Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Shri Gurubhyo Namaha
Adi Shankara Bagavadpada is one of the greatest masters of all times. It’s evident that his greatness can’t be described in mere words. He was a man on mission, who revived the Sanatana dharma. Shankaracharya was a great philosopher, a marvelous poet, an unmatchable debater, a logician, a mystic, a religious reformer and a grand social idealist. Even if one lives for more than 100 years, it’s almost impossible to achieve so much as Shankaracharya achieved in his short life of 32 years.
Shankaracharya authored many great works. His works can be broadly classified into three categories. They are as below: –
1. Prasthana Trayi Bhaashya (Commentaries on Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bagavad Gita).
2. Prakriya Granthas
3. Stotras in the praise of different deities
Shankaracharya composed many hymns and verses which are recited daily in almost all the temples and homes in our nation. His works exhibit literary beauty. Teachings of Shankaracharya go hand in hand with the teachings of Upanishads. According to Shankaracharya, liberation is possible only through knowledge of one’s own true nature. For self realization, one has to overcome the ignorance (Avidya) and get free from the false identity with the body. No means other than the knowledge can remove ignorance. Hence Shankaracharya gave key importance to Jnana Yoga. But he never rejected Bhakthi Yoga and Karma Yoga. Just like how weeds must be removed before growing the crops, to have self realization a person must have pure mind (Chitta shuddhi). Only the path of devotion can yield a pure mind. Thus Shankaracharya equally stressed on Bhakthi Yoga. Bhakthi Yoga involves prayers to the supreme one. One can perceive that supreme one in any form according to his will and wish, but he must devote his mind sincerely. So in the course of Bhakthi Yoga, it’s not the deity but it’s the devotion which matters a lot.
Tradition of Shanmatha
At the time of Shankaracharya, people in different parts of our nation worshipped different deities. Most of the religious reformers, who came before and after Shankaracharya devoted themselves to a particular form of the god and claimed the supremacy of that form. Shankaracharya took a different approach which was in harmony with our scriptures. He accepted devotion to all forms of the god because in reality everything is Brahman who is Nirguna (without any attributes), Nirakaara (without any shape) and Nirvikaara (without any change). Vedanta talks about the same Brahman. All forms are true only at empirical plane of reality while in the absolute plane of reality everything is Brahman who is eternal, infinite and pure bliss. Hence one can devote himself to any form of that supreme as long as one attains a pure mind.
Shankaracharya established a system of worship known as Shanmatha. Shanmatha is a tradition in which six main forms of deities are worshipped. They are Shiva, Vishnu, Shakthi, Ganapathi, Shanmukha and Surya. In this system of worship all deities are given equal importance and there is no supremacy of one form over the other. Even today Shanmatha is practiced by majority of the people in our nation. This system greatly contributed to reduce the conflict between the people who fought to establish the supremacy of their deity. Shanmatha brought all the people under a common roof by providing equal importance to all forms of that ‘formless supreme’. Thus the system of Shanmatha enhanced unity and integrity among the people of our nation. This was a simple way adopted by Shankaracharya to unify people of our nation. Hence S. Radhkrishnan calls Adi Shankaracharya as a Grand Social Idealist.
Compositions of Shankaracharya
Shankaracharya composed many hymns in praise of different deities. These hymns are generally called as stotras. They are deep in meaning and represent his great poetic skills. Though the stotras convey dualism externally, they are filled with the essence of non dualism inside them. It is indeed a very difficult task, which was possible only for a great intellect like Shankaracharya.
Many of his works consists of eight verses. They are known as Astakam. Achyutha Astakam, Viswanatha Astakam, Bhavani Astakam, Bilva Astakam, Govinda astakam are the few popular ones. Some of the stotras composed are made up of five verses and they are called as Panchakam or Pancharatnam . Popular ones in this category are Ganesha Pancharatnam, Lakshmi Nrusimha Pancharatnam and Kashi Panchakam. Shankaracharya also composed a work with ten verses work in praise of Shakthi known as Gowri Dashakam. At end of every stotra, there is a phala shruthi which describes about the benefit which one gets by chanting them.
In the practice of devotion, active involvement of the mind is very important. But most of the times it happens that the mind gets diverted towards other things during the course of worship. Such a mind can never get purified. Hence mental worship is more important than physical worship. Shankaracharya understood this problem and composed Manasa Pooja Stotras. Manasa Pooja involves the worship of the Lord through the mind. Everything is offered to him in the mind and his blessings are sought. Hence it demands the complete presence of mind. Shiva Manasa Pooja stotram and Bhagavan Manasa Pooja stotram are the two popular and most recited Manasa Pooja stotras composed by Shankaracharya.
Many times the scenario around Shankaracharya made him to produce gem like works. This is evident from his life history. For example, the beautiful Ganga astakam rolled out from his lips looking at the holy Ganga. He came out with the beautiful Viswanatha Astakam when he had the glorious sight of the Lord Viswanatha. During his stay at Kashi, he also composed the famous Annapoorna Stotram and Kalabhairava Astakam.
