Preceptors of Advaita
JAGADGURU SRI CHANDRASEKHARENDRA SARASVATI
On The Significance of Shankara Jayanti *
Today is Sri Sankara-Jayanti. It was by the avatara of Sri Sankara that the Vedas, the Smritis, etc., were resuscitated. It is by their resuscitation alone that the observances connected with auspicious days such as Rama-navami. Nrisimha-jayanti, Krishna-jayanti, Uttarayana-sankranti, Siva-ratri, etc., have been revived. The Jayanti of Sri Sankara is the jayanti that has imparted to all Jayantis their character as Jayantis. On the fifth day of the bright-half of the month of Vaisakha falls Sri Sankara Jayanti. Like the pure white jasmine (vasanti, madhavi) creeper, that causes delight, let this fifth day of the bright-half month in the spring season (vasanti, madhavi) embellish and delight our intelligence.
Who is Sankara? Sankara is the one who brings delight to the world. He alone is Siva. Siva is the giver of auspiciousness. Totakacharya says in his octad of verses in the totaka metre thus:
bhava eva bhavaniti me nitaram
samajayata chetasi kautukita,
gurupungava pungava-ketana te
samatamayatam na hi ko’pi sudhih
“Knowing that Thou art the Lord Siva, there arises supreme bliss in my heart; O the Best of teachers! The One whose banner is the bull-sign (Siva)! None of the wise ones is equal to Thee!”
And, Padmapadacharya says in the Panchapadika:
“I bow to the unique Sankara whose wealth is the entourage of ascetics, (who has no serpents adorning him), and who has vanquished opposition by the Bauddhas and Jainas^ (who is not accompanied by Ganesa).”
And, it has been said by a well-instructed one of old:
“I bow to Bhagavatpada Sankara who is the repository of Sruti, Smritis and Puranas, the abode of grace and the bestower of auspiciousness on the world.”
What is sam (auspiciousness)? Happiness is bliss. The Brihadaranyakopanishad says, it is love. Where that auspiciousness, love, or bliss exists, the world mostly does not know. Therefore it suffers. He who is always of the nature of auspiciousness, the Bhagavatpada, seeing the world which suffers, became filled with grace. He became the abode of grace so that the world may experience the happiness of the impartite Self-experience. What is that happiness? It was on account of that experience that Sankara was far removed from misery. Sankara speaks: “For all, the Self alone is happiness: the Self alone is all: the Self itself is Brahman: and Brahman itself is all this. All is the effect of Brahman; and the cause itself is the effect. From the cause, the effect is non-different. All is, verily, auspiciousness. Let auspiciousness be experienced in all beings. Let the Self which is auspiciousness be experienced.”
A son becomes dear to the worldly people. Why? Because he is one’s son. Wealth becomes dear to the worldly people, because it is one’s wealth. A wife becomes dear to the worldly people because she is one’s wife. Corn and land become dear to the worldly people, because they are one’s corn and land.
If the same corn and land have been sold to one other than one’s self, say Yajnadatta, then they are not considered to be dear. And, thus in the world, since all that is external becomes dear because it is related to one’s self, the self is the dearest; and since that itself is Brahman, that alone is the supreme bliss. Thus Sankara said in his commentary on the topic dealing with the Self as love.
That the supreme Self is one is Sankara’s view. That, all is the supreme Self is Sankara’s view. That all is one alone is Sankara’s view. That all is Brahman is the view of Scripture. The view of Scripture is, verily, the view of Sankara. Because all is Brahman, there is nothing whatever that is different from Brahman; this is Sankara’s view. The universe alone is real, there is no Brahman; this is the Charvaka view. The universe and Brahman are both of them real: this is the dualistic view of the Naiyayikas and others. The universe and Brahman are both of them non-existent: this is the Bauddha view. Brahman alone is real, the universe as different from Brahman is non-existent: this is Sankara’s view.
