ADI Jagadguru Shankarachaya'smessage is the very embodiment of our national dharma. Born in Kerala 2,515 years ago, Adi Shankara, during his brief life span of only 32 years, 6 months and 10 days had endeavoured to bind our nation in the bond of cultural values and enlightenment. His mighty endeavour is reflective of his total commitment to the supremacy of national dharma. This is the prime reason why Adi Shankara'sdivine vision provides us constant inspiration of national integration, realising the innate oneness of the Supreme Being and the soul, self and national esteem. In the realm of universal peace and national unity, he will forever shine as the radiance, whose lustre will illuminate the path of the human world in its journey.
Adi Shankara, who held the ideal of national dharma to be Supreme, traversed the entire country and also established four mutts in the four different corners of the country with the purpose of preserving and strengthening national unity and integrity. Adi Shankara, through his unique and unparalleled act of his, firmly put his belief into action, that the moral development and advancement of the nation was possible only through two ways. One was through the spiritual messages of saints and acharayas, and the other was the might of the sovereign state.
Adi Shankaracharya clearly instructed the acharyas who headed the peeths (seats) established by him in the four corners of the country: Mathey tu niyato v?sa ?ch?ryasya na yujyatey (acharays must never stay in their respective mutts for too long a period or continuously). Their duty was to be constantly on the move, and engage themselves in nation-building. Yet another message of Adi Shanakara to his disciples and coming acharyas was: Swa swa r?shtra pratishtityai sanch?raha suvidhiyat?m (examine one'sown self and the state of the nation while being constantly on the move.)
The political and spiritual centres of the nation must today draw inspiration and sustenance from the philosophy that Adi Shankara initiated and must resuscitate those very values, which alone can provide the wherewithal for the perseverance of India'sspiritual, religious, social, historical and geographical integrity. Today, when our national flag can be lowered in observance of grief for the demise of persons belonging to a particular faith, why then cannot we, as a nation resolve that the birth anniversary of Adi Shankaracharya, who was a pioneer of universal dharma and philosophical vision, a progenitor of united India, be consecrated as a national festival? Adi Shankara'suniversal persona and his achievements must form an inseparable part of central and state government schools in both their primary and secondary syllabi/curriculum.
It was Adi Shankara who provided the divine light of enlightenment to the people of India, especially at a time when they were badly mired in the narrow confines of regionalism, orthodoxy, weakness, sectarianism and excessive ritualism. Adi Shankara'ssheer brilliance and far-sightedness of vision, plus his strength and strategic acumen of organisation resuscitated the Indian nation and made it shine with renewed luster in the world. Shankara'slife-journey was responsible in immortalising the social, historical, geographical, spiritual unity and integrity of our nation that had earlier been badly divided into no less than 72 different seats like Vedic, Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva, K?p?lik, P?nchr?tra and so on.
The four different mutts that Adi Shankara established in the four corners of the country, namely Jyotirmutt at Badrin?th in the Himalayas, Govardhan Mutt at Jagann?th Puri in Orissa, Shringa-giri (Shringeri) Sh?rd? Mutt at Karnataka and the Dw?rak? Mutt in Dw?rak?, Gujarat, and the K?nchi K?makoti Mutt for penance and worship, are even today, centres revered and held in awe by the people of India.
Lord Krishna, through the Geeta, provided philosophical and metaphysical template to integrate all different sects and ideologies into a single unit. For this purpose, he also established Yudhishtir as the emperor of a vast empire that straddled practically all of Asia. Adi Shankara, though not choosing any sovereign ruler or monarch to represent the political unity of India, left the imprint of his effort in engineering unity in every walk of national life, also strengthening the traditions and values that lent sustenance to this unique oneness of India. Shankara'smighty endeavour in strengthening the cultural unity of our nation has ensured that despite many adverse and hostile transgressions upon this land, the underlying and innate unity of the land of Bharat has always re-manifested itself time and again.
Shankara'sphilosophy drawn from Advaita Ved?nta is today held in reverence throughout the world due to its message of universal peace and the welfare of humanity. It is Shankara'suntiring and ceaseless efforts that saved India from being caught in the trap of rigid ritualism on one hand and from falling into the abyss of empty materialism devoid of spiritualism, on the other. Adi Shankaracharya thus was the saviour of India at a very critical juncture in its history.
The advent of Adi Shankara took place at that particular juncture in the history of Vedic dharma, which can be indeed termed as the dawning of a new era. The pristine land of Bharat was being bogged down in a morass of non-Vedic influences; the dark demons of vice and sin were eager to devour it from all sides. The land and its people were sunk in laziness, inaction and fatalism. It was at such a period in time that Bharat witnessed the advent of Adi Shankara. The flickering lamp of dharma, which was in real danger of being extinguished by the gust of the winds of adharma and looked to be in its last throes, was protected, preserved and then nurtured into a mighty radiant light by this supreme savant, and it then spread its illustrious light of dharma throughout the entire country. The whole land resonated with the victorious proclamation of the triumph of San?tan Vedic Dharma.
?di Shankara'simmortal messages of Jeevo brahmaivan?par?h? (The soul and the Supreme are not different from each other) Tattvamasi (Thou Art That meaning the Supreme One), Pragy?n?m Brahm meaning the ultimate wisdom is the Almighty), Aham Brahm?smi (I am verily the Brahman) and Sarvam Khalvidam Brahm (The entire universe is the manifestation of the Supreme One), which are drawn from the Upanishads, began to resonate throughout the country. The Geeta'swisdom, so aptly reflected and enunciated through Advesht? sarva bhoot?n?m, maitra karuna eva cha? (Hating no living being, but harmonious and kind towards all) was thence made available to the people of this nation, making them aware of the significance, hoariness and the sheer power of our wisdom. More importantly, social and religious lethargy and sloth had to yield place to valour and enterprise from out of a reawakened spirit of nationalism. This was truly a new era in the history of our national dharma. Which Indian therefore, does not worship Adi Shankara, the individual who brought about this epoch, the great savant responsible for the resurrection of Sanatan Dharma in every heart?
It is for this precise reason that the Shreemad Adya Jagadguru Shankarachaya Vedic Shodh Sansthanam, Varanasi, is whole-heartedly engaged in and dedicated to the strengthening of those very national values and presenting before India'sstudents and our coming progeny, the actual period of Adi Shankaracharya'sadvent, the complete events of his life and his comprehensive accomplishments, his illustrious person, his supreme character and his total independence of action and karma.
(The author is engaged in research on Adi Shankaracharya for several years.)