Swami Vivekananda considered Adi Shankaracharya (Adi Shankara) as the greatest teacher of Vedanta philosophy. Vivekananda was an admirer of Adi Shankara and translated Adi Shankara’s poem Atma Shatakam (also known as Nirvana Shatakam). Here is the Wikipedia article on Atma Shatakam and here is Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the poem.
In this post, we’ll make a collection of Swami Vivekananda’s quotes and comments on Adi Shankaracharya or Adi Shankara.
Swami Vivekananda on Adi Shankara
Swami Vivekananda told—
- Did India ever stand in want of reformers? Do you read the history of India? Who was Ramanuja? Who was Shankara? Who was Nânak? Who was Chaitanya? Who was Kabir? Who was Dâdu? Who were all these great preachers, one following the other, a galaxy of stars of the first magnitude? Did not Ramanuja feel for the lower classes? Did he not try all his life to admit even the Pariah to his community? Did he not try to admit even Mohammedans to his own fold?[Source]
- … his whole life’s work is nothing but that, the throbbing of the beauty of the Vedas and the Upanishads.
- I do not know why Shankara should be represented as rather exclusive; I do not find anything in his writings which is exclusive. As in the case of the declarations of Lord Buddha, this exclusiveness that has been attributed to Shankara’s teachings is most possibly not due to his teachings, but to the incapacity of his disciples.[Source]
- Shankara came, a great philosopher, and showed that the real essence of Buddhism and that of the Vedanta are not very different, but that the disciples did not understand the Master and have degraded themselves, denied the existence of the soul and of God, and have become atheists. That was what Shankara showed, and all the Buddhists began to come back to the old religion.
- Shankara says, Brahman is the essence, the reality of all knowledge, and that all manifestations as knower, knowing, and known are mere imaginings in Brahman.[Source]
- Shankara, with his great intellect, I am afraid, had not as great a heart…
- Some infer that Shankaracharya was the author of the Gita, and that it was he who foisted it into the body of the Mahabharata.[Source]
- Shankaracharya had caught the rhythm of the Vedas, the national cadence. Indeed I always imagine that he had some vision such as mine when he was young, and recovered the ancient music that way. Anyway, his whole life’s work is nothing but that, the throbbing of the beauty of the Vedas and the Upanishads.[Source]
- Shankarâchârya has said that the word Âhâra there means “objects of the senses”, whereas Shri Râmânuja has taken the meaning of Ahara to be “food”. In my opinion we should take that meaning of the word which reconciles both these points of view. Are we to pass our lives discussing all the time about the purity and impurity of food only, or are we to practice the restraining of our senses? Surely, the restraining of the senses is the main object; and the discrimination of good and bad, pure and impure foods, only helps one, to a certain extent, in gaining that end. There are, according to our scriptures, three things which make food impure: (1) Jâti-dosha or natural defects of a certain class of food, like onions, garlic, etc.; (2) Nimitta-dosha or defects arising from the presence of external impurities in it, such as dead insects, dust, etc. that attach to sweetmeats bought from shops; (3) Âshraya-dosha or defects that arise by the food coming from evil sources, as when it has been touched and handled by wicked persons. Special care should be taken to avoid the first and second classes of defects. But in this country men pay no regard just to these two, and go on fighting for the third alone, the very one that none but a Yogi could really discriminate! The country from end to end is being bored to extinction by the cry, “Don’t touch”, “Don’t touch”, of the non-touchism party. In that exclusive circle of theirs, too, there is no discrimination of good and bad men, for their food may be taken from the hands of anyone who wears a thread round his neck and calls himself a Brâhmin! Shri Ramakrishna was quite unable to take food in this indiscriminate way from the hands of any and all. It happened many a time that he would not accept food touched by a certain person or persons, and on rigorous investigation it would turn out that these had some particular stain to hide. Your religion seems nowadays to be confined to the cooking-pot alone. You put on one side the sublime truths of religion and fight, as they say, for the skin of the fruit and not for the fruit itself![Source]
- The greatest teacher of the Vedanta philosophy was Shankaracharya. By solid reasoning he extracted from the Vedas the truths of Vedanta, and on them built up the wonderful system of Jnana that is taught in his commentaries. He unified all the conflicting descriptions of Brahman and showed that there is only one Infinite Reality. He showed too that as man can only travel slowly on the upward road, all the varied presentations are needed to suit his varying capacity. We find something akin to this in the teachings of Jesus, which he evidently adapted to the different abilities of his hearers. First he taught them of a Father in heaven and to pray to Him. Next he rose a step higher and told them, “I am the vine, you are the branches”, and lastly he gave them the highest truth: “I and my Father are one”, and “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Shankara taught that three things were the great gifts of God: (1) human body, (2) thirst after God, and (3) a teacher who can show us the light. When these three great gifts are ours, we may know that our redemption is at hand. Only knowledge can free and save us, but with knowledge must go virtue.[Source]
- There was an element of danger in the teaching of Buddha— it was a reforming religion. In order to bring about the tremendous spiritual change he did, he had to give many negative teachings. But if a religion emphasises the negative side too much, it is in danger of eventual destruction. Never can a reforming sect survive if it is only reforming; the formative elements alone— the real impulsive, that is, the principles— live on and on. After a reform has been brought about, it is the positive side that should be emphasized: after the building is finished the scaffolding must be taken away.
It so happened in India as time went on, the followers of Buddha emphasized the negative aspect of his teachings too much and thereby caused the eventual downfall of the religion.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to describe to you the hideousness that came in the wake of Buddhism. The most hideous ceremonies, the most horrible, the most obscene books that human hands ever wrote or human brain ever conceived, the most bestial forms that ever passed under the name of religion, have all been the creation of degraded Buddhism.
But India has to live, and the spirit of the Lord descended again. He who declared, “I will come whenever virtue subsides”, cam again, and this time the manifestation was in the South, and up rose that young Brahmin of whom it has been declared that at the age of sixteen he had completed all his writings; the marvellous boy Shankaracharya arose. The writings of this boy of sixteen are the wonders of the modern world, and so was the boy. He wanted to bring back the Indian world to its pristine purity, but think of the amount of task before him.
You may read the following article too—
- Swami Vivekananda on Manu