October 11, 2009

Adi Shankara - Part 2

Adi Shankara was a great unifier of Hinduism and so he went in search of Mandana Mishra in Varanasi. When Shankara knocked on the door, nobody opened, as Mandana Mishra was performing Shrartham, a ceremony propitiating his ancestors. It was considered highly inauspicious for Saints or for that matter anybody to enter the home during the ceremony, more so if it was a Saint. Adi Shankara is supposed to have jumped from the roof of the house straight into the havan where the rituals were being conducted. This dramatic entry was chosen by Adi Shankara primarily to debunk the superstitious and ritual-bound Mimamsa practitioners.

The story goes that for days the two scholars debated and Mandana Mishra's wife Sarasawani, a scholar in her own right was appointed as the judge. Apparently, after days and weeks of scholarly debate, Sarasawani is supposed to have expressed her inability to decide a victor as both were equal and articulately justifying their school of thought. At last, she decided to put a garland of flowers around each of them and proclaimed that the one whose garland withers first, is the loser. Apparently, Mandana Mishra's garland withered first and he accepted defeat! How gracious people were in those days:-)

During the debate, Mandana Mishra is supposed to have challenged Adi Shankara that he is not eligible to debate as he was a Brahmacharya and therefore has not experienced life, fully. So, Shankara excused himself and left his body for a day and entered the body of a King and experienced the life of a King and returned back to continue their debate. Science was truly advanced in those ages:-)

Adi Shankara traveled the length and breath of the country and won over different schools of thought and unified worshipers like Kapalis to Mimamsis under one umbrella and codified Sanathana Dharma.

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