"Sri Adi Sankara & National Integration"
English Translation of speech delivered by His Holiness Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamiji, 70th Pontiff of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, at Siri Fort, New Delhi, India, on the occasion of “Symposium on Adi Sankara and National Integration”
For the last 3 or 4 days right from the time our Acharya set His foot on the soil of Delhi, the citizens of Delhi have been very fortunate in having spiritual awakening and indeed a spiritual feast in the form of discourses, satsang, etc.
The subject of today’s seminar is the Advaita philosophy of Sri Adi Sankara and the current challenges in the context of globalization. In reality, it centers around the relevance of Adi Sankara’s upadesa to National Integration and indeed the integration of the whole world. The discussion has been going on and many distinguished speakers have contributed their valuable thoughts on this matter and have spoken about Sankara’s teachings in detail. Generally, only politics, commerce and economic policies are discussed. But as a result of the visit of the Acharya, there has been encouragement for discussion on Vedanta with Sraddha and devotion.
Many languages are spoken in our country and yet our country is one. Adi Sankara strove for unity of the country not merely from the physical or geographical point of view but also in the spiritual dimension.
People generally think that only Vedanta or Advaita was propagated by Him. It is true that He talked about Advaita or Vedanta. But He also strove for National Integration. He toured the whole country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to show that India is one. He was born in Kerala but He travelled to Badrinath, Kedarnath and Kashmir in the North. He also visited the Pashupathilingakshetra in Nepal. Even today, the pooja at the temple is being done according to His teachings.
He has done a lot for safeguarding the environment. He has sung several hymns in praise of the rivers, such as Yamunashtakam, Gangashtakam etc. That is why one finds that He is remembered everywhere in the country.
He has also shown that our country is one and the parts cannot remain separated. Though he hailed from Kerala, we have the Shankaracharya Hills in Kashmir which shows that Kashmir is part of India and will remain a part of India. He went to Kashmir just to emphasize the unity of the Country.
He has contributed quite a lot for Sarvadharmasamabhava. He also established the six schools of worships, namely Ganapatyam, Saivam, Saktam, Sauram, Vaishnavam and Kaumaram.
He has also done a lot of work for Sarvadharmamaitri, i.e., for the fostering of a spirit of friendship between the followers of different religions. That is why he is called “ LokaSankara”. “Sam karoti iti Sankarah”, it means one who does well to the world.
He is called the repository of Sruti, Smriti and the Puranas. Sanathana Dharma being the source of National Integration, He has done a lot for protecting and preserving the unity of our country. There are people belonging to different religions in our country. Yet it is one country. If there is any country in the world where people belonging to different religions can live together, it is only India. It was Adi Sankara who had sown the very seeds of Vedanta for this unity.
We have to propogate His teachings today not merely in India but also in foreign countries and we are making efforts in that direction. That is why we are touring all over the country. We have gone to the North – East where we have a Balaji Mandir, Netralaya etc. At Gangtok in Sikkim also, a temple is under construction.
Adi Sankara’s teachings are a sure guide to bring about happiness and peace in the country. People talk about stability in polititics but stability at the spiritual level is also necessary. There should not be conversion from one religion to another. You can have conversion from metre gauge to broad gauge on the railways, but when it comes to religion, there should not be any conversion. One should stick to one’s religion and not think of converting to another religion.
In our Sastras, enough freedom has been given to people and there is enough scope for diversity. Our people have different food habits, dress habits and mode of worship. Even atheism has got a place in our country, as seen from Jabali’s arguments. The charvaka system or nastikavada also has a place in our philosophical systems. Similarly, there are people who are vegetarians while there are others who are non-vegetarians. In our country, therefore there is enough scope for diversity in various aspects.
Service to society is another hallmark of Sankara’s teachings. Ours is a very ancient civilization. We have always believed in the concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and “ Swadeso bhuvanatrayam”. So the whole world is one for us. Therefore, if our religion could be propagated, it will conduce to peace and happiness in the whole world. If there is any country in the world which can be a Guru in the matter of religion, it can only be our country.
Therefore, if our religion is followed with Sraddha and devotion, it will also conduce to the development of peace and happiness in the whole world.
These days, our country is beset with two major problems, namely economic problems – Aarthik Vikas and the problem of terrorism – Aatank Niras. Adi Sankara’s teaching can go a long way in finding a solution to these problems by giving us the proper guidance. He strove hard for nearly 24 years right from the age of 8 to 32 to usher in happiness, peace and stability. His teachings will provide us with a sound basis for peace and friendship not only among the people of India but also peoples of the whole world. We pray to Lord Chandramouleeswara to shower His blessings for success in this endeavor and we also give our blessings.