The Philosophy of Shankaracharya


Legend tells us that sometime around the 7th century, Sivaguru and Aryamba were waiting to have a child. They wanted just one blessing from the Lord – a beautiful child they could raise together. Both of them offered their prayers and worshipped Lord Shiva. Soon, Aryamba had a dream where Lord Shiva assured her that she would be blessed with a child soon and the child would be a reincarnation of Lord Shiva. Thus was Shankara born, a boy filled with hope, wisdom, and faith for many.

Shankaracharya was brought up by his mother Aryamba. She taught him about various Vedas and Upanishads. From his childhood, Shankaracharya wanted to become a monk who preached the will of God to people.

Adi Shankaracharya and the Advaita Vedanta

A shishya of Govinda Bhagavatpada, Shankara later came to be known as Adi Shankaracharya – philosopher and creator of the Advaita Vedanta and Dashmi Sampradaya.

Vedanta is a part of Indian philosophy. ‘Dvait’ stands for dualism. Advait stands for non-dualism. Both Dvait Vedanta and Advait Vedanta are a part of the Indian philosophy amongst which Advait Vendanta was taught by Adi Shankaracharya.

Advaita Vedanta proposes the highest manifestation of spirituality that a man can attain.

Its chief concepts include that of the Atman(true self), Satchitananda (nature of that true self), Drig Drishya Viveka, Avidya, and Maya.

  • Atman

Your true happiness resides within you. Adi Shankaracharya says that one who doesn’t know oneself can never be happy with oneself. The true self is composed of what we have within, it is not shadowed by worldly pleasures, by the things we own or people we have around. It is knowing yourself from within.

  • Satchitananda

Sat is the ability to know, the desire to know, the decision to know, and the virtue of possessing knowledge. Chit is the feeling of being alive, it is by which we experience life and can express the joys of it, Ananda is the happiness or pleasures in the simple things of life. Satchitananda is the way to lead a life.

  • Drig Drishya Viveka

This tells us that no matter what your state of being is, perception and situation do not define your true self. The sun simply shines and does not care where its light falls. The fine line between seeing and perceiving is explained beautifully in the Advaita Vedanta.

  • Avidya and Maya

Ignoring our true selves is paying attention to everything that resides outside us. Adi Shankaracharya believes that ignoring the outer world and knowing your inner self is the first step towards consciousness. Maya, which is an illusion, is the one that makes us stick to the materialistic things that define us. To get rid of that Maya is to define yourself from within.

Philosophical texts by Adi Shankaracharya

Adi Shankaracharya is known for his dramatic essays on old texts. His study of ‘Brahma Sutra’ is known as ‘Brahma Sutra Bhasya’, and it is the oldest existing writing on ‘Brahma Sutra’ also considered as the best.

He also composed essays on the Bhagavad Gita and the ten principal Upanishads. Adi Shankaracharya is also well-known for his ‘stotras’ (poems). He wrote many poems, honoring gods and goddesses. The ones devoted to Krishna and Shiva are most renowned among his ‘stotras’.

He also wrote the popular ‘Upadesasahasri’ which precisely summarizes ‘a thousand teachings.’ ‘Upadesasahasri’ is known across the world as his most precious philosophical endeavor.  

Adi Shankaracharya’s ideology has contributed a great deal to Hinduism. His work has had a significant spiritual and philosophical impact on Indian philosophy. His teachings are simple, but not easy. By conveying the precepts of the Vedas and Upanishads to the common people he reawakened their interest in ancient Hindu philosophical texts, thereby creating generations of Indian philosophers who follow his path.

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