Updated 28th Feb 2018
Adi Sankara - A Jagadguru
There are many explanations given for one to become jagadguru. Some say that by writing commentaries on prasthAntrayI, one becomes a jagadguru, some say by touring India and winning debates make one jagadguru, while some say the one who spreads nAma sankirtan, the yuga dharma, is a jagadguru. Lets examine what makes one a jagadguru.
bhArat is soaked in spirituality. There are many traditions, Saiva, Shakta, vaiSnav, yOga, nyAya, cArvAka, Agamic, vAmcAra mArg (left hand path), tantra, etc. Our scriptures are monotheists, but they have pluralistic approach in a way that many forms of God are given, who are manifestation of brahman. A jagadguru in my opinion is the one who teaches all paths, harmonizes all paths, do not contradict veda-s, smriti-s and purANa-s and blends all into one harmonious system. A jagadguru removes misconceptions, corrects flaws in practice like removing weed gathered over a period of time, refines it, and offers in pure distilled form.
In this context, a jagadguru must have mastery over not only one siddhAnta, but many siddhanta-s. Obviously, it is almost impossible for human being to have this knowledge. Hence only an avatar can be a jagadguru. Our AcArya Adi Sankara possessed those qualities of a jagadguru. From his biographies, and his extant works, we come to know that
Adi Shankara in his commentaries has cited references of
Shruti-s (veda-s and Upanishads) - Karma Kand, MimAmsA
Smriti-s (Dharmashastra-s) - Ethical and Moral Laws for universal well-being and harmony. Also represents Practical life.
PurANa-s - For instilling Bhakti. He has cited as many as 12 PurANa-s including upa-purANa-s, thereby indicating their importance. He didn't interpret them only from Symbolic, Mephoric or esoteric point of view, he took stories as literal.
ItihAsa (MahabhArata and RAmAyaNa) - For cultivating bhakti
AcArya also commented on
Vishnu Sahasranama explaining meaning of various names (attributes) of Vishnu and indicated Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva abheda i.e. non-different.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra-s - AcArya wrote Sub commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutra-s by the name Yoga tArAvalI. It is only a 28 verse hymn, but considered as very important and is highly revered by Yogi-s
On parts of Apastamba Dharma Sutra (sub-commentary on the chapter about inner atman), with the name AdhyAtma-paTala-vivaraNa (आध्यात्म-पटल-विवरण). (paTala means part, section or chapter of a book)
AcArya composed an essence of tantra in his work prapancasAra tantra and saundarya lahiri.
Was a master of mantra sAdhanA. He revived srI yantra upAsanA by re-consecrating srI yantra at kAmAkhyA devI temple at kamakoti (Kanchi) and other temples.
Apart from this, AcArya composed PrakaraNa Grantha-s. PrakaraNa Grantha-s are the basic texts that teach basics of Advaita Vedanta. Adi Shankara, travelled length and breath of India and knew that it would be difficult for many to understand Advaita. Hence he created independent grantha-s. Important PrakaraNa Grantha-s are , Tatva Bodh (very basic, often recommended to be read first), Atma Bodh, AparokshAnubhUti, Vivek CuDAmaNi (though basic, contains very profound knowledge), Upadesha Sahasri, prabodh sudhAkara (talk about both saguNa and nirguNa brahman and two path, bhakti and GYAna).
He also composed many Independent hymns for instilling devotion, Adi Shankara also composed devotional hyms to various deities. Popular ones are - DakshinAmurtI Stotra, Shiva PancAkshara Stotra, Veda SAra Shiva Stavan, Saundarya lahiri, SivAnanda lahiri, Guru pAdukA stotram, Guru aShTakam, etc
Adi Shankara reconstructed and repaired many temples. The famous Jagannatha Puri Temple was once deserted and the idol was missing. The Lord appeared in his dream, gave Idol's location and ordered him to install the Idol. Adi Shankara not only installed Idol, but he established one of the amnaya peetha (math) right there. This math is known by the name PurI math. Acharya reconsecrated Sri Yantra at Kamakshi Temple in Kanchi thereby reviving temple worship and riving Sakta tradition.
To manage temple, naturally agama-s and Vedic Karma Kand are necessary. Hence he supported them too.
