendable is your Guru Bhakti. “
At Narmada, Sankara got a positive response from the old monk when he asked if he could have a Dharshan of the Sage inside the cave. Immediately, Sankara prostrated before the caves. He was waiting for instructions to enter the caves.
With tears welling up from within and flowing down his tender cheeks, he stood with folded hands and started praying.
All of a sudden, he heard a voice, loud and clear, from inside the cave, “Who is there?”
Sankara’s heart was flooded with an inexpressible sublime bliss driven by a powerful urge of devotional emotion. He started answering:
“The person who has come here is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor ether, nor a sense-organ, nor the aggregate of all these (meaning, ‘I am not a human being’) because all these are transient, variable by nature.
The existence of the Self is proved by the experience of sublation in deep meditation. I am that One, Auspicious and Pure, which alone remains.”
Sankara introduced himself in ten verses, known as Dasa Sloki, each ending with the words “Siva: kevaloham” (I am of the form of Pure Auspiciousness).
Sankara also gave out these very verses to His disciples before leaving this world, when they asked Him to instruct them on the ideas to be contemplated and meditated upon.
Sankara prostrated before the great Sage, Govinda Bagavatpada, and said:
”You are verily the sage Patanjali, the personification of Yoga Shastra. You are born of the great serpent king, Adi Seshan. Like the drums of Mahadeva, you sound and resound supreme wisdom. Your glory is infinite. You have perfection, having imbibed the total knowledge from Sri Gaudapada, the disciple of ShukaDeva, the son of VedaVyasa. I beseech you to accept me as your pupil and bestow on me the knowledge of Brahman. Please grant the prayer of this humble seeker by showing him how to find the Final Truth.”
Govinda Bagavatpada was protecting the wealth of Gnana and had been waiting to hand it over to the owner. And he knew the time had come for the handing over.
At an auspicious moment, Sankara was formally accepted as a disciple by Govinda Bagavatpada, who initiated him into the Paramahamsa order of Sanyasa (sam.nyAsa), the highest kind of renunciation.
Sankara now becomes Sri Sankara.
Govinda Bagavatpada started to instruct the discipline of Yoga to Sri Sankara. The course of studies started with Hatha Yoga in the first year. Hatha yoga prepares the body for the spiritual path via physical and breathing exercises, and asceticism. Hatha yoga is the most superficial component of yoga. It prepares and conditions the body so that the mind can practice meditation more or less without obstacles.
Sri Sankara easily mastered the techniques of Hatha Yoga before the year was out.
Govinda Bagavatpada then taught Raja Yoga, the science of disciplining the mind.
Raja Yoga is the king of all Yogas. It concerns directly with the mind. In this Yoga there is no struggling with Prana or physical body. The Yogi sits at ease, watches his mind and silences the bubbling thoughts. He stills the mind and restrains the thought-waves and enters into the thoughtless state.
Sri Sankara mastered this discipline in the second year. As a result, he became gifted with psychic powers like telepathy, clairvoyance, movement in space unseen and above all, death at will.
In the third year, Govinda Bagavatpada initiated his disciple into the high discipline of Gnana Yoga, the Realization of Ultimate Reality through Knowledge.
Gnana Yoga is the road to perfection since it helps the Yogi perceive Truth in its entirety without any trappings or maskings. It consists of :
1. Developing correct awareness of the mind, the body and the Atman or Self.
2. Purification of the body and the mind through self-discipline
3. Acquiring true awareness of the world around and beyond. Knowledge of Sat (Truth) and Asat (Falsehood)
4. Practicing elimination of thought process.
By practicing Gnana Yoga, Sri Sankara
– became free from all illusions and delusions;
– was remarkably clear-minded and fearless;
– was not stained by any longings, high or low;
– was qualified to make the bold leap into the Impersonal ‘beyond’;
– lost all sense of individuality in the ocean of Infinity.
Govinda Bagavatpada made Sri Sankara undergo the duly regulated scheme of Sravana-Manana-Nidhidh-yasana. This consists of:
– Hearing the spiritual truths and secrets from the mouth of the Guru;
– Investigating and discussing it ;
– Constant contemplation on it.
The Guru established Sri Sankara firmly in the higher planes of spiritual striving and truth-experiencing.
Govinda Bagavatpada found that Sri Sankara’s spiritual practice and education completed and he had reached the last rung of the ladder. He needed no more training and no further instruction. He had become firmly established in Self-Knowledge.
But Sri Sankara, the man of true illumination, never gave a thought to these acquired powers. He would, if at all, make use of them only for doing good to humanity. The so-called miracles emanated from a sense of passion on his part.
Govinda Bagavatpada felt that his part in the training of Sri Sankara to function as an Acharya had been completed and that it was time for his departure from the world. He addressed Sri Sankara in a calm and collected voice:
“My son, you are born with a divine mandate to re-establish the Vedic religion. There is a purpose in your birth. Your task is not to merely swim safely across the turbulent waters of life and death. You have already done that as naturally as a fish swimming in water. Now, you have to help others to do the swimming across. See reflections of Rama, Krishna and Vyasa in yourself. Now my task is done. I have passed on to you, the treasure of Gnana which I inherited from my Guru. You are destined to accomplish much more.
You are not just an individual, but a whole institution in yourself; not just an isolated star but an entire Solar System.”
Sri Sankara acknowledged His Guru’s orders with silent consent.
On an auspicious day selected for the purpose, Govinda Bagavatpada smilingly cast off his aged body in Samadhi. The disciples performed the last rites on the banks of Narmada in devotion befitting the prince of Yogis.
Sri Sankara, along with a few other Sanyasins proceeded to Varanasi as his Guru had ordained.
Varanasi lies between two holy rivers, Varana to the North and Asi River which joins the Ganga in the south. It is also known as Kasi because it is beleived that Supreme brilliance shines here, and lights the way to Heaven (Kaas – to shine).
With the holy Ganga on one side, Sri Sankara was having the Darshan of Lord Vishwanatha and Mother Visalakshi every day.
Soon, He got easily `discovered’. Earnest seekers and scholars flocked to Him in increasing numbers. He began teaching them of the Ultimate Truth. Within a very short time, his vast learning, unusual gifts of exposition, astounding intellectual keenness and charming personality became the talk of the town. Scholars and monks belonging to diverse philosophical sects and owing allegiance to various systems of thought like Jaina and Buddha approached Sri Sankara and had their doubts cleared on the Ultimate Truth.
Thus, His life task of re- establishing the pure Vedic faith in the whole of India had its auspicious beginning in Varanasi.
Many scholars, to establish the superiority of their view points, would enter into debate with Sri Sankara. He lent them patient hearing and with comfortable ease disarmed them all by his irrefutable reasoning.
In the presence of the genius of the boy-Sanyasin, others aspiring for victory were humbled and they felt blessed realising the Truth.
One day, a brahmin youth named Sanandana from South India arrived at Varanasi. For many years, he had been in search of a Guru who would put him on the sure path to Ultimate Knowledge. He heard of Sri Sankara’s supernatural power and uncommon genius and developed a high regard for Him and courageously requested him to be his Guru. Sankara surveyed the youth, and after putting a few queries, gave him permission to stay with him.
After sometime, Sanandana begged Sri Sankara to initiate him into Sanyasa, which, Sri Sankara obliged. Thus, Sanandana became the first Sanyasi disciple to Sri Sankara.
Sri Sankara thus became Guru Sri Sankaracharya.
Sanandana, as a boy, had developed a religious turn of mind, and went to a hill called Ahobala in the south to realise God. He had engaged himself in the worship of Lord Narasimha, the lion headed and human bodied incarnation of Lord Narayana.
One day, a hunter came to him and asked him, “Why are you living alone in this uninhabited forest?” He told the hunter that he was looking for a creature with a lion’s face and a human body. He asked the hunter to help him find it. The hunter returned after a while with an image of Narasimha wrapped in green leaves.
Sanandana prostrated before this image and prayed. Lord Narasimha appeared before Sanandana, asking him, “Dear child, ask for a boon.” Sanandana asked for ‘Abhaya’, (fearlessness) and “It is also my wish that whenever I remember you, you shall appear and help me out of my difficulty.” “Be it so,” said the Lord and disappeared.
Sanandana was highly devoted to his Guru. He constantly stayed by the side of Sankaracharya, serving his Guru. Endowed with a superior intelligence and a deep knowledge of the scriptures, he was able to win the complete confidence of his Guru and soon became his favourite.
The other disciples, human as they were, looked on Sanandana with a jealousy. This did not escape Acharya’s eye. And in a strange manner he made everyone understand and concede the superiority of Sanandana.
One day Sanandana had reached the other side of the river on some errand. He had crossed the river by means of a bridge close by. Desiring to give to all, an exhibition of his unequalled Guru Bhakti, Acharya cried out in a loud voice, “O Sanandana, come to me at once!”
This fright-filled call of his Guru disturbed Sanandana a great deal. He felt for sure that his master was in some danger and was in need of immediate help. But he saw that getting to the opposite bank of the river by walking over the bridge would mean wastage of time. The call of his Guru was a distress signal and had to be responded to, immediately. He was in no mood to calculate and count the pros and cons of his action. And so he answered his Guru’s call by simply getting into the river and walked.
The water was cold and the current was strong enough to sweep away even an elephant. But in Sanandana’s mind, there was no river to be crossed, no cold to be borne, no danger to be faced. Only the call of the Guru sounded in his ears and only the need to be near his Guru, as quickly as possible, was in his mind. He was utterly oblivious of every other consideration.
The onlookers were sure that he would sink in the water and perish. They raised shouts of alarm and waved at him, warning him. Sanandana was deaf and blind to everything.
And then, a miracle happened. He did not sink. At every step of his foot, bloomed a lotus and supported him, and he crossed the river walking on the bed of lotuses. Sanandana ran breathless and stood before Acharya for his commands.
The other disciples stood amazed at this supernatural happening and were dumbfounded. Then, pointing to Sanandana, Acharya addressed his other disciples, “You have now witnessed what immense grace the Goddess Bhagavati has on Sanandana. Henceforth we will call him Padmapada, the lotus-footed “.
Padmapada, with a sense of humility and a spirit of dedication, bowed again and again at the holy feet of Sri Sankaracharya.
One day, Sri Sankaracharya, accompanied by his disciples was proceeding to the Ganga for a bath. On the way, He saw a pathetic sight. A young woman, who was the picture of total grief, was crying loudly and soliciting help. A dead body, possibly of her husband, lay on the ground, its head resting on her lap. She wanted proper performance of the funeral rites of her departed husband. She had been sitting with a corpse in such a way that the narrow path leading to the river was totally blocked.
Sri Sankaracharya requested the woman to move the corpse to one side of the pathway, so that He could proceed to the river.
The women could not pay attention to Sri Sankaracharya’s words. On being repeatedly requested by Him to move the body to one side of the pathway, the woman responded by telling him, “Why, Great Soul, why do you not yourself ask the corpse to move aside?”
The Guru responded to her in a voice choked with compassion, “Mother, I understand your grief. However, can a corpse ever move of its own accord?”
The woman then fixed her gaze on Sri Sankaracharya and spoke, “You best of Monks, you say that it is the one and only Brahman who is the sole authority of the universe and Shakti is indifferent. Is this not so? When Brahman is present everywhere, why should not the corpse move? Brahman is present there too.”
The Guru stood astounded and began to think over what she said. And, all of a sudden, both the women and the corpse disappeard!
He experienced the sportive play of the Great goddess, Mahamaya, who is Shakti or the ‘Prime Energy’. It was because of her glance that earth and heaven throbbed. Prostrating, The Guru began to sing in praise of the Goddess Tiripurasundari, the sole refuge of the universe:
“Oh Goddess Supreme! Mother Bhavani! I have surrendered myself to You. In debate and in danger, in error and in alien lands, in water and in fire, on hills, among foes and in forests, please protect me everywhere. You alone are my only security”….. (Bhavani ashtakam)
Sri Sankaracharya understood that the Goddess Supreme, who was worshipped by the Lord Himself, had made him realise her magnanimous glory and grace. She was the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer of this universe and it was She again who bestowed material abundance.
He had already experienced that the individual Soul (Jiva ) and the Infinite Soul (Brahman) were identical. He now understood that the Brahman was just a witness, a mere spectator and no more. The authorship of the universe was that of Shakti, The Prime Energy.
Sri Sankaracharya understood that by remaining immersed in deep meditation would not help him to accomplish his life’s purpose.
He would have to work out a practical application to life and labour on earth, of his experience of the Absolute Reality. Only then, would he become the meaningful living embodiment.
When Mother Bhavani played Her leela in the life of Sankara, would Mahadeva, the consort of Bhavani, be left behind?
On another day, when Sri Sankaracharya with his disciples was going to bath in the holy Ganga, saw a Chandala (an untouchable and worker at the cremation ground, at the very bottom of the social scale and devoid of any culture, a very primitive of men, extremely ugly and terrifying in appearance). He had four fat dogs held in leash, and was approaching in a drunken manner from the opposite direction.
Finding no other way of avoiding a confrontation with him, Sri Sankaracharya addressed him and said, “Oh, you Chandala, step aside with your dogs, and let us go”.
The Chandala did not appear to have listened to his words and did not bother, but continued to advance. Sri Sankaracharya in a somewhat excited voice cried out again, “Stop, fellow, stop. Leave a passage free for us”.
The terrible looking Chandala burst out: “Whom are you asking to move aside, Sir? Are you demanding the self to do so or the body to do so? The Self is omnipresent, non-active, ever pure by nature. Instead, if you ask the physical body to move aside, you know that the body is inert matter, how can it move aside at all?
