Adi Shankara | Shankaracharya | Advaita Vedanta | Mayavad

Adi Shankara

Lord Shiva incarnated as an incredible saint and mystic named - Adi Shankara. He appeared in an area known as Kaladi, on the banks of river Purna (now known as  Kochi Kerala). He was born to a brahmin couple – Shivaguru and Aryamba.

Setting the Stage - Appearance and Pastime of Lord Buddha

tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte

sammohāya sura-dviṣām

buddho nāmnāñjana-sutaḥ

kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati

"Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Añjanā, in the province of Gayā, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist."
[Srimad Bhagavatam - 1.3.24]
At the time when Lord Buddha appeared, the people were mostly atheistic and preferred animal flesh. With an excuse of Vedic sacrifice, animal-killing was performed unrestrictedly. Thus Lord Buddha taking pity on the poor animals, preached nonviolence and established the rejection of Vedas. Less intelligent people, who were atheists, followed Him. Lord taught them moral discipline and nonviolence, which is the basic step for proceeding further on the path of God-realization.

The teachings of Lord Buddha

Ahimsa (Non-Violence)

Lord Buddha's intension was to stop animal slaughter. This is why therefore he preached that the greatest religious principle is nonviolence.

Denial of Vedic Scriptures and authorities

Due to misuse of Vedic injunctions and justifying violence based on misrepresentations of Vedas,  at that time it was necessary for Lord Buddha to reject the Vedas altogether. At least for the athesis people who didn't understand the true essence of Vedas.

Materialist Basis

Lord Buddha, based on his target audience, never taught or spoke about higher subject matter - soul, super-soul, God. Even if He didn't mention about Spiritual Knowledge, still, He advised stopping the material existence - Nirvana.


Nirvana is a Vedic concept of ceasing the process of material life which includes material desires, material activity, and the pains of material existence. Lord Buddha taught that the ultimate goal of life is nirvāṇa - to end the material cycle of existence. His idea was  - because of desire we are facing the troubles of material life, so our goal should be to make all your desires extinct. Thus there will be no more feelings of pain and pleasure. Become desirelessness or Make it Void or Make it Zero.

Because Lord didn't speak anything about the Higher Reality, God, the afterlife as per His philosophy was also Void.

That is why Buddhism Philosophy is called Voidism or Sunyavad.

Although Lord Budha was an incarnation of Vishnu, still the philosophy of Buddhism is atheism (as it didn't acknowledge the existence of God & His instructions - Vedas), which he had to preach based on the time, place & circumstances

With time, the authority and relevance of the Vedas have been severely undermined. Buddhism and atheism were becoming common and theistic philosophies were getting discouraged and suppressed. Thus the actual import of the Vedas was lost.

Instructions of the Lord

dvāparādau yuge bhūtvā kalayā mānuṣādiṣu

svāgamaiḥ kalpitais tvaṁ ca janān mad-vimukhān kuru

"In Kali-yuga, mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings for the Vedas to bewilder them."
[Lord's Instruction to Shiva - Shiva Puran]

Just like we use sieves to filter out the unwanted material, Lord instructed Shiva to play the same role.

There were two intentions -

  1. Re-establish the Vedic Scriptures
  2. Filter out the atheist crowd from the theist.

Adi  Shankara | Shankaracharya | Advaita Vedanta | Mayavad

  Lord Shiva thus reported the same to Mother Parvati.

māyāvādam asac chāstraṁ pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate

mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi kalau brāhmaṇa-rūpiṇā

brahmaṇaś cāparaṁ rūpaṁ nirguṇaṁ vakṣyate mayā

sarva-svaṁ jagato ’py asya mohanārthaṁ kalau yuge

vedānte tu mahā-śāstre māyāvādam avaidikam

mayaiva vakṣyate devi jagatāṁ nāśa-kāraṇāt

"The Māyāvāda philosophy," Lord Śiva informed his wife Pārvatī, "is impious (asac chāstra). It is covered Buddhism. My dear Pārvatī, in Kali-yuga I assume the form of a brāhmaṇa and teach this imagined Māyāvāda philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists, I describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be without form and without qualities. Similarly, in explaining Vedānta I describe the same Māyāvāda philosophy in order to mislead the entire population toward atheism by denying the personal form of the Lord.
[Shiva to Parvati - Padma Puran]

śṛṇu devi pravakṣyāmi tāmasāni yathā-kramamyeṣāṁ

śravaṇa-mātreṇa pātityaṁ jñāninām

apiapārthaṁ śruti-vākyānāṁ darśayal

loka-garhitamkarma-svarūpa-tyājyatvam atra ca


naiṣkarmyaṁ tatra cocyateparātma-jīvayor aikyaṁ mayātra pratipādyate

"My dear wife, hear my explanations of how I have spread ignorance through Māyāvāda philosophy. Simply by hearing it, even an advanced scholar will fall down. In this philosophy, which is certainly very inauspicious for people in general, I have misrepresented the real meaning of the Vedas and recommended that one give up all activities in order to achieve freedom from karma. In this Māyāvāda philosophy I have described the jīvātmā and Paramātmā to be one and the same."

