This Short Story Behind Adi Shankaracharya Will Haunt You Forever!

According to tradition, he travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers, from both orthodox Hindu traditions and heterodox non-Hindu-traditions, including Buddhism, defeating his opponents in theological debates.

Adi Shankaracharya (8th cent. CE) was an Indian philosopher and theologian whose works had a strong impact on the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which are believed to have helped in the historical development, revival and propagation of Advaita Vedanta.

According to tradition, he travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers, from both orthodox Hindu traditions and heterodox non-Hindu-traditions, including Buddhism, defeating his opponents in theological debates.

His commentaries on the Prasthanatrayi Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) argue for the unity of Ātman and Nirguna Brahman "brahman without attributes," defending the liberating knowledge of the Self and the Upanishads as an independent means of knowledge against the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism. Shankara, himself, had renounced all religious ritual acts; see Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, p. 16; For an example of Shankara's reasoning "why rites and ritual actions should be given up", see Karl Potter on p. 220; Elsewhere, Shankara's Bhasya on various Upanishads repeat "give up rituals and rites", see for example Shankara's Bhasya on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad pp. 348–350, 754–757

Compare Mookerji 2011 on Svādhyāya (Vedic larning). Mookerji (2011, pp. 29–31) notes that the Rigveda, and Sayana's commentary, contain passages criticizing as fruitless mere recitation of the Ŗik (words) without understanding their inner meaning or essence, the knowledge of dharma and Parabrahman.

Mookerji (2011, pp. 29, 34) concludes that in the Rigvedic education of the mantras "the contemplation and comprehension of their meaning was considered as more important and vital to education than their mere mechanical repetition and correct pronunciation."

Mookerji (2011, p. 35) refers to Sayana as stating that "the mastery of texts, akshara-praptī, is followed by artha-bodha, perception of their meaning." (Artha may also mean "goal, purpose or essence," depending on the context.

See: Sanskrit English Dictionary University of Kloen, Germany (2009); Karl Potter (1998), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 4, ISBN 81-208-0310-8, Motilal Banarsidass, pp 610 (note 17).) According to Mookerji (2011, p. 36), "the realization of Truth" and the knowledge of paramatman as revealed to the rishis is the real aim of Vedic learning, and not the mere recitation of texts.

Shankara's Advaita shows similarities with Mahayana Buddhism, despite his critiques; and Hindu Vaishnavist opponents have even accused Shankara of being a "crypto-Buddhist," King (1995, p. 183): "It is well-known that Sankara was criticized by later (rival) Vedantins as a crypto-Buddhist (pracchana bauddha). a qualification which is rejected by the Advaita Vedanta tradition, highlighting their respective views on Atman, Anatta and Brahman.

Shankara himself stated that Hinduism asserts "Ātman (Soul, Self) exists", whilst Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self." Shankara has an unparalleled status in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and also had a strong influence on the Vedanta-tradition in general.

Yet, while the main currents of modern Indian thought may have been derived from his doctrines, his influence on Hindu intellectual thought has been questioned, and the historical fame and cultural influence of Shankara may have grown centuries later after his death. Over 300 texts are attributed to his name, including commentaries (Bhāṣya), original philosophical expositions (Prakaraṇa grantha) and poetry (Stotra).

However, most of these are not authentic works of Shankara and are likely to be by his admirers or scholars whose name was also Shankaracharya. Authentic is the Brahma sutra bhasya, his commentaries on ten Mukhya (principal) Upanishads, his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upadesasahasri.

The authenticity of Shankara being the author of Vivekacūḍāmaṇi has been questioned. Adi Shankara is also believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and unified the Shanmata tradition of worship.