Sri Sathya Sai on: The Significance of Adi Shankaracharya’s Mission

Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 AD)
When you have vision, you do not realise its value; you take it as just natural. It is only when you lose it or when it gets dim, that you run to the ophthalmic hospital. When the Vedantic vision of India had become dim, Shankaracharya restored it and so saved the country. If he had not done so, believe Me India would have become another China.
- “Role of the Pandit”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 04
February 24, 1964, Rajahmundry

Sadhana is essential because the effects of Karma have to be removed by Karma alone, as a thorn is removable only by another thorn. You cannot remove it by a knife or a hammer, or even a sword. The knowledge that the world is unreal was itself spread by Shankaracharya by means of activity in the unreal world, the establishment of Mutts, the writing of books and partaking in disputations.
- “The Path to the Presence”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 04,
 October 11, 1964, Prasanthi Nilayam

Shankaracharya could become Jagadguru (world teacher) because of his mother’s virtuous thoughts. 
- “Impact of Mother’s Thoughts on Children”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 33, November 19, 2000, Prasanthi Nilayam

Shankaracharya raised the status of ten among the Upanishads by selecting them for writing his commentaries, and so they became specially important. Humanity stands to gain or fall by these ten. All who are seeking human welfare and progress are now apprehending whether even these ten will be forgotten, for neglecting them will usher in moral and spiritual disaster. There is no reason, however, for such fears. The Vedas can never be harmed. Pundits and those with faith should resolve to present before humanity these ten Upanishads at least. They are Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka.
- Chapter I, Upanishad Vahini

Today is Shankara Jayanti, the day commemorating the advent of Shankaracharya who came to restore Dharma; it is also the day on which Brahmopadesam (instruction about Brahman) was given here for the boys sitting on this dais, who have come from Bengal, Bombay, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The Shankara Jayanti day was chosen by Me for their initiation into the higher Adhyatmic (Spiritual) life, for Shankara is an inspiration even today for millions of spiritual aspirants all over the world, who seek to know the Reality of the Universe and its fundamental Unity. They had this lucky chance of getting initiated here in My Presence by Me, as a result of their own good fortune.

Shankaracharya came to this world for the work of Dharmasthapana (establishment of Righteousness), but he did not wage a war against the narrow sectarians or the wild theologians, who opposed him or the critics who condemned him as a pseudo-Buddhist. He won them over by argument, persuasion and preaching. He spoke softly, but with conviction. He gave his opponents fair chances to present their cases to the best of their ability and sometimes he even helped them to clarify their own points of view. Through Bodha (knowledge) alone can Dharma be saved in the modern Kali Age. That is why I am engaged in Bodha (imparting knowledge), in this task of re-constructing through Upadesha (instruction). 
- “Upanayanam”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 04,
 August 14, 1964, Chennai

Shankaracharya called upon mankind to realise that as human beings they should cherish human values and practice them. Otherwise they would be betraying their true role in life. The study of mankind is man. The unity of thought, word and deed is the true meaning of human life. This is called ‘Trikarana Shuddhi’ in the Vedas. Once this unity is achieved, love shall be born. This love will cause the heart to blossom and thus lead to detachment. Due to lack of love, man leads the life of an animal. This is what Prahlada told his father, “O father! You are so knowledgeable and all powerful but you are not behaving like a human being. You are behaving like a wild animal”. Be good and do good, then your life will be good. 

Shankara went round the country exhorting people to lead spiritual lives, shedding their animal qualities. His disciples imbibed the essence of his doctrines and became proficient in expounding Advaita. Unfortunately some of his disciples later started distorting Shankara’s doctrines and started attributing their own views to Shankara. Ultimately the disciples fell out and opposed each other’s views. Similarly, among Christ’s 11 disciples differences developed and they fell apart. Only Mathew remained true to Jesus. He propagated the gospel. Peter was the first among Jesus’ disciples. But he denied Christ when the authorities questioned him. For a time the Advaitic doctrine held sway all over Bharat. In course of time, however, the doctrine lost its hold. Ramanuja who came after Shankara enunciated a modified version of Shankara’s Non-dualism. Then came Madhva, who propounded Dualism.
- “Sri Adi Shankaracharya: His Message”, Discourse 17, 
My Dear Students, Volume 03

Adi Shankaracharya with his disciples
In India, many great people were born to teach us the spirit of this love, and also to teach us the oneness of all the beings in this world. Among the people who propagated such lofty ideals, Shankaracharya is one. We will not be showing real gratitude to Shankaracharya if we merely treat this day as a festive day without trying to understand what he said and what he taught. When we are able to function wholeheartedly according to his teachings, then only will we be celebrating his Jayanti properly. If we do not try to know what he taught, and if we do not try to lead a pattern of life according to his teachings, if instead we content ourselves with sweets and feasting today, the day of Shankara Jayanti, it will not be a proper celebration. All festival days of India are not meant for just Ahara and Vihara (food and enjoyment), but they are intended to turn one’s mind to gaining knowledge of the Supreme Being. They have all a spiritual basis. On these festival days, we must try to know the full meaning of at least one saying said by such great men, and try to put it into practice. All the holidays that are generally given on such occasions, Jayantis and sacred days, should not merely be considered as holidays but as holy days. We must spend the time usefully and make our life meaningful.

…When we celebrate Shankara Jayanti, we must know what Shankara taught us and try to put all he said into practice. Even though some things appear to be lifeless, when they come and combine with ourselves in life, they will also become most important and significant. For instance, we cook vegetables and eat them. We boil rice and eat it. By cooking, the life principle is removed from the vegetables and rice. When they are cooked, we think that they have become Jadas or lifeless, but when they go into our body, they will turn into Chaitanya and give us vitality and strength.
- “Shankara Jayanti”, Summer Showers in Brindavan 1972, Brindavan

Note: Born in Kerala in 788, Sri Adi Shankaracharya was a philosopher, Vedic scholar and foremost proponent of the Advaita (Non-Dualism) Vedanta school of philosophy. Considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva, he is widely known for his outstanding commentaries (Bhashyas) on ancient and abstruse Indian texts such as the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads etc. He travelled across India propounding the philosophy of Divinity of mankind and defeated many opponents who were preaching superficial doctrines. Towards the end of his life, he established four monasteries at Badri in the north, Puri in the east, Sringeri in the south and Dwaraka in the west for the continued propagation of Advaita Siddhanta (Principle of Non-Dualism). At a young age of 32 in the year 820, he took Mahasamadhi at Kedarnath, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy of literature and inspiration for millennia.


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