A Lesson for Shankaracharya

By Rudra Shivananda

Adi ShankaracharyaOne of the great Masters of Yoga was Adi-Shankaracharya who was born realized and was commanded by his Guru, Govindapada to go to Benares at the age of twelve to teach. By the age of thirty, Shankaracharya had become the greatest Master of the time. He had reformed Hinduism and setup major spiritual centers in the four corners of India as well as defeated all the major Buddhist and Jain leaders in debates – no one could withstand his brilliance.

Finally, he decided to challenge Mandana Mishra to a debate. Mandana was already aged, perhaps seventy years old and been undefeated during that time. Whoever loses would have to become the disciple of the other and since both of them had thousands upon thousands of followers, they would also have to come under the winner’s umbrella.
Now, in order to decide who had won the debate, a judge had to be found and Shankaracharya decided to ask Mandana’s wife Bharati to be the judge since she was also renowned for her great wisdom. After weeks of debate on all spiritual aspects, Bharati declared the young Shankaracharya as winner.

However, she also declared that since she was the better half of Mandana, he had only half lost and that the young acharya would need to defeat her as well for a full win. Reluctantly, Shankaracharya agreed and asked Mandana to be the judge. Now, Bharati knew after the weeks of debates that there was very little under the Sun that she could challenge the young Master on but she had identified a weakness and so she pursued the topic of sex. This perplexed Shankaracharya because he had always been celibate and had no knowledge of the subject. Therefore he asked for an adjournment of forty days. He then asked his disciples to find out if any royal personage had recently passed away because he had decided to enter another body in order to find out more about sex and what better body to use than a king’s!

The disciples found that a nearby king had passed away that very day and Shankaracharya went into a cave to meditate. He asked his students to take good care of his body and also gave special instructions to his chief disciple to go get him if he had not returned to his own body within the set time. Then he left his own body and entered that
of the king and enjoyed the delights of sex. However, after some weeks, he began to forget who he had been and became immersed in his role and enamored of the king’s life.

At the set date, the disciple came to the king’s court to tell him to return to his own body by reminding him of the debate he was having with the lady Bharati but the king could not remember. Finally, the disciple gave a discourse on the Shankaracharya’s teachings and this woke him from his slumber and he immediately returned to his body. He then went back to the debate and answered all of Bharati’s questions to her satisfaction and she declared him the winner.

As he returned to his students, the great acharya gave a discourse on the dangers of sensual gratification on the spiritual path – it can make even a renunciate forget his realization. He also declared that if a householder can achieve Self-Realization, it was a greater achievement than for a monk to do so!

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