[Shiva to Parvati - Padma Puran]

The advent of Adi Shankara

As instructed by Vishnu, Lord Shiva in the form of Adi  Shankara established countless facts proving the Buddhist Philosophy as Voidism and established the grounds and faith back on Vedic Scriptures. Adi  Shankara established four maths or monasteries on the four directions of India, to be held by his disciples who would be known as Shankaracharyas.

The philosophy of Advaita Vedanta or Mayavad

As we have seen Lord instructed Shiva to preach the philosophy of Mayavad, giving imaginary meaning to Vedic injunctions.

The principle messages of his philosophy were

- All / Everything / Everyone Is God. Hence this philosophy is known as Advaita (Non-Dual).

- The Absolute is  Supreme, all-pervading and hence has to be formless

- Everything is an illusion, only the Absolute Reality is Truth. Because it says everything is an illusion (Maya), this philosophy is called Mayavad and the followers are known as Mayavadi

- The perfection of Life is to merge back to that Absolute Truth

- The form, pastimes of Lord is all illusion

However, as we have seen earlier, these were false propagations to mislead the atheistic crowd.

The theistic crowd, or the, devotees of the Lord knows the bonafide knowledge,

- Reality is the philosophy of Achintya-bhedabheda-tattva which refers to the inconceivable oneness and difference of the Supreme Person and His energies.

- There is one Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we are His Part and Parcells, and this material world is His energy. Hence everything is real and not an illusion. Although the material world can be understood as temporary.

- The Vedic injunction is that the Supreme Person is spread all over the cosmic manifestation by His energy. This energy is spiritual, but because it acts in the material world it is called maya, or illusory energy.

- The Absolute Truth is understood in three phases—impersonal, localized, and as the Supreme Person. The Supreme Person's impersonal feature, brahman, is subordinate to His personal aspect, as the sun's rays are subordinate to the sun itself.

- The perfection of Life is not to merge back to that Absolute Truth, but, to return back to the Spiritual Abord.

- The form, pastimes of Lord is a reality

Adi Sankara's Mercy 

So as we have seen, his philosophy basically doesn't believe in the forms and qualities of the Lord. It believes the Nirguna Brahman to be an Absolute Truth. 

However, during his last days, he composed the following verses,

bhaja govindam bhaja govindam

govindam bhaja muudhamate .

naamasmara Naadanyamupaayam

nahi pashyaamo bhavatarane

Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool ! Other than chanting the Lord’s names, there is no other way to cross the life’s ocean.
[Stotram by Adi Shankra]

kadacit kalindi-tata-vipina-sangita-taralo



jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me 

Who sometimes fervently plays His flute on the banks of the Yamuna river in Sri Vrindavana, who is like a bumblebee that blissfully tastes the lotus faces of the Vraja-gopis, and whose feet are worshipped by great personalities such as Laksmi, Shiva, Brahma, Indra, and Ganesha — may that Sri Jagannatha-deva be the object of my vision.
[Jagannathashtakam by Adi Sankara]

This is strange that someone whose philosophy is based on formless Brahman, who doesn't believe in the beautiful form of Lord, how can He compose such deep verses on Govinda (Krishna) or Jagannatha. The person who thinks Absolute is formless wouldn't have any faith or inclination towards any deity, let alone Supreme Personality of Godhead - Krishna / Govinda / Jagannatha.

The fact is Shiva couldn't hide his devotional heart even in the form of Shankara and composed following verses which clearly shows his devotional heart and gives a clear message - the ultimate epitome of spiritual practice and philosophy is Devotional Service onto Krishna.

This is the greatest mercy that Shiva did in the form of Adi Shankara towards his followers. He gave them a subtle hint about the fallacy of his Mayavad Philosophy. He offered them a gateway to escape the trap of the illusionary philosophy of Mayavad. 

