By Dr. Sudhā Tinaikar pāchī
The birth anniversaries of people who have contributed to mankind are celebrated all over the world. For sanātana dharmī-s, the birth of Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya heralded a total change in the outlook of the-then-followed systems of philosophy. Though the actual time of birth of Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya is debated heavily by scholars, it is generally accepted that he was born on Vaishākha Shukla Pañchamī. To this day it is celebrated with offerings of gratitude and prostrations to the greatest Guru of Advaita philosophy.
Though the teachings of the Upanis͟had-s deal with Advaita philosophy, at the time Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya was born, there was a total erosion of the ultimate purport of the Veda-s. Veda pūrva philosophy called Pūrva-mīmāṁsā was dominant and society was directed towards more and more religious rituals, and the central teachings of the Veda-s were totally lost.
It is at such a time that Shaṅkar was born in a modest Hindū family in Kālaḍī, a small village in Kerala on the banks of the Pūrṇā river. It is believed that Shaṅkar was an avatāra of Lord Shiva Himself. We all know the incident of how Shaṅkar convinced his mother, who was a widow by then, to let him take to a life of sannyāsa.
Once he took up the lifestyle of a sannyāsī, he came across his Guru, Govinda Bhagawadpāda. In a short lifespan of 32 years, Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya became the Jagadāchārya. His contributions to Sanātana dharma are countless.
1. There were about 72 mata-s or systems of philosophy at his time. He converged all of them into six main systems of philosophy, which came as a respite to society.
2. He established that Pūrva-mīmāṁsā was not the ultimate message of the Veda-s. Vedānta which propounds “One single consciousness without a second as the ultimate truth of the entire universe” was clearly explained by Him. Advaita was established as the central teaching which gave every jīva the possibility of freedom from saṁsāra forever. He established that “Moks͟ha” was not a mere probability but the ultimate reality.
3. To establish the real teaching of the Upanis͟had-s, He wrote commentaries or Bhās͟hya-s on the prasthāna traya because of which today we have no fallacies in interpreting the central teaching of Vedānta.
4. Bādarāyaṇa’s (Vyāsāchārya) Brahmasūtra-s were misinterpreted at that time. Writing an exemplary Bhās͟hyam on the Brahmasūtra-s He re-established Vyāsachārya’s work in its true form.
5. For those seekers who are incapable of pursuing the study of Advaita, He wrote many stotra-s for the purposes of Upāsanā.
6. Four teaching centres or Mat͟h-s were established in the four directions of India of those times, and His four shis͟hya-s were given the task of spreading the message of Vedānta.
7. Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya established the proper Guru-shis͟͟hya Paramparā way of teaching Advaita as revealed by the Veda-s.
8. By the age of 32 years, He had travelled the entire length and breadth of the country and established Advaita as the sole teaching of the Veda-s.
9. He ascended the Sarvajña Pīt͟ha in Kashmīr, which was meant only for the highest philosophers of those times.
If the true message of the Veda-s is still preserved today, it is only because of Ādi Shaṅkarachāryā’s contributions during His short life span of just 32 years. His writings are available to us even today in an unpolluted form, hence His Bhās͟hya-s are considered the highest pramāṇa. Vaishākha Shukla Pañchamī will be celebrated by people for eons to offer their gratitude to this great Guru.
Prāṇapratis͟ht͟hā for Bhagawān Shaṅkarāchārya’s idol was performed in Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h, Shirālī in 2008. Since then, every Shaṅkar Jayantī, Shrī-Shaṅkarāchārya-Pūjana is performed along with Bhās͟hya pārāyaṇa and chanting of Toṭakās͟hṭakam. Wherever Pūjya Swāmījī is camping at that time, He personally performs the pūjana.
In Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h, BeṅgaῙūru the event is celebrated with great gusto. Competitions are held for various age groups – essay writing on particular aspects of the life and teachings of Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya, recitation of stotra-s composed by the Āchārya, drawing and painting various aspects of the life of this great teacher, and so on. The prizes are distributed on Shaṅkar Jayantī. On Shaṅkar Jayantī itself, Shāṅkarabhās͟hya from the prasthāna traya are chanted about 15 minutes after the Dīpanamaskāra. If Pūjya Swāmījī is present, He talks about the Bhās͟͟hyakāra Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya and His works and performs the Shrī-Shaṅkarāchārya-Pūjana with the laity participating with great enthusiasm.
Also, in Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h, BeṅgaῙūru, the Shrī-Shaṅkarāchārya-As͟hṭottara-Shatanāmāvali is chanted by the laity on a weekly basis in the 6 months leading upto Shaṅkar Jayantī.
We are ever grateful to Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya for showing us the path of Advaita tradition, which our illustrious Guruparamparā teaches and helps us uphold.
Dhanyosmi, Kṛtakṛtyosmi to be born in this tradition.