“Moreover, in what respect is your body distinct and different from any other body? You say that you are firmly established and rooted in the Supreme Truth and there is One, non-dual entity, `One without a Second’.”
“I see that your claim is false, you are indulging in plain talk. Is there any difference between a Chandala and a Brahmin from the viewpoint of the knower of the Truth? Is the sun reflected in the water of Ganga any different from the sun reflected in a dirty water pool? Is this your knowledge of the all-ness and the Absolute Reality? “
Hearing these words of the Chandala, charged with wisdom, Sri Sankaracharya was both amazed and ashamed. He clearly perceived that this was the play of the Divine. He remembered what Krishna had said in Gita (Chapter 5):
Vidya vignaya sampanne
brahmane gavi hastini
suni chaiva sva-pake cha
panditah sama darsinah
Wise men, by virtue of their true knowledge, see with equal vision, a learned and gentle Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater (untouchable).
Immediately, Sri Sankaracharya folded his palms in adoration and spoke prayerfully, “He who perceives all beings with an awareness of “sameness” and acts with that perception of sameness in all, he indeed is my Guru. You Chandala are my Guru. I bow down at your holy feet a million times”.
All of a sudden the Chandala and his dogs disappeared. But Sri Sankaracharya saw the Divine form of the Lord and Father of the Universe, Sri Mahadeva, radiant and shining. The Lord stood before him in all glory holding in His hands the four Vedas. These eternal scriptures were what Sri Sankaracharya had seen as dogs before. He bowed down at the feet of the Great Lord and burst into a hymn of praise:
“I reflect on the One Great God, who is the enemy of passion, the Lord of all beings, the annihilator of sin, the great lord, springing from whose matted locks the waters of the Ganga flow.”
I take refuge in Him who is without birth, the eternal, cause of all causes, the all auspicious one, from whom the universe gets expression, the Being beyond the three Gunas (qualities), who is beyond all darkness, the One without beginning and end, the Supreme, the Purifier in whom there is no duality.
“Salutation to You, O Lord, salutation to You, who is of the form of the Universe; Salutations to You again and again, who is of the form of knowledge and Bliss; Salutations to You over and over again, who is reachable by the Vedic Knowledge; Salutations to You again and again.” …… (Manisha panchakam)
The essence of Manisha panchakam is that atman shines forth equally in a Brahmin and an untouchable.
It contains five slokas. In the first four, the non-duality as specified in the four Vedas is glorified. The fifth sloka glorifies the Pranava Mantra, ‘OM’, which includes the four Vedas.
Pleased by this hymn, Lord Mahadeva placed his hand on Sankara’s head and said: “Child, I am pleased and gratified. I wish that you work towards the re-establishment of Vaidika Dharma on earth, the Spiritual Discipline described in the Vedas. You must give out a flawless meaning of Vedanta and blow up the other theories that lead men to duality and darkness. You must write out a commentary on the Brahma Sutra of Vyasa and firmly establish that knowledge of Brahman. You have to preach the Vedic faith in such a way as to make it available to all”. Mahadeva then disappeared from view.
Soon after, as per the wishes of Mahadeva, Acharya was explaining to his disciples, the commentary on the Brahma Sutras when an aged Brahmin entered the place. The lesson was stopped as the venerable old man stepped in and everyone there got up and with great reverence, requested him to take a seat.
Without taking the offered seat, the old man queried: “I hear that a certain Sanyasi here gives detailed explanation on the Brahma sutras. Can you tell me where he is? “
The disciples answered: ” This is our Guru Sankaracharya, who has all the scriptures stored in his memory and they are all at his finger tips. He has written a commentary on the Brahma sutras which has silenced all critics. He is now teaching us that valuable treasure”.
Then the old man took a seat and made a request to the Acharya: ” They call you the commentator on the Brahma sutra composed by Veda Vyasa. Well, I want to see if your commentary agrees with my interpretation. Please tell me the meaning of the first section of the third chapter”.
Everyone was stunned by the authority of the old man’s poser of the question.
With great humility, Acharya said: “To all masters who know the meaning of the sutras, I offer my salutations. I have no such egoistic feeling that I am a great Comprehensor of the sutras. I shall try to answer all your questions”.
With these words, Acharya started giving out a correct explanation of the sutra that the old man had asked. Acharya found in the old man a very powerful contestant. Hardly had the Acharya put forth a point with his unmatched brilliance, the old man cut short with what struck everyone as an unassailable objection.
With great steadiness Acharya met the old man’s objections with replies, strikingly sensible and impressively rational. But the old man would not be silenced. He would put forth another argument, only to draw out a more powerful counter-argument from Sri Sankaracharya.
Indeed this battle of wits went on and on. In this volley of dialogue, the whole of the Brahma sutras, the four Vedas, many scriptures, various philosophies, all came in for analysis, elucidation, research and summing up.
The combatants were far removed in age from each other, but so alike in wisdom and learning. The astoundingly deep scholarship, the astonishing power of memory, the limitless sweep of intellect, the rare depths of introspection, and the powerful skill in debate made the disciples dazed and dumbfounded as the entertaining warfare went on.
The Himalayan debate raged for several days. Padmapada, who had followed this clash of high talent with keen understanding, approached the Acharya in private and asked him, “Master, who other than VedaVyasa can possibly possess all this superior scholarship, this sharp intellect and this great skill of debate? Is it possible that he is Vedavyasa in the disguise of an old man and we stand outwitted as to his real identity?”
The next day, Acharya addressed the old man: “Great soul, we have been eager to know who you are. All of us believe that you are indeed Vedavyasa. If our feeling is right, please accept our salutations”.
The spontaneity and sincerity of Acharya’s words touched the Brahmin deeply and he told the Acharya that his inference was correct and that he was indeed Vedavyasa.
Acharya and all the disciples prostrated before Sri Vedavyasa. Placing his hand on Acharya’s bowed head, the greatest of the sages blessed the young Sanyasin.
The poet in Acharya immediately came into play and took shape as a beautiful hymn. He said:
“O Great Sage Krishna-dvaipayana, my life has become blessed by the sight of your holy feet. You have performed mighty deeds for the benefit of the mankind. Your services, like your name, will live for all times to come. You are the compiler of the eighteen Puranas. You have classified the Vedas into four parts. You know the past, the present and the future. There is nothing on earth that you do not know. You are the milky ocean, and out of it has come the Mahabharata, like the moon. You have done infinite good to the world. I salute you as the foremost of the Gurus”.
Sri Vedavyasa felt delighted about Acharya’s discovery of his identity and Acharya’s understanding of him(Sri Vedavyasa). Taking the seat offered by Acharya, he said: “Wise boy, your erudition has quite charmed me. You are divinely gifted, with attributes unequalled on earth or in heaven. There is no one on earth who could have answered even one of my queries. You answered them all to my complete satisfaction. Among the spiritual teachers, you are a class apart.”
“Hearing that you have written a commentary on my sutras, I came to see you. I am convinced that you are indeed worthy of the big task of commenting on my sutra. Like the Sun in its dazzling glory of brilliance, you too will remove the darkness of ignorance in the world by spreading the glory of Advaita.”
“I now request you to continue your noble work. You have to write commentaries on Sruti and the Smriti”.
“I have already accomplished that work as well”, said Sri Sankaracharya and produced the other parts of his works to Sri Vedavyasa. He was quite amazed to see the works of the young Acharya, and went through all his commentaries on Sruti and Smriti with absorbing interest, and then said: “All this is very well done indeed! It is all as it should be. I am very delighted”.
At this time, when everyone’s mood was ecstatic, Acharya threw a bombshell. He made a submission to Sri Vedavyasa Bhagavan: “Sir, I have completed all the work that you expected of me. Kindly give me the permission to terminate my physical existence in your very presence here and now”.
Sri Vedavyasa was astonished. Padmapada and other disciples were bewildered. There was silence all around.
When Sri Sankaracharya wanted to terminate his life in front of Sri Vyasa, Vyasa Bhagavan said: ” No Sankara, contrary to what you think, your task is not yet finished. Much remains to be done yet. You have to meet and vanquish in debate all the renowned scholars in the land of Bharata and bring them round to your point of view of scriptural truth. You alone can do it. I have come here to grant you a boon of extended life-span. My dear boy, destiny had fixed your span of life at eight years first. But you took Sanyasa and by the grace of Lord Shiva, your life was extended by eight more years. It is the gracious dispensation of the Supreme lord that you live for another sixteen years in this body.”
“Your first task now is to vanquish Kumarila Bhatta. Then, you have to travel across the vast Bharata, traversing the holy land from end to end, in order to confront, conceive and convert all those who contradict your views. Your foremost work will be to harmonize the different schools of thought. You will also have to hoist aloft the flag of Advaita, establish Vedanta on a sound basis and proclaim the glory of the Brahman to all. On your shoulders rests not the destiny of an individual, but a whole nation’s spiritual welfare.”
Acharya bowed down in approval, and Sri Vedavyasa left that place. The minds of all the disciples were freed from the dark. There was no fear of their Acharya’s quitting the world early. They were overjoyed and happy at the extension of his life-span.
Acharya became very eager to carry out the instructions of Sri Vyasa. His first task was to conquer Kumarila. Acharya came to know that Kumarila was a holy soul, who had vanquished in debate various philosophers and propagandists of anti-Vedic schools. Acharya also came to know that the aged scholar, Kumarila Bhatta now lived in Prayaga.
Kumarila was born in the Chola country in South India in a Brahmin family. Since the boyhood, he was devoted to the Vedas. He belonged to the Meemamsa School of thoughts.
Mimamsa means “investigation, inquiry, discussion.” In this philosophy, Vedas are ultimate and God does not exist. So, there is no ‘aham brahma asmi’.
Kumarila believed that In order to refute any school of thought, one should master that philosophy to have a thorough knowledge of its theory and practice. In order to combat Buddhism, he had to master its philosophy and know all the intricacies of its workings and beliefs. So he entered a Buddhist school as a disciple, concealing his identity, and became a Buddhist pupil to learn Buddhist doctrines.
One day, the Buddhist teacher started abusing and ridiculing the Vedas. Kumarila felt extremely agonized to hear this condemnation of the Vedas. He did not let the tirade against the Vedas go unchallenged. He entered into an argument with his teacher. Then began a long debate, a philosophical duel and a battle of keen wits, between the teacher and pupil.
Kumarila effectively smashed the successive positions and attitudes of his teacher. The Teacher found himself more and more powerless to contend against his own pupil, who overwhelmed and confounded him with unanswerable refutations and forthright arguments. Kumarila was easily able to establish the Supreme authority and the unbeaten superiority of the Vedas.
Then, Kumarila made a strong and severe remark against his teacher’s philosophy. The Teacher became very angry and as atonement for the sin committed by Kumarila, he ordered Kumarila to be thrown down the roof of building and lose his life.
The disciples, who were waiting for an opportunity to pounce on Kumarila, outran the teacher and pushed Kumarila down from the top. Kumarila quickly composed himself into Yogic steadiness, and uttered: “If the Vedas are true, may my life be protected”.
Ultimately, Kumarila did not lose his life, but lost an eye. Why? While his strong belief in Vedas saved his life, his slight doubt, ‘if’, caused the damage. He should have said: “Vedas are true; may my life be protected”.
Kumarila realised that absolute Faith would have saved him absolutely and that a very miniscule, subconscious doubt caused him dearly.
Kumarila avenged his folly by spreading Vedic faith vigourously. He was victorious in his campaign of resuscitating the Vedic faith. Wherever he went, he demonstrated by argument, how the Vedas contained the true faith and how they were not man-made, but trans-human.
Kumarila Bhatta conquered the Jains as much as he conquered the Buddhists. He was a man of great initiative and power and proved much more than a match to many well-known religionists of that day. He was also a noted writer and wrote with authority on the Meemamsa philosophy.
Sri Sankaracharya set out to meet this Kumarila Bhatta, at Prayaga. Prayaga is now Triveni in Alahabad where the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the subterranean Saraswathi merge.
He desired to visit and worship at the many holy spots on the banks of the sacred Yamuna, and so moved along the Yamuna towards the direction of Prayaga. On the way he touched Kurukshetra, the site of the epic Mahabharata battle where the Gita was born.
He reached Brindavan, the playground of Sri Krishna’s boyhood. Acharya went to see many spots associated with Krishna’s boyhood and visited the famous temples in the region. At the shrine of Lord Krishna, he was moved by his divine love for the Supreme Guru of Gita, and reverentially offered a sweet hymn at the feet of Krishna
When Acharya reached Prayaga, a shocking news reached his ears. Kumarila Bhatta had entered the husk-fire for the purpose of burning himself to slow death. This was an act of atonement for the sin he committed, for Guru Droh – cheating his Guru. Many years ago, in order to learn Buddhist philosophy, he cheated on his Buddhist Teacher disguising as his disciple and learnt the Buddhist philosophy.
Acharya’s chief objective in coming to Prayaga was to have a discussion with Kumarila. When he heard of Kumarila’s resolve to pay for his sin with slow burning, the Acharya went to the place where Kumarila was already in the husk-fire.
Even while Kumarila was burning slowly, Sri Sankaracharya explained to him, the Advaidic philosophy as against Meemamsa.
Advaita believes in Vedic Karma, which cleanses the soul. Then through Bhakthi, one realises god and becomes one with Brahman. Upanishads teach how to reach that state through Gnana. Karma, Bhakthi, Yoga, Gnana – is the sequence, as per Advaita.
