Adi Sankarar renounced the world when he was barely eight; and walking barefoot from his birthplace Kaladi to the banks of the river Narmada, he sought out Govinda Bhagavadhpadar for formal instruction in the four Maha-Vakyas of the Vedas. The chosen Preceptor, who had been waiting in a cave only for the disciple, took a period of four years for imparting the tuition. Thereafter, at the behest of his Guru, Adi Sankarar travelled to Kasi (Varanasi) which city, like Kanchi in the south, was the meeting-place for scholars from all over the world.


            Adi Sankarar’s sojourn in Kasi for four years was a very fruitful period. He learnt all the major languages including Hebrew and he studied in depth the tenets of other religions. At the close of his stay in Kasi, he was fully equipped to re-establish the Message of the Upanishads, as the sole source and origin of all religious thoughts in the world.


            An important incident in Kasi was his verbal encounter with a slum-dweller that blazoned forth the unparalleled greatness of the Sage and proved to all that he was a Teacher without a second, only because he was ever ready to be an ardent and earnest disciple.


            After holy bath in the Ganges one forenoon, Adi Sankarar was walking through a narrow street chanting slokas as was his wont, when he saw a member of the hunter-clan coming from the opposite direction. The robust rustic was carrying on his shoulders an arrack-filled leather-bag and he was leading a pack of dogs.


            At Adi Sankarar’s approach, the hunter showed no signs of making way and friction would have become unavoidable. The Sage stopped and addressing the hunter said peremptorily, “Stand aside”.


            The man did not obey the order but instead, looked Adi Sankarar straight in the eye before speaking thus: “O, young monk, what indeed do you want to stand aside and from what? If your target is this physical body of mine, its contents are no different from yours – blood and bones and flesh and skin. And in the absence of life-energy, this body would lie stretched on the ground like a log and would not be able to register and obey your command to stand aside.


            “If you had intended to refer to the life-energy inhabiting and motivating this body, then it is only an agglomeration of energy-particles or Akash filling the entire universal space.  Surely water cannot chase away water nor fire burn fire !


            “In case you had Brahman in mind, that is One and One only; and there is nothing other than It to stand aside from.


            “O young monk, you see clouds racing across the heavens. Is the blue sky in any way contaminated by the passage of the clouds ? You find birds in their hundreds flying to and fro but do they leave their foot-prints on the blue sky ?


            “You had your holy dip in the Ganges, the waters of which reflected the sun in all splendour.  The reflections of the same sun you see in the cess-pools on the sides of this narrow street and also in the arrack in my bag. Has the sun on the high become polluted here?


            “O young monk, be specific and answer my question : What should stand aside from what? And what is polluting what?”


            Adi Sankarar was thrilled to the core of his being on hearing this dissertation. In the place of the hunter he saw Paramatma and as for the dogs behind him, were they not four in number representing the four Vedas?


            Even as the townspeople were watching the scene spellbound, the young monk prostrated on the bare ground and touching the feet of the hunter said in total humility: “When I took sanyas I told my mother that all the women who offer alms to me would be her equivalent, that all the men who give me upadesam would be revered as my father and all the disciples receiving instruction from me would be reckoned as my sons. O Master, I am blessed to be instructed by you today. My obeisance to your great self.”


            The moral of the story is that knowledge should become feeling if it is to restructure our mode of living to bring it into consonance with the purpose of life.


            This lesson is what is conveyed by Sage Vasishtar to his star-disciple Rama in the scripture Yoga-Vaasishtam: “What is being taught to you is the process of jnaanam (wisdom). If you merely listen to me and not bring the Teaching into practice, you would only be a jnaana-bandhu (prisoner of knowledge) and not a jnaani (sage). Rather than that one could remain in ignorance. And if a man, gifted with the sixth sense, elects to remain in ignorance he is no better than a worm under a tree-bark; he is no different from a frog in the swamp!”


-         Excerpt from Sage TGN’s Talk on

 Adi Sankarar – Life & Message : From Kaladi to Kasi

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