Sankara was not blessed with a long life. He attained Samadhi – merger with the universal consciousness when he was just 32. In that sense he was a man in a hurry. Perhaps, he had a premonition of his early death as can be seen from how much he managed to achieve in such a short lifespan.
It is said of Sankara: “By the age of 8, he was a master of all knowledge (vedas, upanishads, Brahma Sutras etc.); by 16 he completed his commentaries on the principal Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutra Bhashya besides the various poems and shlokas he composed; between 16 and 30 he traversed the length and breadth of the country on foot, debating and defeating the greatest minds of the times and establishing the pristine philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism); and for the last 2 years of his life he remained a “mouna muni” (silent sage) before dissolving into the eternal silence of the supreme consciousness…”
Astrologers who were called by his father Sivaguru to draw up Sankara’s horoscope predicted that he would be a shining beacon of Sanatana Dharma, a veritable comet that would streak across the Sanatana Dharma firmament, leaving behind a permanent glow. However, he would not cross the age of 16, and if he was lucky to cross that age, he would definitely not see a day beyond 32 – they were proved right.
Sankara also took to heart what his father once told him (Remember, Sankara’s father died when Sankara was just 3!):
“A wise man is one who completes even before midday what he is expected to finish by evening, and by today what he is expected to finish by tomorrow. However, also remember that everything has a proper time – For, what you sow out of season will never fructify and even that which is sown in season will fructify only when its time comes…”
The importance of time and not wasting it is particularly relevant in the present times when so much time is lost to mindless entertainment beamed into our homes 24/7 through TV and in traversing the virtual minefield of Social Media. Statistics show that young teens in India spend almost 9 hours a day “hooked” to their phones – Appalling to say the least.
Children need to be taught to drop anchor at a young age and spirituality, religion, meditation, prayer (all of these, some of these, or any one of these) are all aids to help anchor them to the right harbour in life:
If you are an atheist or agnostic teach your child to believe in her/himself. If you are a spiritualist tell your child that the universal spirit is always looking out for them and they can repose trust in it. If you are a religious person tell them that prayers will definitely be answered… Anchoring them in the right place will determine how they will sail on the sea of life…
In this shloka, Sankara rues the fact that people go through their entire lives without realizing the true purpose of life or their own purpose in life. It’s a simple shloka written almost 1,300 years ago, but so relevant even today…
The shloka, transliteration, and translation below:
परेब्रह्मणि कोऽपि न सक्तः ॥
Pare-Brahmani K0-api Na Sakthaha
बालस्ताव (Childhood) त्क्रीडासक्तः (attached to, lost in play)
तरुणस्ताव (Youth) त्तरुणीसक्तः (attached to lover, lost in love)
वृद्धस्ताव (Old age) च्चिन्तासक्तः (Attached to regret and worry)
परेब्रह्मणि (Para-Brahman, Supreme Reality) कोऽपि (About) न (None) सक्तः (Attached, Worried)
“Childhood is lost in play; youth in the arms of the sweetheart; Old age is lost in brooding and regret; Alas, is there no one to contemplate the supreme truth of the Atman?“
When you say in jest “I am killing time” You are wrong – the reverse is true – it is TIME that kills us moment by moment as it pushes us towards the inevitable…