Meemamsa does not accept Upanishads. According the Meemamsa, Karma takes one straight to Moksha. No God and No Bhakthi required.
Advaita literally means ‘non-dualism’, ‘only one’. Advaita bases itself upon the Upanishads, the Brahma-sutras and the Bhagavad-gita. Advaita asserts that the real, essential identity of the individual self (Jivatma), is nothing other than Brahman Himself (Paramatma). The teaching follows from upanishadic statements like tat tvam asi and aham brahmAsmi.
Brahman alone is Truth, the universe is an illusion, and the seemingly bound soul, Jivatma, is none but the Brahman.
In essence, Jivatma and Paramatma are one and the same, `One, and there is NO Second’.
This knowledge non-duality of the individual soul and the Brahman, the Supreme soul, is experienced in the deepest state of super-consciousness. The attainment of this state of experience is extremely difficult and is a very rare privilege for ordinary mortals like us.
However, in our practical day to day work and behavior, it is possible in a partial way, to understand that ‘Brahman is all’, as a result of prolonged and steady practice.
Sri Sankaracharya explained the above Advida principles to Kumarila with examples:
“In darkness, a rope is mistaken for a snake. But when examined with a light, we will find that the supposed snake is only a rope. The ‘superimposed’ snake disappears when light (knowledge) is thrown on it. Even for an illusion, there must be a basis in reality. The basis in this example is the rope. All illusions are superimposed on truth; and conversely, what remains after the illusion is removed, is the truth.”
“When a person wakes up from a dream, everything seen and felt in the dream disappears. What remains is only the dreamer. It means that we project ourselves into the objects of our dream. When we get up and the dream goes away, we realise that there is nothing outside us.”
“The reflection in a mirror has no substance; it is only an appearance of what already exists.“
“When we realise, with the aid of gnana, that God is the only ultimate Truth and everything else is illusion, then, other emotions like anger, desire, hatred, pain, grief etc. will not affect us. “
When Acharya finished his explanations on Advata, Kumarila was getting burnt severely. However, he said: “O greatest of the monks, I am convinced about Advaita. I am willing to propagate Advaita now. But as you see, I am nearing death and so I cannot do that. But, there is a disciple of mine, named Mandanamishra who lives in Mahishmati town. He is the right person to be conquered.”
Kumarila’s end came soon after. With a heavy heart, Acharya and his disciples left Prayaga to meet Mandanamishra.
Mandana’s wife Ubhayabharati, was the sister of Kumarila Bhatta. She was also known as Saarasavaani. She had mastered a number of philosophical systems. Though gifted beyond measure and united in wedlock to a person very well to do in life, Ubhayabharati considered the performance of her household tasks the foremost duty. She was an ideal Wife to a perfect Husband.
The service to husband, with the knowledge that he is God in person, is one of the finest gifts to the world civilization by Indian culture. Equally, placing the wife on the pedestal of unshakable glory is the Indian tradition. The number of Goddesses outnumbering the (male) Gods is proof enough for this fact.
Mandana and Ubhayabharati were a couple ‘made for each other’. Ubhayabharati was the incarnation of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of learning.
When Mandana suggested Ubhayabharati to be the judge of the debate, Acharya agreed immediately.
Ubhayabharati came forward to do her duty without any fear or favor. With no pride and with no airs of any kind, but with modesty and bashfulness, she occupied the judge’s seat.
The condition of the debate was made known to all: If Mandana got defeated, he would take Sanyas from the Acharya. If Mandana won, Acharya would forego Sanyas and get into worldly life. Not just that, the vanquished would accept the Victor’s views and propagate his faith.
Ubhayabharati knew that announcing a winner from two great scholars was not going to be easy. She then put garlands of flowers on the necks of both and then declared, “He whose garland fades first will be the vanquished in the debate. Please proceed with the debate comfortably”.
The arguments became keener and complex, and the refutations and denials also became correspondingly stronger and bolder. Both the contestants raised more and more intricate questions. There was a downpour of assertions and objections from either side. Quotations from the scriptures were marshaled with marvelous skill by both, and exploited to lend support to their case.
The debate was carried on for seventeen days. On the eighteenth day however, Mandana appeared to be shaken and agitated. The brilliant scholar perspired all over. The garland round his neck was gradually losing its freshness and began to wither, while Acharya’s garland shone with added luster. Ubhayabharati noted this and felt much distressed as a loving wife she was. Setting aside sentiments, she stood on the needle-point of honesty and in concluding the debate, publicly announced, “My husband has lost the debate”. The crowd was dumbfounded.
Ubhayabharati’s moral courage was of unequalled excellence and all were thrilled by her utter impartiality and unqualified objectivity.
Mandana gracefully owned his defeat. He had no more of mental conflict, no more of any intellectual strain or emotional stress. He then bowed down to the feet of the Acharya and said: ” Venerable monk, I have no more doubts, no misgivings, no mental reservations any longer. With a full heart and a clean conscience I implore you to bestow on me the privilege of being your disciple. If you graciously consider me worthy of manhood, competent to enter a life of total renunciation, do kindly initiate me into the monastic order”.
Ubhayabharati had remained a witness for sometime. Her sentiments and emotion now overtook everything else. Not wanting to part ways with her Husband, she addressed the Acharya and told him: “Sir, my husband’s defeat is not yet complete. In the scriptures, it is said, that the wife is a half of the man’s soul. I agree that you have defeated him. You must however defeat me, the other half of my husband, and then you may make him your disciple. I have a strong urge to debate with you”.
Here was a situation for which Acharya was totally unprepared. Ubhayabharati’s offer to debate with him took him by surprise. He thought for a while and said: “Mother, scholars of standing never desire to debate with the ladies”.
She replied rather sharply: “Why do you entertain a belittling attitude towards women? You know that the great sage Yagvavalkya did engage in a debate with Gargi. The royal sage Janaka also entered into a debate with a woman Gnani, Sulabha. Why should you not debate with me, when I solicit you to the debate? If you do not agree to a debate, then you must accept your defeat”.
Acharya saw that there was no escaping from this gentle but firm lady. In the interest of his mission, which was not for personal glory, he felt compelled to agree to a debate with the arbiter who had acted as a judge so impartially. No time was lost and the debate between the homeless wanderer and a home-keeping housewife began in full swing.
Ubhayabharati identified herself with her husband’s philosophy and argued hotly. Gradually the debate entered the subtle and complex fields. Her mode of debating, the magnitude of her scholarship, her powers of analysis, her deep grasping power and remarkable self- confidence filled Acharya with amazement. Finding her an adversary, with talent as brilliant as his own, Acharya proceeded cautiously on. To the hundreds of questions that Ubhayabharati raised on all aspects of philosophy, Acharya gave highly original and convincing answers. This again went on for seventeen days.
The audience began to think that the debate would never come to an end. It was not long before Ubhayabharati understood quite well that she could never score a victory over the monk in the field of Veda and Advaita.
On the eighteenth day, she sprang a surprise on the Acharya.
Ubhayabharati’s only intention at that moment was not to lose her husband. So, she was prepared to ask and argue on any subject to win the debate. She did not realise that she was asking uncomfortable questions to a Sanyasin, who had never experienced the worldly pleasures, that too in front of her husband. She asked:
“What are the signs and qualities of romantic passion? How many types are there in erotic science? In what parts of the body has erotic passion its centers? By what physical acts does the passion find expression and by what acts does it subside? How does passion rise and fall in man’s and woman’s body in the bright fortnight when the moon waxes and the dark fortnight when it wanes?”
Acharya was taken aback and remained silent for a while. Then he said: “Mother, please question me in the scriptures. And I shall answer you. How is it that you put such types of questions to a celibate monk?”
Pat came the reply from Ubhayabharati, “Why greatest of the monks, is not the science of erotic also a proper science? You are a monk and may say that you have renounced everything. But you have not yet renounced the desire to be a winner in debates. If you are a perfect monk, you must really be a master of the senses and a conqueror of the passion. Why should a mere discussion on the subject of erotic cause a ruffle in your mind?”
Acharya kept quiet. She continued: “The conquest of passions like lust and anger is the result of knowledge. If a mere discussion on erotic is going to cause undulation to your mind, then you are not established in the knowledge of Reality. Hence you are unworthy to be my husband’s Guru”.
Strong words were these, coming from Ubhayabharati. She would not part with her husband so easily.
Acharya listened and sat still with downcast eyes for long. He was in an awful predicament. If he answered the questions, people would tag him as a ‘fake sanyasin’. Even the word ‘Sanyasin’ would become corrupted. If he did not answer, he would lose the debate and become a ‘Grihastha’ – to lead the same life about which he could not answer. It was indeed a dilemma. Never before in his life, had he faced such an embarrassing situation.
Mother Sarada was making her divinity evident. This was all her wonderful play, play of Parasakti, without whom even the Shiva, Vishnu and others lose their very existence and meaning. Glory to Sri Sarada, Sri Rajarajeshwari, Sri Kamakshi, Sri Mahalakshmi, Sri TiripuraSundari!
The Acharya got over the feeling of surprise at these inconvenient questions and got ready to meet the challenging situation. With no anger or bitterness, but with a smiling countenance he said: “Mother, I am a celibate, a monk. The primary discipline for a monk, based on the scriptures, is total renunciation of lust and of all lustful inclinations and preoccupations. I am not bound by the desire to score victories in debate as you incorrectly pointed out. I am not here to score points over others. I am just carrying on my mission of Lokasangraha, of which this debate is a small part.”
Acharya said: “If I choose to reply to your questions by a word of mouth, I shall be tarnishing the ideal of monasticism. Therefore, I shall enter another physical frame and then shall answer your questions by writing a book for the purpose. Do you agree to this arrangement?”
Ubhayabharati gladly agreed to Acharya’s plan and gave a month’s time for him to revert. She postponed the inevitable by a month!
For the first time since she posed the ‘inconvenient’ questions, Ubhayabharati raised her head and looked at Sri Sankarachrya. The ever peaceful Acharya looked into her eyes. The looks that had created only ‘bhakthi’ everywhere all the while thus far, created a sense of fear in Ubhayabharati.
Acharya left the city of Mahishmati and proceeded towards peace, into a thick forest, with his disciples. All of a sudden, they saw a man sleeping under a tree. “He must be a very brave man, all alone in a forest like this, and sleeping without any worries. Was there no danger?” the thought went through everyone’s mind.
There was no more danger for him since he was already dead. Acharya found out that he was the King Amaraka, who came to the woods on a hunting expedition and had met with a sudden death.
Tragic as the king’s death was, Acharya saw in it an opportunity. He took Padmapada into confidence and said: “Look Padmapada, here is a golden chance for me, I shall immediately enter the king’s body, live as Amaraka for a while, find the answers to all of Ubhayabharati’s queries and come back. Till then, please keep my body….” – he did not feel good saying “my body” – “Please keep my body in a lonely cave. The Atma does not get affected by this act of mine. My body will also remain pure”.
Padmapada was not sure. Very worried, he tried to dissuade the Acharya. “Do not worry, Padmapada. You may now think that this role of a married-man would get me a bad name as a Sanyasin. At a later date, I will be playing another role, which will be worse than this. You must be prepared and be brave.”
Achrya continued: “Guard this seemingly dead body of mine inside the cave very carefully. After a month, I shall re-enter this body and be my old self again”.
Acharya used his Yogic power of Parakaya Pravesha (entering another’s body), and entered into the king’s body.
When the King returned back to his palace, his behaviour was totally different. He attended to the people’s needs; worked on their problems and solved them; he gave alms to the poor; he went to temples; he was very keen in poetry, and so on. He was no longer ‘a bad King’, but became a good ruler.
Acharya, while residing in the king’s body, called in scholars versed in the science of erotics and made a thorough study of the writings on sex by sage Vatsyayana and pursued all the commentaries on them to gain complete mastery over the subject. He also perfected in the practicalities of the science of Kamakala. It was then possible for the mastermind of the Acharya to produce an authoritative book on erotics in which all the questions of Ubhayabharati were more than answered. Padmapada came in disguise and had an interview with king Amaraka and obtained the book from him.
In the meantime, the learned ministers became suspicious of the king. How could such a bad personality turn so good overnight? They ultimately found out about the Parakaya Pravesha. Since they were very happy about the way the King ruled, they wanted him to continue without getting back to his original body. They thought that if the original body of the soul was destroyed, then they would be blessed with this King for ever.
They traced the body of Acharya in the caves. The ministers immediately ordered their men to burn the body of the Sanyasin. Padmapada and others went to the king in disguise and informed him through statements, which had two meanings. The Acharya, who was in the body of the king, immediately understood the inner meaning.
Acharya’s soul left the King’s body leaving the King dead and was searching for its original body. In the meanwhile, the body of the Acharya was set to fire by the men of the ministers.
And, the body of the Acharya started burning.
When the soul of Acharya reached the body, the right hand was already burnt out. Acharya got up from the pyre. At the request of Padmapadha, Acharya sang out a hymn in praise of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha, known as the Lakshmi Narasimha Stotra.
Each stanza ends with “mama dehi karAvalambam”, meaning, ‘O Lakshminrsimha, provide me the support of (Your) hands’.
The burning hand was rescued immediately by the grace of the Lord Lakshmi Narasimha, who was quick to shower his blessings on this Prahlada-like devotee. The Acharya then thanked the Lord and returned to the city of Mahishmati to confront Ubhayabharati.
