SHANKARACHARYA Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Shankaracharya was the Indian philosopher in the 8th century AD, who founded Advaita (non-dualistic) Vedanta.


He left commentaries on the trilogy of Vedantic scriptures, i.e., major Upanishads (about ten in number, including “Brihadaranyaka Upanishad", “Chandogya Upanishad” and “Mandukya Upanishad"), “Brahma Sutra", and “Bhagavad Gita". He is also said to have written, among others, “Vivekacudamani (Discrimination of Jewel)", where he fully expounded Vedantic principles, and “Atmabodha (Self-Knowledge)", where he exclusively discusses the identity between Atman and Brahman. A sub-commentary on the “Commentary by Vyasa on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras” is also attributed to him.


Shankaracharya exclusively advocates that the real, experiential knowledge of the Brahman/Atman identity is sufficient to get enlightened, and that as far as spiritual seekers are ready to sacrifice everything to obtain this supreme wisdom, they need neither rituals nor meditation as spiritual exercise.


He utilises extensive dialectic discussions to dispel almost all arguments made by his opponents. His use of logic is inexorable, and in depth.


To his opponents who ask him why “One” (the Brahman/Atman identity) becomes many (this phenomenal world), Shankaracharya answers that it is because of our lack of knowledge which makes us “superimpose” the false on the real, and believe that “one” looks many. For instance, suppose that a man thinks that there is a snake in the wood, but in fact it is simply a rope. In this case, as far as he continues to superimpose the false image of a snake on the rope, he will never be able to know that it is a rope. But as soon as he drops the false knowledge, he can experience the reality as it is. Similarly, because of the false knowledge about our real identity, we misunderstand that there is a phenomenal world “out there", which is different from us. It is those who can get rid of this false “superimposition", who will know instantaneously that we are one with the whole world, and that we are “enlightened” already here, at this very moment.