According to the Hindu calender, the month of Vaishakh is one of the most important months. We celebrate a number of festivals in this month, either as astrologically important days or as the birth anniversaries of some divine personalities, sages and saints.
On 20th of April, Adi Shankaracharya was born, who is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva. A saint, philosopher and a theologian, he was not only the supporter of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, but also the one who brought in the main beliefs of Hinduism.
Born As A Blessing Of Lord Shiva
He was born about 1200 years ago at a village named Kaalti, some 5-6 kilometers away from Cochin. He belonged to a Brahmin family. Some even say that he was born in Chidambaram, this confusion being there due to the lack of sufficient records.
His parents had to wait for many years for a child before he was born. They worshiped Lord Shiva with all the devotion to get their wish fulfilled. Finally, appeased by their dedication and faith in God, Lord Shiva appeared in their dream and asked for their wish. The couple expressed their desire of a child blessed with long life and fame. Lord however agreed upon granting one of the two blessings, they asked for the latter one. They wanted to see the child earn a good name and become known across the world. Hence, they were blessed with Shankara, whom we today know as Shankaracharya. However, his father died when Shankara was only three years old.
Shankaracharya As A Brilliant Child
The literal meaning of Acharya is Guru. Similar to other divine personalities that the universe has seen till today, Shankaracharya too was interested towards the renunciation of the world. He wanted to live the life of a hermit. He was a brilliant child always. He had learnt Malayalam only at the age of three. He had learnt all the Vedas at the age of seven. He had even memorized all the Shastras at the age of twelve. Not only this, he is also credited to have written more than 100 Granthas merely at the age of sixteen.
Shankaracharya Renounces The World
Shankara had once gone out with his mother. While they reached near the bank of the river, he saw a crocodile approaching towards him. He told his mother that she should let him take up renunciation from the world else the crocodile might eat him up. She had always disagreed upon this idea of his at other times. But hearing to this, his mother, who was a religious lady, let him go. From the same place, it is believed that he left for his education as a hermit. So, he took the life of a hermit at the age of eight years.
Shankaracharya As A Philosopher
Shankaracharya made Govinda Bhagvatapada his teacher. He conducted a meeting with Kumarika and Prabhakara. They were the scholars of Mimasa school of Hinduism. He even met the Buddhists at Shastraarth. Shashtraarth is a meeting of the public philosophers in which debates are held.
He criticized the Mimasa school of Hinduism and found the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. He asserted that while Hinduism says that the soul exists, the Buddhism says that the soul does not exist.
Shankaracharya organized the ten Hindu sects of saints under the four Mathas. They are the same famous Mathas, that we know as Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, Badrinath and Sringeri.
Guru Shankaracharya also introduced the system of simultaneous worship of the five deities, Lord Ganesha, Lord Surya, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Devi. He believed these five deities were the forms of Brahma only.
He wrote commentaries on Bhagvata Geeta, the vedas, and puranas. Brahma Sutra, Brahmabhashya and Updesh Sahasri are his most famous works and he composed poems for Krishna and Shiva, which are known as Stotras.
He believed in the philosophy of the soul and the supreme soul. While soul, he believed, keeps changing itself, the supreme soul is permanent, omnipresent and does not change.
He left the body at the age of 32. his birth anniversary is celebrated with religious fervor, especially at the four Mathas. He has had an unparalleled influence on Hinduism. Be it through the philosophy of Advaita Vendanta or his other works, he has always been trusted by masses. Shankaracharya lived a successful life of a sage and guided and guarded all. His life and his works had a great influence on Hinduism.