Mandana was eagerly awaiting Acharya’s return since mentally he had already taken to the discipleship of the Acharya. Mandana was unique among the Acharya’s disciples. Others had approached the Guru in the traditional way, with homage and reverence and had begged for and received his mercy. Mandana alone had fought his way to Guru’s grace.
Mandana and Ubhayabharati gave a very warm welcome to Acharya. The Acharya greeted Ubhayabharati and said, ” Mother Bharati, here is the promised book, please accept this as the answer to all your queries”.
Ubhayabharati went through the book very carefully from beginning to end and was greatly pleased with its excellence. The book was a treatise, also on the branch of astrological science, dealing with the conception, evolution and reproduction of the human species under certain categorical conditions laid down by the ancient Rishis. It also expounded certain principles regarding the structure of the human organism, its mental and moral qualities, aesthetic, physical and psychological tendencies, interrelation of the sexes, and attraction and repulsion of persons born under various stars. The treatise is known as Amarakam.
Ubhayabharati told the Acharya, “Great one, now your victory is complete indeed. My husband will now become your disciple and a monk. And I shall return to my eternal abode of Satyaloka, ending my incarnation as Ubhayabharati”.
Acharya bowed before her and praised her glories and said, “Adored mother Bharati, you have descended on earth to impart divine knowledge. I know that you are none other than Devi Saraswati. If you depart from the earth now, all the knowledge will disappear from the world. Therefore please stay on for some time”.
Saraswati offered to grant him a boon. Acharya requested her to go along with him until he consecrated Her divine grace at some congenial place. Saraswati granted his prayers under a condition that he should not look back during the course of the journey to know if she was following. If he turned back, she would stop at that spot itself.
Acharya accepted that condition. He then initiated Mandana into monk-hood in the appropriate manner. He gave up the name Mandana, and took on a new name Sureshvaracharya.
The long travel towards the south bagan. Acharya and his disciples walked along, followed by Saraswati Devi. When they reached a sandy tract very near the confluence of Tunga and Badra rivers, Saraswati’s anklets got stuck in the sand and the tiny bells in the anklets ceased to tinkle. Till then, the Acharya was sure that she was following by hearing the tinkling of the bells.
Since the sound of the bells stopped, Acharya turned back. And LO! She stopped there. Then Acharya consecrated her as Sarada, in that spot, in the standing pose.
Acharya then set out on what was virtually a Digvijaya – a campaign of world conquest in the cultural and spiritual field of India, covering all parts.
After that Acharya arrived at Srisailam (in Andra Pradesh). He visited the shrine of Sri Mallikarjuna and Devi Bhramarambika.
He sang a prayer in praise of Mahadeva. Seeing the radiant and loving face of the goddess, Acharya burst out into a hymn in praise of Mother Bhramarambika. Acharya also established a Srichakra in the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Devi.
Srisailam was the stronghold of the dreaded Kapalikas. The Kapalikas were a sect of fanatics who in excess of their religious zeal, had got into perverted ways far removed from culture or true spirituality. They killed human beings and offered the flesh to the God and also eat it.
The Kapalikas would not subscribe to the basic doctrines of spiritual effort. With their wonted fury and thoroughness, they declared a war on the Acharya and his philosophy.
But the Acharya floored them by the soundness and the force of Advatic philosophy.
Their king Krakacha was exteremy upset with Acharya. He engaged Ugrabhairava, the chief of Kapalikas in Srisailam for the purpose of doing away with the life of the Acharya.
Ugrabhairava was an expert in deceiving others. One day, he approached the Acharya in the guise of a seeker and bowing at his feet asked for discipleship under him. Acharya, though all- knowing, granted his prayer. And thus, Ugrabhairava got into the privileged group of Acharya’s disciples. His behavior and devoted service fascinated everyone and he soon became a favorite with all.
One day, when Acharya was meditating, Ugrabhairava approached him and fell at his feet and shed tears. When Acharya asked him what the matter was, he said:
“My lord, I know what really you are. You are a great soul, a being like Shiva, compassionate and helpful. You are the embodiment of endless virtues. I beg you to fulfill just one desire of mine, thereby rendering my human birth useful”.
Acharya said: “Good man, speak out your desire. I shall satisfy your wish”.
Ugrabhairava said: “I have been, so far in my life practicing several spiritual disciplines to be worthy of inhabiting the abode of Lord Shiva. The Lord became extremely pleased with my penance and granted me a boon. The boon is that my desire will be fulfilled if I do a Homa or a fire sacrifice to Rudra, and the head of a True Sanyasin is to be sacrificed. Since the time the boon was granted, I have been going around from place to place making great efforts to procure the head of such a Sanyasin, but with no purpose. Now you certainly are omniscient. If you agree to favour me, my human birth will be rendered effective”.
The senseless pleading of Ugrabhairava made the Acharya give him many a wholesome advice on the philosophy of true knowledge. But the Acharya’s words fell on deaf ears.
Ugrabhairava continued weeping and said, “Lord, You know that I am not competent enough to receive the knowledge of Advaita and contain it. I am aged and have not many more days to live. It is now on you to take pity on me. It is said that Dadhichi, a great sage attained undying glory by making a gift of his body to Indra. You too, by throwing away this ephemeral frame of yours for my good, will achieve lasting fame”.
Acharya came to feel that it was quite in the fitness of things that his ephemeral frame went to the fulfillment of a meritorious act. Moreover, everything depended on the will of the Lord and wisdom lay in letting things happen according to divine dispensation and direction. He at once spoke out of his readiness to Ugrabhairava.
Ugrabhairava said, “Master, I shall have the sacrifice done in such a way that your disciples will not come to know of it. In the forest nearby, there is an uninhabited shrine of Bhairava. I shall have all the arrangements made there. At midnight, on the coming Amavasya, (darkest night of the New Moon), you may come there. No one will be able to know anything of this”.
Acharya approved of the plan. On the appointed day, The Acharya went to the place of sacrifice. Ugrabhairava was waiting there. The Acharya asked Ugrabhairava if he was ready and then sat in Padmasana position, closed his eyes and started meditating thus allowing him to cut his head off with a sword.
A very happy Ugrabhairava took his sword out, thinking “I am going to remove the greatest enemy of my religion from this world. I will get all the benefits for doing this service to my religion” and threw the sword on Acharya.
Meanwile on that Amavasya night, when the Acharya quietly walked out to the place of sacrifice, Padmapada was sleeping along with the other disciples. He had a very bad dream. In the dream, he saw someone severing the head of his Guru, Sri Sankaracharya. He was so shocked that he woke up and did not know what to do. Padmapada immediately remembered the boon he received from Lord Narasimha.
[Lord Narasimha appeared before Sanandana, asking him, “Dear child, ask for a boon.” Sanandana asked for ‘Abhaya’, (fearlessness) and “It is also my wish that whenever I remember you, you shall appear and help me out of my difficulty.” ” Be it so”, said the Lord……… ]
As soon as Padmapada remembered the Lord, He not only appeared before Padmapada, but entered Padmapada’s body, jumped up from the bed and rushed towards the spot where the Acharya was to be sacrificed.
He saw Ugrabhairava raising the sword and throwing it on Acharya. Just at that moment, Padmapada, the Narasimha possessed, snatched the sword in a flash. Then he roared like a lion and tore open the heart of Ugrabhairava with his sharp nails and killed him, as he did with Hiranyakashipu. The thunderous roar reverberated across Srisailam.
Acharya opened his eyes after hearing that noise. Oh! What a fantastic sight! “Isn’t this, Lord Lakshmi Narasimha? Is it not Hiranya’s body around his neck like a garland?” Acharya wiped his eyes to see the sight more clearly. But he saw Padmapada in the place of the Lord, and the body of Ugrabhairava lying down with blood stains all over.
By then Padmapada had fallen unconscious. When he regained his consciousness, he confessed that he did not know what actually happened. He only remembered the bad dream and that he had invoked his beloved deity. The presence of mind of Padmapada thus saved the life of Sri Sankaracharya.
While at Srisailam, Sri Sankaracharya composed some exquisite verses in praise of Lord Mallikarjuna. Sample this composition, known as Sivanandalahari:
“What can I offer you, Eswara? (Eswara is also Aiswaryava, the one having everything). You have everything, so what can I give you?…. Ok, I will give you my heart….. Oh, he is coming to me even to take that…. Look at him. I thought he was very rich… he has no riches! He has an old bull, he is wearing elephant skin, has a snake around his neck! He says he drinks poison and that is his food! He is asking me, ‘you gave me your heart, what can I give you in return?’ Lord, give me the attitude that will make me think of your lotus feet all the time in pure bhakti.”
“I bow before Lord Mallikarjuna, who helps everyone to get over, as if through a bridge, the great ocean of Samskara, and who always resides on the Srisailam hill.”
From Srisailam, Acharya and his disiples went to Ahobila to pay respects to the Lord Narasimha who saved Acharya’s life. There, he composed the famous Lakshmi Narasimha Pancharatnam.
It is interesting to note that while Padmapada, the Sishya, learnt Advaita, Bhakti Gnana and everything else from his Guru Sri Sankaracharya, the Guru got the Narasimha bhakti from his Sishya, Padmapada.
The successive Sankaracharyas of the lineage of Adi Sankara have continued to worship Narasimha. In addition to worshipping Maha-Tripurasundari and Sri Chandra-mouleshwara as the main deities, Lakshmi Narasimha Upasana has also been traditionally followed by the Acharyas.
Sri Sankaracharya’s Dig vijayam continued towards south. In Karnataka, along with his disciples, he visited a Vaishnavaite temple. The authorities stopped Sri Sankaracharya from entering the temple, a la Rameswaram, saying that Saivaites were not allowed entry there!
At Sriveli, where the Acharya had camped, there lived a poor Brahmin who visited the Acharya with his young deaf and dumb son. With tears in his eyes, he told Acharya:
“With great difficulty, I got his Upanayana ceremony performed. But the boy does not speak a word. Till now he has not even learnt the alphabets and there is no question at all of his reading the Vedas and other scriptures. Never once has he called out to his father or mother. He does not express his feeling of hunger and thirst. You are the ocean of compassion. Please bestow your grace on him and make him normal”.
Acharya looked at the boy and asked him: “Dear child, Who are you? Where are you going? What is your name? “
The boy looked straight into the Acharya’s eyes and spoke out immediately in a very sweet voice and also in a verse:
“I am not a human being; I am not God; nor Yaksha; Neither Brahmin nor Kshatriya nor trader nor an untouchable. I am not a Brahmachari, nor a householder nor a forest-dweller nor a Sanyasin. I am that ever Self-aware entity.”……………
The boy, who had been dumb right from birth, answering the Acharya’s questions with a verse revelatory of the nature of the Self, was something beyond comprehension. The verse was reminiscent of Acharya’s own verse when His Guru, Govinda Bagavatpada asked him “Who are you?”.
The boy’s father did not understand what the boy had said. He was so happy that he did not bother to understand. He was so proud that his son had started talking! He prostrated before the Acharya after thanking Him and took his son back home.
After reaching home, the father invited everyone in the town very proudly, to meet his son, who could now hear and talk. But the innocent boy could neither hear nor talk. “Oh! May be, the Sanyasin’s mantra worked only for a few hours”, he thought. He took his son again to the Acharya.
In front of Acharya, the boy spoke again, fluently. What a miracle! “Your son is not for you, leave him with me” said the Acharya. The parents agreed. That their son was with them when he was mute and not with them when he became alright, went through their mind. But they returned home with a sense of satisfaction.
The Acharya initiated the boy into the discipline of Sanyasa. He was named Hastamalaka.
The verse that came out first from the boy when he started to talk, was known as Hastamalakiyam.
Normally, a Sishya writes commentaries and explanations to his Guru’s works. Here, Sri Sankaracharya wrote a commentary for Hastamalakiyam, His Sishya’s verse. What an ego-less spirit!
Acharya, along with his disciples was walking along the Tungabadra river during a hot summar day, when he watched a marvelous sight!
A pregnant frog was struggling in the blazing sun to be delivered of its offspring. A cobra, the natural enemy of frogs, raised its hood to provide the frog with shelter and protection from the ravages of the tropical sun.
The Acharya was greatly moved by the sight of the venomous snake protecting its arch rival. If there was paradise on earth, it was there, where the cobra and the frog lived in mutual amity and peace. Even natural animosities did not exist, he thought.
Called Sringa Giri (meaning Peak Mount, now Sringeri), the place had also been the sacred abode of sage Rishyashringa.
Both the rivers Tunga and Badra were flowing there. A popular saying about the river Tunga was, `Tunga Pana Ganga Snana’. That is, drinking the water of this sacred river had the same effect as taking a dip in the holy Ganges.
The place was expressive of the lofty spiritual atmosphere prevailing there.
Since Sri Sankaracharya had consecrated Sarada Devi in that same place, He decided to establish his first monastery or Peetham there.
Acharya started the task of building up the spiritual lives of everyone there by expositions of his commentaries and other scriptures by his religious instruction and spiritual discourses.
Gradually a fine temple and a Peetham were built.
Sarada Parameshwari, the chief deity here, is much more than just an aspect of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. She is Tripurasundari, the triple form of Lakshmi-Saraswati-Gauri. She is the supreme queen Rajarajeshwari.
The Acharya also established various other deities like Bhadrakali, Hanuman, Ganesha and Bhairava for the protection of the place.
Thus, Acharya established the Sringeri math, the first of the Peethams, with a stability lasting over hundreds of decades for the infinite good of the world.
