Sri Sankara Sankara was born in A.D. 788 of a devout Nambudiri couple Sivaguru and Aryamba. They were disconsolate because they had no issue. They repaired to the famous Siva (Vadakkunnathan) temple at Trichur and worshipped the Lord with all their heart. The Lord appeared before them in a dream and wanted to know their desire. The couple prayed for a son. The Lord asked Do you want a short-lived good son or a simpleton with a long life They chose the former and returned home to live a life of devotion and dedication. In due course a child was born to them. Unfortunately Sivaguru died when the child was only three.
Aryamba brought him up with love and care. At the age of five he was invested with the sacred thread and sent to the teachers house for education. In three years time the boy mastered all the subjects of study and returned home. He also served his aged mother in all possible ways.
Once his mother swooned on her way to the river Periyar (also called Purna) which was some distance away. Sankara nursed her back to health and prayed to the Lord that the river might change its course to enable his mother to take her daily bath in it. The river did change its course.
Yet another miracle occurred. One day while Sankara was taking his bath in the river he was caught by the leg by a crocodile. The mother heard his cries and ran to the river only to see his beloved son being dragged to the river. She stood in horror. At this crucial moment the son said to his mother that there was only one way of release from the jaws of the monster and that was she should allow him to enter the sanyasa ashram.
The helpless mother had no alternative but to agree. And the crocodile let him go. Before taking leave of her, Sankara assured her that he would be with her in her last days and would perform the funeral rites which he did.
Spiritual Enlightenment The study of the scriptures had convinced Sankara that spiritual enlightenment was the highest goal of life. The crocodile episode may be interpreted as Sankaras horror of a worldly life and his importunities to his mother to give permission for a life of renunciation. In any case as per his innate inclination to dedicate his life to spiritual pursuits Sankara set out in search of a preceptor.
He met his guru Govinda on the banks of the Narmada river. Under him he mastered yoga Vedanta and other systems and became a knower of the Brahman. The guru was immensely pleased with his disciple and bade him go to Kashi next and write the commentaries for various scriptures and re-establish the Eternal religion. Sankara obeyed his master and on the way worshipped at several temples teaching scriptures to earnest students. His erudition and exposition attracted many scholars as also disciples.
The first sanyasin disciple of Sankara was Sanandana who later came to be known as Padmapada. Verses of Wisdom At Kashi one day Sankara had a strange experience. He was going to the Ganges for his bath when an outcaste came from the opposite direction with four dogs and obstructed the way. Sankara ordered him out of his path.
The outcaste retorted Whom are you asking to get away the body or the soul The soul is pure and omnipresent. Is there any difference in the reflection of the moon seen in the Ganges or in a wine cup. As for the body it is inert can it move away Sankara was taken aback. He realised that the outcaste was none other than the Lord of Kashi and fell prostrate at his feet.
He broke forth into an Advaitic hymn which has become famous as the Manishapanchaka Five Verses of Human Wisdom and which has this refrain The man who sees the same self in all beings and leads his life accordingly he is my guru be he an outcaste or a high-caste Brahmin. Sankaras next destination was Badari in the Himalayas. Badari being the place of penance of Vyasa Sankara chose to stay there and write the commentary on the Brahmasutras