Adi Sankara

Reverentially called Bhagwadpada Acharya (The Guru at the feet of Lord), Adi Sankara (roughly Old/Original/Ancestral Sankara), Sankara (approximately 788-820 CE) was the most famous Advaita philosopher who had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism through his non-dualistic philosophy. He advocated the greatness and importance of the Vedas,(the basic scripture of the Hindus) and gave new life to Hinduism when it was suffering due to the increasing influence of Buddhism. He was born in Kaladi, a small village in Kerala, India.

At the time Hinduism had lost some of its appeal, because of the influence of Buddhism. Sankara stressed the importance of the Vedas and his work helped Hinduism regain strength and popularity.

His teachers include: Gaudapada and Govinda.

Although he had a short-lived lifespan, he had single handedly walked around India to restore the knowledge of the vedas and show once again their greatness. It is because of this man that a country almost entirely Buddhist became once again almost entirely Hindu. It may be to his credit that at least some of the Vedas survive to today.

Sankara's theology maintains that spiritual ignorance (Avidya) is caused by seeing the self (Atman) where self is not. Discrimination needs to be developed in order to true from false and knowledge (jnana) from ignorance (avidya).

Books written by Sankara for certain are:

  • The commentary Bhasya on the Brahma Sutra
  • The commentary on the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
  • The commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad
  • The Thousand Teachings or Upadesasahasri
  • A hymn to the Goddess Saundaryalahari
  • Benedictory invocation to Siva and Sakti, namely Sivanandalahari

Books he probably wrote are:

  • The commentary on Gaudapada's Karika to the Mandukya Upanishad
  • The commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, though there is no scholarly agreement on this.

He is said to have founded four mathas (a matha is a monastery or religious order) which are important to this day. These are at Sringeri in Karnataka, in the south; Dwaraka in Gujarat in the west; Puri in Orissa in the east; and Jyotirmath (Joshimath) in Uttaranchal in the north. The heads of the mathas trace their authority back to him.

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