The life of the Great Shankaracharya.

Essay by kata100University, Master'sB+, March 2003

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There are many questions behind the life of the Great Shankaracharya. He was and is said to have been a great Avatar. An avatar is a descent, a down-coming (from the verb tri, to cross over, attain, save, with the prefix ava, down; and so ava-tri descend into, appear, become incarnate). Can humans prove his existence as a divine incarnation, and if so how does it change human existence?

It has been said that Sankara was a divine incarnation of the Lord Siva and also the Lord Surya. Sivarahasya says: Thus, Lord Siva, the blue-necked one, will out of his boundless grace, undertake a number of Avatars to establish the orthodox traditions, to help the people in the world. This describes Sankara's life quite well because he established an orthodox Hindu tradition, Advaita, that has helped many around the world.

The Saura Purana, which is an important work, which gives many details about the life of Sankara also has the following: The Lord Surya himself will take on the form of an Avatar as Sankara writing suitable commentaries on the Vyasa Sutras to spread the meaning of the Vedas.

This is also something that Sankara did in his short thirty-two years here on earth. The question is this a prophecy or was it written after Sankara lived?

There is no argument that there is plenty of documentation of Sankara's alleged Avatar status, but does this really prove his authenticity? Sankara himself admitted that the highest lord may when he pleases, assume a bodily shape formed of maya, in order thereby to gratify his worshippers. But it seems that he didn't see himself as an Avatar.

There are twelve characteristics of Avatars according to the Hindu tradition. Each one will be compared to Sankara's life to better understand and...