Monday, December 21, 2009

Adi ShankaraImage via Wikipedia

Who is Sankaracharya?

Jagadguru Sri Adi Sankaracharya was the greatest exponent of the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta and a savior of Vedic Dharma. Salutations to Sankara, who is an ever shining star on the sky of Indian philosophy.

The existence of Vedic Dharma in India today is due to Sankara. The forces opposed to Vedic religion were more numerous and powerful at the time of Sankara than they are today. Still, single-handed, within a very short time, Sankara overpowered them all and restored the Vedic Dharma and Advaita Vedanta to its pristine purity in the land pure knowledge and spirituality.

Sankaracharya occupies a very important position in the history of Indian philosophy.

(excerpts taken from

Philosophy of Adi Shankara

Shankara spread the tenets of Advaita Vedanta, the supreme philosophy of monism to the four corners of India with his ‘digvijaya’ (the conquest of the quarters). The quintessence of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) is to reiterate the truth of reality of one’s essential divine identity and to reject one’s thought of being a finite human being with a name and form subject to earthly changes.

According to the Advaita maxim, the True Self is Brahman (Divine Creator). Brahman is the ‘I’ of ‘Who Am I?’ The Advaita doctrine propagated by Shankara views that the bodies are manifold but the separate bodies have the one Divine in them.
The phenomenal world of beings and non-beings is not apart from the Brahman but ultimately become one with Brahman. The crux of Advaita is that Brahman alone is real, and the phenomenal world is unreal or an illusion. Through intense practice of the concept of Advaita, ego and ideas of duality can be removed from the mind of man.

The comprehensive philosophy of Shankara is inimitable for the fact that the doctrine of Advaita includes both worldly and transcendental experience.

Shankara while stressing the sole reality of Brahman, did not undermine the phenomenal world or the multiplicity of Gods in the scriptures.

Shankara’s philosophy is based on three levels of reality, viz., paramarthika satta (Brahman), vyavaharika satta (empirical world of beings and non-beings) and pratibhashika satta (reality).

Shankara’s theology maintains that seeing the self where there is no self causes spiritual ignorance or avidya. One should learn to distinguish knowledge (jnana) from avidya to realize the True Self or Brahman. He taught the rules of bhakti, yoga and karma to enlighten the intellect and purify the heart as Advaita is the awareness of the ‘Divine’.
Shankara developed his philosophy through commentaries on the various scriptures. It is believed that the revered saint completed these works before the age of sixteen.
His major works fall into three distinct categories – commentaries on the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

The most important of the works is the commentaries on the Brahmasutras – Brahmasutrabhashya – considered the core of Shankara’s philosophy of Advaita.

Shankaracharya’s Monastic Centers

Shri Shankaracharya established four ‘mutts’ or monastic centers in four corners of India and put his four main disciples to head them and serve the spiritual needs of the ascetic community within the Vedantic tradition. He classified the wandering mendicants into 10 main groups to consolidate their spiritual strength.

Each mutt was assigned one Veda.

The mutts are Jyothir Mutt at Badrinath in northern India with Atharva Veda; Sarada Mutt at Sringeri in southern India with Yajur Veda; Govardhan Mutt at Jaganath Puri in eastern India with Rig Veda and Kalika Mutt at Dwarka in western India with Sama Veda.

It is believed that Shankara attained heavenly abode in Kedarnath and was only 32 years old when he died.


Darshan Author Darshan Author
1. Nyaya Sage Gautam 4. Yoga Maharshi Patanjali
2. Vaisheshik Sage Kanad

5. Purva

Sage Jaimini
3. Sankhya Sage Kapil 6. Vedanta
Maharshi Vyas

(Uttar) Mimansa or the Vedanta Darshan: ‘It is also called the Vedanta, Uttarmimansa and the Shankardarshan. This Darshan is the jewel in the crown of the entire science of Spirituality. This Darshan envisages the ultimate culmination of the Darshanik school of thought and philosophy prior to Shankaracharya. In the Upanishads the Vedanta is referred to as the ultimate doctrine of the Shrutis. The Upanishads themselves were called the Vedanta. The definition of the Vedanta can be given as -

Meaning: The concluding part of the Vedas and the holy text in the form of the Upanishads which describes Brahman is known as the Vedanta. - Nyayakosh

The Brahmasutras too elucidate the meaning of the Upanishads and hence are included in the Vedanta. The Upanishads were referred to as the Vedanta because they unravelled the mysterious meaning of the Vedas. Sage Badarayan compiled the Brahmasutras with the motive of eliminating the contradictions and differences of opinion in the Upanishads and creating an unanimous opinion.

‘Worship and spiritual practice have to be founded on some Darshan. Only then do they derive some significance. Prior to the elucidation of the unmanifest form of The Lord done in the Vedas there was no Darshan about its manifestation. Sage Vyas wrote the Brahmasutras and accomplished that task. He gathered the spiritual doctrines in that holy text in the form of aphorisms (sutras). Shankaracharya, Nimbarkacharya, Ramanujacharya, Vallabhacharya, Madhvacharya and other authors of the Darshans have compiled their own sectarian Darshans based on the Brahmasutras.’

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