Attempt for Universal Harmony - Adi Shankara propagated smArta sampradAya, worship for gaNeSa, Siva, Sakti, viShNu and sUrya as different manifestations of same brahman. He added sixth deity skanda for universal harmony.
All advaitins earlier were smArta-s. smArta-s are the ones who follow smriti-s and worship pancha-devatA (gaNeSa, Siva, Sakti, viShNu and sUrya). There are 18 smriti-s, some of them are Manu Smriti, Apastamba Dharma Smriti, Gautam, Yagnavalkya, Atri, Daksha, Shankha, etc. Smriti-s are typically called as 'notes from memory'. Great Rishi-s what had mastered Veda-s wrote smriti-s in accordance with Veda-s (shturi-s). Hence even shruti-s are also important to smArta-s. Smriti-s are also called as dharma Shastra-s (laws code, code of conduct) and are created for universal well being and harmony. Adi SankarAcArya has quoted many smriti-s in his bhashya-s. Which means that he himself gave importance to them. dharma SAstra-s, which provide moral and ethical laws, permit us to take sword for self protection and also allow Brahmins who are starving to take up occupations like trading and even take up the dharma of sword as a last resort.
If we stick to 'Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya', then dharma shastra-s are also useless and everything is illusion which is not true, as evident from his commentaries.
Our AchArya says, until you attain inner purity, you will have to do nitya karma and carry out your duties.
Critics are of the opinion that devotional compositions praising more than one form of God like kruSNa / govindA or Siva or tripurAsundari cannot be composed by Adi Sankara as they do not match with his core philosophy of advaita. Howeve, they do not take into account many factors which are explained in detail in the article 'Questioning Authenticity of works attributed to Adi Sankara'. karma, upAsanA, yOga, Sakta, Agama-s etc are the foundation on which advaita rests. Advaita is the mountain peak, while ways to reach them are many. Base of mountain is very broad, but peak is only one. Other objections like authenticity of non-sAttvika purANa-s and Adi Sankara did not preached smArta dharma, but was a vaiShNava are replied in relevant sections viz Authenticity of purANa-s, upa-purANa-s and sthala purANa-s and Adi Sankara preached smArta dharma
There are famous SubhASitA-s which sum-up his teachings are:
Ruchinam vaichitryad rijukutil nana path jusham;
nrinam ekogamyastvamasi pyasamarnavmiti"
"Due to the differences in individual dispositions, people follow different paths, but you are the only destination of all of them, just as the sea is the destination of all the waters"
Akashat patitam toyam sagaram prati gacchati,
sarva deva namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati"
"All the water fallen from the sky goes to the sea,
salutations to all the gods reaches to the KeSava"
Note: Here keSava is not kriShNa, a person, but the supreme Self, formless Brahman under it's sway trinity works. (ref here for explanation)
There is no shortcoming or incompleteness in his teachings, nor advaita is an incomplete philosophy. It is the crest jewel of vedAnta, and represents highest philosophical truth after knowing this truth, nothing more needs to be known proclaims shruti.
Adi Shankaracharya only established advaita as highest philosophical truth. AcArya did not demean any form of God, nor did condemn or opposed any philosophy. Our AcArya accepted them upto a certain point, found them incomplete and asked us to rise above them. According to our AcArya, without knowledge (direct experience of Self), liberation is not possible.
He himself did not gave Jnana to any grihastha and gave utmost importance to sanyAsa for attaining brahma-vidyA, as one can fully devote all 24 hours to God. To practice advaita vedAnta, vairAgya and burning desire for liberation are extremely important. He had only 4 disciples, that too after walking the length and breadth of India. This shows that he did not teach advaita to all.
For masses, he also composed hymns for various deities , repaired temples, reconsecrated sri yantra-s. This means he encouraged deity worship, shakta-s tantra (in pure form), karma kand (mimAmsA), but he did not consider them as the supreme goal. So he asks us to rise above them after you attain inner purity.
Unfortunately some parts of his biography, as some say, is corrupted and hence rejected by rivals, and only his prasthAntrayI Bhashya is considered as authentic and are undoubtedly attributed to Adi Shankaracharya. If we blend even some of his hymns, his biography and his bhashya-s, we can understand why he is called as Jagat Guru.
