Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Deva Maheshwara
Guru Sakshath Parambrahma, Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha||
Adi Shankaracharya the founder of the Advaita philosophy begins his Gurustotram or Verses to the Guru with the above Sanskrit shloka (verse) and the meaning of this shloka is – “Guru/Master is the creator Brahma, Guru is the preserver Vishnu, Guru is the destroyer Shiva, Guru is directly the supreme spirit and I offer my salutations to this Guru”.
Picture – Shiva appeared in the dreams of the childless couple (parents of Adi Shankara), and offered them a choice: a mediocre son who would live a long life, or an extraordinary son who would not live long. Both of them chose the later.
Adi Shankara was born in 788 CE in Kalady, Kerala to father Kaippilly Sivaguru Nambudiri and mother Aryambya Antharjanam. Adi Shankaracharya Jayanthi falls on the 5th day of Hindu month Vaisakh. May – June in the Gregorian Calendar. This year (2016) it is on May 11th. On this day his works are read with meditation and special pooja to Adi Shankaracharya, one of the greatest philosopher. He is considered as the incarnation of Lord Shiva/Shankara.
Picture – A crocodile caught hold of Adi Shankara’s leg in river Poorna when he was 8 and he pleaded his mother to grant him permission to become a sanyasi. His mother gave him the consent and the crocodile let go of his leg.
When Shankaracharya was a young child he yearned to be a Sanyasi and was detached from all worldly matters. His thirst for spiritual knowledge made him renounce the world and master the vedas, puranas and the epics.
In his pursuit to spread his philosophy he traveled all over India and established four mathas/religious institutions in the four corners of India. The mathas established by Ādi Śankara are:
- Uttarāmnāya matha, or northern matha at Joshimath
- Pūrvāmnāya matha or eastern matha, the Govardhana matha, at Puri
- Dakshināmnāya matha, or the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, the southern matha, at Sringeri
- Paśchimāmnāya matha, or the Dwaraka Pitha, the western matha, at Dwarka .
The heads of these above four institutions are considered the principal Shankaracharyas. Govinda Bhagvatapada became his Guru and under his guidance he learnt all forms of Yoga and Brahma. He was known as Adi Shankaracharya, the person who would be responsible to spread the Brahma Sutras all over the world.
Adi Shankara is believed to be the founder of the Dashanami monastic order and the Shanmata tradition of worship. He has written many commentaries on the Vedic Canon (Brahma Sutra, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavadgita) in support of his thesis.
Adi Shankara travelled to the Himalayan area of Kedarnath-Badrinath and attained videha mukti/freedom from embodiment. There is a samadhi mandir dedicated to Adi Shankara behind the Kedarnath temple in Uttaranchal.