This article is a chapter from the book Hindu Fasts and Festivals.
“Religion is realisation. It is not mere learning, or dialectic.” This is the divine message which stands deeply imprinted in the mind of every Hindu. This is not mere fancy. This is not a mental conception. This is not a stretch of imagination. It is not a coinage of the brain. Nor is it a decision arrived at by vehement vituperation and incongruent argumentation promulgated by all ordinary intellectual prodigy.
It is the bold assertion of the greatest philosopher of India, the Avatara of Lord Siva.
What can we take him for except Lord Siva Himself, who proclaims authoritatively and undauntedly:
Jaatam mayyeva sarvam punarapi mayi tatsamsthitam chaiva visvam,
Sarvam mayyeva yaati pravilayamiti tadbrahma chaivaahamasmi.
“In me is the whole Universe born; In me has it its support; and, in me does it dissolve. Therefore that very Brahman indeed am I.”
Srimad Adi Sankara is our Vedanta Guru. He is God incarnate. He was born at a time when Indian thought and culture was decaying; when it underwent sore distraction; when ethical glory and far-spread influence of Buddhistic cult was gradually dying; when there was complete chaos and confusion; when innumerable sects sprang up and with their own individual doctrines confounded the mass; when social evil influences and blind superstitions falsely garbed in the name of religion fancifully attracted the deceptive masses in a frenzy and ambushed them in complete ignorance of the Ultimate Reality. There were no less than seventy-two cults and sects of this type which carried away people from the right path.
The advent of Lord Krishna rejuvenated Hindu religion and saved many a soul from their complete ruin by subjugating themselves to passivism and passivism only due to the misinterpretation of the Vedas and the Upanishads. In the same way, Sri Sankara appeared on the earth to deliver very many struggling souls. He set them free, enlightened them and liberated them through his peaceful, unostentatious persuasion and loving propaganda. Through his irresistible logic, he planted the triumphant banner of unique intellectual conquest over all other schools of philosophy. Before him all other theories proved to be phantoms and fallacies.
It was only Sri Sankara who gave the unshakable concrete form to Hinduism and established the unity and purity of enlightened Hindu thought and culture. Superstitions and corrupt practices melted away in no time.
The age-long six systems of theism which were kept down in the mouth by the prattlers re-emerged in their original glory only through Sri Sankara.
His victory over other systems of philosophy was never due to his holding fast to his own faith and reasoning without the consideration of the pros and cons of others. He had mastered even the minute intricacies pertaining to other theories. The underlying currents of his thoughts were the very foundation for other systems too. Hence they were recognised with much reverence by all the other schools of thought despite their difference in the superstructure.
The secret of his conquest and the charm therein lay on his most apt and reasonable illustrations in every case. He never based his arguments on theoretical axioms and untestified hypotheses but entirely on integral experience (anubhava). Further all his arguments were based upon Srutis which too are genuine record of religious experiences of various saints and sages and not imaginary speculation with trivial data. He never entered into any hot unpalatable discussions to substantiate his case or disprove others’ theories. With his gigantic intellect he has poured out his masterful exposition and simple and clear elucidation of the supreme authority of the Prasthanatraya (The Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras), the self-evident validity of the Sruti Pramana and so on.
Above all, his philosophy was not only for the highly intellectual. It is within the easy reach of even the layman. With his profound knowledge, all-comprehensive learning, keen intuitive insight, and convincing explanations he has erected the strong edifice of Vedanta at the same time equally accessible to a simpleton as to a man of high intellect. How effectively has he prescribed “Bhaja Govindam” to a scholar who was racking his brain in committing various scriptures to memory!
Vedanta is not the only aspect of philosophy which he has preached to the world. He has entered the heart of every earnest seeker after Truth. He encourages the worship of various forms of the Lord and advocates Bhakti Yoga. Without any tinge of partiality to one form or the other, he has given out innumerable slokas, each brimming with full tattva and bhava and which inculcate ecstasy and perennial joy even in the tender undeveloped minds. His untiring work of Lokasangraha marks him out as the veritable master of the Yoga of Activism too.
At the background of all these his devotion to his Guru is supermost. Mark him say, “Any person who realises ‘That very Brahman am I’ through the unparalleled mercy and glance of the Sadguru loses all feelings of doubt and with his mind free from illusion attains liberation even while living in the body.” How much efficacy and glory lie in Guru Bhakti!
May you all develop Guru Bhakti! May the blessings of Sri Sankara be upon you all!
Biography of Adi Sankaracharya by Swami Sivananda.
Sankara Jayanthi by Swami Chidananda.
Sankara–The Genius By Swami Krishnananda.
Shankara–TheFirst Guru of Kali Yuga by Swami Madhavananda.
The Quintessence of Spiritual Practice (Sadhana Panchaka of Sri Sankaracharya) by Swami Brahmananda.