According to mAdhaviya shankara Digvijay (written by VidyaraNya Svami), his gurU gOvindpAdaa is considered as incarnation of Shesha Naaga and the same shesha Naaga in earlier incarnation was Maharshi Patanjali.
saundarya lahiri is also considered as very powerful composition on Devi bhavAnI, specially the first 40 verses (out of total 100) are said to be very potent. Then there is Dakshinamurti stotra, Shiva Panchakshara stotra and Veda Sara Shiva Stotra is also attributed to him, all considered authentic atleast by Kanchi Paramacharya. They show all harmonious attitude of our AcArya.
Citing 12 purANa-s which includes 3 up-purANa-s in his Vishnu Sahasranam Bhashya shows that he was in full support of purANa-s and he did not devised symbolic meaning. Hence he even propagated bhakti. He also cited tamasic and rajasic puranas which means that unlike Vaishnava-s he did not considered them as leading to hell, or in other words, those verses are interpolations.
In his lesser known work, prabOdha sudhAkara, AcArya goes on to praise bhakti towards kruShNa as the ultimate goal of life. While describing how to meditate on various forms of bhagavAn kruShNa, AcArya goes into ecstasy and claims that for the ones socked in pure bhakti, there is no need to liberation. (pra. su 240, 250). Adi Sankara also recalls many lilA-s of kruShNa bhagavAn.
bhagavAn viShNu can be said to be our AcArya's ISTa devatA, but he never denigrated any other form of God like Siva or Sakti.
Our AcArya blended yOga, tantra (Sakta), karma kANDa, upAsanA kAnDa, GYAna kAnDa, Agama SAstra into one harmonious system and established advaita as the final destination by reconciling contradictions and difference among various religio-philosophical systems.
In my opinion, these are the reasons why our AchArya is reverentially called as Jagadguru.
Life of Sringeri AcArya SrI Abhinava vidyAtirthA mahAsvAmI
There are and were many AcArya-s who were actively engaged in polemical debates to defend advaita. However, spiritual teachings are far far away from polemical debates. A book, 'Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection of Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswami (AV)', Guru of current Sringeri Shankaracharya SrI bhArtI tirtha (current SankarAcArya as in 2015) shows us that paramAcArya AV had been passed through many types of sAdhanA-s including haTha yoga, kundalini yoga, karma kANDa (nitya karma vidhi), vedAnta (advaita), narasihma and SArdAmbA upAsanA.
We will have to understand that a guru will never instruct his beloved disciple who is also chosen by ambA / SArdAmbA herself as the next successor to the peetham, in false, fake SAstra-s. From the book we can conclude that Sringeri AcArya-s consider all 108 upanishands as authentic even though they are not quoted by any pUrvAcArya-s. an example is sarasvatI rahasya upanishad.
Meditative journey of AV will help us to understand why SankarACarya-s are called as 'jagadguru'.
Lord Shiva himself taught Hatha Yoga and some kriyas in a series of 7 consecutive dreams
Amba gave her knowledge of chakras, kundalini and Nadis like ida, pingala, etc. He could even hear the voice saying that this is anahat chakra
When he was meditating on Narasimha, he got so much intimate to him that he experienced that every thing is an offering to Narasimha like bathing, etc actually goes to him only.
When he experienced Narasimha as an antar yamin, Narasimha's form disappeared
Amba gave him her darshan
He meditated on Lord Shiva with Dhyana sloka of Dakshinamurthy stotra (some consider it as not authored by Adi Sankara, but here a guru has instructed his beloved disciple, who the guru has already announced a shis successor when he gave sanyasa at the age of 13 1/2 years).
AV then meditated on Lord shiva with Snake as his ornament (thats what the verse was). After an hour, when he opened his eyes, he saw a snake loosely coiled round his neck. He touches the snake. Snake seemed to have liked his touched and rested his fin on his right cheek. After 5 minutes snake left him and AV returned to ashram (He was meditating on hearby mountain).
Another day, his guru blessed him with Mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya' (that same guru had initiated him into Naramsimh upasana) and that day, AV had a darshan of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva blessed him and ordered him to move on to Advaita sadhana.
