Adi Shankara (788 AD – 820 AD aged 32) – Hindu philosopher founder of Advaita philosophy

Adi Shankara (788 AD – 820 AD aged 32) born in Kaladi, Kerala, India was a Hindu philosopher consolidated the Advaita Vedanta. He died in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand.

Facts and biographysankaracharya-adi-advaita-philosophy-hinduism

  • His wrote commentories on Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita
  • Shankara criticised the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism. He states that Atman (Soul, Self) exists
  • Shankara travelled across the India to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers.
  • He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra
  • He has founded four mathas (“monasteries”), for revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta.
  • Shankara Vijayam – is biography of Adi Shankara’s life.
  • Śṛṅgeri Śāradā Pīṭha, maintains record of its Acharyas; starting with the third Acharya, from the 8th century to the present.
  • His father died while Shankara was very young. Shankara’s upanayanam, the initiation into vedic brahmacharya life was performed by his mother.
  • Shankara was attracted to the life of Sannyasa (hermit) from early childhood which his mother disapproved. Once Shankara at the age of eight going to a river with his mother, Sivataraka, to bathe, and where he is caught by a crocodile. Shankara called out to his mother to give him permission to become a Sannyasin or else the crocodile will kill him. The mother agrees, Shankara is freed and leaves his home for education.
  • Shankara considered the purity and steadiness of mind achieved in Yoga as an aid to gaining moksha
  • He placed great emphasis on the study of the Upanisads, emphasizing them as necessary and sufficient means to gain Self-liberating knowledge.
  • Sankara also emphasized the need for and the role of Guru (Acharya, teacher) for such knowledge.
  • He reaches a Saivite sanctuary along Narmada river and becomes the disciple Govinda Bhagavatpada.
  • Shankara studied the Vedas, Upanishads and Brahmasutra, discourages ritual worship such as oblations to Deva (God), because that assumes the Self within is different from the Brahman.
  • Encourages Ahimsa (non-injury, non-violence to others in body, mind and thoughts) and Niyamas.

Works

Adi Shankara’s works are the foundation of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism

  • Over 300 texts are attributed to his name, including commentaries (Bhāṣya), and one such commentary is on Brahma Sutra, original philosophical expositions (Prakaraṇa grantha) and poetry (Stotra).
  • His commentaries on ten Mukhya (principal) Upanishads are the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad, the Aitareya Upanishad, the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Kena Upanishad,[42] the Isha Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad, the Mundaka Upanishad, the Prashna Upanishad, and the Mandukya Upanishad.
  • Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita
  • His Vivarana/explanation on the commentary by Vedavyasa on Yogasutras and on Apastamba Dharma-sũtras (Adhyatama-patala-bhasya)
  • Stotra (poetic works): the Daksinamurti Stotra, the Bhajagovinda Stotra, the Sivanandalahari, the Charpata-panjarika, the Visnu-satpadi, the Harimide, the Dasa-shloki, and the Krishna-staka are most famous.
  • Authored Upadesasahasri, his most important original philosophical work.
  • Author of Vivekachūḍāmaṇi
  • Aparoksha Anubuti and Atmabodha, Sarva-darsana-siddhanta Sangraha
  • Gayatri-bhasya, Uttaragita, Siva-gita, Brahma-gita, Lalita-shasranama, Suta-samhita and Sandhya-bhasya.
  • Lalita-trisati-bhasya
  • Vishnu sahasranāma and the Sānatsujātiya,
  • Hastamalakiya-bhasya

Influence on Hinduism

Shankara has supreme status in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. He travelled all over India to help restore the study of the Vedas. His teachings and tradition form the basis of Smartism and have influenced Sant Mat lineages.

He introduced the Pañchāyatana form of worship, the simultaneous worship of five deities – Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Shankara explained that all deities were but different forms of the one Brahman, the invisible Supreme Being.

Mathas

Shankara, himself considered to be an incarnation of Shiva, established the Dashanami Sampradaya, organizing a section of the Ekadandi monks under an umbrella grouping of ten names.

Adi Sankara organised the Hindu monks of these ten sects or names under four Maṭhas  (monasteries), with the headquarters at Dwārakā in the West, Jagannatha Puri in the East, Sringeri in the South and Badrikashrama in the North. Each math was headed by one of his four main disciples, who each continues the Vedanta Sampradaya.

Advaita philosophy is non-sectarian, and it advocates worship of Siva and Vishnu equally with that of the other deities of Hinduism, like Sakti, Ganapati and others.

The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.

Four Maths to spread Advaita philosophy established continued in his tradition: Bharati (Sringeri), Sarasvati (Kanchi), Tirtha and Asramin (Dvaraka).

  • Disciples: Padmapada, Sureshvara, Tothaka, Chitsukha, Prthividhara, Chidvilasayati, Bodhendra, Brahmendra, Sadananda and others, who authored their own literature on Shankara and Advaita Vedanta.sankaracharya-adi-with-his-four-disciples
Shishya
(lineage)
Direction Maṭha Mahāvākya Veda Sampradaya Philosophy
Padmapāda East Govardhana Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman) Rig Veda Bhogavala  
Sureśwara South Sringeri Śārada Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman) Yajur Veda Bhūrivala Bharati
Hastāmalakāchārya West Dwāraka Tattvamasi (That thou art) Sama Veda Kitavala Tirtha and Asramin
Toṭakāchārya North Jyotirmaṭha Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman) Atharva Veda Nandavala  

Smarta Tradition

Shankara is regarded as the greatest teacher and reformer of the Smarta.

Shankara fostered a rapprochement between Advaita and smarta orthodoxy, which by his time had not only continued to defend the varnasramadharma theory as defining the path of karman, but had developed the practice of panchayatanapuja (“five-shrine worship”) as a solution to varied and conflicting devotional practices. Thus one could worship any one of five deities (Vishnu, Siva, Durga, Surya, Ganesa) as one’s istadevata (“deity of choice”).

Films

  • 1977 – Jagadguru Aadisankaran, made in Malayalam.
  • 1983 – Adi Shankaracharya made in Sanskrit language
  • 2013 – Sri Jagadguru Aadi Sankara – in Telugu Language

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