The establishment of the Sringeri math by the Acharya is, in many ways, a very significant event in the spiritual history of the world, especially of India.
Staying in Sringeri, the Acharya wrote many books full of instructions with the spirit of renunciation.
A youth called Giri, who did not know much of reading or writing, had devoted himself to the service of Acharya. In addition to taking care of Acharya, Giri was always ready to look after the needs of the other disciples. Within a short time, Giri became a favorite of all, particularly with the Acharya.
The disciples of the Acharya were all vastly learned. They were worthy disciples of the great Acharya in exposition of the scriptures and debating skill. From that point of view, Giri was no where equal to the other disciples. But incomparable was his devotion to his Guru.
When the Acharya gave his disciples lessons on the scriptures, Giri would sit near the Acharya respectfully and listening attentively to all that was said.
One day Sri Sankaracharya was sitting quietly. It was the hour of teaching of scriptures. The disciples had assembled. But Acharya did not start. Padmapada said: “We are waiting eagerly for you to start the teachings”.
Acharya said: “Please wait, let Giri also join “. Padmapada was surprised. He said: “Giri is a wonderful boy, alright. Can he understand anything of the scriptures? In intelligence, this Sringa Giri and Sishya Giri are same (meaning, he‘s like an inanimate object, not capable of understanding Upanishads)”.
Giri, after washing the garments of his Guru in the river nearby, was walking back. Suddenly, he started singing and dancing! Magnificent verses, full of rhythm flowed out of his mouth.
This famous hymn composed by Giri in praise of Sri Sankaracharya is called Totakashtakam. This is a beautiful poem in the Totaka metre (Totaka Vritham has twelve syllables in each line). Even great composers could not easily comprehend Totaka metre!
Everyone was surprised to hear these verses in pure Sanskrit and full of deep meaning.
Padmapada, though ashamed, praised Giri for having done a wonderful work on Acharya. He prostrated before the Acharya, feeling sorry for whatever he had said of Giri.
On an auspicious day, the Acharya initiated Giri into Sanyasa. He was given the name of Totakacharya.
It was a similar incident on another day. Sri Sankaracharya was meditating, though it was the hour of teaching. The disciples felt that He was engaged in a conversation with someone, in his meditation! Looking at His face, they were worried.
Meanwile at Kaladi, Aryamba was very sick and was remembering her son.
By telepathy, the Acharya heard her call. He immediately meditated and requested Sri Krishna to appear in front of His mother.
His disciples knew something was happening, and kept quiet. “My mother is thinking of me on her death-bed. I have promised her that at the moment of her death I shall be present at her feet. I have to go to my mother without any delay”. The Acharya exercised his Yogic powers and reached his mother in Kalady.
Aryamba was more or less unconscious. Like all mothers, she was reminiscing her days with her child Sankara. She wished to see him for one last time. She heard her son’s voice and opened her eyes slowly. What a surprise! She was lying in the lap of her Sankara!
“Sticking to my life has not gone waste”, she thought. “I have seen my son, I have felt him also; now I can hear his sweet voice as well”.
“Amma, Amma, can you see me? I am your Sankara. I have come all the way to see you, Amma.”
“Sankara! How can I not recognize you? You told me that you would come to me during my last days, when I think of you. I can think of you only if I have forgotten you, Sankara! But now, I did not want to disturb you. So I was removing you from my mind! Oh! I am unable to do that, Sankara. Why did you leave all your work and come to me?” Aryamba wanted to say these words, but was not in a position to do so.
But Acharya realised what she wanted to say. “Amma, I have also lived the life of what you imagined! I was a King, Amma. For a full month, I was a King! But, I am happier as a Sanyasin. Happiness is inside, and one cannot look for it, outside”.
Aryamba was not in a position to listen or understand. As per her wish, Acharya invoked Lord Shiva. The Lord sent his messengers to bring Aryamba to Shiva Loka. But Aryamba was frightened at the sight of the terrible-looking messengers, who were adorned with snakes and tridents. She said, “Sankara! How terrible they look! I will not go with them”.
Acharya then meditated on Narayana, and the Lord, holding the conch, discuss, mace and lotus in his hands, appeared before Aryamba, Very happy at this sight of her beloved deity, Aryamba blessed her son profusely.
By then, the messengers of Sri Vishnu had also appeared there in a beautiful flying chariot. It was as if Aryamba’s house had been transformed into Vaikuntha. Then the messengers took her soul up on the flying chariot to Vishnu Loka. Aryamba thus reached the lotus feet of the Lord.
The Acharya considered himself blessed at being able to be present near her in her last moment and provide for her salvation by making possible, the sight of her cherished God.
Mean wile Acharya Written Maathru Panchakam about Mother.
In Our Shastras, MOTHER has been assigned a place even above that of Gods. A Sanyasi who has renounced the world, is permitted to lay Prostrate before his mother.
There is no Mantra superior to Gayathri, and no God above the Mother.
Acharya’s devotion to his mother had arisen from the Brahman consciousness, mingled with Bhakti.
He remembered his promise to his mother and started preparing for her funeral rites. All the villagers had assembled by then. The Acharya said, “I will perform her funeral rites. Even though it is not proper for a monk, it is my duty and desire that I shall perform her final rites”.
The villagers called him a cheat and a hypocrite. They said, “You, being a monk, have no relationship with anyone. You have no right to perform the funeral rites of your mother. We will never allow you to do that”.
The illiterate villagers would not accept the point made by the Universal Teacher, Jagatguru Sri Sankaracharya.
They left the place in anger and banned anyone from helping the Acharya in performing the funeral rites. The Acharya was left alone with the body of his other.
Acharya was and is, the Guru for the entire universe. It seems, even Gnanis, who have corrected the ways of life of many of their opponents, are made to face their failures in some way or the other, in their own life time! Does this resemble the current situation?
The Acharya carried his mother’s body with great difficulty. No Mantras, no cries, no traditions, no water, no fire….. Everything was Sankara, Sankara, Sankara…..
How far could He carry? Only till the garden yard behind the house. And placed her body there. He looked up. He got His voice back: “ Hey Agni Bhagwan! Till now, as per household Dharma, I have not offered you ghee or wood. But now I am offering you the more sacred body of my mother. Please take her!” The fire engulfed her body immediately. Her body went back to the place where it belonged.
King Rajashekhara, who had met Acharya when the Acharya was eight years old, heard about His visit to Kaladi. There had been a significant deterioration of social life and the king was thinking of a social reform. The arrival of the Acharya provided the right opportunity for him. He decided to institute social reform under the Acharya’s instructions and guidance.
The King met the Acharya and briefed him about his plan. Agreeing to the king’s suggestion, the Acharya said: “Very well, I shall draft a brief code. You should discuss its good and bad points with the scholars here and then institute it. This will be conducive to the welfare of the people”.
Soon, a book incorporating sixty four edicts was written. The king was very happy and read it many times. The book was given the title, Sankara Smriti, ‘the code of Sankara’.
The king convened a meeting of scholars to discuss the merits and demerits of the code. The Acharya also attended the meeting. The scholars said that the principles put forth by the Acharya were against the scriptures and were harmful to the society. During the debate that followed, the scholars were gradually silenced by the super-human scholarship and divine brilliance of the Acharya. But they refused to admit defeat.
They took recourse to a novel idea to have their way. At two places, separated by nearly fifty miles, they arranged for two meetings on the same day and at the same time. The delegates at both the meetings separately informed the king that they were challenging the Acharya for a debate. If he could defeat them in debate, they would accept his code.
The Acharya agreed.
On the appointed day, at a meeting held under the chairmanship of the king, the Acharya silenced all the Scholars by giving proper replies to the hundreds of questions raised by them. It was clearly established that the code formulated by him was in conformity with the scriptures including the Vedas and Puranas.
The Scholars were astonished at the numerous quotations from the scriptures cited by the Acharya, who could easily retain in memory whatever he had once heard or read, correctly reproducing it ever afterwards. They were compelled to admit defeat, but they still hoped that the deliberation of the other meeting would be favorable to them. For, the Acharya was engaged in debate with them and had no chance of being present at the other meeting.
Meanwhile, Acharya multiplied himself by his divine powers and at the appointed hour was present at the other meeting also. Answering all the queries of the Scholars and clarifying all doubts, he silenced them. Though they admitted their defeat, they were happy that the Acharya had lost since he could not have been present at the other meeting.
But when the both the meetings came to be known, all were surprised. Bowing down before the young Acharya of such supernatural powers, the Scholars accepted the code laid down by the Acharya and agreed to implement it in the society.
King Rajashekhara became an ardent admirer and follower of the Acharya. One day Acharya asked the King how his literary works were progressing and if he had written any new books. The king sighed and said: “No sir, I have given it up now. It is a sad story. The three plays that I read out to you long ago, have been destroyed by fire. I have been so grieved by this that I never felt like writing any new plays”.
Sympathising with him for this loss, the Acharys said: “I understand your feelings. Long time ago, you had read out the plays to me. I liked them so much that I still remember the contents of all the three books, from beginning till end. I shall dictate from my memory and you may have them written down and thus recover the texts”.
The king and his men took down the Acharya’s dictation of the three plays. Reading the books, the king found that the Acharya had dictated the very same words that he had written. He bowed down at the Acharya’s feet again and again.
It was Ekadasi, the auspicious day of the month of Vrishchikam when Lord Krishna imparted the Gita to Arjuna. The Acharya wanted to get back to Sringeri and He invoked his super natural powers to fly in space.
While above Guruvayur, he saw the Siveli procession of the Lord Krishna on the northern side of the Nadapandal of the temple. He felt sorry for the crowd that did not know about the Brahman in the self, and were rushing to see an image outside of the self! THUD! The next second, He came crashing down in front of the Lord!
The Acharya soon recovered and saw the Lord in all his royalty. Realising the cause of his fall, the Acharya prostrated before the Lord and begged for forgiveness. The Lord told him that temple worship, repetition of Lord’s name and listening to religious discourses were ways of expressing devotion and were dear to him.
The small opening in the roof over the North- West courtyard in the Guruvayur Temple is in commemoration of this event.
The Acharya chanted 8 slokas in praise of Govinda, known as Govinda Ashtakam.
He formulated the elaborate puja routines at the temple. He said that on Ekadesi day, there should be a grand festival with dawn to dusk worship. Even today, the system of daily rites at the temple is practiced in accordance with the directions given by Sri Sankaracharya.
He also ordained the Guruvayurappans and Krishnans of the future to be at least a squirrel during the Campaign for Dharma!
While at at Sringeri, the Acharya had requested Sureshwara to write the Vartika (explanatory notes) on the commentary of Brahma sutra Bhashya.
Padmapada and the other disciples knew that Sureshwara was an expert in the Mimamsa system and a ‘convert’ to Advaita. . They thought that he would establish the superiority of the Mimamsa system and distort the significance of Acharya’s commentaries. Also, Sureshwara took up sanyas after being a grihasta while all other disciples were brahmacharis. As a result of these issues, there was an uncomfortable atmosphere (politics).
The Acharya noticed this and asked Sureshwara to discontinue the work and instead, write on Advaita Vedanta. He requested Padmapada to write the explanatory notes, what He had given to Sureshwara earlier.
Sureshwara wrote an authoritative philosophical work on the Brahman and the self. Acharya was delighted to read it. Sureshwara’s deep knowledge of Advaita, profound scholarship, wonderful style of writing, his capacity to use sentences appropriate to the meaning, his demolition of the views of the opponents with irrefutable logic, and the great force with which he established his conclusions impressed the Acharya very much.
The other disciples also appreciated the work. No one, including Padmapada had any doubts about Sureshwara’s scholarship or his devotion to Advaita Vedanta.
Padmapada had not completed his work and he read out to the Acharya whatever he had written till then. The Acharya praised the efforts and named the collection of notes as Vijayadindima and blessed him to complete the work.
Meanwhile, the incident of stopping Sureshwara’s work had made Padmapada feel very guilty. As an atonement for his sin, he, along with a few other disciples set out for Holy Rameswaram, after getting the blessings from his Guru. By then, he had more or less completed Vijayadindima.
On the way, he visited his maternal uncle in Srirangam. Padmapada told his uncle about his Guru and engaged in a discussion of the scriptures with him. The uncle was himself vastly learned and was the follower of the Dvaita or dualistic school.
Padmapada’s reasoning and logic were so good that his uncle was not able to hold on to his own for long. The Uncle requested Padmapada to leave his book, Vijayadindima with him so that he would read and understand Advaita fully. He promised to give it back to Padmapada on his return from Rameswaram.
Padmapada along with the other disciples left for Rameswaram.
The wicked Uncle did not have the intellectual power to refute the views put down in the book through debate. He realised that the publication of this would mean a strong attack on Dvaita and he decided to destroy the book. He wanted to set fire to the book, but did not want Padmapada to know about it. Wicked people could only think of wicked ways! He kept the Vijayadindima inside his house and set fire to the house! Vijayadindima was totally destroyed.
On his return, Padmapada heard about the fire and the destruction of Vijayadindima. He felt shocked. His guilt feeling had escalated and he left that place to get back to the Acharya.
Padmapada narrated to the Acharya about his trip and the destruction of Vijayadindima. The Acharya, comforting his disciple, said: “Do not indulge in futile grief. No one can escape the bitter consequences of past karmas. It is much better to patiently bear the pain that cannot be cured. There is nothing to grieve over the destruction of your works. You had read out to me the explanatory notes on the first five sutras. I still remember them fully. I will dictate from my memory and you may take it down”.