His guru then taught him advaita sadhana. During all these teaining, Av was young and he had not studied all shastras.
He went into samadhi with the help of Laya Yoga (Gorakhnath's way), hearing sound and then mind merging into brahman.
AV entered into samAdhi as per advaita vedAnta. With practice, he could easily enter into samAdhi in short time.
His Guru made him to enter into samadhiby mere will when they both meditated at same time. Finally one day, he got permanently established in Brahman
Then his guru Chandrashekhara Saraswati brought him down. as he would not even come back to body consciousness, but his guru had different plans for him. He had to take care of math. So he asked him to come down from samadhi. AV also discussed Saraswati Rahasya upanishad regarding different types of Samadhi. This upanishad is also not accepted by some as no one except upanishad Brahma Yogin has written commentary.
Sringeri Acharyas also revere works like Madhurastakam (मधुराष्टकम) by Sri Vallabhacharya, tulsidAsakrit SrI rAmacaritmAnasa (तुल्सिदासकॄत श्री रामचरित् मानस)
Since they have meditated in many ways as prescribed in SAstra-s, they can guide people practicing those disciples. Practicing one than one discipline and achieving siddhi (Atma-siddhi) is very very rare. Only blessed souls chosen by paramAtmAn can have such rare qualities to successfully pass through many kinds of meditative techniques.
A brief intro of the above mentioned book is given by advaita academy. This book is available at bookstores managed by Sringeri Matha.
Birth date of Adi Sankara
There are many controversies regarding dates of Adi Sankara. All agree that Adi Sankara lived for 32 years. Scholars have arrived at two dates. 509 BC - 477 BC and 788 AD - 820 AD. Some suggest the date of 720 - 752 AD. However, Date of Birth is of little importance as his teachings remain the same irrespective of his birth date.
Current SankarAcArya-s (Shankaracharyas)
[Updated on 08-Dec-2022]
[Names of SankarAcArya-s updated on 11-Sep-2022. GauDapadAcArya-s are as on 05th Dec 2022]
[For any changes / corrections - please email - indiaspirituality [at] gmail.com]
There are some fake godmen, who claim to be a SankarAcArya and attach themselves to any of the four maths. There are four authentic petha-s. The fifth one is Kanchi Math. There are also four GauDapadAcArya Maths.
In order for the proper following of these four matha-s SrI Adi Sankara has written certain rules to be followed by all four matha-s. The two grahta-s (manuals) are - mathAmnAya anushAshanam and mathAmnAya setu. They mention only four matha-s as Amnaya peetham-s. 'amnaya' means 'vedic'. We only accept the Kanchi Math as the fifth matha as it is very old matha and has given us illustrous AchArya-s. There is communication of Kanchi Matha with the amnaya peetham-s and so they all are in contact with each other. There is informal acceptance of Kanchi Matha too but not any other matha-s.
Please refer to the following Videos on YouTube
Does Adi Shankaracharya Have Any Relation With Kanchi Peeth? - Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati
क्या चारों शंकराचार्य आपस में मेलजोल रखते हैं ? - Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati
शंकराचार्य जी के द्वारा नकली संतों का पर्दाफाश l - Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati on Kanchi Shankaracharya
कौन हैं वर्तमान के प्रामाणिक शंकराचार्य ? - Swami Avimukteshvarananda Saraswati
शंकराचार्य बनने के लिए कौन कौन सी योग्यता होनी चाहिये? - Swami Avimukteshvarananda Saraswati
चतुराम्नाय शङ्कराचार्य पीठों से सम्बन्धित मूलभूत जानकारियां - Swami Avimukteshvarananda Saraswati
शंकराचार्य जी के द्वारा नकली संतों का पर्दाफाश l - Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati on Kanchi Shankaracharya
Please find names of current SankarAcArya-s of four maths
(not written in itrans form)
1. Sringeri Peetham also known as Sringeri Sarada Peetham (South India): Swami Bharti Tirtha (biography) (36th)
Successor: Swami Vidhushekhar Bharati (37th) - Sishya svikAra on 23rd January 2015 (initiated into Sanyasa and declaration as Successor) (Lineage Source)
2. Sharada Peetham also known as Dwarka Peetham (West India): Swami Sadananda Saraswati (12-Sep-2022-present), preceded by Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati (holding 2 peethas) - Attained Mahasamadhi on 11-Sep-2022 at the age of 99 years.
