About the Book:
Sadacarah takes us on a wonderful journey through Vedantic contemplations explained in the language of our daily practices and good conduct (sadacarah). It guides us to reflect on many Vedantic concepts-which aid meditation. These daily practices make us 'humane' and the meditation helps us know our 'Divine' Nature.
About the Author:
Swamini Vimalananda's indepth understanding is reflected in her explanations and comments, which are simple and practical, and at the same time, exalted and inspiring.
From the Book:
A brief life-story of Adi Sankaracarya (adapted from 'Sankara-The Missionary', a Chinmaya Mission Publication).
The greatest of realised Masters, a devout devotee, an ideal karma yogi, unsurpassed in hatha yoga, a world teacher, a perfect organiser, a far-sighted statesman, a Yuga Purusha, an exemplary man of letters, a deeply compassionate down-to-earth soul, the very incarnate of Lord Shiva-such descriptions are just a few surface waves that describe the infinite and bottomless ocean of virtues that is Bhagavan Adi Shankaracharya.
Shankara was born to Shivaguru and Aryamba at his maternal home, Veliyanad, Kerala (The Chinmaya Mission runs a research centre, Chinmaya International Foundation, at the same site. An akhanda dipa [a lamp that is kept continuously lit] burns in the room where he was born).
An interesting anecdote describes his divine birth. After having waited long for a child, his parents prayed to Lord Shiva at Thrissur, Kerala. The Lord appeared and asked whether they desired to have a brilliant boy who would have a short life span, or an ordinary son who would live long. They chose the former and within a year Aryamba gave birth to a child. The parents named them Shankara, being the gift, nay, the very incarnation of Lord Shankara.
Childhood and Education
He was initiated into the study of the alphabets (aksara abhyasa) at the age of three and soon could read and understand entire books. His father died when he was three. His mother performed his thread ceremony (upanayanam) and sent him to a residential school (gurukula) when he was five. He learnt all that his teacher knew in three years and compiled a book when he was just six years of age. Once when he was seeking alms (bhiksha) he was moved by the abject poverty and yet intense devotion of the lady serving him and he spontaneously composed and sang the famous Kanakadhara Stotram. To her utter Amazement, the Goddess of Wealth (Lakshmi) showered golden fruits before her, forever removing her poverty.
Once, grieved by the strain his mother had to oblation to bathe and wash her clothes at a river far from her home, he prayed to the Lord for help. The next morning, wonder of wonders, the river Purna was flowing gently by the side of his house!
Despite his desire, his mother did not grant permission to the eight-year-old Shankaracharya to adopt the holy order of a renunciate. Once while he was bathing in the river, a crocodile caught his leg. As he was being dragged down, he asked his mother's permission to become a renunciate. In her helpless and horrified state, she granted him permission. With the Sun-God as a witness, Shankaracharya said, "Sannyasto'ham--I have renounced" thrice. To everyone's surprise, the crocodile released him, and he walked out of the jaws of death, untouched. After assuring his mother that he would be with her at the time of her death, he left home to become a wandering monk, at the tender age of eight years.
Meeting his Guru
In a cave on the banks of river Narmada, at the pilgrimage centre of Omkarnath, lived the great Master Govindapadacharya. When Shankaracharya reached his great Master, he was in meditation. With eyes closed, he asked, "Who are you?" His impromptu famous composition Dasa sloki poured out. "I am neither the earth, nor water... but the one changeless Shiva." The Master accepted him as his disciple and in three years, he had mastered all that was to be learnt.
Once when his master was in deep meditation, there was a flood in the mighty river and the water was about to enter the cave. The disciples were in a dilemma. Shankaracharya placed his begging bowl (kamandalu) at the mouth of the cave, and on touching it, the waters receded much to the wonder and relief of all.
To text his knowledge, the Master asked him to write a commentary on the Visnu Sahasranama (The thousand names of Lord Vishnu). His brilliant commentary convinced the Master that his disciple was more than capable of writing commentaries for great works like the Upanishads, Brahmasutras, Geeta and endless other compositions. The Master left his mortal coil, and Shankaracharya moved on to Banaras, from where he travelled to Badri, Kedarnath and Uttarkashi, all the time engaged in writing and teaching.