In many of his works, there is a shift from dualism to non dualism. This can be done only by a great person like Shankaracharya who had an ocean of knowledge combined with tremendous intellectual power. Vedasara Shiva Sthavam is a best example for the above. In the first three verses of this work, Shankaracharya glorifies Lord Shiva as described in the Karma kaanda portions of our Vedas. From the fourth verse praising of the Lord Shiva goes in accordance with our Upanishads or the Jnana kaanda conveying the philosophy of Advaita.
Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam, Soundarya Lahari and Shivananda Lahari are famous in each and every part of our nation. Bhaja Govindam was composed by Shankaracharya with his disciples. He asks the people to chant the name of the Lord Govinda. In the first twelve verses of Bhaja Govindam, Shankaracharya beautifully explains about how one suffers getting caught in the bondages. He asks the people to come above all the bondages to attain highest spiritual enlightenment. On the other hand Soundarya Lahari is an excellent work which consists of one hundred verses and it deals with the description of Lord Shakthi and methods of her worship.
Another class of works composed by Shankaracharya is known as Vedanta stotras. In these stotras he has summed up the entire essence of the Vedanta. Dasha Shloki and Nirvana Shatakam are the two famous Vedanta stotras composed by Shankaracharya. They are deep in meaning and convey the entire teachings of our Upanishads. Dasha Sloki was the answer given by Sri Shankara in the form of ten verses when his guru Govinda Bagavadapada asked him “Who are you?” Siddhantha Bindu is a commentary on Dasha Sloki written by a great scholar and an exponent of Advaita named Madhusudhana Saraswati.
Shankaracharya went a step ahead and authored many compositions praising the nature and the rivers. Kashi Panchakam, Ganga astakam, Yamuna astakam, Narmada astakam are few examples. He took the spiritual approach to protect the nature by making the people to worship it. This ensured harmony between the people and the environment in which they lived.
Parents, particularly mother and teachers always play an important role in one’s life. One has some inherent duties to be fulfilled as a son and as a student. We must always show respect towards our parents and teachers. An ideal teacher-student relationship can be seen from the life of Shankaracharya. He regarded his guru, Govinda Bagavadpada with great respect. Even his guru was greatly impressed with the works of Shankaracharya. The same can be witnessed between Shankaracharya and his disciples. His disciples had great devotion towards their master in their hearts. Being himself a great master, Shankaracharya did not hesitate to write a commentary on Hastamalakiyam which was composed by his direct disciple Hastamalaka. Throughout this work Shankaracharya addresses Hastamalaka as “Acharya”. Such a teacher-student relationship can be seen nowhere else. Guru Paduka Stotram and Gurvastakam are the two brilliant works of Shankaracharya explaining the greatness of a teacher. Among all his compositions, Mathru Panchakam is perhaps the only composition of Shankaracharya which is not in praise of any deity or explaining his philosophy. Through this work Shankaracharya regrets for not being able to fulfill the duty of a son and expresses gratitude towards his mother who scarified everything for her beloved child, Shankara. This work is a symbol of mother’s love for her child.
Below is a list of the popular compositions of Shankaracharya: –
In praise of the Lord Ganesha
In praise of the Lord Narayana
Bala Mukunda Astakam
Bagavan Manasa Pooja
Lakshmi NrusimhaKaravalamba Stotram
Lakshmi Nrusimha Pancharatnam
Vishnu Shatpadi Stotram
Rama Bhujanga Prayata Stotram
Vishnu Padadi Keshantha Varna Stotram
Vishnu Bhujanga Prayata Stotram
In praise of the Lord Shiva
Shiva Naamavali Astakam
Shiva Manasa Pooja
Shiva Panchakshara Stotram
Veda Saara Shiva Sthavam
Shivaaparadha Kshamapana Stotram
Shiva Prataha Smarana Stotram
Dakshinamurthi Varnamala Stotram
Shiva Suvarnamala Stuthi
Dwadasha Jothirlinga stotram
Mrityunjaya Manasa Puja stotram
Shiva Padadi Keshantha Varna Stotram
Shiva Panchakshara Nakshtramala Stotram
In praise of the Lord Subramanya
In praise of Goddess Shakthi
Sharada Bhujanga Prayata Stotram
Tripura Sundari Manasa Pooja
Kalyana Vrusti Sthavam
Devi Navaratna Maalika stotram
Uma Maheshwara Stotram
Mantra Maathruka Puspamala Sthavam
Devi Shasthi Upachara Pooja Stotram
In praise of the Lord Hanumantha
Guru Paduka Stotram
Nirguna Manasa Pooja
We can thus conclude that Shankara stotra saahithya is a huge treasury of knowledge combined with the blend of devotion. It proves that Shankaracharya was the greatest of the great scholars who ever lived on this soil. The mission of reviving the Sanatana Dharma which he accomplished in a short life span of 32 years makes us accept him to be an incarnation of the Lord Parameshwara. Sanatana Dharma is still alive on this land only because of his intense hard work and sacrifice. Even if we show gratitude throughout our life time, it may not be sufficient when compared with the priceless work he had done for us. The best way to show gratitude is to follow his teaching sincerely. So let us follow his teachings and get progressed towards a better life.
Shruti Smriti puraananaam aalayam karunaalayam |
Namami Bhagavadpadam Shankaram Lokashankaram ||