Definition - What does Shankara mean?

Shankara, also called Shankaracharya, was an Indian philosopher and theologian who lived in the early 8th century CE. He consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta (a non-dualistic school of Hindu philosophy) and wrote commentaries on the Vedic canon, including the Brahma sutras, "The Principal Upanishads," and the Bhagavad Gita. He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.

Shankara thought that the purity and steadiness of mind achieved in yoga was an aid that could be combined with the study of the Upanishads in order to gain moksha (spiritual liberation). His method of yoga included withdrawal of mind from sense objects, but he rejected the idea of complete thought suppression. Instead, he suggested that yoga serve as a meditative exercise in which withdrawal from the particular led to identification with the Universal, resulting in contemplation of one's Self in the most universal sense possible: pure Consciousness.

Yogapedia explains Shankara

Shankara taught the rules of bhakti, yoga and karma as a means to enlighten the intellect and purify the heart. He gave primary importance to Jnana yoga, or the "yoga of Knowledge," because it was usually regarded as the highest yogic path. Even Patanjali states that liberation, or Self-realization, is gained by knowledge, not by any other means. In this thinking, yoga is a way to achieve that higher knowledge.

Shankara was also a great raja yogi, and a teacher of a fifteen-fold path of Raja yoga, which was a bit different than the Raja yoga of Patanjali. Shankara's version of Raja yoga was more focused on jnana (knowledge). In some of the later works of Shankara, he describes a few concepts from Hatha yoga including kundalini, the chakras, nadis, different pranayamas, mantras and rituals.

Shankara is thought to be the author of a poem called "Yoga Taravali," wherein he poetically and metaphorically summarizes the highest teachings of yoga, explains the different stages of yoga, and outlines how to reach the highest state of Raja yoga.

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