On the rise of Buddhism, the views that were in vogue previously did not get exterminated. On the rise of the Charvaka school, the views that differed from it did not get obliterated. But on the rise of Sankara’s view, all the previous schools lost their brilliance, even as the planets that shine by night are shorn of their luminosity at sun-rise.
When the impartite light shines, need it be said that the limited luminaries get overpowered? In the supreme non-dual Self, the one impartite essence, which is like the ocean, all paths, viz. devotion, meditation, ethical culture and mutually incompatible tantrika-sadhanas, stressing Vaidika-achara or Yoga-samadhi, become one, even like the great rivers which flow towards the East, South, West or North become one when they join the sea. Therein alone all of them find auspiciousness. The following statement of an ancient sage bears this out:
nanabhashyadrita sa sagunaphalagatih vaidhavidyaviseshaih
tattad-desapti-ramya sarid-iva sakala yatra yaty-amsa-bhuyam,
tasminn-anandasindhau atimahati phale bhava-visranti-mudra
sastrasyodghatita yaih pranamata hridi tan nityam acharyapadan.
“The relative path of gaining the fruit of contacting Godhead endowed with attributes (saguna) by guiding the souls to the respective celestial regions is revealed by the different Upanishadic upasanas (meditations) and expounded by the various Bhashyas. But, like a river which flows into the ocean and becomes a part of it, that path finds its end in the ocean of Ananda, the final human goal, the quiescence of transmigration, which is the revelation of Scripture as explained clearly by the Acharya-pada. Adore him in the heart!”
The “Acharya-pada” is Sri Sankara-bhagavatpada.
The conclusive view of Bhagavatpada, as of all the preceptors of the Vedic tradition, is that the dharma as taught in the Veda should be practised by the humans according to their respective varna and asrama. And, this varnasrama-dharma is prescribed by Scripture, not merely for the sake of the preservation of the human society from the economic standpoint through the people helping one another as helpers and the helped, but as the means to moksha for each individual soul: this dharma is prescribed prominently in Sruti and Smritis for the sake of purifying the mind by generating virtues like peace, self-control, discrimination and dispassion, which cannot be acquired by any other means by those who seek them. This has been taught directly by Sri Sankara-bhagavatpada in his work, Aparokshanubhuti:
sva-varnasrama-dharmena tapasa hari-toshanat,
sadhanam prabhavet pumsam vairagyadi-chatushtayam.
“By (following) one’s own varnasrama-dharma, by austerity and by pleasing Hari, the four-fold means consisting of dispassion, etc., is generated for human beings.”
This teaching of Sri Sankara follows clearly the Bhagavad-gita: tasmac-chhastram pramanam te karyakarya-vyavasthitau.
“Therefore, scripture is the authority for you in the matter of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done.”
In this passage of the Gita, the word ‘therefore’ refers to some cause for Scripture being the authority for what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. What is that cause?
The cause has been explained in the previous verses:
trividham narakasyedam dvaram nasanam atmanah
kamah krodhas-tatha lobhah tasmad-etat-trayam tyajet.
etair-vimuktah kaunteya tamo-dvarais-tribhir-narah.
acharaty-atmanah sreyas-tato yati param gatim.
yah sastra-vidhim utsrijya vartate kamakaratah,
na sa siddhim avapnoti na sukham na param gatim.
“Triple is the door to this hell leading to self-destruction –– desire, anger and greed. Therefore, these three should be rejected. Freed from these three doors to darkness, O Arjuna, man follows what is his good and thereby attains the supreme goal. He who, transgressing the injunctions of Scripture, acts being impelled by desire, attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme goal. Therefore, Scripture is the authority for you in the matter of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Knowing thus, you ought to perform here only such action as is ordained by Scripture.”
