Adi Shankaracharya

Definition - What does Adi Shankaracharya mean?

Adi Shankaracharya (788 - 820 C.E.), also known as Adi Shankara or Shankara Bhagavatpada, was a famous Indian philosopher who had a great influence on the development and unification of Hinduism, its thoughts and principles. He is known for consolidating the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and writing commentaries on the important Vedic texts such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras. The keystone of the Advaita Vedanta is that the inner Self, or the Atman, is the same as the Universal Reality, or Brahman.

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 Adi Shankaracharya

Stories tell that young Adi Shankaracharya showed a great intelligence and talent as a child, and even wanted to live as a hermit at a young age. Some sources state that he left home to search for his guru at the age of eight and started to write commentaries on the Vedic texts when he was 16. One of his most famous works, and one of the most important texts of the Vedanta school of Hinduism, is the commentary on the "Brahma Sutras," titled the "Brahmasutrabhasya."

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).

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