One fine morning a young, handsome and charismatic looking lad in his early teens was swimming in a river. Half way out, a gigantic crocodile caught one of his legs and the boy started crying for his mother in deep agony. ?Mother help!? cried he, with the utmost possible pitch of voice. Hearing her son'scrying his mother came running, only to see her child in deep distress. Not able to help her son in any way she started crying.
Looking at his mother, the boy said in a very calm voice, ?O Mother! I think I am going to die. I?ll be killed by this crocodile. There is only one way to save my life. I need your permission to become a sannyasi (saint).? The perturbed mother said with deep grief: ?O dear son, tell me what I need to do? I?d gladly offer my life in lieu of yours, to that hungry and brutal looking crocodile.?
?I wish to renounce this world and become a sannyasi. If I do so, it?ll be deemed that I?m dead and reborn. I?m sure I?ll live if I become a sannyasi,? said the lad to his sorrow shrunken mother.
The mother who was widow gave consent to her son, holding her emotions, knowing that she had none left after that. Miraculously, the crocodile left the child unhurt and went away.
The child said: ?Mother, I am a sannyasi now. The world is my abode. All the women in this world are my mother. I need to go in search of my mentor, my Guru. As I?ve become a sannyasi with your permission, I seek your blessings.?
With her eyes in tears, his mother said, ?If I were to die, who would do the funeral rites? Should I be abandoned as an orphan? Will you come back for the last rites??
The boy was touched with his lonely mothers? word after which he said: ?Mother!
Think of me when you are in death bed. I shall appear before you and shall promise to take care of you. Rest is assured; I will perform your last rites.? With that promise the young sannyasi took leave of his mother to build a legacy.
The young sannyasi was none other than Adi Shankara-charya, or better known Adi Shankara. He was born in 788 AD, at a village called ?Kaladi?, in Kerala (India).
He lived for a meager 32 years, yet his life was full of unparallel achievements in the history of mankind. He is said to have mastered four Vedas, namely Rig, Yajur, Sam and Atharva, at the age of eight, the Shastras at twelve and is said, to have started writing hymns at the age of sixteen before departing this material world.
He travelled the length and breadth of ancient India four times on foot, establishing ?Shree Chakras? or ?Wheels of Power? at various places such as Kollur (Mookambika Temple), Sringeri (Sharadamba Temple), Kanchi (Kamakshi Temple) and Srinagar (Vaishnodevi Temple). These were the places of Advaita philosophy founded by him.
Adi Shankaracharya was a great reformer of his times. During his period there existed a sect called as ?Mimamsa?, whose followers were following blindly some of the cruelest practices. It is said that Kumarila Bhatta, a follower of this sect, once converted himself into Buddhism, only to learn about its tenets and argue against Buddhism. He reconverted himself to ?Mimamsa? sect after having converted some of the Buddhists to his fold. Before trying his tricks on Buddhists, he had successfully converted even the followers of Jain sect.
As per Shankaravijayam, which is the biography of Adi Shankaracharya, Kumarila once asked Adi Shankara to enter into a debate with his disciple Mandanamishra. A condition was kept that if his disciple were to loose he and the rest of the Mimamsis would become the follower of Advaita philosophy. The debate when began lasted for many days. It was heading for a stalemate situation, however, until the garland worn by Mandanamishra had dried and withered symbolising his acceptance of defeat. It was declared that he, Mandanamishra, was defeated. The looser was forced to embrace the victor'sreligion, namely Advaita.
But Sarasavani, wife of Mandanamishra, could not accept the defeat of her husband, as he was to become a saint. So, she decided to continue with the debate. She knew that it would be difficult to defeat, Adi Shankara. She decided to confront him on the topic of ?Marital Bliss?. She was sure that as a Bal Sannyasi (A person who has renounced this world at a very young age) Adi Shankara would not have experienced the marital bliss. Adi Shankara-charya, asked for a months time from her.
He transferred his soul, known in Sanskrit as Parakaya-pravesh, into that of a dead king.
He enjoyed the marital bliss with the Queen in the palace. He returned after a month, ready with answers. After which he defeated Sarasavani.
In a similar manner he abolished almost every religion, or sect practicing baseless and inhuman practices all over the country before turning 32. After which he is said to have retired from his ?material? body voluntarily. He was perhaps the legend who left a message for mankind that it'sthe will, not the age, to achieve anything.
(The writer is a columnist and management consultant and can be reached via email [email protected])