Shri Adi Shankaracharya: His Life – Part 3


Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya

… Continued from Part 2


The Preceptor and His Disciple

After that he proceeded towards the Narmada River, where there existed a big hermitage of Govinda the disciple of Gaudapada. Shankara stepped into the hermitage of Govinda. Watching Shankara the preceptor was very happy. He said, “Son, the one for whom I have been waiting has come at last. Please come.” He commanded Shankara to write the interpretation for the Brahma Sutras. He interpreted the Brahma Sutras (analytical aphorisms on the Supreme Reality) which state that every human being is a gem. Within those gems, the principle of Brahman is like the thread that binds them together. Gems are many but thread is one. Without the difference of caste, community and nationality, all are like gems. The awareness in everyone is Brahman. The Brahman is present in every one.

Shankara meets his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpaada


What is the sign of Brahma? The Awareness is Brahma. Brahma is all pervasive. The Brahma Tatva keeps on expanding continuously. It keeps on expanding though it is not seen to the physical eye. It has not only the power of expansion, it also has memory. When you throw a stone in a well, the waves that are formed by this stone spread all around the well. You see the waves for some time and then you cannot. Though we cannot see with naked eye, we cannot deny their existence. In the same way Awareness is all pervasive. We cannot say it is there in him and not in another, it is everywhere. Thus Shankara gave a proper interpretation to the Brahma Sutras.

One day, to test Shankara’s mastery over the scriptures, Govinda engaged Shankara in a philosophical debate. It was a debate between the preceptor and the disciple. Shankara was full of humility and reverence for the Guru. Hence, before entering into the debate he prostrated before the preceptor and prayed to him for permission to argue with him. Humility is the real ornament for a student. Without humility a student cannot learn anything. With the Guru’s sanction he began his argument with amazing skill and demolished, with due scriptural authority, the propositions of the preceptor and presented his views in accordance with Vedic authorities with due regard to worldly understanding and showed how the Nivritti (inward) path could be harmonised with the Pravritti (external) path.

Shankara was deeply perturbed over the conduct of great Vedic scholars of those times who were concerned about making money out of their scriptural scholarship than to gain spiritual wisdom from it. They forgot that knowledge should not be used for commercial purposes. Even today many students consider education as a means for earning a living. This is utterly wrong. One should work for a living. But knowledge should be sought for acquiring wisdom. Shankara sought to bring about a change in the use of scriptural knowledge. Right from the moment you wake up to the time you go back to sleep you struggle to make a living and to acquire all sorts of education. In the process you forget the lotus feet of God.

Receiving instructions from his Guru Govindapaada

Of what use is the acquisition of all kinds of knowledge,
If one does not think of God and use his hands for the adoration of the Divine?
All such knowledge is a sheer waste!

Shankara was deeply distressed over the conduct of the scholars. His preceptor Govinda observed Shankara’s sadness. Govinda’s guru, Gaudapada, also felt unhappy over this state of things. Both of them were elated at the sublime feelings of the young Shankara. They both realised that Shankara was best qualified to use the sacred teachings of the Vedas to combat the prevailing unrighteous and immoral tendencies in the society. They summoned Shankara and told him, “Child! There is no need for you to stay here any longer. Leave for Kashi tomorrow. You must meet the great Pandits in Kashi and propagate the Advaita doctrine to the whole world. Nobody else can carry out this mission.” Students today should realise that they are the most powerful instruments for rectifying all the evils rampant in our society today.


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