The life of Adi Sankara
By Narayana Vishwanath - CHENNAI
08th December 2012 08:43 AM
The cultural atmosphere in our country at this moment is ripe for a revivalist movement and many brilliant signs of it are everywhere. All over the country, crowds of the faithful are increasingly attending shrines and cultural fiestas. Discourses on the scriptures are becoming increasingly popular. In this context of a new-found enthusiasm in the country, it is certain that we are already in an era of cultural renaissance. Against such a background, the life and work of Adi Sankara is indeed an inspiration to this country to relive the glorious Hindu culture.
The drama Sankara, the efflorescence of India’s national genius, staged by Sri Chakra’s stage, led by Sridhar for Narada Gana Sabha, certainly revealed that we are already in an era of cultural revival.
There is hardly anything new in the story, but this drama has revealed the imagined way of a devoted disciple. Why then retell the story of Sankara, the details of which, everyone interested in Advaita way of life is familiar with?
The answer is that the customs do not stale the infinite variety of Sankara’s approach to life. In fact, there is a paradox. He was a saint, yet the most human of men. He loved his mother more than any son could love his mother. He had no family of his own, yet he looked after his students with greater affection than any other parent in the world. He constantly lived in universal consciousness yet tried to alleviate the misery of the earthlings with every breath he took. Sankara was the best of human, the best of saints and the best of teachers. He desired nothing for himself, he gave everything to everyone who cared to listen.
The drama begins with the birth of Sankara in Kaladi, a small village in central Kerala, to Sivaguru and Aryambal. When Sankara was barely eight years old, young Sankara began the quest for the spiritual preceptor. He walked on to identify revered Govindappa, who was the incarnation of that abode of all learning.
The striking answer Sankara gives when he was asked by revered Govindappa – who are you my child? The question elicited a response of a rarest kind from the Acharya. The 10 verses recited extempore by Sankara, have since formed the basis of the Advaita doctrine, that the question cannot be answered with a single description.
Sanandana, who earned the name of Padmapada since he crossed the river, with his feet supported by lotuses while crossing the river, becomes the prime disciple. The verbal encounter with Mandalamishra and Sarasavani proved to be a great debate. On hearing Sankara’s impeccable logic and aptness of quotations, Mandalamishra gets converted to Advaita. When the primitive Kapalika wanted Acharya’s head for disbanding his tribe, during the course of travel to South by Acharya and how he was saved by Narasimha consciousness of his disciple, were brought out succinctly by Sri Chakra’s stage.
The life history of Bhagavatpada Adi Sankara reveals that he is not an individual but an institution. No single person could ever have achieved what he had achieved in a short span of life. He was not only a great thinker and noblest of Advaithic philosophers, but he was essentially an inspired champion of Hinduism.
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