Also known as Adi Shankaracharya, Adi Sankara is why the Vedic Dharma in India exists today. During his days, the forces that opposed Vedic religion was greater and in more numbers than they are today. There was a chaos in matter of religion and philosophy in India.
Religions and sects such as Charvakas, Lokayathikas, Kapalikas, Shaktas, Sankhyas, Buddhas and Madhyamikas were competing. Not only them, there were about 72 sects in total and there was a conflict between them. Superstition and bigotry prevailed during the times.
Some of those threats are:
- Greece, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries were invading India
- Sanatana Dharma was starting to get corrupted
- Preachers who were not complete followers of Vedas started to preach their own religious methods and their own ways of rituals
- Vedas were difficult for even the intellectuals of those times to understand because of the complexity of the language
- Since many did not know Sanskrit, people were ignorant about the religion
- Vamachara of Tantric started to gain popularity, and it led to cruel practices such as Nara Bali
- Buddhist and Jain religion launched right then. They were based on spoken language, so most of the people could understand it. Moreover, they picked these two because Sanatana Dharma was getting more and more corrupted.
- Other Hindu kings like Asoka and Harsha were attracted to Buddhism and Jainism rather than Sanatana Dharma.
During such heavy threats, Adi Shankara single-handedly restored the Vedic Dharma and Advaita Vedanta to its pristine form in India, and that too in a very short period of time.
Interesting Facts About Adi Shankaracharya
- By the age of sixteen, he mastered the Vedas
- He understood Buddhism and ancient Vedic tradition, then he transformed the extant ideas, especially of the Vedanta tradition of Hinduism. He worked to make it the most important tradition in India that has lasted now for more than thousand years.
- He understood the importance of monastic life, and he sanctioned it as per the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra
- He traveled across India and other parts of South Asia to spread the Hindu philosophy, not in a sense of preaching, but rather through discourses and debates with other thinkers
- He founded four monasteries, Shankaracharya peethas, also called mathas, in four corner of India to keep up with his spiritual teachings:
- Sarada Peetham at Sringeri
- Kalika Peetham at Dwaraka
- Jyotih Peetham, Badarikashrama
- Goardhana Peetham in Jaggannath, Puri
- He is regarded to be the greatest teacher and reformer of Smarta
- He was the one who introduced Panchayatana form of worship – the worship of five deities in a simultaneous manner – Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. He explained that these were all different forms of the one Brahman, the Supreme being.
- He wrote many books – bhasya, prakarana grantha, stotra
- Aitareya Upaniṣad (Rigveda)
- Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (Śukla Yajurveda)
- Īśa Upaniṣad (Śukla Yajurveda)
- Taittirīya Upaniṣad (Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
- Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
- Kaṭha Upaniṣad (Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda)
- Kena Upaniṣad (samaveda)
- Chāndogya Upaniṣad (samaveda)
- Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad[note 1] (Atharvaveda) and Gauḍapāda Kārika
- Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (Atharvaveda)
- Praśna Upaniṣad (Atharvaveda)
- Bhagavadgīta (Mahabhārata)
- Vishnu Sahasranama (Mahabhārata)
- Sānatsujātiya (Mahabhārata)
- Gāyatri Mantraṃ
- Prakaraṇa grantha
- Vivekacūḍāmaṇi (Crest-Jewel of Wisdom)
- Upadeśasāhasri (A thousand teachings)
- Ātma bodha
- Sādhana Pañcakaṃ
- Nirvāṇa Ṣaṭkam
- Manīśa Pañcakaṃ
- Yati Pañcakaṃ
- Tattva bodha
- Vākya vṛtti
- Siddhānta Tattva Vindu
- Nirguṇa Mānasa Pūja
- Prasnottara Ratna Malika (The Gem-Garland of Questions and Answers)
- svatma prakasika
- Ganesha Pancharatnam
- Dakshinamurthy Stotram
- Bhaja Govindaṃ, also known as Mohamuḍgara
- Śrī Lakṣmīnṛsiṃha Karāvalamba Stotraṃ
- Śāradā Bhujangaṃ
- Kanakadhāra Stotraṃ
- Bhavāni Aṣṭakaṃ
- Śiva Mānasa Pūja
- Subramanya Bhujangam
- Kashi Panchakam
Adi Shankaracharya succeeded at doing all these at just the age of 32. He is, in fact, a profound philosopher, an able propagandist, a matchless preacher, a gifted poet, a great religious reformer.