Whispers from Eternity – Paramahansa Yogananda
Section II: Invocations to the Manifestations of God in the Temples of Great Lives ~ My Guru, Sri Yukteswar, Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Swami Shankara, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi
“Come to me as Swami Shankara”
O Shankaracharya,* dazzling star in wisdom’s skies! many minds once darkened by blind belief in religious formalism have learned from thee the highest path of liberation: soul perception.
Peerless exponent of Advaita+ we pay homage to thee. The sheep of human weaknesses flee before the leonine roar of thy Self-realization.
Thy victory chants, I am He, and Thou art That — like Christ’s affirmation, I and my Father are One — awaken us from the stupor of materialism.
O Swami of Swamis! thou teachest us to behold the one eternal ocean of Spirit beneath the transient, melting waves of finite forms.
Thou doest worship a God not gloom-faced and revengeful but a Bestower of boons and bliss. Thou showest us the way to garner blossoming mirth from all hearts and to fill our soul vases with bouquets of songs celestial.
Thou dost tell us that our deathless being was churned out of his sea of Light; that from His oceanic joy our many lives emerge; and that, at the subsidence of desires’s storm, we shall join Him in mighty cosmic laughter.
O Majestic Monist, thy smiling life has revealed to devotees the plenitude of Spirit. We bow, we bow to thee!
*Archarya, “religious teacher,” is often added to Shankara’s name. The Adi [“first”] Shankaracharya, to whom this invocation is dedicated, was born many centuries ago. He reorganized the ancient Swami Order, whose leaders successively bear the title of “Shankaracharya” See GLOSSARY:
SHANKARA, SWAMI Sometimes referred to as Adi [“the first”] Shankaracharya [Shankara + acharya, “teacher”]. India’s most illustrious philosopher. His date is uncertain, many scholars assign him to the ninth century. He expounded God, not as a negative abstraction but as positive, eternal, omnipresent, ever-new Bliss. Shankara reorganized the ancient Swami Order, and founded four great maths [monastic centers of spiritual education], whose leaders in apostolic succession bear the title Jagadguru Sri Shankarachaya. The meaning of Jagadguru is “world teacher.”
+ ADVAITA Literally, “non-duality,” oneness. Shankara’s writings are lucid expositions of the ancient Vedic teachings on Advaita or the essential unreality of matter, the all-inclusiveness of Spirit
God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda
“For those on the path I have followed who also feel called to complete renunciation in a life of seeking and serving God through the yoga ideals of meditative and dutiful activities, I have perpetuated in the monastic order of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India the line of sannyas in the Shankara Order, which I entered when I received the holy vows of a swami from my Guru.”
“Shankaracharya (Shankara), India’s greatest philosopher…” Autobiography of a Yogi, excerpts
Shankara’s reforming zeal included the reorganization of the ancient monastic Swami Order. He also founded maths (monastic educational centers) in four localities — Sringeri in the south, Puri in the east, Dwarka in the west, and Badrinath in the Himalayan north…Shankara’s object in locating his maths in the four corners of India was the promotion of religious and national unity throughout the vast land.
Every swami belongs to the monastic order that has been honored in India from time immemorial. Reorganized in its present form centuries ago by Shankaracharya, it has since been headed by an unbroken line of venerable teachers (each of whom successively bears the title of Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya). Many monks, perhaps a million, make up the Swami Order; to enter it they fulfill a requirement to receive initiation from men who themselves are swamis. All monks of the Swami Order thus trace their spiritual lineage to a common guru, Adi (“ the first”) Shankaracharya. They take vows of poverty (nonattachment to possessions), chastity, and obedience to the head or spiritual authority. In many ways the Catholic Christian monastic orders resemble the more ancient Order of Swamis.
The late Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya of the ancient Gowardhan Math in Puri, His Holiness Bharati Krishna Tirtha, visited America for three months in 1958. It was the first time any Shankaracharya had traveled to the West. His historic tour was sponsored by Self-Realization Fellowship. The Jagadguru spoke before the leading universities of America and participated in a discussion on world peace with the eminent historian Dr. Arnold Toynbee.
“BABAJI’S mission in India has been to assist prophets in carrying out their special dispensations….He has stated that he gave yoga initiation to Shankara, reorganizer of the Swami Order.
“’When there is duality because of ignorance, one sees all things as distinct from the Self,” Shankara, the great monist has written. “When everything is known as the Self, not even an atom is seen as other than the Self…. As soon as knowledge of the Reality has sprung up, there can be no fruits of past actions to be experienced, owing to the unreality of the body, just as there can be no dream after waking.’”
With unanswerable logic, and in a style of charm and grace, Shankara interpreted Vedanta philosophy in a strictly advaita (non-dual, monistic) spirit. The great monist also composed poems of devotional love. His Prayer to the Divine Mother for Forgiveness of Sins bears the refrain: “Though bad sons are many, never has there been a bad mother.”
Sanandana, a disciple of Shankara’s, wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutras (Vedanta philosophy). The manuscript was lost by fire, but Shankara (who had once glanced through it) repeated it word for word to his disciple. The text, known as Panchapadika, is studied by scholars to this day.
The chela Sanandana received a new name after a beautiful incident. Seated one day on a riverbank, he heard Shankara calling him from the opposite shore. Sanandana entered the water forthwith. His faith and his feet were simultaneously supported when Shankara materialized, in the swirling river, a series of lotus flowers. The disciple was thereafter known as Padmapada, “lotus-foot.”
Shankara, the founder of the Swami Order, wrote: “No birth, no death, no caste
have I.” He renounced the Brahmin caste in which he had been born.
Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda in religious procession, Calcutta, 1935. The two Sanskrit verses on the standard read: (Above) “Follow the path of the great ones.” (Below, words of Swami Shankara) “The company of a divine personage, even for a moment, can save and redeem us.”
Shankara himself wrote the following beautiful lines: “No known comparison exists in the three worlds for a true guru. If the philosophers’ stone be assumed as truly such, it can only turn iron into gold, not into another philosophers’ stone. The venerated teacher, on the other hand, creates equality with himself in the disciple who takes refuge at his feet. The guru is therefore peerless, nay, transcendental.”
Lord Shankara was a rare combination of saint, scholar, and man of action. Though he lived only thirty-two years, many of them were spent in arduous travel to every part of India, spreading his advaita doctrine. Millions gathered eagerly to hear the solacing flow of wisdom from the lips of the barefooted young monk.