This is why even though Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu warned everyone against the poisonous philosophy of Mayavad, he never blamed His dear devotee, Lord Shiva.

tāṅra doṣa nāhi, teṅho ājñā-kārī dāsa

āra yei śune tāra haya sarva-nāśa

Śaṅkarācārya, who is an incarnation of Lord Śiva, is faultless because he is a servant carrying out the orders of the Lord. But those who follow his Māyāvādī philosophy are doomed. They will lose all their advancement in spiritual knowledge.
[Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta - Ādi-līlā - Chapter 7.114]

The Conclusion

śūdrāḥ pratigrahīṣyanti


dharmaṁ vakṣyanty adharma-jñā


Uncultured men will accept charity on behalf of the Lord and will earn their livelihood by making a show of austerity and wearing a mendicant’s dress. Those who know nothing about religion will mount a high seat and presume to speak on religious principles.
[Srimad Bhagavatam - 12.3.38]

Although with the lights of scriptures, it is proven that Mayavad is like a terror in the land of God Consciousness, still there are innocent people falling into the trap.

There are many institutions and guru budding every year and they base their phylosophies on this Mayavad Theories. To make their business flourish, they try to present it in a way that is catchy for young and modern minds, they coin various terms like "Modern Religion", "Engineering", etc, but, inside is as void as ever.

We must be aware of the poisonous Mayavad Philosophy and keep ourselves safe.

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6 thoughts on “Adi Shankara | Shankaracharya | Advaita Vedanta | Mayavad

  1. Thankyou for you comment and asking question Mataji.

    actually there are 2 kinds of beings mataji.
    1. Suras – devatas – sadhu – who worships Supreme Lord (Krishna or Vishnu)
    2. Asuras – demons – duskriti – who doesnt worship Supreme Lord (Krishna or Vishnu)

    general people denotes these non-devotee sections.

    Mayavad and Tamasic Puranas are an approach to filter out or separate the two.

    As mentioned in Uttara Khanda Chapters 235-236 of Padma Puran, Shiva speaks about this in great details to Mother Parvati.

    In short, in the age of Swayambhuva Manu, there were many great demons. All of them were devoted to Vishnu and followed the practices laid down in the Vedas. Seeing this, all of demigods head by Indra were frustrated. So they took shelter of Lord Vishnu.

    It is then, Vishnu instructs Lord Shiva –
    1. approach atheistic sages such as Kanada, Gautama,Sakti, Upamanyu, Jaimini, Kapila,[not Lord Kapila,the son of Devahuti], Durvasa, Mrikandu, Brihaspati, Bhargava, and Jamadagni.

    2. Empower them to become powerful scholars. These brahmanas would preach puranans in the mode of ingnorance.

    3. Bear symbols like a skull, animal skins, ashes, and bones to delude everyone. Thus his followers wearing ashes and bones (mode of ignorance) they will be bereft of higher consciousness and will consider Shiva to be the greatest God. Thus all of these demons will become averse to Vishnu

    4. In every age in different incarnations Vishnu too shall worship Shiva to delude the demons.

    Following these orders, Lord Shiva changed his tilak from Vaishnava to Shaiva and wore the bones, ashes, animal skin.

    Shiva says – "Receiving boons from me, they became intoxicated with power and pride. They were very much attached to the object of the senses, and were full of lust and anger. In that condition, devoid of goodness, they were defeated by the devas. Bereft of righteous paths, those who resort to this doctrine of mine always go to hell."

    Then mother Parvati asks about the tamasic scriptures that were composed by the brahmanas empowered by Shiva. While describing these scriptures, Lord Shiva then speaks about what is Mayavad Philosophy and how he will himself incarnate, under the instructions of Lord Krishna, to propagate it

    Hope this answers your questions mataji.

    The entire purpose is to seperate suras and asuras, theists and atheits.

  2. Hare Krishna Mataji.
    Thank you for bringing this point up!!

    There are other philosophies also.
    Sri Sampradaya – Vishishtadvaita
    Brahma Sampradaya – Dvaita & Acintyabhedabheda
    Rudra Sampradaya – Shuddhadvaita
    Kumar Sampradaya – Dvaitadvaita

    That would become another article if we describe each one of these.

    In a summary – all these Vaishnava philosophies established same truth, that we soul are part and parcel of Krishna / Vishnu and we have separate existence. Lord has a form and is real. This material world is His energy hence real although temporary. Jiva can never be God.

    Achintya bhedabheda tattva was the philosophy given by Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna in the form of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He has given a complete holistic dimension to the understanding. We are simultaneously one (in quality) yet different (in quantity) from Lord.

    Hence to answer you, name of the philosophy might be different between the devotees of Vishnu. Superficially they might seem different. But deeper & proper understanding of the philosophy & scripture will tell us all are speaking the same truth.

    That is why Srila Prabhupada said to a Pandita from Tirupati that – "we are simply teaching them, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Bg. 18.65]. That includes all philosophy. "

    Kindly let me know if I was able to answer you.

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