Adi Shankara - What makes a great being

Shankara was an intellectual giant, a genius of linguistics, and, above all, a spiritual light, the pride of India. The level of wisdom and knowledge he showed at a very early age, he was a shining light for humanity. How do you produce such a Being? In the brief span of his life, he walked the length and breadth of this nation. From the southern tip of India, he walked to its heartland, further up north, east and west. Where did this energy, this zest, and this wisdom come from? One aspect which is both important and symbolic is that Shankara came from a village called Kaladi, which is a small town today. Kaladi literally means “beneath the feet.” In the South, we are at the feet of Bharat Mata, and this has paid off for us in so many ways.

There is a beautiful story from the Mahabharat that probably most of you will know. When Arjuna and Duryodhana went to seek support from Krishna for the Kurukshetra war, one of them stood at Krishna’s head, the other chose to stand at his feet – that decided everything. That afternoon, when Arjuna stood at Krishna’s feet, he basically won the war. This is the fundamental nature of our nation and culture – because we bow down to everything, we rise. We don’t rise by elbowing our way – we rise by bowing down.

Bharat means we always learnt how to be at the feet of the Divine. This is not a culture of pumped up pomp, but a culture of natural piety. Whether it is a god, a man, a woman, a child, an animal, a tree, or a rock – we learnt to bow down to everything. Just with this one aspect, we could produce great beings. By being at the feet of the Divine, we learnt, we evolved, we blossomed, and we became shining lights to the rest of the world for a long time.

Thousand years ago, well before Shankara, right from the Adiyogi, many yogis, mystics, sages, and saints have said this in so many ways. It is the intellectual clarity with which he expressed it, the zest and energy with which he spread it across the nation, that make Shankara stand out. One aspect that is very important in today’s world is that all this knowledge, all this wisdom came not by faith or belief, but by realization. Unless the spiritual process is in some way in sync with fundamental human logic and current scientific findings, people will not take it. Future generations will reject anything that does not make logical sense to them, and that is not scientifically correct.