Note: The content is drawn from Swami Sivananda article on Shankara Jayanthi of Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
Religion is Realization
Religion is realization; it is not mere learning—this is the divine message which stands deeply in the minds of every Hindu. This is not a mere fancy. This is not a mental conception. This is not a stretch of imagination.
This is the assertion of Shankara, India’s greatest philosopher-saint, the incarnation of Lord Shiva, reverently known as Sri Adi Shankaracharya.
Shankara was born at a time when Indian thought and culture were decaying; when they underwent sore distraction; when ethical glory and the widespread influence of the Buddhistic cult was gradually dying; when there was complete chaos and confusion; when innumerable sects sprang up and, with their own individual doctrines, confounded the masses; when evil social influences and blind superstitions, garbed falsely in the clothes of religion, attracted the credulous masses into a frenzy, and ambushed them into complete ignorance of the ultimate Reality. There were no less than seventy-two cults and sects of this type which carried away people from the right path.
It was only Shankara who gave the unshakable concrete form to Hinduism and established the unity and purity of enlightened Hindu thought and culture. Superstitions and corrupt practices melted away in no time.
His victory over other systems of philosophy was not due to a stubborn grip onto his own faith and reasoning without considering the pros and cons of others. He had mastered even the minutest intricacies of the other theories. The underlying currents of his thoughts were the foundations of the other systems. It is for this reason alone that his philosophy was recognized with much reverence by all the other schools of thought.
The secret of his conquest and the charm therein lay in his most apt and reasonable illustrations in every case. He never based his arguments on theoretical axioms and un-testified hypotheses, but entirely on integral experience. Further, all his arguments were based upon the Vedas as well, which are genuine and authoritative.
Shankara never entered into hot discussions to substantiate his case or disprove others’ theories. With his gigantic intellect he poured out his masterly exposition in simple and clear terms with the same supreme authority of the Gita, Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras, the self-evident validity of the Sruti Pramana.
Philosophy of Shankara is not restricted to the highly intellectual. It is within the easy reach of even the layman. With his profound knowledge, all-comprehensive learning, keen intuitive insight and convincing explanations, he has erected the strong edifice of Vedanta, equally accessible to the scholar and the layman. How effectively he prescribed “Bhaja Govindam” to the scholar who was racking his brains in committing various scriptures to memory!
Vedanta is not the only aspect of philosophy he has preached to the world. He has entered the heart of every earnest seeker after truth. He encourages the worship of various forms of the Lord and greatly advocates Bhakti. Without a tinge of partiality to one form or the other, he has composed innumerable hymns, each brimming with devotion and philosophical truth, each inculcating divine ecstasy and perennial joy even in the tender undeveloped mind. His untiring work for the welfare of mankind marks him out as a veritable, dynamic Karma Yogi.
His devotion to his Guru is very high. Read what he says: “Any person who realizes ‘I am That Brahman’ through the unparalleled mercy and glance of the Sadguru, loses all feelings of doubt and, with his mind free from illusion, attains liberation even while living in the body”.
On this auspicious day of Shankara Jayanthi study his works, pray and meditate.
Glory to Adi Shankaracharya, Glory to Lord Siva!!!
May you be showered with his blessings!