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Adi Shankaracharya: First Shankaracharya

Niranjan Bhombe

Prachi Athavle

10 January 2023

"Aham Bhrahmasmi (I’m Brahman), Tatvamasi (Talks about one’s existence), and....."

.....Ayamatma Brahman (The soul is Brahman) are the famous mahavakyas or statements of Adi Shankaracharya.


The first and the most revered philosopher, guide, and propagator of Hindu religion and philosophy is Adi Shankaracharya. Adi Shankaracharya as the name suggests is the first teacher of philosophy. His name was originally Shankar or Shankara who was later renamed Adi Shankaracharya based on his life.

Adi Shankaracharya was born in a small village named Kalady in Kerala. He was the only child of a Brahmin couple Aaryamba and Shivguru. Aaryamba mother of Shankaracharya was a follower of lord Vishnu while Shivguru his father was a follower of lord Shiva.

They both didn’t have a child for a very long time so they offered prayers to Lord Shiva to bless them with a child. As per a well-known story, one day while they prayed to Lord Shiva in form of yagnya and other offerings, Lord Shiva appeared in the dreams of Shivguru and gave him 2 choices either they will have many children with ordinary knowledge or they will have one short-lived child with extraordinary knowledge. To this, Shankara’s father asked lord Shiva to grant him a child with extraordinary knowledge.

Adi Shankaracharya thus was a very young philosopher and died at an early age as young as 32 years. He also lost his father at the age of 3 years and was raised by his mother in very basic conditions. At the age of 8, he left the house to become Sanyasi, and at the age of 16, he renounced the world and went to various places to learn more about Sanyas.

After leaving the house to become Sanyasi Shankara found his Guru Govind Bhagvatpada who taught him lessons about meditation and enlightenment. It is said that Adi Shankaracharya had power to enter in someone else’s body while meditating. He was said to be blessed by goddess Laxmi but never had any greed.

Adi Shankaracharya is the biggest contributor to Advaita Vedant which was later on propagated by him throughout the country. He preached to people that as per Advaita Vedant all gods are within on self and there is god in everyone. He said that humans should respect, help and worship each other instead of trying to fight about who is the biggest worshiper of god and that who should be worshiped. He discarded the concepts of caste, creed, sects, idolism, and supremacy while he taught people that all are one and the various forms are also one. He just like other philosophers explained that Atma or soul is the only mortal thing in this universe and that everyone’s soul has the presence of god in it.

Adi Shankaracharya contributed to the Hindu religion and also recognized it at the time when Buddhism was flourishing in Bharat. It was also during Shankara’s time that the Muslim invasion had just started in Bharat. Adi Shankaracharya through his teachings explained to humans of all kinds and all religions that there’s no sense in fighting over god and religion, one should always follow the path and guidance of his/her religion but must not criticize others.

Adi Shankaracharya was the first Shankaracharya from whom the name is derived. After him, there have been many Shankaracharyas over the years who are considered at the highest peak of Hindu religious teachers and scholars. The concept of Hindu Guru, Jagadguru, and Sadguru has been derived from Adi Shankaracharya’s lineage.

Adi Shankaracharya travelled the whole of Bharat and spread his teachings about knowledge, Hindu religion, culture, Hindu texts, Hindu philosophy, Vedas, and Upanishads. He has also made prominent contributions to different texts of Vedas and Puranas.

Before leaving this world and before leaving for the Himalayas he established 4 Mathas in Bharat one in Dwarka in the west, Jagannath Puri in the east, Shringeri in the South, and Badrikashram in the North each of which was headed by the four disciples of Shankaracharya named Padmapada, Totakacharya, Hasta Malaka, Sureshvara.

He has also made various commentaries on ancient texts. The oldest commentaries by him are in form of a Brahma Sutra known as Brahmasutrabhyas one of the best works of Adi Shankaracharya. He also commented on the Bhagwad Gita and the ten principles of the Upanishads. He restored people’s belief in ancient texts and the Upanishads.

Adi Shankaracharya was not just a Hindu philosopher who is the best of his own time but he was the first and the best philosopher of all time. He being short-lived achieved immense knowledge and wisdom which he further distributed to his disciples who also included firm believers in Karma Mandan Mishra. Mandan Mishra and Shankaracharya’s dialogue and debate are one of the most well-known dialogues in history. In this dialogue, Adi Shankaracharya explained to Mandan Mishra the importance of Advaita Vedant and won the arguments efficiently.

Adi Shankaracharya not just progressed in his path of Sanyas but also came back to his mother as promised to her before in her last days. After she left the world he performed all her last rites even after being Sanyasi justifying moksha to the soul and with purity in thoughts and intentions towards his mother’s sentiments.

Thus, the life of Adi Shankaracharya was a living example of life, existence, and Hindu values which are firmly engraved on one’s forehead. It tells us the significance of living beings and souls along with several other values like the powers of true Sanyasi, the power of knowledge, and the power of teaching in one’s life.

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