The very fact that Hinduism is still a dynamic and all-encompassing religion stands as ample testimony to the deeds of Adi Shankaracharya. Apart from being the champion of Advaita philosophy, one of his invaluable contributions towards Hinduism was the reordering and restructuring of the ancient Sannyasa order. These Sannyasis help eternal code of life contained in the Vedas, still flows as the dynamic force underlying and unifying all humanity reach the masses.
Bhagavan Adi Shankaracharya is considered to be the ideal Sannyasi. It is commonly accepted that he lived about one thousand two hundred years ago though there are historical sources which indicate that he lived in a earlier period. He was born in Kalady, Kerala and in his short life span of 32 years, his accomplishments seem a marvel even today, with our modern conveyances and other facilities. At the tender age of eight, burning with the desire for Liberation, he left home in search of his Guru.
From the southern state of Kerala, the young Shankara walked about 2000 kilometers— to the banks of the river Narmada, in the central plains of India, to his Guru— Govindapada. He stayed there serving his Guru for four years. Under his teacher’s compassionate guidance, the young Shankaracharya mastered all the Vedic scriptures.
At the age of twelve, his Guru deemed that Shankara was ready to write commentaries on major scriptural texts. At his Guru’s command Shankara wrote commentaries elucidating the subtle meanings hidden in the teachings of the scriptures. At the age of sixteen, he dropped his pen having completed writing all the major treatises.
There is a legend about the young disciple during this period of his stay with the Guru.
From the age of sixteen to thirty-two Shankaracharya went forth, travelling across the length and breadth of ancient India bringing to the hearts of the masses the life-giving message of the Vedas. “Brahman, Pure Consciousness, is the Absolute Reality. The world is unreal. In essence the individual is not different from Brahman.” Thus by the statement “Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya, Jeevo Brahmaiva Na Para“, he condensed the essence of the voluminous scriptures.
In those days ancient India was sunk in a quagmire of superstitions and scriptural misinterpretations. Degraded ritualism flourished. The essence of Sanatana Dharma, with its all-embracing message of Love, Compassion and the Universality of Humankind was completely lost in the blind performance of these rituals.