Padmapada wrote the notes on the five sutras from Acharya’s dictation. (Pancha Paadika)
His mind was then calm and the mental and physical exhaustion were totally removed. He was purified in spirit and in body.
Acharya and His four distinguished disciples, Sureshwara, Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Totakacharya and a number of His devotees continued the Digvijaya yatra towards the south.
The entourage reached Chidambaram.
Chidambaram is associated with Nataraja, or Shiva in his Ananda Tandava pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss).
The idol of Nataraja is enshrined in the Chit sabha. Behind this idol, is a black screen, which is considered to cover the Akash Linga. There is no Linga, but we are made to believe that there is an invisible Linga, with golden vilva garlands. This is to stress the belief that there is everything in nothing. Shiva is worshipped in the “formless form” of the Chidambara Rahasiyam ( Secret of Chidambaram). There are five silver plated steps to reach the Chit Sabha, representing the Panchakshara mantram – Na-ma-si-va-ya.
The Acharya worshiped Lord Shiva there. He was supposed to have learnt the secret of shri-yantra and shri-chakra meditation in this temple. While He was meditating, He saw in his Gnanadrishti, a saguna-nirguna spadika linga to be installed by Him there at a later date. (The Saguna Brahman is as it were, the Ocean of Forms; and that which is free from illusion is called Nirguna Brahman.)
Acharya then visited another great temple at Thiruvidaimarudur, in Thanjore district.
The name of the Linga at Thiruvidaimarudur is “Mahalingam”. It is believed that this lingam here is in between two other lingams-Mallikarjuna and Putarjuna, and hence it is also known by the name Madhyarjuna.
Acharya won over many scholars in Thiruvidaimarudur debating on Advaita philosophy. At the end of the debate, the Acharya asked them to enter the temple. As they reached the Sanctum Santorum of the temple, there was a loud voice saying “Satyam is Advaita”. This was repeated thrice, and there was a hand that came out of the Linga and conformed the truth. The scholars acknowledged the principle of Advaita and accepted Sri Sankaracharya as their Guru.
Sri Sankaracharya then visited Thiruvanaikaval, near Tiruchirapalli.
The temple is named after the elephant which is believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva here. Installed under an ancient Jambu tree, the linga is partially submerged by water and meant to represent God incarnate as water.
In this temple, the Goddess Akhilandeswari was having fierce power and people who went to have her darshan could not stand her fierceness. The Acharya created two sets of earrings called Tatankam and he presented these to the Goddess. The fierceness of the deity reduced.
The Acharya worshiped Sri JampuKeswarar and Sri Akhilandeswari. Then He went to Srirangam, nearby.
Srirangam has not less than 22 gopurams, one of which is 236 feet high stupendous thirteen tierd Rajagopuram, the tallest in India. The temple lies on an islet, formed by the twin rivers Kaveri and Kollidam.
It is believed that Sri Sankaracharya installed at this temple, a Yantra called Janakarshana Yantra to attract pilgrims.
Sri Sankaracharya stayed and prayed at Srirangam for some days and conducted Advaita discourses before He moved on further south.
Sri Sankaracharya and His disciples reached Madurai, after visiting many temples along their way from Srirangam.
The sprawling Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple in Madurai is being considered as one of the world’s wonders. The Acharya worshiped Meenakshi and composed Meenakshi Pancharatnam and Meenakshi stotram here. ……
From Madurai, Sri Sankaracharya and the group left for Thiruvananthapuram. On the way, they visited temples and met people and propagated the Advaita philosophy.
Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvanantahpuram is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is a very inspiring structure that has a 100 feet high ‘gopuram’.
The Acharya stayed at Thiruvananthapuram, worshiped the Lord and met various scholars and discussed Advaita philosophy with them.
He then left for the southern tip of India. But on the way, the Acharya fell ill.
Those who have traveled with our Acharyas know well that they ignore their health and continue their journey. May be, it has been the tradition since Adi Sankaracharya days.
Sri Sankaracharya continued his Yatra and reached Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India. The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean merge there.
A virgin. That’s the literal translation of Kanyakumari.
The temple, which overlooks the shoreline, is dedicated to Devi Kanya. She wears an exceptionally brilliant diamond on her nose ring and it shines out to the sea.
Acharya prostrated before the Devi and worshiped her.
From Kanyakumari, Acharya traveled north towards Tiruchendur. On the way, he stopped by Suchindram Temple. The temple was dedicated to a deity who was the representation of the combined forces of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma. (one of the few temples in India where the Trinities are worshipped ).
The Acharya, His disciples and the devotees then managed to reach Tiruchendur. The Acharya was still unwell.
Tiruchendur is one of the six Arupadai veedu shrines of Murugan. It is located on the seashore in the southern tip of India near Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari. While the other five padaiveedu shrines are situated on hills, this is situated on the seashore, bounded on the north and the east by the sea.
At Tiruchendur, Sri Sankaracharya meditated upon Lord Subramanya (Skanda, Muruga, Kumara, Vadivela, Saravana, Sakthi-velayuda, Soora-samhara) and composed Subrahmanya Bhujangam
In his composition, Acharya said: “Just by looking at your sacred ashes (vibhudhi), all ills will be cured”.
Acharya got cured of his illness when He sang His composition in front of the Lord Shanmuga.
The entourage then left northwards to Rameswaram.
Rameesa or Ram-Eswara (Lord of Rama) Temple in Rameswaram, the Varanasi of the south, is known for one of the twelve Jyothir Lingams.
Acharya had a holy dip at the conjunction of Mahodadhi(Bay of Bengal) and Ratnakara(Arabian Sea) . He had no trouble entering the Sanctum Sanctorum. He performed the Abhishekam to Lord Ramanatha with Ganga water, performed Vilva Puja and meditated on him. He also worshiped Sri Parvathavardhini.
Acharya visited Kothandaramsamy Temple where Vibhishna, Ravana’s brother surrendered to Rama. Then He visited Dhanushkodi and Ramasethu.
Acharya stayed at Ramaeswaram for two months. He established Rameswaram as the main Kshetra for the Sringeri math.
Acharya then started His Yatra towards North India in propagating Advaita philosophy. On His way to Tirupathi, He reached Srikalahasthi.
The temple at Srikalahasthi is dedicated to Siva and represents Vayu (air) of the Pancha Bhootha Stalams (temples celebrating Siva as the embodiment of the primary elements).
The presence of Vayu is evidenced by a continuous flame which flickers though there is no loophole for air to enter the temple. The shrine is 30 feet beneath ground level.
In ancient days, the Lingam is said to have been worshipped by a spider, a cobra and an elephant. The spider worshipped the Lord by spinning a web over the Lingam, the snake by placing a gem atop it, and the elephant by washing the Lingam with water from its trunk. All three beings are said to have attained Moksha, through their devotion to the Lord. Even the name bears their appellations: Sri (spider) Kala (cobra) Hasthi (elephant).
The Acharya worshiped the Lord at Srikalahasthi and left for Tirupathi.
The Acharya had the dharshan of Lord Venkatesa, the Nitya Kalyana Srinivasa. In the idol, He saw Kesava, Narayana, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudhana, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Rishikesa, Padmanabha and Damodhara. He saw all the Dasavatharams of the Lord. Suddenly. He saw a Lingam on the Lords head. Vishnu carrying Siva on His head! Oh, that was the golden crown, Sri Balaji was wearing. The Acharya worshiped the Lord and meditated on Him.
Sri Sankaracharya established the Dhanakarshana Yantra at this temple to attract riches.
The Acharya wrote all his experiences with Sri Venkatesa in beautiful verses in Sri Vishnu Padadi Kesanta Varnana Stortam.
Sri Sankaracharya, during his Yatra, preached the basics of God-worship. This was a special contribution of the Acharya to the Sanatana Vedic dharma. He said that there could be five basic forms of Brahman: Siva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganesha and Durga. One could practice to worship one of the Gods among the five as the chosen deity, according to his own tastes, Samskaras and qualifications. The other four could be worshipped as auxiliary deities.
The Acharya then proceeded inside Andhra Pradesh. Having travelled through many places in Andhra, the Acharya spread the knowledge of Brahman and Self.
Then, the Acharya arrived at the holy city of Puri in Orissa. He went into the famous Jagannath temple there, only to find the altar there empty.
He learnt that during oppression by Kalayavana ( who was determined to kill all Yadhavas including Krishna), priests of the place had buried the casket containing the wooden image of Lord Jagannath on the banks of Chilka lake. During a period of Buddhist attacks that followed, it got further moved elsewhere. Later, through the support of a King, a large number of Salagrama stones were installed and on that very altar, rites of worship were instituted.
The Acharya was filled with deep sorrow at the sight of the altar without the image of Jagannatha. He plunged into deep meditation on the banks of the lake. Then he told the people: “The casket containing the idols is buried on the eastern banks of the lake under the largest banyan tree. If only that spot is dug up, the casket will be recovered”.
The people dug up the indicated spot and, they found the casket! Everyone there celebrated. In great pomp and show, the casket was brought to Puri. On an auspicious day, amidst great joy and reverence, the image of the Lord was installed in the shrine of Jagannath.
The Acharya also established a math in Puri called Gobardhan Math to propagate Vaidika Dharma.
At the Jagannath temple, Acharya composed Jagannatha Ashtakam.
Acharya travelled westward towards Saurashtra. He reached the Godhavari River near Nasik in Maharashtra. He visited the Triamba-keswara temple.
Triambakeswara has one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. The extraordinary feature of the Jyotirlinga located here is that it has three faces embodying the Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
Tri means “three,” and Ambak means “eye,”; triambaka means the “three-eyed one”, who is Lord Siva.
Sri Acharya worshiped the Lord and meditated on Triambakheswar. He had detailed discussions with the people around and educated them on bhakti and proper worship.
Acharya then visited Pandharpur.
Pandharpur hosts the Vithoba temple, on the banks of the river. Vithoba is a form of Krishna; Vithoba’s consort is Rukmini.
The name Vithala means “One who stands on a brick”. In the temple, the Lord stands on the small stone-platform. The idol is 3-1/2 ft tall. Below the platform is inverted lotus.
Sri Sankaracharya described the Lord beautifully in His composition, Panduranga Ashtakam. He said the lord was ‘Parabrahma Lingam’.
Sri Acharya continued his journey to Ujjain, another Jyothirlinga Temple.
Ujjain is one of the celebrated Siva Kshetrams in the banks of the river Shipra, in Madhya Pradesh..
The Acharya, with his disciples, went to pay his respects to the deity. He worshipped Mahakaleshwara by composing a charming hymn in his glory. His attitude of overwhelming devotion touched the hearts of everyone. Seeing the unostentatious mode of life of the noble Acharya, the people were very curious to know more about Him and Advaita philosophy.
The Acharya then debated with famous scholars on Advaita philosophy and won them over.
Sri Acharya then continued his Yatra to Somanath.
Somanath is situated in the south coast of Saurashtra, in Gujarat. The temple is a splendorous beauty. The lord here is called Somanathar and Someshwar. This Siva Lingam is one among the Jothirlingams.
After worshipping the Lord Somanatha, Acharya and His disciples proceeded to Dwaraka.
The Acharya established a Peetham at Dwaraka. To provide Shakti to the Peetham, He made the Kalikadevi as the principal Devi and Siddeshwara as the Murthi. The Peetham was called Dwaraka Kalika Peetham.
After establishing the Math at Dwaraka, the Acharya stayed there for some more time and organized the worship-practices. He continued his journey to Rajastan and Sindh. He visited Pushkar in Rajastan, pilgrimage shrine dedicated to Brahma.
He passed through villages and towns and visited many shrines. He was greatly honoured everywhere. Followers of diverse views came to respect and follow Advaita after hearing the Acharya’s exposition of the Vedanta.
The Acharya passed through Purushapura (Peshawar) and Bahlika country (undivided Punjab), and reached the country of Gandhara (which was situated between the Kabul and Peshawar). Buddhism was very predominant there. The Acharya fulfilled the desire of people who sought truth by teaching them the Vedic path and asked them to follow the same.
The Acharya had great debates with Buddhist teachers. He proved that Lord Buddha’s spiritual practice was in accordance with the Vedic injunctions and that Buddha attained unqualified supreme knowledge. He had also preached the Vedic truth and the spiritual practice. It is because they had not properly understood the instructions and the life of Lord Buddha that Buddhists were preaching their theories against the Vedas.
The Acharya established his spiritual victory over Kamboja, on the banks of the Kabul river and many other regions situated north of Kashmir (POK). He crossed deserts, mighty peaks, and rivers and finally entered Kashmir.
Kashmir was an important center of Hindu culture at that time. Eminent scholars from all over India and spiritual aspirants lived there, adding to the glory of the place. Kashmir was also the abode of Sarada, the goddess of learning and fine arts.
Inside the Sarada Devi temple, there was a pedestal known as the Sarvajna Peetham, the seat of omniscience. The pedestal was guarded by famous scholars from all over India, but no one had occupied it. Any scholar who proved that he knew everything, would be allowed to ascend the pedestal. He would have to defeat scholars belonging to the different sects and faiths. The right to ascend the Peetham would be by the common consent of all the scholars.
Sri Acharya went to the place and expressed his desire to debate with the scholars there. Vaisesikas, Sankhya followers of Kapila, Logicians of the Gautama school, Meemamsakas, Buddhists, Jain scholars as well as other learned intellectuals engaged in debates with the Acharya on various subjects.
