Adi Shankaracharya was born in the 8th century AD in Kaladi in Kerala. He is one of the three main teachers of the medieval India who helped in the revival of Hinduism – the other two being Madhva and Ramanuja. Most modern-day Hindus don’t know about the history of Hinduism, but there have been many sects and traditions within the religion. Some of these moved on to become separate religions such as Jainism and Buddhism while others died out. There have even been atheistic schools of thought within Hinduism. Even today there are at least few different philosophies in Hinduism. Vedanta is the major philosophy and the principal reason for that is Adi Shankaracharya. Here are a few reasons why he’s responsible for the survival and revival of Hinduism.
6. He consolidated the Advaita Vedanta philosophy:
There he wrote his commentary on the Brahma Sutras and consolidated the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Its basic tenet is the oneness of Atman and Brahman, the true self and the universal consciousness. It was in opposition to most of the philosophies of Hinduism that were strong at that point.
5. He travelled all over India:
He travelled all over India to teach his philosophy and discuss with other philosophers about Hinduism and the Vedas. He died at the age of 32 but in that short period of time he travelled all over India including parts of Nepal and as far north as Kashmir. He did all this travelling on foot and it was because of this dedication that his ideas spread and grew strong.
4. He defeated philosophers of every school of thought in debates:
He began by debating Mandana Misra, who was the disciple of Kumarila Bhatta, a major philosopher of the Mimamsa tradition. This was the strongest tradition in Hinduism at that time and was based on following the rituals in Vedas more than in studying and understanding the meaning of the words of the Vedas. Adi Shankaracharya debated with Misra and defeated him after 15 days when he had to accept that Advaita Vedanta was better than Mimamsa. Shankaracharya did this all over India, debating with philosophers of all sects including Jainism and Buddhism and defeated all of them. He was responsible to slow down the spread of Buddhism through India and revive Hinduism.
3. He started four monasteries of the Dashanami Sampradaya:
To spread his Advaita Vedanta philosophy of renunciation, he formed the monastic order called Dashanami Sampradaya. He started four mathas (monasteries) with their headquarters at Dvarka in the west and one each in Jagannatha Puri in the east, Sringeri in the south and Badrikashrama in the north of India. These four mathas formed the core of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy that has survived to this day and has shaped Hinduism to its current form. If it hadn’t been for Adi Shankaracharya, we might have been following a much different form of Hinduism or, perhaps, all of us would have been adherents of some other religion.
2. He mastered the four Vedas by the age of 8:
The story of his birth is that his parents were childless and prayed to Lord Shiva for a boy. Shiva appeared in their dreams and offered them the choice of a mediocre boy who would live a long life or a brilliant boy who would die young. They chose the latter and Adi Shankaracharya was born who was a brilliant student and mastered the Vedas by the age of 8 even though the start of his schooling got delayed due the death of his father.
1. He took Sanyasa at the age of 8:
At the age of 8, he had understood the nature of Maya and so decided to take Sanyasa. His mother wouldn’t allow him at first but after a little trick he got his mother to approve. He travelled north and at the banks of Narmada River he met his guru Govinda Bhagvatpada.