3. Jyoti / Jyotir Peetham (North India): Swami Avimukteshvaranand Saraswati (12-Sep-2022-present), preceded by Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati (holding 2 peethas) - Attained Mahasamadhi on 11-Sep-2022 at the age of 99 years.
Swami Svaroopananda Saraswati left home at the age of 9 years. Initiated into SanyAsa in 1950. Seated on SankarAchArya peetham in 1981. Practitioner of Sri Vidya Upasana, guru- bhai (brother monk) of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi. Swami ji established Paramhamsi Ganga Ashram in Madhyapradesha where he meditated on a rock for many years. (Some say he meditated for 10 years on the rock Vichar Shila). Source
Swami Avimukteshvaranand Saraswati of Jyotirmath and Swami Sadananda Saraswati of Sharada Matha, Dwarka, were both designated by Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati.
Swami Avimukteshvaranand Saraswati is a practitioner of SrI vidyA upAsanA or parAmbA rAjarAjeSvarI trIpurAsundrI sAdhanA or SrI yantra sAdhanA. He adds shrI and 1008 in his title. So he is svAmISrI 1008-guru Avimukteshvaranand Saraswati.
Added SrI (श्री) to svAmI (स्वामी) and became svAmISrI (स्वामीश्री) as he is a SrI vidyA upAsaka.
This instruction to practice this sAdhanA was given by his Gurudev Swami Sampoornananda Saraswati and so he added Guru (गुरु) to his title.
He is not officially honored title of '1008' but as upon the orders of his Gurudeva has established parama dharma sansada 1008 as a part of his sevA in order to protect and establish the principles of sanAtana dharma as propogated by Adi SankarAchArya jI. It is 1008 Asana-s meanings 1008 seats dedicated to the entire world. Seat seat has been designated an area (a kshetra) who are connected with svAmISrI (SwamiShri, स्वामीश्री). So he added 1008 to his title.
Swami Avimukteshvaranand Saraswati is the sanyAsa name given to him by his Gurudev Swami Sampoornananda Saraswati.
Thus his title became svAmISrI 1008.guru svAmI avimukteSvarAnanda sarasvatI (1008 Guru Swamishri Avimukteshananda Saraswati, १००८ गुरु स्वामीश्री अविमुक्तेश्वरानंद सरस्वती)
Source: स्वामिश्रीः1008 क्या है?.
Swami Sadananda Saraswati has his own YouTube channel. There is also another YouTube channel Kulvriksha created by his followers.
4. Govardhan Peetham, Puri (East India): Swami Nishchalanand Saraswati
5. Kanchi Kamakoti peetham (South India, Tamil Nadu): Swami Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati (70th) from 28-Feb-2018, Preceded by Swami Jayendra Sarasvati (69th) (attained Mahasamadhi on 28-Feb-2018) at the age of 82 years. Initiated into sanyAsa and declared as successor on 22-Mar-1954 by Swami Chandrashekharendra Sarasvati VIII (68th), the Walking God. Paramacharya was initiated into SanyAsa and declared as a successor on 22-Mar-1954. (source)
YouTube channels of All five Sankaracharya-s
[Added on 08-Dec-2022]
Jyotir matha, Chamoli, Uttarakhand - Swami Avimukteshvarananda Saraswati - 1008.guru
Govardhan Matha, Puri, Orrisa - Swami Nishchalalanda Saraswati - GovardhanMath
Sharada Matha, Dwarka, Gujarat - Swami Sadananda Saraswati - Swami Sadanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj Dwarka Gujarat / Kula
Sringeri Sharada Matha, Sringeri, Bangaluru - Swami Bharati Tirtha / Swami Vidushekhara Bharati - SharadaPeetham
Kanchi Kamakoti Matha, Kanchi, Tamil Nadu - Swami Shankara Vijayendra Saraswati - KanchiMath
Lineage of Sankaracharya Matha-s
(Please see the list in last secton)
Other similar Mathas adhering to Adi SankarAchArya jI's Advaita
[Updated on 05-Dec-2022]
Gaudpadacharya Kavale (Goa) Math - H.H. Shreemad Shivanand Saraswati (77th head of Gaud Saraswat Brahmin Samaj of Goa and South Indian Saraswat Brahmins)
Kavale Math - Marathi - कवळे मठ named from 'Kaivalya Math'