At the end of the debate, all the scholars unanimously said: “You are a limitless ocean of knowledge and learning. You know all the scriptures and all the branches of learning. We consider ourselves greatly honoured, even to be defeated by you. Please ascend the Peetam”.
Sri Acharya worshipped the Goddess Sarada with a rhythmic Sloka. At this moment, a voice from heaven was heard: ” Dear son Sankara, I am pleased with you. I bestow on you today the title, Sarvajna ( all-knowing). You alone are worthy of sitting upon this Peetham”. It was the divine voice of Sarada, the mother of the universe, reverberating through the temple.
Hearing the divine voice, the Acharya bowed down to the Devi. This unthinkable event also made everyone convinced of the living existence of the Goddess at that place. Taking his seat upon that Peetham, the Acharya satisfied everyone present by explaining the true nature of the great Goddess Parasakthi.
Staying in Kashmir for some days, the Acharya explained Advaita, Brahman and Self to the common public and formally initiated many worthy recipients into the worship of Goddess Sarada on the basis of Advaita Vedanta.
Sri Acharya then continued his Yatra to Srinagar.
In Srinagar, Acharya came to know that Tantrikaswere indulging in the practice of human sacrifice. He engaged the Tantrikas into a debate and explained to them the true significance of spirituality and scriptures and corrected them of their perverted notions. After a lot of discussions, they agreed with the Acharya and gave up the ritual of offering human sacrifice. They even destroyed the stone piece which was the altar for the offering of human sacrifice. The transformation brought by the Acharya was so thorough.
Gopaditya, the King of Kashmir named a hill after the Acharya and called it ‘Sankara Giri’. Nowadays, it is called ‘Takhti Sulaiman Hills’. He constructed a Sankaracharya temple on top of the hill.
Sri Sankaracharya continued His journey towards Kailash. He reached Haridwar.
Haridwar is the gateway to the Himalayas. Legend has it that Bhagiratha brought the Ganges into the earth, and into this point where his ancestors were burnt to ashes by the curse of the sage Kapila. Kapilastaan, a spot in Haridwar is pointed to as Kapila’s hermitage.
Acharya went to many temples and had discussions with the people there. He also laid down the procedures for the worship in many temples.
Acharya then reached Rishikesh. He went to Yagneshwara Mahavishnu Temple. When He went inside the sanctum, he found the pedestal barren and empty. There was no image of any God, and there was no arrangement of any kind for any worship. He found out that long ago, frightened by the troubles caused by bandits, the priests of the temple had concealed the image of Sri Vishnu somewhere in the bottom of the holy Ganga. But later, even in spite of extensive search to recover the idol, they could not locate it.
Acharya remained silent for a moment and then went into meditation. He located the idol in His deep trance. He walked a short distance along the bank of Ganga and pointing to a spot there asked the people to go below the river bed and get the idol out. To the great surprise of all, the image was found intact. On an auspicious day, Sri Sankaracharya got the image re-installed in the Sanctum Sanctorum with all the religious rites. He then resumed his pilgrimage and set off towards the holy Badrinath.
Close to Rishikesh, Acharya visited Lakshman Jhoola, where Vidura underwent his religious austerities. According to legends, Lakshmana, the brother of Lord Rama crossed this river with the help of a hanging bridge made of jute.
Then He reached Vyasashrama and Devaprayaga. At this place, Acharya worshiped at the temples of Ganesa, Sri Rama and Sita, and Hara and Parvati.
Sri Shankaracharya and his disciples arrived at Badrinath. On two sides of the region, Nara and Narayana, the two snow-covered mountain peaks, as white as foam, stood aloft in noble grandeur proclaiming the glory of that ancient past. Close by, the river Alakananda flowed in its own majestic course. Just by the side of the temple of Narayana were hot springs. Acharya and his disciples bathed in the hot springs and went to the shrine of Badrinarayana. But the four-armed idol of Badari Narayana was not to be seen in the shrine. In the place o that idol, they were worshipping a Salagrama stone.
As in another temple, here too, the image was hidden by the forefathers of the priests to save it from the bandits. But later on, in spite of intensive search, the image could not be recovered. Therefore, all along, the Lord has been worshipped in the symbol of the sacred Salagrama stone. Hearing this, Acharya became immersed in deep thought, and remained absorbed in meditation. On returning to normal consciousness, he proceeded towards the Naradakund springs. Acharya started getting down into the waters of the spring. The under-current there would draw anyone into the deep bottom of the river. A number of people had lost their lives by getting into these springs. But Acharya came out holding in his hands, a four armed image of Narayana.
On bringing it out of the water and closely inspecting it, he felt that it did not have any distinctive features to indicate it was a divine idol. He put it back into the water and again dived into the Narayankund and again found an idol but did not find anything distinctive about it. He dived the third time and again found an idol and just when he was about to put it back into the water a voice stopped him, which said: “I am Badrinath and have been consecrated by Brahma once before. Give this divine idol its rightful place”.
The Acharya bowed before the idol, and in accordance with the prescribed modes, did the ceremonial bathing of the image, and with his own holy hands installed the Narayana idol in the shrine. Acahrya composed and recited Shat-Padi stotram here in praise of the Lord.
An installation by Acharya meant the transmission of a powerful spiritual current whose efficacy would remain unimpaired for many a millennium. The Acharya entrusted the responsibility of worshipping the installed deity to a worthy group of his followers, after laying down the procedures for the worship.
Shri Sankaracharya established Joshimath, one of the five Mathams. Located at a distance of 14 kms from Helang enroute to Badri, Acharya got enlightenment at this place and authored Sri Sankara Bhashyam. Acharya constructed a temple for Lord Narasimha and consecrated the temple.
Acharya visited one after another, the shrines of Vishnu Prayaga, Brahmakunda, Vishnukunda, Sivakunda and many other holy places and reached Kedarnath.
Sri Sankaracharya worshipped Lord Siva and formulated the worship protocols of the Lord for the future generations to follow.
On the background to this temple were fully snow-clad peaks. These range of mountains were the beginning of Himalayas, where Acharya identified the Kailas.
Sri Sankaracharya identified the path towards Kailas, the Heaven. He slowly and anxiously started his trek towards the earthly Heaven, Mount Meru, the Kailas.
Sri Sankaracharya reached Kailasa, Siva’s abode, the Heaven.
On Kailasa Peak, in a beautiful garden strewn with various radiant jewels and garlands, scattered with different sorts of trees and creepers, filled with various beautiful flowers, in a pedestal adorned with various pure gems, in front of which were the attendants softly murmuring and conversing, were seated Bhagavan Mahadeva, and his consort, Uma Devi. They were flanked by Brahma, Indra and Vishnu, Jupiter (Guru) and Venus (Shukra) and hosts of Brahmins, Rishis, Siddhas and Gandharvas. The Lord was wearing a crescent moon and holding a trident, one hand giving boons, the other dispelling fear. The Devi was adorned with ornaments and looking very beautiful and peaceful.
Sri Acharya had the darshan of Lord Parameswara and Devi Parvathi. He saw the Lord and Devi together, in Ardhanareeswar form as well.
Acharya adored Devi and Parameswara by singing hymns, “Sivapadadi-kesanta stotram” and “Sivakesadi-padanta stotram”.
It had been a poetic-practice to describe Goddesses starting from head and ending with the lotus feet and male Gods from the feet ending with their head. Sri Acharya was a true and great poet and was truly blessed by Parvathi and Parameswara to enable Him sing such beatutiful hymns.
Uma Devi and Maheswara looked at Acharya, who gave the Universe, the Amrut of Advaita from the Ocean of Vedanta. Immensely pleased with Acharya’s prayers, the Lord blessed Him and presented him with five sphatika (crystal) Lingams and instructed Him to arrange for the worship of the Lingams for the sake of the welfare of the universe. The Lord also gave instructions on the mode of worship of these Lingams. Lord Parameswara also handed over to the Acharya, the palm-leaf manuscript of Soundarya Lahari, which was Siva’s own hymn in praise of the Parasakthi.
Sri Adi Sankaracharya bowed to the Lord and Devi and sang Uma Maheswara Stotram before taking leave of them.
There is a saying, “God gives a boon; but there is a Nandhi in between”. Nandhikeswaran thought that Kailas was being looted, since Acharya was taking away the Pancha Lingams and Soundaryalahiri! He jumped on to Achrya to snatch them away. He got the last 51 stanzas of Soundaryalahiri and started reading them. He got so involved in the beauty of it that he forgot about Acharya, the rest of the Soundaryalahiri and the Pancha Lingams. Sri Sankaracharya returned with the first 49 stanzas and the Lingams.
Acharya was sad that he lost half of Soundaryalahiri. In his prayers, Uma Devi blessed Him to write the balance and complete it Himself!
The five lingams Acharya obtained from Siva, were Mukti-Lingam, Vara-Lingam Moksha-Lingam, Bhoga-Lingam and Yoga-Lingam.
The Mukti-Lingam was consecrated at Badhrinath. The Vara-Lingam was consecrated at Neelakantha Kshetram in Nepal. In Chidambaram in south India, Acharya consecrated the Moksha-Lingam. On an earlier visit to Chidambaram, Acharya saw in his Gnanadrishti, the sphatika lingam At Sringeri, Acharya consecrated the Bhoga-Lingam. Yoga-Lingam was consecrated at Kanchipuram.
Sri Adi Sankaracharya left Kailas and proceeded towards Nepal.
Sri Sankaracharya arrived at Nepal from Kailas, The Nepal king received Him and the disciples with due honour and respect. Blessing the king and giving him some advice, the Acharya went to the temple of Sri Pashupatinath.
At the temple, worship of Pashupathinath had been stopped because of Buddhist dominance. Even the holiness of the shrine was affected. Religious opponents had defiled the temple by throwing all rubbish inside.
At the direction of the Acharya, the disciples cleaned the temple and restored the sanctity of the place.
He lived in the temple courtyard for some days and ensured the glory of the temple was restored. He also instituted the rites of worship. He began to give discourses to the people. The Buddhist intruders left Nepal without facing Him.
On an auspicious day, He consecrated the Vara-Lingam in the temple. Soon, entire Nepal witnessed a resurgence of spiritual feeling at the reawakening of the Sanatana Vaidika Dharma. The Acharya instructed the people on the daily duties and the worship of the deities. The king also showed an interest in these auspicious activities. Within a short time, Veda and Vedanta spread all over Nepal. Centers of study on the Vedas and the scriptures were set up in different places of Nepal.
Acharya also defeated the evil powers of the Vamacharis. He was unscathed and overcame hundreds of obstacles and spread the glory of Vedanta all over Nepal.
Sri Sankaracharya returned to Prayag once again. This was the place where He met Kumarila Bhatta. He worshipped the Triveni, the three-river-confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers. Staying there for a while, He witnessed the Kumbh Mela. During Kumbh Mela, He saw a lot of Sanyasins of various divisions and sects from all over Bharath assemble there. He met many of them in groups and spoke to them about Sanatana Vaidika Dharma and Advaita philosophy. He listened to them and answered their queries and established a fine rapport with them.
He designed ten divisions for the Sanyasins and established their rituals and rites and protocols. The Dasanamis, as they are called, were given individual names:
He ensured that all the Sadhus and Sanyasins belonged to one of the above ten groups and at the same time, work together in unison. Thus, Sri Sankaracharya was the originator of the re-engineering process!
After completing the re-engineering process, Sri Sankaracharya proceeded to Kasi, for another visit.
Sri Sankaracharya visited Kasi, the Mokshapuri again and visited the Viswanath temple. He worshipped the Lord and offered His prayers.
Here, Sri Sankaracharya composed and sang “Bhaja Govindam”.
The first verse goes like this…
Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam
Govindam Bhaja mudhamathe
Na hi na hi Rakshati Dhukrinkarane
Seek Govinda! Seek Govinda! Seek Govinda! Oh ignoramus, at the time of death, the rules of grammer, which you are trying to cram and master, will not be able to rescue you at all.
His indirect message to the non-believers, materialists and wholly-worldly minded is “All secular knowledge and earthly acquisitions which you acquire now will not help you at the time of death. Only seeking the Lord will give peace”.
In Bajha govindam, Acharya eulogises His Guru, Sri Govinda Bagavatpada, in the name of Lord Govinda.
The Acharya composed Kasi Panchakam and Annapurna Stotram at Kasi.
From Kasi, the Acharya reached Gaya.
Gaya was a great pilgrimage center for offering oblations to forefathers. People came to offer oblations at the lotus feet of Sri Vishnu for the sake of deliverance of their departed ancestors.
At the place where Lord Buddha attained Buddha-hood, there was a temple which housed an image of Buddha. It was a very sacred pilgrimage center for the Buddhists. Earlier, Acharya had declared Lord Buddha to be one of the ten incarnations of Sri Vishnu in his Dasavatara Stotra. According to Acharya, it was only through spiritual practices following the Vedic path that Lord Buddha had attained the state of realization.
The nirvana that he spoke of, was not an empty state of mind but a state full of joy. Nirvana in the Buddhist theory as preached originally by Lord Buddha, and Moksha according to Vedanta, are synonymous. However, the later followers of Buddhism misinterpreted the teachings and gave a different account of Buddha’s doctrine. The Acharya clarified this point and reformed many Buddhist sects.
As a result of the Acharya’s acceptance of Buddha as an incarnation of Sri Narayana, the foundations of the Buddhist religion were weakened. The people of Gaya instituted the worship of Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Sri Vishnu. House-holder Buddhists of different social levels devoted themselves to the worship of Buddha as an incarnation of Sri Vishnu. Within a short time in places around Gaya and also in far away places, people in large numbers found refuge in Vaidika Dharma.
