Category: Religion

The Reunion XXXVI: The Story Continues

It has been a long time since I told this tale, or rather, continued it. The last blog in this series was written more than ten months ago. Why? Is the story over? Far from it. Then why? Maybe it is because I have said whatever I wanted to say, the pent-up emotions have been let-out, released, given vent, and…

The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

As the sun rose from behind the snowcapped peaks in the distance, shining its golden light on the little hamlet of Dev Prayag, Shankara sat on the banks of the Ganga along with his disciples, contemplating his next move and answering the queries of his followers. The number of his followers had swelled, and now included sanyasins, and scholars, and priests from various parts of…

The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

Shankara was unhappy leaving Kashi, the city of light. The city had practically become his home for the last several months that he had stayed, and studied, and taught, and debated there. He had gained a huge following of students and admirers. The adherents to his Advaitic philosophy had grown, people had begun to see the light; the light of the unification of the different…

The Legend of Shankara – 13: Shiva summons Shankara

Ever since his ‘chance’ encounter with the chandala in Kashi, Shankara had become increasingly restless. He knew not what ailed him, but his peace of mind had been disturbed. No more could he enjoy the tranquil placidity of the atman, or the peace of the deep meditative states whereby he used to unravel the mysteries of the Vedanta. A sense of urgency pervaded his very being. There…

The Legend of Shankara – 12: A small diversion, and a word of caution

Before we continue our story of Adi Shankara, we must necessarily make a small diversion. This blog was supposed to be about the Bhaja Govindam, and I offer my apologies to those readers who would have been expecting this. However, several issues need to be clarified, some pertinent points need elaboration, before we can rejoin the mainstream of the story of Shankara.  I…

The Legend of Shankara – 11: The Manishapanchakam

The sun rose in the sky from the eastern banks of the river Ganga, washing the city of Kashi, which nestled on its western banks, in its golden light. The city was already alive with the sounds of Vedic chants, temple bells, conch shells, cymbals, and drums. The city and its inhabitants had risen early, always, since times immemorial, to take a dip in…

The Legend of Shankara – 10: Shankara goes to Kashi

From Omkareshwar, Shankara proceeded towards Kashi, the city of light, the immortal city, the indestructible city, the city which was supposed to be situated on the trident of Shiva, the immortal ascetic. Kashi was the natural choice, Shankara thought. It was the spiritual heart of India, the node of all metaphysical discourse, the center of learning since times immemorial, the city where the seeker and the sought could…

The Legend of Shankara – 9: Shankara tames the Narmada

The time of the evening sandhya was approaching, and Shankara accompanied his guru Govindapadatowards the cave for his evening meditation. Shankara was now a disciple of Govindapada and had endeared himself to his guru by his diligence, his loyalty, and his steadfastness. His service, and his devotion towards his guru was absolute.  Pleased with his service, Govindapada had lovingly taught the tenets of Advaita to Shankara, had guided him, encouraged him to read esoteric volumes, and had explained arcane…

The Legend of Shankara – 8: Shankara the disciple

Listening to the Atma Shatakam, Sri Govindapada was pleased. He extended one of his feet outside the cave in a symbolic gesture. The young Shankara understood the symbolism, and bent down and touched the feet of his master; thus he was accepted into the tutelage of Sri Govindapada, son of the illustrious Gaudapada. Shankara would spend the next two to three years learning the tenets of advaita or non-dualism from his guru in his…

The Legend of Shankara – 7: Atma Shatakam/Nirvana Shatakam

मनो बुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहम्न च श्रोत्र जिह्वे न च घ्राण नेत्रेन च व्योम भूमिर् न तेजो न वायु:चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥ I am not the mind (manah), the intellect (budhhi), the ego (ahamkara) or the memory (chitta),I am not my ears (shrotra), my tongue (jihva), my nose (ghrana) or my eyes (netra),I am not this body composed of space (vyom), or earth…

The Legend of Shankara – 6: Who are you?

The afternoon sun had slipped down in the sky, turning the sky saffron, by the time Shankara exited the Omkareshwar temple. He paused near the entrance, looked back, and then looked up at the sky which was growing crimson by the minute. The mighty river Narmada flowed nearby, the sound of her rushing waters loud in the pervasive silence which was slowly descending on the island.…

The Legend of Shankara – 5: Shankara’s search for a Guru

Thus, the young sanyasin left his village, nestled deep in the dakshinam, the southern part of the country which had for millennia been known as the Jambudwipam. He had said goodbye to his mortal mother, his village Kaladi and the holy river Periyar, and had started his travels towards the heart of the jambudwipam, in the direction of the ancient kingdom of Mahishmati. Towards the east of Mahishmati, he knew, lay the holy city of Omkareshwar,…

The Legend of Shankara 4 : Shankara leaves home

The young Shankara, just a little over eight years old now, but not yet nine, stood in front of his former dwelling; the humble quarters he used to call home. He was dressed in the saffron robes of a renunciant, his head shaved, his forehead marked with the horizontal ‘tilaka’ of Shiva. A small dot of vermilion marked the place on his forehead between…

The Legend of Shankara – 3: Shankara: The Young Renunciant

It had been several years since Shivaguru’s death, and Aryamba was finding it difficult to make ends meet. She could not go out for work in the village, it was forbidden, and Shankara was only eight years old. Besides, all he had time for was his scriptures, and contemplation. He performed his daily religious activities well, which is all that Aryamba expected from him. After all, what could…

The Legend of Shankara – 2: Destiny Intervenes

The young child with skin like molten copper stood still, holding a bunch of straws in his hands, his forehead marked with sandalwood paste. An unstitched loincloth was the only covering upon his body. For a child as young as he was, he stood strangely still and composed, considering the occasion. His face was tranquil, and his eyes glowed with…

The Legend of Shankara – 1: A Prodigy is Born

The tall ascetic stood erect, a trident in his right hand, his matted locks reaching his waist. His hair was wet with the waters of the divine stream that trickled from his head, and washed his feet before making its way earthwards. The ferocious serpent that he wore like an ornament in his neck, hissed and bared its fangs, its…

The Reunion XXXV: The Ganga Aarti

By the time everyone finished lunch, it was already early dusk. The sun was nearly gone, and a cold darkness crept in from all sides, even like the fog that had congealed into a dense curtain over the warm waters of the Ganga. I pulled my cap tightly over my ears and made sure the children were well covered and…

The Reunion XXXIV: When Men turn Godkillers

I looked at Vaishali as if waking up from sleep, my eyes blank, my mind still faraway.  ‘Come, lunch is served,’ she said.  I was still in a daze. My heart thudded loudly in my chest, as if I had just run a few miles. Few miles? I had been to the eternity and back. The world seemed colorless, compared…

The Reunion XIV: At the Vishwanath Temple

All the Shiva temples across India will have a small furrow like conduit cut out into the floor on one side, which serves to drain out the water or milk or other fluids which are used to wash the ‘lingam’; the ceremony being called ‘abhishek’ or anointing. This conduit runs from the base of the ‘lingam’ to a drain situated…

Excerpts from ‘The Battle of Panchavati’ – VIII (Gautama)

Sujata was bewildered, and a little afraid. She was passing through the forest to reach her village on the other side, returning from her relatives’ place, when she saw him. Lying face down near the mountain stream, it looked like this ‘person’ was trying to reach the water. She had never seen anyone so emaciated, the bones protruding through the…