Once Bhagvan Veda Vyasa came as an old brahmin to text Shankaracharya's knowledge and command over the Scriptures. After days of scholarly discussion, Veda Vyasa revealed his true identity and complemented Shankaracharya. His ordained lifespan was only sixteen years, which was soon to end. Veda Vyasa blessed him with sixteen more years to propagate his great spiritual knowledge. Shankaracharya blessed the great Purva Mimamsa scholar-Kumarila Bhatta, with a mantra so that he could die peacefully as he was burning alive on a funeral pyre. He had a scholarly discussion and defeated Shri Mandana Mishra (who later became one of his four main disciples-Shri Sureshwaracharya) and his wife Ubhayabharati (who was the incarnation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge).
Shankaracharya fearlessly offered his head to be sacrificed by a kapalika for a tantrik ritual. His disciple Padmapadacharya invoked Lord Narasimha, Who killed the Kapalika.
When he heard of his mother's serious condition, Shankaracharya, with his yogic power, travelled by air and reached her side. He composed and sang the Shiva Bhujangam and Vishnu Bhujangam and immediately the attendants of Shiva and Vishnu appeared to take her on her onward journey. Shankaracharya, a sannyasi, being the sole survivor, wished to do the final rites of his mother. The traditionalists were shocked. How could a renunciate do so? They refused to help him. Shankaracharya carried her body himself, and lit the pyre alone by just chanting some mantras. On seeing such power, those who had gathered were repentant.
Dig-vijayam Tours-Conquering the Directions
In those days of slow transport and rough terrain, Shankaracharya, along with his disciples and hundreds of devotees travelled from Kanyakumari in the South to Afghanistan and Kashmir in the North; and from Assam in the East to Gujarat in the West. He was met by kings and scholars, seekers and devotees, the traditional thinkers and the modern. He taught them and guided them. He formulated the Pancayatana Puja to resolve differences in the worship of various deities. He consecrated many temples including the famous Badrinath temple, Kamakshi temple at Kanchi, Jagannath temple at Puri etc. He renovated many others. He ascended the Sarvajna Pitha in Kashmir with great respect from all after having vanquished all the known scholars of his time in discussions. He composed various hymns like Soundarya Lahari, as he visited different temples. Once his Param Guru ( (Guru's Guru), Gaudapadacarya visited him and blessed him.
Shankaracharya, with his few main disciples, went to Kedarnath. He solved all their doubts and prepared them for his final departure. He entrusted the work of continuing his work through four main disciples by establishing four muths in the North, South, East and West. Thereafter he chanted the Dasa Sloki, which he had composed on meeting his Guru, absorbed his mind in meditation and dissolved his body by yogic power.
His disciples came down to the plains to carry on the task given by their Guru. Padmapadacharya established the Goverdhan Mutt at Puri in the East. Hastamalakacharya established the Kalika Mutt at Dwarka in the West. Sureshwaracharya established the Sharada Mutt in Sringeri in the South, and Totakacharya established the Jyotir Mutt at Badri in the North.
Shankaracharya's compositions are innumerable and of the highest brilliance. It would be impossible to fully recount his incomparable and invaluable contribution to the renaissance of the Hindu Dharma. It is impossible to enumerate all the works and glories of this great Master.
Only a special divine person, a Yuga Purusha, could have accomplished so much in so short a time. He was indeed the Lord Shiva incarnate-- Sankaram Sankaracaryam. Acknowledgement and Dedication:
Yatha drsti tatha srsti -As the vision, so the world appears to us. Adi Sankaracarya sees everything with a Vedantic vision. In Aparoksanubhuti (verses 104-124), he envisages the various steps of Raja Yoga (yama, niyama etc.) as Vedantic meditations. In Sadacara he does the same with our daily spiritual practices and activities like bathing, eating etc. This really caught my imagination.
Pujya Gurudev and Pujya Guruji have always been the inspiring force that gives wings to my imagination and allows me to fly high through my writings.
This time Ganesh did ground me for a while, but finally managed to type out the hand-written manuscript and see the book to completion before himself flying off on his own to join the Vedanta Course in Mumbai. Au revoir and blessings to him.
Smt. Radhika Krishnakumar makes it easy for me to make mistakes as she is so good in editing them. This makes my flying safe.
First impressions are important. The attractive cover page designed by Shri Krishnamurthy of Mayapuri Graphics, Chennai helps the reader's mind to take off on the journey with me. My grateful pranams to all.
We are grateful to Shri T. B. Thakur, President, Chinmaya Mission Tarapur, who is sponsoring the first edition of this book. He has always been a generous donor and an active sevak in the Mission. May Pujya Gurudev's blessings be on him and his family.
Vedanta is the joy of my life and writing my thrill. Thank God for the joys and thrills of life that keep me focussed on Him.
