Shankara , also called Shankaracharya , born ? He wrote commentaries on the Brahma-sutra , the principal Upanishads , and the Bhagavadgita , affirming his belief in one eternal unchanging reality brahman and the illusion of plurality and differentiation. There are at least 11 works that profess to be biographies of Shankara. All were composed several centuries later than the time of Shankara and are filled with legendary stories and incredible anecdotes , some of which are mutually conflicting. Today there are no materials with which to reconstruct his life with certainty. His date of birth is naturally a controversial problem.
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Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers.
He is reputed to have founded four mathas "monasteries" , which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta of which he is known as the greatest revivalist. There are at least fourteen different known biographies of Adi Shankara's life. Of these, the Brhat-Sankara-Vijaya by Citsukha is the oldest hagiography but only available in excerpts, while Sankaradigvijaya by Vidyaranya and Sankaravijaya by Anandagiri are the most cited.
Scholars note that one of the most cited Shankara hagiographies, Anandagiri's, includes stories and legends about historically different people, but all bearing the same name of Sri Shankaracarya or also referred to as Shankara but likely meaning more ancient scholars with names such as Vidya-sankara, Sankara-misra and Sankara-nanda.
Adi Shankara died in the thirty third year of his life,  and reliable information on his actual life is scanty. The Sringeri records state that Shankara was born in the 14th year of the reign of "VikramAditya", but it is unclear as to which king this name refers. Several different dates have been proposed for Shankara: . The popularly-accepted dating places Shankara to be a scholar from the first half of the 8th century CE. Shankara was born in the southern Indian state of Kerala , according to the oldest biographies, in a village named Kaladi   sometimes spelled as Kalati or Karati.
They named their child Shankara, meaning "giver of prosperity". Shankara's hagiography describe him as someone who was attracted to the life of Sannyasa hermit from early childhood. His mother disapproved.
A story, found in all hagiographies, describe Shankara at age eight going to a river with his mother, Sivataraka , to bathe, and where he is caught by a crocodile.
The mother agrees, Shankara is freed and leaves his home for education. He reaches a Saivite sanctuary along a river in a north-central state of India, and becomes the disciple of a teacher named Govinda Bhagavatpada. The biographies vary in their description of where he went, who he met and debated and many other details of his life. Most mention Shankara studying the Vedas , Upanishads and Brahmasutra with Govindapada, and Shankara authoring several key works in his youth, while he was studying with his teacher.
Different and widely inconsistent accounts of his life include diverse journeys, pilgrimages, public debates, installation of yantras and lingas, as well as the founding of monastic centers in north, east, west and south India. While the details and chronology vary, most biographies mention that Shankara traveled widely within India, Gujarat to Bengal, and participating in public philosophical debates with different orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy , as well as heterodox traditions such as Buddhists, Jains, Arhatas, Saugatas, and Carvakas.
Shankara had a number of disciple scholars during his travels, including Padmapada also called Sanandana, associated with the text Atma-bodha , Sureshvara, Tothaka, Citsukha, Prthividhara, Cidvilasayati, Bodhendra, Brahmendra, Sadananda and others, who authored their own literature on Shankara and Advaita Vedanta.
Adi Sankara is believed to have died aged 32, at Kedarnath in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand , a Hindu pilgrimage site in the Himalayas. Some texts locate his death in alternate locations such as Kanchipuram Tamil Nadu and somewhere in the state of Kerala. Adi Shankara's works are the foundation of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, and his doctrine, states Sengaku Mayeda, "has been the source from which the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived".
Shankara is most known for his systematic reviews and commentaries Bhasyas on ancient Indian texts.
Shankara's masterpiece of commentary is the Brahmasutrabhasya literally, commentary on Brahma Sutra , a fundamental text of the Vedanta school of Hinduism. Shankara also authored Upadesasahasri , his most important original philosophical work. Modern era Indian scholars such as Belvalkar as well as Upadhyaya accept five and thirty nine works respectively as authentic. Shankara's stotras considered authentic include those dedicated to Krishna Vaishnavism and one to Shiva Shaivism — often considered two different sects within Hinduism.
Scholars suggest that these stotra are not sectarian, but essentially Advaitic and reach for a unified universal view of Vedanta. Shankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras is the oldest surviving. However, in that commentary, he mentions older commentaries like those of Dravida, Bhartrprapancha and others which are either lost or yet to be found. Commentaries on Nrisimha-Purvatatapaniya and Shveshvatara Upanishads are attributed to Shankara, but their authenticity is highly doubtful.
However, in Brahmasutra-Bhasya, Shankara cites some of these Upanishads as he develops his arguments, but the historical notes left by his companions and disciples, along with major differences in style and the content of the commentaries on later Upanishad have led scholars to conclude that the commentaries on later Upanishads were not Shankara's work.
