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A light in the darkness
Shankara's life may be compared to a brief, but brilliant flash of lightning that lit up many areas of darkness in the life of man. He had an intellect that probed fearlessly, a mind that questioned constantly and a heart that felt deeply. Out of these God-given gifts, in thirty-two years of tireless seeking, arose a great system of philosophy, Advaita and an inspiring body of devotional literature. Shankara travelled throughout India, preaching that the Self or Brahman is one - undivided and imperishable. The rest is Maya or illusion.
We are told of his historic debate with the sage, Madana Mishra, when the latter withdrew defeated. Legend also tells of an even greater confrontation: Shankara, the learned Brahman, bowed to the superior wisdom of a lowly outcast, accepting him as a Guru. He established several 'Maths' to spread his philosophy. Then, as now, the disruptive forces of religion, race, caste and language threatened to weaken the fabric of the one nation that is India. Now, as then, the teachings of a man like Shankara, who believed in the One Undivided Self, can serve to awaken our country to a sense of unity.