Adi Shankara was an Indian philosopher and the most vibrant saint to ever live. He renounced the worldly pleasures at a very young age. His achievement in thirty two years in the history of Indian philosophy was amazing.
Sources claim that Shankaracharya was born in the southern Indian state of Kerala, in a village named Kaladi. His parents, Sivaguru and Aryamba, offered their prayers to Lord Shiva, requesting the deity to bless them with a child. Their prayers were soon answered in the form of a baby boy. A few theories suggest that Aryamba had a dream in which Lord Shiva himself promised her that he would be taking birth as her child. Hence, many consider Shankara as a reincarnation of Shiva. Shankara was educated by his mother as he lost his father when he was very young. Aryamba played a key role in teaching Vedas and Upanishads to a young Shankara.
Shankaracharya was keen on becoming a monk, right from his childhood. Though his idea of becoming a monk was opposed by his mother, Shankara knew exactly what he had to do. Once he accompanied his mother to a nearby river and took a plunge into the river. Suddenly, a crocodile appeared from beneath the river and caught hold of his leg. Shankara then cried out to his mother, saying that a crocodile was pulling him into the river. When his mother felt helpless, Shankara urged her to allow him to die as a monk. As soon as Aryamba gave her consent, the crocodile spared Shankara’s life and went back into the river. Shankara was miraculously unharmed and went on to become a monk as his mother had already given him the permission to do so.
Shankaracharya’s works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the Atman and Nirguna Brahman which means “brahman without attributes”. Shankaracharya amalgamated the ideologies of ancient ‘Advaita Vedanta’ and also explained the basic ideas of Upanishads. He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism states that”Atman (Soul) exists”, while Buddhism asserts that there is “no Soul, no Self”.
He travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy and established the importance of simple life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mimamsa school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism.
Shankaracharya incarnated in the form of a great evolved soul worthy of worship. He reversed the ill effects on the Vedic religion, eliminated the aberrations in it, cleared the cobwebs which had gathered in it over the passage of time and projected it in new light all over India. The teachings imparted by the Acharya to the chiefs of all these hermitages are referred to as the mahanushasan. According to the righteous code laid down for them, the chiefs of the hermitages should tirelessly strive to save the honour of the state and religion, should constantly travel in their respective areas and make the people in the various stages of life aware of their duties and make efforts to foster Righteousness (Dharma).
It is said that to a large extent Indians owe the faith and honour that they have for the Vedas today to Shankaracharya. It is because of His divine mission that Shankaracharya is regarded as the Jagadguru which means the Guru of the universe.