This is a humble offering to Pujya Guruji on his birthday. All credit for the thoughts expressed go to the Guru Parampara. All shortcomings are due to my limitations.
30th June 2005
From the Introduction:
An action by itself is inert. Consciousness or the Self enlivens it and emotions and thoughts propel it. They together give action the potency to produce results.
Consciousness of course naturally and choicelessly enlivens every thought and action as awareness is its very nature. The sun does not consciously shine or activate & energise human beings on earth. It does so by its very nature. Emotions and thoughts however consciously prompt and propel actions by giving them power and direction just as the driver guides the speed and direction the vehicle takes.
We call actions thoughtless, indifferent, half-hearted, distracted, mechanical, well-planned, focussed, kind, cruel etc. depending on the emotions and thoughts behind them. The namaskara of an air-hostess is often called mechanical, the hand-shake of a diplomat formal, the promises of a politician false, etc. Such actions lack the right emotions and thought behind them. They are therefore devoid of essence (asara). We call the smile of a child genuine, the words of a saint touching or the master piece of an artist inspired, for these actions have in them the essence (sara) of truth, goodness or appropriateness (Sad bhave sadhu bhave ca-Sad/Sat implies truth/goodness-Geeta). Such actions or conduct (acara) backed by the right emotions and thoughts is called Sadacara .
Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda once said, "If our actions are not according to our values, then gradually our values fall to suit our actions." All of us value rising early (though our definition of 'early' may differ!). One who for some weeks rises an hour later than he originally intended to, slowly finds that the time that he valued earlier as ideal for waking up has also fallen by half an hour if not an hour. A value falls with every compromise with it. On the other hand if we are uncompromising in our actions, they then improve to suit our values. For instance, selfish and demeaning acts like match-fixing drop when a cricket team plays solely for the glory of the country. Sadacara is to put this 'value add' to all our actions.
The Dharma Shastras (scriptures on right living) guide us how to add value into our mundane daily actions through a meaningful daily plan (dina carya) and inspiring life plan (jivan carya). They teach us Sadacara . Adi Shankaracharya goes one step further. He teaches us how to make our daily routine and life, not just meaningful and inspiring, but a means to reach the Supreme. That according to him is Sadacara. Also all actions of those who have reached the Supreme (sat) are Sadacara.
The least that is expected of man is to be humane. Then alone can he claim to be a human being. "One who is ever engaged in good deeds, is cultured, follows his duties according to his stage and status in life and behaves well, is alone called a human being."
The qualities of tamas (inertia, evil etc.) and rajas (selfishness, agitation etc.) are obstacles to material or spiritual success. They should be overcome by cultivating sattva guna (alertness, selflessness etc.). Sattva guna thereafter is sublimated with the Knowledge of the Supreme, to reach a state beyond all qualities *gunatita), (Tamodvabhyam rajas sattvam, sattvam suddhena nasyati-Vivekachudamani)
Adi Shankaracharya urges man from being ordinary and doing uninspired actions to first become good and do meaningful and inspired actions. Thereafter sadacara shows him the path of becoming extraordinary and divine.
As the vision, so the world appears to us. In this text, Adi Shankaracharya teaches us how to look upon the world and all actions with a Vedantic or non-dual (advaitic) vision.
No effort is successful without the blessing of the Lord and therefore all spiritual texts commence with an invocation prayer (mangalacarana).
1. Salutations to Lord Vishnu of the nature of Existence-Eonsciousness-Bliss, the cause of the world, the ever-present, the complete and the eternal.
Once Lord Vishnu started worshipping Lord Shiva' with a thousand names, offering a lotus with each name chanted. To His dismay He found that He had only 999 lotuses. If He got up midway, His worship would be considered incomplete. He finally removed one of His eyes and offered It, considering It as a lotus (since devotees call Him Kamalanayana -One who is lotus-eyed). Lord Shiva was pleased with His worship and appeared before Him to bestow on Him complete fulfillment of worship.
All actions, done by even the great, by their very nature are finite and imperfect. It is the Lord's blessings alone that compensates for the imperfections and gives glory to all we do. Hence the invocation prayer.
The verse serves as an auspicious (mangala) beginning to the text. Prayer or prostration to the formless Truth cannot be done remaining different from it. When such a prayer is attempted, it becomes meditation. Hence we meditate on the Truth as an auspicious beginning to the text. The same infinite Truth manifests as Isvara, the Lord of the Universe, addressed here as Vishnu. Our prostrations to Him.
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