Excerpts from ‘Bhaja Govindam’, by Swami Chinmayananda,
Published by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Bombay 400 072

About Sri Adi Sankaracharya

Bhagavadpada Acharya Sankara was not only a great thinker and the noblest of Advaitic philosophers, but he was essentially an inspired champion of Hinduism and one of the most vigorous missionaries in our country.  Such a powerful leader was needed at the time when Hinduism had been almost smothered within the enticing entanglements of the Buddhistic philosophy and, consequently, the decadent Hindu society had come to be broken up and disunited into numberless sects and denominations, each championing a different view–point and mutually quarrelling in endless argumentations.  Each pundit, as it were, had his own followers, his own philosophy, his own interpretation.  Each one was a vehement and powerful opponent of all other views.  This intellectual disintegration, especially in the scriptural field, was never before so serious and so dangerously calamitous as in the times of Sri Sankara.

It was at such a time, when our society was fertile for any ideal thought or practical philosophy to thrive, that the beautiful values of non-injury, self-control, love and affection, of the Buddha came to enchant alike the kings and their subjects of this country.  But the general decadence of the age did not spare the Buddhists also.  They, among themselves, precipitated different view-points, and by the time Sankara appeared in the horizon of the Hindu history, the atheistic school of Buddhists (Asad-vadis) had enticed away large sections of the Hindu folk.

It was into such a chaotic intellectual atmosphere that Sankara brought his life-giving philosophy of the Non dual Brahman of the Upanishads.  It can be very well understood what a colossal work it must have been for a single man to undertake in those days, when modern conveniences of mechanical transport and instruments of propaganda were unknown.

The genius in Sankara did solve the problem, and by the time he had placed at rest his mortal coil, he had whipped the false Buddhistic ideology beyond the shores of our country, and had reintegrated the philosophical thoughts in the then Aryavarta.  After centuries of wanderings, no doubt richer for her various experiences, but tired and fatigued, Bharat came back to her own native thoughts.

In his missionary work of propagating the great philosophical truths of the Upanishads and of rediscovering through them the true cultural basis of our nation, Acharya Sankara had a variety of efficient weapons in his resourceful armoury.  He was indeed pre-eminently the fittest genius who alone could have undertaken this self-appointed task as the sole guardian-angel of the rishi-culture.

An exquisite thinker, a brilliant intellect, a personality scintillating with the vision of Truth, a heart throbbing with industrious faith and ardent desire to serve the nation, sweetly emotional and relentlessly logical, in Sankara the Upanishads discovered the fittest Spiritual General.

It was indeed a vast program that Sankara had to accomplish within the span of about twenty effective years: for at the age of thirty-two he had finished his work and had folded up his manifestation among the mortals of the world.

He had brought into his work his literary dexterity, both in prose and poetry, and at his hands, under the heat of his fervent ideals, the great Sanskrit language became almost plastic.  He could mould it into any shape and into any form.  From vigorous prose, heavily laden with irresistible arguments, to flowing rivulets of tilting tuneful songs of love and beauty, there is no technique in language that Sankara did not take up; and whatever form he took up, he proved himself to be a master in it.  From masculine prose to soft feminine songs, from marching militant verses to dancing songful words, be he in the halls of the Upanishad commentaries, or in the temple of the Brahma-Sutra expositions, or in the amphitheatre of his Bhagawad Geeta discourses, or in the open flowery fields of his devotional songs, his was a pen that danced itself to the rhythm of his heart and to the swing of his thoughts.

Pen alone would not have won the war of culture for our country.  He showed himself to be a great organizer, a farsighted diplomat, a courageous hero, and a tireless servant of the country.  Selfless and unassuming this mighty angel strode up and down the length and breadth of the country, serving his motherland and teaching his countrymen to live up to the dignity and glory of Bharat.  Such a vast program can neither be accomplished by an individual nor sustainedly kept up without institutions of great discipline and perfect organisation.  Establishing the Maths, opening up temples, organizing halls of education and even establishing certain ecclesiastical legislations, this mighty master left nothing undone in maintaining what he achieved.