Shankara was born in a Brahmin family circa 788 AD in a village named Kaladi on the banks of the river Purna (now Periyar) in the Southern Indian coastal state Kerala. His parents, Sivaguru and Aryamba, had been childless for a long time and the birth of Shankara was a joyous and blessed occasion for the couple. Legend has it that Aryamba had a vision of Lord Shiva and promised her that he would incarnate in the form of her first-born child.
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.
[I am] the nature of Pure Consciousness. I am always the same to beings, one alone; [I am] the highest Brahman, which, like the sky, is all-pervading, imperishable, auspicious, uninterrupted, undivided and devoid of action. I do not belong to anything since I am free from attachment. [I am] the highest Brahman… ever-shining, unborn, one alone, imperishable, stainless, all-pervading, and nondual-That am I, and I am forever released.
Loud speech, profusion of words, and possessing skillfulness in expounding scriptures are merely for the enjoyment of the learned. They do not lead to liberation.
Recommended Reading ~
- Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, Timeless Teachings of Nonduality