Aparoksha Anubuti and Atmabodha are also attributed to Shankara, as his original philosophical treatises, but this is doubtful. Paul Hacker has also expressed some reservations that the compendium Sarva-darsana-siddhanta Sangraha was completely authored by Shankara, because of difference in style and thematic inconsistencies in parts. The commentary on the Tantric work Lalita-trisati-bhasya attributed to Shankara is also unauthentic.
Using ideas in ancient Indian texts, Shankara systematized the foundation for Advaita Vedanta in 8th century CE, one of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism founded many centuries earlier by Badarayana. Anantanand Rambachan , for example, summarizes the widely held view on one aspect of Shankara's epistemology before critiquing it as follows,. Mayeda cites Shankara's explicit statements emphasizing epistemology pramana-janya in section 1. Shankara cautioned against cherrypicking a phrase or verse out of context from Vedic literature, and remarks in the opening chapter of his Brahmasutra-Bhasya that the Anvaya theme or purport of any treatise can only be correctly understood if one attends to the Samanvayat Tatparya Linga , that is six characteristics of the text under consideration: 1 the common in Upakrama introductory statement and Upasamhara conclusions ; 2 Abhyasa message repeated ; 3 Apurvata unique proposition or novelty ; 4 Phala fruit or result derived ; 5 Arthavada explained meaning, praised point and 6 Yukti verifiable reasoning.
Hacker and Phillips note that this insight into rules of reasoning and hierarchical emphasis on epistemic steps is "doubtlessly the suggestion" of Shankara in Brahma-sutra, an insight that flowers in the works of his companion and disciple Padmapada.
Shankara, in his text Upadesasahasri , discourages ritual worship such as oblations to Deva God , because that assumes the Self within is different from the Brahman.
Rituals and rites such as yajna a fire ritual , asserts Shankara, can help draw and prepare the mind for the journey to Self-knowledge. Shankara has been described as influenced by Shaivism and Shaktism. However, his works and philosophy suggest greater overlap with Vaishnavism, influence of Yoga school of Hinduism, but most distinctly his Advaitin convictions with a monistic view of spirituality.
Without hate, without infatuation, without craving, without greed; Neither arrogance, nor conceit, never jealous I am; Neither dharma , nor artha , neither kama , nor moksha am I; I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.
Without sins, without merits, without elation, without sorrow; Neither mantra, nor rituals, neither pilgrimage, nor Vedas; Neither the experiencer, nor experienced, nor the experience am I, I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva. Without fear, without death, without discrimination, without caste; Neither father, nor mother, never born I am; Neither kith, nor kin, neither teacher, nor student am I; I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.
Without form, without figure, without resemblance am I; Vitality of all senses, in everything I am; Neither attached, nor released am I;. Shankara systematised the works of preceding philosophers. According to Shankara, the one unchanging entity Brahman alone is real, while changing entities do not have absolute existence. Shankara's primary objective was to understand and explain how moksha is achievable in this life, what it is means to be liberated, free and a Jivanmukta.
Shankara considered the purity and steadiness of mind achieved in Yoga as an aid to gaining moksha knowledge, but such yogic state of mind cannot in itself give rise to such knowledge. For example, diverse sounds are merged in the sense of hearing, which has greater generality insofar as the sense of hearing is the locus of all sounds. The sense of hearing is merged into the mind, whose nature consists of thinking about things, and the mind is in turn merged into the intellect, which Sankara then says is made into 'mere cognition' vijnanamatra ; that is, all particular cognitions resolve into their universal, which is cognition as such, thought without any particular object.
And that in turn is merged into its universal, mere Consciousness prajnafnaghana , upon which everything previously referred to ultimately depends. Shankara rejected those yoga system variations that suggest complete thought suppression leads to liberation, as well the view that the Shrutis teach liberation as something apart from the knowledge of the oneness of the Self.
Knowledge alone and insights relating to true nature of things, taught Shankara, is what liberates. 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.
Shankara's Vedanta shows similarities with Mahayana Buddhism ; opponents have even accused Shankara of being a "crypto-Buddhist," a qualification which is rejected by the Advaita Vedanta tradition, given the differences between these two schools.
According to Shankara, Hinduism believes in the existence of Atman, while Buddhism denies this. There are also differences in the understanding of what "liberation" means.
Nirvana , a term more often used in Buddhism, is the liberating realization and acceptance that there is no Self anatman. Moksha , a term more common in Hinduism, is liberating realization and acceptance of Self and Universal Soul, the consciousness of one's Oneness with all existence and understanding the whole universe as the Self.
Stcherbatsky in criticized Shankara for demanding the use of logic from Madhyamika Buddhists, while himself resorting to revelation as a source of knowledge. Despite Shankara's criticism of certain schools of Mahayana Buddhism, Shankara's philosophy shows strong similarities with the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy which he attacks.
Shankara and his followers borrowed much of their dialectic form of criticism from the Buddhists. His Brahman was very much like the sunya of Nagarjuna [ There seems to be much truth in the accusations against Shankara by Vijnana Bhiksu and others that he was a hidden Buddhist himself. I am led to think that Shankara's philosophy is largely a compound of Vijnanavada and Sunyavada Buddhism with the Upanisad notion of the permanence of self superadded.