Thus the Acharya transforms even the layman into the supreme Self through the teaching of the Bhashyas gradually. Beginning with the statement “Let the Veda be studied everyday” (vedo nityam adhiyatam), he concludes his teaching with the statement “Let one remain as the supreme Brahman-Self” (brahmatmanasthiyatam). The fruit of Veda is the performance of actions taught therein. The performance of actions ought to be done in a spirit of dedication to God and not for the sake of any other fruit. The performance of (one’s) action is itself the worship of God. It has been stated by one who knows the tradition: “It is by God’s grace alone that there is for men an inclination towards Advaita”. It is by god’s grace that the mind becomes pure. Let the one who is endowed with purity of mind approach a teacher who is a knower of Brahman. Let him offer worship to the teacher’s paduka. Let him listen to the meaning of the Upanishads. Let him pray for instruction. Let him renounce every desire. Let him seek the company of the good. Let him partake of food got by alms, merely as medicine for the disease called hunger. Let him not ask for delicious food. Let him be satisfied with whatever destiny brings. Let him practice samadhi. Let him remain as the supreme Brahman-self. This is the gist of Sri Sankara’s teachings.
Thus the Parivrat (wandering monk), who expounds the hidden meaning of the Upanishads in the words of his commentaries which are clear and deep, wanders about. He wanders everywhere from the Setu to the Himalayas. He visits the holy rivers. He goes to the pilgrim-places. He tours the villages. He goes to the towns. He visits the temples. In those places, he augments the Presence Divine through such means as mantras and yantras. There is almost no holy place in India whose greatness has not been strengthened by Sankara’s visit. Even to this day people in the different parts of the country say: “This temple in our territory has been purified by the splendour of the mantra uttered by Sri Sankaracharya; and has been rendered great by the installation of yantras.” In the entire area where the Veda has spread –– Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Andhra, Dravida, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Malava, Gurjara, Sindhu, Gandhara, Kuru, Panchala, Kasmira, Nepala, Maithila, Kanyakubja, Magadha, Kamarupa, Kamboja, etc. –– there is no place where the Bhashya of Sri Sankaracharya was not known to the seekers of release. Even now it is so in every place where the Veda is in vogue.
It is true that the growth of modern science is considered to be a great danger to the world because it has promoted the production of nuclear weapons which can cause the total destruction of living beings. Yet, from another standpoint, when one reflects carefully and thoroughly, one will be able to approve of the growth of science as what can possibly lead to the supreme peace of all beings. Till about fifty years ago, the eminent scientists were intent on establishing through enumerating the elements that those elements were absolutely distinct from one another. But now the scientists deny any distinction among the visible and invisible modes of matter and proclaim that all matter is a transformation of one energy. Thus, gradually, the modern scientists reject difference and exhibit non-difference. This will be evident to all thinkers.
The foremost among the scientists, Einstein, Sir James Jeans and others, come very close to the Advaita-siddhanta of the Upanishads as taught by Bhagavatpada, by offering proofs for the relativity of the objective world and its dependent reality. The scientific research of the present age is thus getting into the proximity of Sankara’s siddhanta, as it rejects the host of differences. Hence, it is clear that modern science has opened a way to universal peace. When the non-perception of difference has been established through higher research, then those popular leaders and administrators who are the wise ones, the heroes, the thinkers who are rid of such differences as one’s own and others’ and who experience the non-difference from even the people of the enemy-country and regard the suffering of those people as their own, will become the central pillars of lasting world-peace. On this sacred day of Sankara Jayanti, let the thinkers and the wise ones, according to their abilities, begin to spread, with enthusiasm, everywhere in the world, the conclusive view of non-difference, endorsed by the modern scientific researchers, proclaimed by the beginning-less Upanishads and rendered radiant by Sri Sankara bhagavatpada. May the malady of lack of peace which is a universal affliction be removed through the life-giving ambrosia of the experience of non-difference, i.e. Advaita.
* Sankara Jayanti Message in Samskrit, Translated into English – Editor.
^ ‘Vinayaka’ is an appellation of the Buddha and the Jina.
Preceptors of Advaita - Other Parts:
Preceptors of Advaita