The Life & Times of Adi Shankaracharya

We begin this article with a collection of quotations from the Theosophical literature which clearly indicate the high position in which Adi Shankaracharya is held in Theosophy and his great spiritual and esoteric importance, including his close connection with Gautama Buddha.

Shankaracharya, one of the most important figures in Indian history and the Hindu religion, is widely revered as a religious reformer, the formulator and codifier of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, the non-dualistic system based upon the Upanishads. Theosophy teaches that he was born 2,500 years ago, specifically in 510 B.C., only “51 years and 2 months” after the death of the Buddha. As will be seen from the quotes which follow, H.P. Blavatsky and the Masters maintain that Shankaracharya was in a certain mysterious sense the first reincarnation of Gautama Buddha after that lifetime.

Virtually all Hindus and all Buddhists deny such a claim, yet the Gupta Vidya – the Secret Doctrine – insists that it is so.

Some overly intellectual and academically oriented Theosophists flippantly dismiss the 510 B.C. date as nonsensical and inaccurate, since they have blindly bought into the assertions and statistics of academia – which usually place Shankaracharya somewhere between the 8th and 10th centuries A.D., sometimes even later – preferring to believe and promulgate these – perhaps for sake of respectability – than what “Those who know” have said.

We will show that there is actually far more evidence and support for the B.C. date than any A.D. date.

“… Buddha’s grand successor, Shankaracharya.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. xliv

“Shankaracharya the greatest of the Esoteric masters of India …”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 86

“Sri Shankaracharya, the greatest Initiate living in the historical ages, wrote many a Bhashya on the Upanishads. But his original treatises, as there are reasons to suppose, have not yet fallen into the hands of the Philistines, for they are too jealously preserved in his maths (monasteries, mathams. And there are still weightier reasons to believe that the priceless Bhashyas (Commentaries) on the esoteric doctrine of the Brahmins, by their greatest expounder, will remain for ages yet a dead letter to most of the Hindus, except the Smartava Brahmins. This sect, founded by Shankaracharya, (which is still very powerful in Southern India) is now almost the only one to produce students who have preserved sufficient knowledge to comprehend the dead letter of the Bhashyas. The reason of this is that they alone, I am informed, have occasionally real Initiates at their head in their mathams, as for instance, in the “Sringa-giri,” in the Western Ghauts of Mysore. On the other hand, there is no sect in that desperately exclusive caste of the Brahmins, more exclusive than is the Smartava; and the reticence of its followers to say what they may know of the Occult sciences and the esoteric doctrine, is only equalled by their pride and learning.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 271-272

“The followers of one of the greatest minds that ever appeared on Earth, the Adwaita Vedantins are called Atheists, because they regard all save Parabrahm, the secondless, or Absolute Reality – as an illusion. Yet the wisest Initiates came from their ranks, as also the greatest Yogis.”

– H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 522