Adi Shankaracharya in search of GURU - Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada

(Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada photo, Shankara with his guru photo)

Shankara's main aim was to search for a Guru. His intense desire was to have as his Guru only a person who had realised Brahman. If this is the expectation of a disciple, is not that Guru most fortunate? . Shankara went towards North. He came to the banks of river Narmada after passing through many hermitages. There he found the hermitage of a Mahayogi. And this was Govinda Bhagavatpada. Seeing him in a state of deep samadhi, Shankara's heart was filled with satisfaction.

Govindapada, was said to be waiting for someone, he had heard tales of the young boy and awaited his arrival. Shankara’s journey toward his guru took him over hazardous terrain where dangerous confrontations with evil men or wild animals were conceivable. He had been told of an ancient guru living in a cave beside the Narmada River at Omkareshwar. The Narmada was north of his village and within two months he approached the cave of his guru.

It was soon obvious to Govindapada, himself an enlightened being, that Shankara was Shiva come to earth in human form (Incarnated). He was delighted with his new pupil who observed the traditional rules that must be applied between teacher and disciple. Under the guidance of Govindapada, Shankara mastered everything in Hatha, Raja and Jnana Yoga in only three years, after which he received initiation in the knowledge of Brahma.

Govinda asked Sankara who he was. Sankara replied: "O revered Guru! I am neither fire nor air nor earth nor water-none of these, but the Immortal Atma (Self) that is hidden in all names and forms". He also said in the end: "I am the son of Sivaguru, a Brahmin of Kerala. My father died in my childhood. I was brought up by my mother. I have studied the Vedas and the Shastras under a teacher. I took Apath-sannyasa when a crocodile caught my foot while I was taking bath in the river. Kindly initiate me formally into the holy order of Sannyasa".

Swami Govinda was very much pleased with the truthful narration given by Sankara. Having initiated him and invested him with the robe of a Sannyasin, Swami Govinda taught him the philosophy of Advaita which he himself had learnt from his Guru-Gaudapada Acharya. Sankara learnt all the philosophical tenets from his Guru Govindapada.

For the boy Shankara who had obtained a marvellous success in comprehending the Advaita philosophy, "The spiritual Yoga" was very necessary. A person who at his will could forget himself and the world and enter the indescribable state of supreme peace! Such was the Guru. And the disciple was one who was qualified to attain that state. This was a preparatory step of Shankara in getting dynamic power which would facilitate the great work he was to do in future. Understanding the truth is different from experiencing it. Govinda Bhagavatpada enabled Shankara to attain this state of glorious experience. The wise who have attained this state call it the experience of the Infinite. This experience gave rich nourishment to Shankara's personality. The entire world appeared to be full of Brahman to him. After this the only thing that remained to be done was to communicate the bliss he had known and experienced to one and all through Vedanta. This work was assigned also to him by his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada.

                                                                 (NARMADA RIVER)
Govinda asked Sankara to go to Kashi. Sankara proceeded to Kashi where he wrote all his famous commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita and successfully met all the criticisms levelled against them. He then began to propagate his philosophy. Sankara had the greatest esteem for his Guru Govindapada and his Parama Guru or the teacher's teacher, Gaudapada.


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