Adi Shankaracharya was an 8th century Indian Hindu philosopher and theologian whose teaching had a profound influence on the development of Hinduism. Also known as Sri Adi Shankaracharya. He was a religious reformer who criticized the ritual oriented schools of Hinduism and purified the Vedic religious practices of religious rituals.
Adi Shankaracharya is most remembered for his remarkably reconstructed Hindu texts and his commentaries on Vedic doctrine. He was an accomplished spokesperson at the Advaita Vedanta School. Which refers to the belief that the true self, the soul, is the highest reality, similar to Brahman.
His education on philosophy has greatly influenced various sects of Hinduism and contributed to the development of modern Indian thought. He was born into a poor family in southern India, Adi Shankaracharya had a tendency towards spirituality and religion from a young age.
He mastered all the Vedas and the six Vedangas from his teacher and he traveled widely, spreading spiritual knowledge and the principles of Advaita Vedanta all around. Despite dying at the age of 32, he left an indelible mark on the development of Hinduism.
Adi Shankaracharya Early life
There are many inconsistencies regarding the year of his birth. However, mainstream scholars are of the opinion that he was born around 788. He was born into a poor Brahmin family in Kaldi, Chera Kingdom, present-day Kerala, India. His parents were Shivguru and Aryamba. His parents had no children for a long time and then prayed to Lord Shiva to give him a child as a blessing.
It is said that Aryamba saw Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva promised her that he would be her first child. Soon Aryamba gave birth to a son in the auspicious Abhijit Muhurta and under the constellation Ardhara. The boy’s name was Shankar. Shankaracharya proved to be a gifted child and acquired knowledge of all the Vedas and the six Vedangas from the local gurukula.
From a young age he was more interested in religion and spirituality, and abstained from worldly affairs. He wanted to become a monk (though his mother disapproved of this). She wanted him to marry and live the life of a house-holder.
Legend has it that once he went to bathe in the river, a crocodile caught his leg. Then he called his mother and said, Mother allow me to become a monk, otherwise the crocodile will kill them.
His mother agreed in fear of the crocodile, and the crocodile also left their feet. He came out of the river without any harm and left to renounce all his worldly attachments.
Beginning of Renunciation
He formally wanted to begin in the sacred order of renunciation and thus sought his teacher ( Guru ) to guide him in this direction. Swami met Govindapada Acharya at an ashram at Badrinath in the Himalayas. He narrated the story of his life to the Guru and requested him to accept himself as a student.
Swami Govindapada was very pleased with that young man and started the holy order of sannyasis. He then began to teach Sankara the philosophy of Advaita, which he himself learned from his mentor, Gaudapada Acharya. At the behest of his guru, Shankar went to Kashi and there he wrote his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita.
Some information about the later years of his life is unclear, although it is generally accepted that he traveled widely, participated in public philosophical debates with religious scholars, preaching his teachings to his disciples And established many “monasteries” (monasteries).
He is known as the founder of the Dashanani sect of Hindu monastery and the parent of the Smrita tradition. He organized a section of Ekandandi Saints under the four “Maths” (“Maths”) of Hindu monks, with headquarters at Dwarka in the west, Jagannath Puri in the east, Sringeri in the south and Badikesharam in the north. He then placed four of his principal disciples, Sureshwar Acharya, Padmapada, Hastamalka and Trotkacharya as the charge of the monastery.
He was a prolific writer and wrote many commentaries that are considered authentic by scholars. Some of them include the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Aitarya Upanishad, Taittariya Upanishad, Cana Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, and Mundaka Upanishad.
Adi Shankaracharya was the principal exponent of the Advaita Vedanta-interpretation, which reflects the belief that the true self, Atman, is a Brahman in the same way as the highest reality, He organized the works of the earlier philosophers and his teachings played an important role in the development of Hinduism for centuries.
Personal life and Death
Since Aadi Shankaracharya was the only child of his parents who were born after a long time, his mother was deeply involved with him. He feared that if his son became a monk, there would be no one left to perform the last rites upon his death.
Adi Shankaracharya promised his mother that despite being a sannyasin, when his last time comes, he will be cremated. He fulfilled the promise upon his death and was cremated despite having many difficulties in doing so.
He is believed to have died at the age of 32 in 820 at Kedarnath, a Hindu pilgrimage center in the Himalayas. However, some texts state the place of his death as Tamil Nadu or Kerala.