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© 2004 - Hansadutta das

The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govindam"

By Hansadutta das

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Introduction

Shripad Shankaracharya was born approximately 780 AD in the Kerala section of India (modern Malabar) in a village named Kalati. At a very early age he was inclined towards renunciation and spiritual practices and wonderful exploits are attributed to him even during his childhood. For instance, by dint of his spiritual potency, he brought the local river near to his house to save his mother the trouble of going there. By the age of seven he had taken initiation from his spiritual master, and by the age of nine he had left his loving mother and father, renounced the world and taken sannyasa.

Shankaracharya's spiritual master was Govinda, whom he met in the forest known as Govindanatha on the bank of the river Indubhava. Thus, we find the name Govinda in all the works of Shankaracharya, who always called himself "Srimadgovinda-bhagavat-pujyapada-sisya". Govinda was the disciple of Gaudapadacharya, who in turn was the disciple of Srila Sukadeva Goswami, the son of Vyasadeva (the compiler of all the Vedic literatures.)

At the command of his guru, Shankara went to Kasi and composed the most famous of his bhasyas (commentaries) on the Vedanta-sutras. The next important event in the life of Shankara was his dialectical contest at Mahismati with Mandanamisra who was the premier exponent of Mimamsa philosophy. The debate lasted several days and ended by Mandanamisra accepting defeat and becoming Shankara's most beloved pupil--afterwards known as Sureshvaracharya. Shankara then made a tour through India where he powerfully refuted all doctrines except that of absolute Monism (kevaladvaita). By his extraordinary potency he attracted many notable disciples, chief of whom were Padmapada, Totaka and Hastamalaka.

By virtue of his zealous missionary work, he established four mathas (seats of religion) at the four ends of India: The Sringerimatha on the Sringeri hills in the southern part of India, the Sraradamatha at Dwarka in the west, the Jyotirmatha at Badarikashrama in the north and the Govardhanamatha at Puri in the east. Each of these mathas is still in existence carrying on the tradition of their founder.

The voluminous written works of Shankara include commentaries on the Vedanta-sutras (Sariraka-bhasya), the ten principal Upanishads, Bhagavad-gita and the Vishnu Sahasranam.

Shankara was not an ordinary person. He is accepted by all Vedic authorities as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. In the Padma Purana, Lord Shiva in his own words describes his mission:

"The Mayavadi philosophy," Lord Shiva informed his wife Parvati, "is impious (asach-chastra). It is covered Buddhism. My dear Parvati, in the form of a brahmana in Kali-yuga, I teach this imagined Mayavadi philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists, I describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be without form and without qualities. Similarly in explaining Vedanta I describe the same Mayavadi philosophy in order to mislead the entire population toward atheism by denying the personal form of the Lord." In the Shiva Purana the Supreme Personality of Godhead told Lord Shiva: "In Kali-yuga, mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings for the Vedas to bewilder them."

Although Shankara presented this covered Buddhism or impersonal philosophy, if we examine his most intimate and confidential writings, we find that they are actually full of krishna-bhakti (devotion to Krishna).

Towards the end of his life (he lived to be only 42) his headquarters was in Benares. One morning, while passing through the streets with some of his disciples, he saw an old brahmana futiley struggling at the point of death, trying to recite the panani-sutras (grammatical rules of Sanskrit). Although the brahmana was just about to pass away, still he was only reciting these panani-sutras. Even though Shankara had based his entire Vedic explanation on these grammatical rules, still he immediately composed the first verse of this Moha-Mudgara-Stotra, which describes the futility of any activity except the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.


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