śrutismṛtipurāṇānām ālayaṃ karuṇālayam | namāmi bhagavadpādaśaṅkaraṃ lokaśaṅkaram ||
Bhagavan Sri Adi Sankara
An exquisite thinker, a brilliant intellect, a personality scintillating with the vision of Truth, a heart throbbing with industrious faith and ardent desire to save the nation, sweetly emotional and relentlessly logical, in Sankara the Upanishads discovered the fittest Spiritual General.Swami Chinmayananda on Sri Adi Sankara
Sri Sankara was born in the 8th Century CE in the southern Indian state of Kerala in a devout Namboodiri family to Aryamba and Sivaguru. A prodigy who completed the Vedic studies very quickly, Sri Sankara was inclined to monasticism very early in life. A popular story recounts how when He was caught by a crocodile while bathing in the His insistence on being given permission to renounce the world and thus be saved forced His mother to approve. Thus freed from all clutches and promising His mother of returning at the appropriate time, Sri Sankara left home at the tender age of eight in search of a Guru to understand the deeper layers of scriptural knowledge. Reaching the ashram and surrendering at the lotus feet of Sri Govindabhagavadpada on the banks of River Narmada, Sri Sankara was then initiated into the Vedantic tradition and instructed on the subtlest truths of Vedantic philosophy.
Thereafter, upon the instruction of His Guru, Sri Sankara composed lucid commentaries on all the major Upanisads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutras (collectively known as prasthanatrayi containing the essence of Vedantic thought) and some other works.
Only sixteen years of age, Sri Sankara set-out to spread the truth of the scriptures and with a missionary zeal, sought to revive and re-establish the purity of Sanatana Dharma and the glorious Hindu thought tradition. Travelling across India and establishing the supremacy of Advaitic philosophy over other schools of thought through debates, Sri Sankara soon had many disciples, the four prominent being Padmapadacharya, Sureshvaracharya, Totakacharya and Hastamalaka who would play an important role in furthering the work started. With their assistance, Sri Sankara established the four Amnaya Mutts or centres of Vedantic learning in the four corners of the land under their leadership (in Puri, Sringeri, Dwaraka and Badrinath each focussing on one of the Vedas, namely Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Veda respectively). Sri Sankara also composed numerous philosophical texts and devotional hymns, visited many holy shrines, revived and established many temples and defined best practices in ritualistic worship, thus rendering a service to Sanatana Dharma unparalleled in history.
After ascending the Sarvajña Peetam (Throne of Omniscience) at the temple of Goddess Sarada in Kashmir, Sri Sankara, considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva left his mortal body at Kedar at 32 years of age. In a short span, the compassionate genius of Sri Sankara had vouchsafed the life of Sanatana Dharma, which owing to His grace continues to be followed by the majority of Hindus in India and across the world.