The Ari-shadvargas (the six enemies of Man), get a foothold in
his mind, because it is filled with the darkness of Ajnaana. They
are nocturnal birds like bats and owls that cannot tolerate light.
Darkness will not flee if you throw stones at it; nor will it
disappear if you lay about it with a sword, or shoot it with a
gun. It will be destroyed only when a lamp is lit. Shankara taught
this simple truth to many who were ignorant of this simple fact.
The people of this country were lost in the pursuit of many goals,
because their vision was blurred by darkness. Shankara taught them
that the Vedhas, Upanishadhs and Shaasthras had but One in view,
the One-without-a-second, Adhwaitha.
Shankara, when quite a young boy, was one day offering Puuja to
Dhevi, the household Deity, because his father was away and he had
asked him to perform worship in his absence. He placed milk before
the image and prayed pathetically that She should sip the milk, as
he imagined She was wont to do, when his father did the Puuja. He
wept so sincerely that mother melted at his wailing and drank the
entire quantity! Shankara had seen his father distribute the milk
that was offered to the mother, a tiny spoonful, to every member
of the family; but, since the cup was emptied in one quaff by Her,
nothing remained; the boy feared that he would be blamed for
drinking what was the share of the others. So, he wailed again.
Dhevi felt great pity at the plight of Shankara, who had taken the
Image to be alive, and who had compelled Her already to manifest
Herself from it. But, she did not pour milk out of Her palm, as I
do; She pressed Her Maternal Breasts and filled the cup.
Shankara's Avedhana, his anguished yearning, had succeeded in
making Dhevi respond!
Beginners only need Image Worship
Similarly, the other day, Shri Raamamurthy, who is sitting
among you here, shouted, "Swamee" in sincere faith and agony. His
wife was writhing in pain, because her clothes had caught fire.
She was too panic-stricken to call out My name. But, this cry was
heard by Me. I hurried to the spot, which is, as you say, 400
miles away; I crumpled the fire out, before it was too late.
Shankara worshipped images in childhood and he knew the value
of Saguna swaruupa (God as endowed with qualities). He advised
Saguna Aaraadhana (worship of form) to the large majority of
people, even later in his life. Little children must be taught
with the help of slates and boards, on which illustrations are
drawn. Temples, images and pictures are the slates and boards for
the children in spiritual progress. But, if you play with a toy
elephant, you cannot derive the experience of contacting the real
one. The formless can be conceived only when you have transcended
Shankara's Adhwaitha is the ultimate Truth
When Shankara thought of renouncing the world (in order to get
the authority to educate it), he felt that his mother's consent
had to be taken for the step. So, while bathing in the Poorna
river near his house, he cried out one day that a crocodile had
caught his leg. It was true, for the crocodile was, as in the
Gajendhramoksha story, only Samsaara (wordly life) called by that
name, Sensual Desire, to put it in other words. When the mother
came rushing to the bank of the river, he told her that the
crocodile would let him off, only if he took Sanyaasa, become a
monk! This was also true, for, renunciation, detachment, giving up
worldly ties, is the means of saving oneself from bondage. The
bewildered mother agreed and the boy left home to seek his Guru,
and through him the secret of liberation.
Shankara lived only for thirty-two years, but, during that
time, he purified and consolidated the various schools of worship
and brought them under the over-all care of one philosophical
principle, Adhwaitha (non-dualism).
The Mahaavaakyas (the great statements on supreme reality) of
the Vedhas once again began ringing in the hearts of all, with
their true meaning. Aham Brahmaasmi; Thath-thwam-asi; Prajnaanam
Brahma (I am Brahman; Thou art That; consciousness is Brahman) -
all were explained in simple, convincing logic, in sweet
captivating poetry. Shankara's Adhwaitha is the ultimate truth and
so, it is only confirmed, not shaken, by the discoveries of
science or the flights of intellect. It speaks of the unity of
matter and energy; of time and space, of the universe being but
Brahman seen through the veil of Maayaa, which too is but an
activity of the Primordial.
Shankara knew that Adhwaitha requires intense Saadhana
(spiritual effort) which will remove all trace of ego, all idea of
duality, from the mind of man. So, as a preparatory discipline to
the dawn of the awareness of one's real unity with the substance
of the universe, he taught the rules of Yoga and Bhakthi and
Karma; these, according to him, will brighten the intellect,
cleanse the emotions and purify the heart. Adhwaitha is the
awareness of the divine, in everything, everywhere, in full
Shankara suggested Sath-sanga (good company) as the very first
step in Saadhana; the company of the wise and the good will
develop into detachment and love of silence and solitude. That
will promote the disappearance of Moha (delusion), which according
to Arjuna, was the fruit of listening to the Geetha. When that
happens, one is established steadily in the Thath-thwam, the
reality of this and that, the identity of this with that. Well,
the recognition of that identity is the attainment of Mukthi