According to Mudgal, Shankara's Advaita and the Buddhist Madhyamaka view of ultimate reality are compatible because they are both transcendental, indescribable, non-dual and only arrived at through a via negativa neti neti. Mudgal concludes therefore that. Shankara lived in the time of the great "Late classical Hinduism",  which lasted from till CE.
Shankara has an unparallelled status in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. He travelled all over India to help restore the study of the Vedas. Shankara explained that all deities were but different forms of the one Brahman , the invisible Supreme Being. Benedict Ashley credits Adi Shankara for unifying two seemingly disparate philosophical doctrines in Hinduism, namely Atman and Brahman.
Prior to Shankara, views similar to his already existed, but did not occupy a dominant position within the Vedanta. Some scholars doubt Shankara's early influence in India. King states,. Although it is common to find Western scholars and Hindus arguing that Sankaracarya was the most influential and important figure in the history of Hindu intellectual thought, this does not seem to be justified by the historical evidence.
According to King and Roodurmun, until the 10th century Shankara was overshadowed by his older contemporary Mandana-Misra , the latter considered to be the major representative of Advaita.
Several scholars suggest that the historical fame and cultural influence of Shankara grew centuries later, particularly during the era of Muslim invasions and consequent devastation of India. Vidyaranya was a minister in Vijayanagara Empire and enjoyed royal support,  and his sponsorship and methodical efforts helped establish Shankara as a rallying symbol of values, and helped spread historical and cultural influence of Shankara's Vedanta philosophies.
Vidyaranya also helped establish monasteries mathas to expand the cultural influence of Shankara. He unified the theistic sects into a common framework of Shanmata system. But it is also a tradition of renunciation. Philosophy and renunciation are closely related: [web 1]. Most of the notable authors in the advaita tradition were members of the sannyasa tradition, and both sides of the tradition share the same values, attitudes and metaphysics. Shankara, himself considered to be an incarnation of Shiva , [web 1] established the Dashanami Sampradaya, organizing a section of the Ekadandi monks under an umbrella grouping of ten names.
The advaita sampradaya is not a Shaiva sect, [web 1]  despite the historical links with Shaivism:. Advaitins are non-sectarian, and they advocate worship of Shiva and Vishnu equally with that of the other deities of Hinduism, like Sakti, Ganapati and others. Nevertheless, contemporary Sankaracaryas have more influence among Shaiva communities than among Vaisnava communities.
According to Nakamura, these mathas contributed to the influence of Shankara, which was "due to institutional factors". The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Shankara, and their details.
Traditionally, Shankara is regarded as the greatest teacher   and reformer of the Smarta. According to Alf Hiltebeitel , Shankara established the nondualist interpretation of the Upanishads as the touchstone of a revived smarta tradition:.
Sri Sri Jagadguru Shankaracharya Mahasamsthanam, Dakshinamanaya Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri
Apart from being the champion of Advaita philosophy, one of his invaluable contributions towards Hinduism was the reordering and restructuring of the ancient Sannyasa order. Bhagavan Adi Shankaracharya is considered to be the ideal Sannyasi. It is commonly accepted that he lived about one thousand two hundred years ago though there are historical sources which indicate that he lived in a earlier period. He was born in Kalady, Kerala and in his short life span of 32 years, his accomplishments seem a marvel even today, with our modern conveyances and other facilities.
Lord Shiva, also known as Dhakshinamurthy, who spreads the Universal Truth not by words but by his silence and by his sign of his hand which is held in the form of "Chin Mudra". About years ago, when the spiritualisation of the people greatly reduced, all the Gods and the Rishis went to Kailash and pleaded with Lord Shiva to revive the world. Lord Shiva agreed with their request and informed that he will be born in this world. Lord Brahma, Indra and others also agreed to be born in this world to help Lord Shiva.
The Life of Adi Shankaracharya
To those who are fortunate to study his valuable works, devotion and gratitude swell up spontaneously in their hearts. His flowing language, his lucid style, his stern logic, his balanced expression, his fearless exposition, his unshakable faith in the Vedas, and other manifold qualities of his works convey an idea of his greatness that no story can adequately convey. To those who are denied the immeasurable happiness of tasting the sweetness of his works, the stories of his earthly life do convey a glimpse of his many-sided personality. The Madhaviya is the the most authentic and widely known among the different Sankaravijayas today.
There exists some controversy about Sankara's date , but most traditions are quite unanimous about other details. The couple had remained childless for a long time, and prayed for children at the vaDakkunnAthan VRshAcala temple in nearby Trichur. Siva is said to have appeared to the couple in a dream and promised them a choice of one son who would be short-lived but the most brilliant philosopher of his day, or many sons who would be mediocre at best. The couple opted for a brilliant, but short-lived son, and so Sankara was born. Sankara lost his father when quite young, and his mother performed his upanayana ceremonies with the help of her relatives. Sankara excelled in all branches of traditional vaidIka learning.