Shri Adi Shankaracharya: His Life - Part 2

Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya
... Continued from Part 1

One day, Shankara’s mother called him, served him food on the leaf and said, “We have begotten you after a long period of waiting. But you are going to live for a short period. To keep up the clan of our family, I want you to get married.” She asked him to make this promise. To this Shankara replied “Mother, what is Samsara? What is the happiness in this family life? What is the result from this family life? How do you expect to reach your goal in this family life? I don’t relish this family life. I want to be a Sanyasi (ascetic).” When he said so, his mother was more grief stricken.

Celibacy is of 3 types. These include Vastra Sanyasa, Indriya Sanyasa and Hrudaya Sanyasa. Vastra Sanyasa means restraint on extravagant dressing habits. Indriya Sanyasa means control on all the desires. Sanyasa means Sarvasanga Parityaga i.e. total renunciation. Giving up all the desires is Sanyasa. We have to give up all these desires which are of a multiplying nature. This is the renunciation of the senses. Hrudaya Sanyasa means there is no relation between mind, the senses and the heart. That which is born, grows and ultimately dies is the body. The body passes through the stages of birth, youth, old age and death. As the body passes through the various stages, there is mental suffering associated. The childhood is spent in playing, the boy hood is spent in studies, youth is spent in family life, old age is spent in discharging responsibilities. Thus there is an intimate relationship between the body and the mind. Take the example of a raw tamarind. If it is hit with a stone, the outer layer as well as the inner layer gets damaged. On the other hand, when we hit a ripe tamarind with a stone, only the outer skin breaks and the juice is available for consumption. Similarly the one with worldly associations should understand that he is like a tamarind. It is the same tamarind that is the gross body, subtle body and causal body. The outer skin is the gross, the pulp inside is the subtle and the seed is the causal body. The seed, skin and fruit, all the three are out of the one self. Like this the body is intimately related with the ephemeral, physical world.

Shankara told his mother, “Mother, you are expecting me to lead a family life. I don’t want to lead a family life. What is family life? Is it wife and children? Desire means Samsara. In fact any desire is Samsara - studying, eating, moving about, sitting, inhalation and exhalation are all different aspects of the Samsara. I am already in that Samsara. This inhalation and exhalation must merge with the Divinity. That is Saayujya – merger with the Supreme. That is Liberation – merger with the Divine. What is this merger? Is it the body, mind, Chitta, life force? No. That which is the basis of the body, that without which this body cannot exist in this world, must merge with the Divine. That which has emerged from the Divine must merge back into the Divine. This is stated in the Bhagavatam also.

Shankara assists his ailing mother Aryamba
on the way to the river Poorna
Thus he taught all about renunciation to his mother. On hearing this mother Aryamba felt very sad, which was quite natural. The next day she went to the Poorna river to get water. Because of all the sadness, she didn’t take food and didn’t get proper sleep as she had spent the previous day thinking about the decision that Shankara had made. As she was bringing water she fainted. On seeing her, Shankara thought that he must discharge his duty. Since his mother did not return, he followed the same route on which she had gone. He saw his mother had fallen unconscious. Keeping his mother on his lap, he served his mother. When she became conscious, he brought her back home. Then he started teaching her again, “Mother, my words might have hurt you. But if I keep myself to these problems, I am not doing justice to my Dharma. Strictly speaking, you are not my mother and I am not your son. You and I have come out from that Satchitananda (Truth-Awareness-Bliss) principle. You are Satchitananda and so am I. We both must go back to that Satchitananda. It is not good to feel sad like this. This sadness is contrary to spirituality.
The Sanyasi
The 'crocodile' catches hold of Shankara
The mother was in deep distress over the son’s resolve. One day she was going to the river to fetch water. The young Shankara followed her earnestly pleading, “Mother! Permit me to take to Sanyasa”. She did not agree. When she got into the river for her bath, Shankara jumped into the river and going down the river for a while, he raised one hand and shouted, “Mother, a crocodile has caught hold of me. At least now permit me to become a Sanyasi”. The mother said, “If you can be saved from the crocodile by taking to Sanyasa, you better do so, so that you may live, it doesn’t matter whether as a celibate or a householder”. Shankara then came out of the river and told his mother, “In the ocean of Samsara, I was about to be drowned by a crocodile in the form of marriage. When you let me become a Sanyasi, I was free from the hold of the crocodile. No one could marry a Sanyasi”. Sanyasa does not mean a mere change in the colour of the robe. It is really a change in one’s qualities. Shankara prostrated before his mother and took her leave to embark on his career as an ascetic. At that time, the mother made Shankara give a promise that he should come and see her during her last moments. 


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