[deleted the list on 06-01-2023]
Chitrapur Math (split from Gaudapadacharya math) has several branches. Est. in 1708
Parama Pūjya Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī I (1708-1720)
Fake SankarAchAryas - Dangerous to our Dharma and real SankarAchArya-s
[Added on 08-Dec-2022]
This website is purely acedamic, and it is not right to talk about politics, but our honourable SankarAchArya-s are not immune to the politics and often become target by vested interest groups. Hence this section is presented. It has to be taken in right spirit and one has to understand the seriousness of situation. In the very land of bhArata, our own topmost Dharma Guru-s are not safe and are often targetted for their orthodox vedic position on social and dharmic matters. At best political parties can ignore them, but targetting them smells national and / or international conspiracies. Earlier to such conspiracies were created. Please refer to the Section Part III - Conspiracies against Sanatan Dharma by East India Co, Max Muller, Wilson, Jones and others (External Link - archive.org - PDF)
There are many Fake SankarAchArya-s who falsely add the honorific title of SankarAchArya to their name but have no connection with the four authentic Sankara Matha-s the amnaya peetham. We can add Kanchi Matha SankarAchArya as the fifth, but not any other math or name. All other Matha-s and their heads who claim to be SankarAchArya are fake.
These fake SankarAchArya-s may or may not follow the Sankara Matha-s system or adhere to its core philosophy.
Mahant Narendra Giri ji Maharaj, the then head of Akhil Bhartiya Akhada paridhad as on 01-May-2017 (अखिल भारतीय अखाड़ा परिषद) has said in an interview to a new channel 'News State, Uttar Pradesh' that there are more than 84 saints / thugs disguised as SankarAchArya-s. (Source: jump to 1.19 for precise statement, YouTube video dt 01-May-2017, 5 years ago as on 08-Dec-2022).
Some Fake SankarAchArya-s -
Swami Adhokshjanand Devirath - Claims to be SankarAchArya of Puri
Lakshmi SankarAchArya - Promotes Islam appreciates Zakir Naik.
While they enjoy political patriotism, the real SankarAchArya-s like Puri SankarAchArya and Kanchi SankarAchArya Swami Jayendra SarasvatI are tortured.
Attempts to attack Swami Nishchalananda SarasvatI of Puri Math
Plans to defame and attack Swami Nishchalananda ji Maharaj, SanchArAchArya of Govadrhan Matha, Jagannath Puri (popularly known as Puri SankarAchArya). He is supported by all Political parties including BJP.
Please watch the video series in three parts : Fake Shankracharya (must watch) Part 1 | 2 | 3
Puri: फर्जी और नकली Shankaracharya का विरोध, संगठनों ने की ढोंगी संत के खिलाफ कार्रवाई की मांग - resistance was lead by Aditya Vahini, a social wing of Jagannath Puri Matha
Attack on Kanchi SankarAchArya Swami Jayendra SarasvatI
Swami Jayendra SarasvatI was accused of robbery and murder and made great headlines in news channels in 2004. After many years, he was acquitted. However even though being the head of recognised Matha having illustrious Lineage of great Saints, at the ripe age of 70 years, he was made to sit on a small table for 4-5 hours for interrogation. He was not allowed to carry on his daily dharmic duties as the head of Matha. Finally he was acquitted after nearly 10 years of harresment by law enforcement agencies on 27-Nov-2013.
Source: Sankararaman murder case: Jayendra Saraswathi, 22 others acquitted
svAmI jayendra sarasvatI is said to be active in social welfare of the Hindus.
Both SankarAchArya-s do not adhere to any political party nor do they favour any one of them. Hence Fake SankarAchArya-s are created to counter them and carry on the political agenda.
|| Hari OM ||