After leaving Gaya, the Acharya explained and preached the Vedic faith in different places of Bengal. Within a short period, the Sanatana Vaidika Dharma came to be instituted at different levels of the society.
At that time, Buddhist and Hindu Tantrikas were very powerful all over Bengal. Very few people knew about the existence of the Vedas. As a result of the Acharya’s initiation, Hindu scriptures began to be read and taught in different parts of Bengal. In some places, the house-holder disciples accompanying the Acharya had images of Siva and Kali installed and encouraged their worship. Scholars were fascinated to hear the exposition of the scriptures and the explanation of the greatness of the Vedas from the Acharya. Sri Sankaracharya was accepted as the visible living incarnation of the Lord by all.
After completing the work of religious reform in Bengal, the Acharya proceeded towards Assam. He faced a major crisis there.
Sri Sankaracharya reached Assam with His disciples and a large number of devotees. The ruler of Assam greeted and received the Acharya with great respect. Blessing the king, the Acharya, accompanied by the king, arrived at the foot of the Kamagiri hill, the seat of the Peetha of Goddess Kamakhya, famed in the Puranas. The Acharya ascended the hill and performed the rites of worship at the shrine of Parasakhti.
The Acharya and his disciples gave instructions in Vedic dharma to the people of Assam.
Those days, all over Assam, the tantriks were predominant. They were accomplished in charms and spells and were skilled in the rites of destruction, mental distraction and bringing the opponent into subjugation.
Sri Sankaracharya worked on these tantriks who practiced black magic and brought them down to give up those practices for mean attainments. Advaita became the only goal of Tantra. He educated them on the practices of Tantra to be followed without desires and in complete devotion to Parasakthi. After reforming the Tantriks, the Acharya initiated them to the Dakshinachara mode of worship of the Goddess. As a result, people became attached to Vedic dharma and got themselves engaged in the worship of the Divine mother.
A few tantriks were opposed to the transformation of their practices brought in by the Acharya. “Who is he to change our tantrik practices?” was the refrain.They believed that Devi Kamakhya was the God of Tantrik practices and wondered how she kept quiet over those changes. They invoked a black magic called “Abhichaara” on the Acharya.
The effect of the black magic affected Acharya’s health slowly. But He did not bother and continued his discourses and meeting people. His condition deteriorated to such an extent that all the disciples were worried.
Padmapada, the ever agile disciple, invoked Sri Lakshmi Narasimha in his prayers and the Lord as promised earlier, appeared before him and told Padmapada how to dispel the black magic spell on the Acharya.
Accordingly, Padmapada, who had studied the tantrik practices, invoked a counter black magic spell. This not only cured Acharya, but also killed those Tantriks who had invoked the Abhichaara.
This news spread like wild fire and everyone came to know about the Acharya and His disciples. They all accepted the supremacy of Advaita system. Sri Sankaracharya again pointed out to them, the deficiencies in their Tantrik worship and suggested remidial measures and reformed their traditions.
The Acharya then toured North Bengal again. He met Murari Mishra and Dharma Gupta, the renowned scholars of Mimamsa philosophy. They learnt that Mandana, the greatest scholar of Mimamsa was accompanying the Acharya as His disciple. And they gave up all hopes of a debate. The Acharya explained to them the points of difference between the conclusions of Vedanta and those of Mimamsa. They realised the correctness of the Acharya’s teaching and became a disciple of Advaita Vedanta.
The Acharya and his disciples arrived at the banks of the Ganga.
One evening, the Acharya was sitting all by himself in meditation at a lonely spot, when he saw a Yogi of great brilliance and radiant presence appear in front of him. The whole place was enveloped in the light that radiated from his being. As soon as that figure of wonderful appearance, covered all over with matted locks came to him, the Acharya left his seat and bowing down at the feet of the serene being with folded hands, requested him to be seated.
The august person cast a pleasant look at the Acharya and blessed him. Then he said in a voice full of grace and charm, “Dearest son, you have completely attained supreme knowledge. Like a boat helping one across a river, you have helped millions across the oceans of ignorance and duality. Indeed you have brought me great joy. I am Gaudapada, your Parama Guru. I have come here to bless you”.
With his palms joined above his head, the Acharya said, “O great Guru, ocean of kindness, since you have glanced upon this servant with favor, your blessings will give me strength. The sight of your holy presence itself is a great fortune”.
Pleased at the words of the Acharya, full of humility, Sri Gaudapada blessed the Acharya. Later in the evening, the Acharya gave an account of His interaction with Parama Guru to his disciples, with great joy.
The Acharya visited Ayodhya, the birth place of Rama. He went to Badrinath and consecrated the sphatika Lingam (Mukti-Lingam) from Kailas, at the Joshi mutt. He visited Kedarnath again and then many places in central Bharat and reached Sringeri.
At Sringeri, Sri Sankaracharya consecrated the sphatika Lingam (Bhoga-Lingam). He reviewed the Mutt establishment and then continued His yatra towards south and reached Thiruvotriyur.
Sri Sankaracharya visited the Tiruvotriyur temple and put an end to the ritual of offering sacrifices at the Amman shrine. He incepted a Sri Chakra and reduced the power of Devi and converted the fierce form of Devi into a graceful, beneficent form.
He also appointed a Kerala Namboodri to perform puja at this shrine. Sri Sankaracharya composed the Tripurasundari Ashtakam here, comprising of 8 slokas.
When Sri Sankaracharya arrived in Mangadu from Tiruvotriyur, the people requested him to help them by putting off the heat emanating from the homa kundams. The Acharya installed and consecrated an Ardha-Meru Sri Chakra in front of the Goddess and thus nullified the heat.
The Sri Chakra has the shape of a koorma (tortoise) as its base. There are three steps over the base. A 16 petal-lotus and a yantra have been installed over the steps. The Sri Chakra has 43 triangles, representing 43 devatas. It is made of eight different herbs.
Sri Adi Sankaracharya left Mangadu and proceeded to Kanchi.
King Rajasena, the ruler of Kanchi, met Sri Sankaracharya at the outskirts of the city and offered a fitting welcome to Him. The local scholars also expressed their deep respect for the Acharya. Acharya entered the city and worshipped Shri Kamakshi, Sri Ekamranatha and Sri Varadaraja at their respective shrines. Then He stayed at the Muktimandapa, in the temple of Viswesvara on the bank of the Sarvatheertham tank, for some time.
As per the Acharya’s instructions and suggestions, the king remodeled the city of Kanchi in the form of a Srichakra. He reconstructed the temples of Ekamranatha, Kamakshi and Varadaraja in a very short time. The great twin-city was rebuit, Siva-Kanchi with Ekamranatha temple and Vishnu-Kanchi with Varadaraja Perumal temple. The Kamakshi temple was in the center. Possibly, it was done so, so that during the festival times, the idols of Ekamranatha and Varadaraja would go around (pradakshana) Kamakshi! Also, the sanctum of the Kamakshi temple formed the bindu of the Sri Chakra.
After the Kanchi City was remodeled by King Rajasena as per the instructions of Sri Sankaracharya, The Acharya consecrated the Prithivi Lingam, Sri Ekamranatha in Siva-Kanchi and Sri Varadaraja in Vishnu-Kanchi. He also made arrangements for proper form of worship in the temples.
Sri Sankaracharya visited the Temple of Sri Kamakshi. He worshiped her and consecrated a Sri Chakra in front of her.
Upon establishing the Sri Chakra, Sri Sankaracharya morphed her from Ugra Swaroopini to Shanta Swaroopini (form of peace and tranquility). He prayed to Her and received an assurance that she would not leave the temple and wander into the city without his express permission. The curfew worked and people were happy. This was one of the very few curfews imposed by man on the Goddess.
Sri Sankaracharya established a Sarvajna Peetham at Kanchi.
To show the world Acharya’s profound knowledge and exposition, Sri Saraswathi Devi appeared and debated with the Acharya. Once He won, she named Him ‘Saraswathi’!
Sri Sankaracharya then ascended the throne of omniscience, Sarvajna Peetham, before a large assembly of scholars, Pandits, Rulers and Intelligentsia from around Bharat. They looked at His radiance and His simplicity and humility and in one voice, roared: Sarvajna Peetham was established for the Intelligentsia, scholars and the Wise. But, how about the common man? How could Sri Sankaracharya attract the general public, teach them Sanathana Dharma and the way of life? Sri Sankaracharya decided to establish a Peetham to attract all others.
To represent the four Vedas, Sri Acharya established the first four Mathams in the four directions of Bharat. To glorify OM, the Pranava Mantra, which is a part of all the Vedas, He established the Kamakoti Peetham.
Sri Sankaracharya was the first Peetaathipathi – Head – of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He assumed the Head as “Indra Saraswathi”. While the name Saraswathi was given by Devi Saraswathi herself, the name Indra was given to the Acharya by the Lord Indra himself.
Earlier, Sureswara was down with fever. The Acharya invoked Ashwini Devaas to cure him. They were the official ‘doctors’ of King Indra. They came to cure Sureswara without taking permission of Indra. Indra got wild when he found out that they had gone out without his permission. He invoked ‘Vajrayutham’ (thunderbolt weapon) to kill them. Sri Acharya, with all his powers, stopped the Vajrayutham from nearing the Ashwini Devaas. Hearing the power of Acharya, Indra came down and bowed to the Acharya and gave the title ‘Indra’ to the Acharya.
Sri Sankaracharya consecrated the Yoga Lingam (Sri Chandramouleeswara) obtained from Kailas, at the Kamakoti Peetham with Sri Maha Tripurasunadri as the Sakhti. Since one temple is not enough for Chandramouleeswara, and he belongs to all places. Sri Sankaracharya commanded His successors at Kanchi to take Chandramouleeswara from place to place and worship Him with all the honours.
Sri Sankaracharya instituted the proper form of worship of Sri Maha Tripurasunadri and Sri Chandramouleeswara. All the punnyaathmaas (fortunate ones) watched Sri Acarya’s Bhakthi and his Puja rituals every day. Kanchi city was overwhelmed with Bhakti.
The Govardhana Peetham at Puri was made responsible for the Eastern Bharat. It represented Rig Veda, with Prajnanam Brahma (Supreme knowledge is brahman) as the Maha-vaakya. The Lord was Vishnu Jagannatha and His Sakhti, Vimala. The Thirtha was Mahodhadhi (Bay of Bengal). The title of the head was Vana or Aranya.
The Sarada Peetham at Sringeri was made responsible for the Southern Bharat. It represented Yajur Veda, with Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman) as the Maha-vaakya. The Lord was Chandramouleeswara and His Sakhti, Sarada. The Thirtha was Tungabhadra. The title of the head was Bharati, Saraswati and Puri.
The Kaalika Peetham at Dwaraka was made responsible for the Western Bharat. It represented Saama Veda, with Tat Tvam Asi (You are that Brahman) as the Maha-vaakya. The Lord was Siddhesvara and His Sakhti, Maha Kaali. The Thirtha was Gomati. The title of the head was Tirtha and Asrama.
The Jyotir Peetham at Badrinath was made responsible for the Northern Bharat. It represented Atharva Veda, with Ayam Aatma Brahma (This Self is Brahman) as the Maha-vaakya. The Lord was Narayana and His Sakhti, Puranagiri. The Thirtha was Alakhnanda. The title of the head was Giri and Parvata.
Sri Sankaracharya thus established very firmly, the paths of Bakthi, Karma and Jnana as per the Advaita Vedanta.
In a short span of thirty two years, the Acharya achieved the rarest union of Sage and Saint; of Philosopher and Devotee; of Mystic and Logician; of Original writer and Commentator; of Traditionalist and Innovator; of Establisher and Integrator; of total renunciation and Intense activity, all characterizing the loftiest man born in Bharat.
Sri Acharya was nearing His time to depart from this materialistic world. His actions and behaviour implied that he was very close to leaving His body.
One day Sri Sankaracharya is meditating in front of Sri Kamakshi, Many of His disciples are present and a large number of devotees have gathered.
All are hear the chanting of Upanishads, and the singing His praise by His disciples and devotees. Some group is singing bhajans:
Sri Sankaracharya opens His eyes and looks into Kamakshi’s eyes. She is ready to accept Him for one last time, and forever.
That time inside the Kamakshi Temple, the Sri Chakra was start sparkling. In the center of the Chakra is a Brahmasana Peetham. There the Lord, the Saantha Swaroopa, Kameswara is seated. On His left thigh is seated, the beautiful Kamakshi with blistering eyes.
Sri Sankaracharya slowly moves His lips and there we can hear…Tripurasundari Vedapada Stavam. How wonderfully He describes what He sees! (WHSIWYG – What He Sees Is What You Get).
Sri Sankaracharya is now getting up. He is going to cast off his gross, subtle and casual bodies one after another to attain Paramamukti, the final liberation. He is going to become one with Supreme Brahman, Sat-Chit-Ananda (existence-consciousness-Bliss).
Sri Sankaracharya adjusts his cloth around his head. He has started walking towards Sri Kamakshi in the Sanctum ….step by step.
The Jyoti is walking towards Parabrahmam…..One sees the Ekaroopini, Kamakshi throwing a very bright light…….The smaller Jyoti is slowly moving towards the brighter one.
Sri Sankaracharya jyoti has reached the Sanctum……and is getting merged with the brighter Jyoti of Sri Kamakashi.
His soul lives for ever. There is no death for the Aatma. His body had been dried up in the fire of wisdom.