The illustrious Philosopher Saint Sankaracharya’s doctrine of non-dualism is a spiritual thesis with eternal propositions. Prasanthi often witnessed his story in action by various groups over the years and Bhagawan also would often quote anecdotes from the illustrious life of this master philosopher lived over 2700 years ago.
On the evening of 2nd October 2009, devotees from Japan (Zone 5) staged a drama on the life of Adi Sankara in the Divine Presence. Bhagawan came to the Hall at 4.55 p.m. to the chant of Vedas by the students of the University. After Bhagawan came to the dais, the devotees from Japan started playing on their traditional Japanese instruments. What followed was immaculate chanting of the Vedas by the Japanese devotees. Starting with Ganapati Prarthana (Ganesh invocation mantra), they continued with Saha Navavatu, Saha Nau Bhunaktu, Saha Veeryam Karavavahai, Tejaswi Navadhitamastu, Ma Vidvishavahai. (May the Lord protect and nourish us. May we grow in intelligence and valour working together. May we live in friendship without any conflict!). They even chanted Narayanopanishad to perfection.
After a few Japanese Bhajans dedicated to Bhagawan, they began the drama on the life of Adi Sankara. The drama had a beautiful backdrop of a stream meandering its way amidst lush green pastures. It began with an announcement that Adi Sankara composed the famous Bhaja Govindam consisting of 31 verses. One has to put these into practice in one’s life to attain the divine.
Being a celibate all his life, Sankara had a burning desire to become a Sanyasi. In spite of repeated attempts, his mother dissuaded him from taking to the path of Sanyasa. His mother wanted Sankara to follow his father, get married and earn name and fame like him. One day Sankara went to the nearby river and pretended as if he was unable to extricate himself from the clutches of a crocodile. His mother came running hearing his call. Sankara told his mother that unless she gave him permission to become a Sanyasi, the crocodile would not leave its grasp. Then the mother expressed her desire that it was her wish that he should perform her last rites in spite of his renouncing the world. Here the river is compared to worldly life and the crocodile to sensual pleasures. Man in this world is driven by the crocodile of sensual pleasures.
After becoming a Sanyasi, Sankara mastered the Vedas and Sastras. One day after taking bath in a river, on his way back, he was accosted by a low caste person, who was considered an untouchable. Sankara wanted him to move away. The untouchable replied that the Atma was the same in both of them and one Atma cannot tell another Atma to move away. Adi Sankara was aghast at the wisdom of the untouchable. He fell at the feet of the untouchable. It was then that the untouchable revealed his true form of Lord Viswanatha who had come in the guise of an untouchable.
Sankara resolved the doubts of many in his short span of 32 years. During one of his travels, a famous scholar by name Mandana Misra challenged him for a debate. It was Sankara’s contention that one should be away from bad company. Mandana Misra’s argument was that bad people would not be reformed if one eschews bad company. Sankara told him that one should have the strength of resolve to reform bad people. Otherwise, even the slightest good qualities one has would be tainted by the bad people. Sankara gave the example of a goldsmith. The goldsmith hammers the gold to make it pure. In the same way, God removes our impurities by putting us to test in the cauldron of difficulties. Hardships and difficulties are like passing clouds. Satsangatwe Nissangatwam, Nissangatwe Nirmohatwam, Nirmohatwe Nischalatattwam, Nischalatattwe Jivanmukti. (Good company leads to detachment; detachment makes one free from delusion; freedom from delusion leads to steadiness of mind; steadiness of mind confers liberation.) It was then that Mandana Misra comes to know about the profundity of wisdom in Sankara. He realises that he had found his preceptor. He falls at the feet of Sankara and accepts his defeat. He becomes the disciple of Sankara, after which he is called by the name Sureshwarachari.
One day suddenly Sankara told his disciples that the time had come for him to fulfil the promise he had given to his mother. Sankara travelled homeward. His mother recognised Sankara and wanted him to stay with her the rest of her life. Sankara reminded her of the promise he gave as a young boy. She remembered the incident, but for a moment became sad that Sankara came only during the last moments. She prayed to God to shower His grace on Sankara. After her death, Sankara wanted to perform the last rites, but the villagers were unwilling to cooperate. Their argument was a Sanyasi should not perform the funeral of his mother. It was against the Sastras, they opined. Sankara said, “My mother will never leave me, nor will I leave her. Our bodies maybe different, but with respect to the Atma, we are one.” Bhagawan says, “Forgetting mother is equivalent to forgetting God.” Sankara himself performed the cremation of his mother in the backyard of his house.
The drama ended with the verse of Sankara from Bhaja Govindam, “Punarapi Jananam Punarapi Maranam, Punarapi Janani Jathare Sayanam, Iha Samsare Bahu Dustare, Kripayapare Pahi Murare. (Oh Lord! I am caught up in this cycle of birth and death; time and again, I am experiencing the agony of staying in the mother’s womb. It is very difficult to cross this ocean of worldly life. Please take me across this ocean and grant me liberation.)
Then an announcement was made: “We are born in the land of Buddha. After Buddha, God sent Adi Sankara. We by Your grace could learn the philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism). Oh Swami, please bless us all to attain Advaita.”
All the cast of the drama converged in the central part of the hall. Bhagawan materialised a chain for the lead actor who played the role of Adi Sankara and put it round his neck. Then Bhagawan went amidst them to be photographed. Prasadam was distributed to everyone present in the hall. After a few Japanese Bhajans, Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 6.15 p.m. Thus, concluded the day of 2nd October 2009 at Prasanthi Nilayam.