Tag Archives: Advaita Vedanta

Padmapada – Adi Sankara’s disciple

Sanandana was a very bright and intelligent boy from the southern part of Bharat. After he finished his initial studies in his hometown he decided to lead an ascetic life and travelled all the way to Kashi to meet a Guru under whose guidance he can progress further in his spiritual pursuits. At that time Adi Sankara was in Kashi giving discourses on Advaita Vedanta.

Sanandana was drawn towards Sankara. He offered his respectful prostrations and asked the Acharya to take him as a disciple and initiate him into sanyasa. Seeing the keenness of the young aspirant, the Master agreed and took him as his disciple. He was Sankara’s first disciple. Sanandana stayed with his Guru serving and learning from him. Sanandana was extremely brilliant and absorbed the knowledge three times faster than anyone else. Sankara was highly pleased and appreciated his disciple’s intellectual abilities. However the other students misunderstood and thought that the teacher was more favourable to Sanandana and became jealous. Sankara understood what was going on in their minds, and decided that it was time for them to see for themselves the greatness of Sanandana. 

One day, when Sanandana was on the other side of the river Ganga washing clothes, suddenly Sankara called out to him, “Sanandana”. No sooner had he heard his name being called out, Sanandana who was on the other side of the river just started walking towards his Master. The actual path was round the river which would take some time. All that was in the mind of the disciple was that his Guru had suddenly called him and he should be there as quickly as possible. Sanandana was walking on the waters of the river. Normally the water currents would have washed him away. But lo! The moment he stepped onto the water, a full blown lotus sprang up to support his foot. When he put the next step forward, another lotus appeared to support his foot. Sanandana had no idea that he was walking on water. In his anxiety to reach his Guru quickly, he was almost running on water with every step being supported by a lotus! The other disciples who were watching this miracle were dumb-founded. They understood that it was nothing but the faith and devotion that Sanandana had for his Guru which made it possible for him to walk on water!

Sanandana came and prostrated to the Acharya. Sankara smilingly acknowledged. All the others were in a state of utter shock. It was only when Sankara pointed out to him the river behind, that Sanandana looked back and saw that he had literally walked on water. At every step, since a lotus (padma) had appeared below his foot (pada), Adi Sankara gave him the name PADMAPADA : “feet supported by lotus”.

Padmapada was one amongst the four principle disciples of Adi Sankara. He was in charge of the Govardhan Mutt at Puri in the eastern part of Bharat.

"Apart from Him, I don't exist," declares the devotee of Sree Narayana. "Everything of me is already laid at the Feet of the Lord. I do not exist, so I cannot worry over anything. It is all now His worry..... Narayana; Narayana --- it is all yours". - Swami Chinmayananda

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Divine Grace of the Guru

Adi sankaracharya

Adi Sankaracharya was the greatest among the Indian philosophers.  He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. In the span of 32 years, he walked the length and breadth of our country Bharat to bring about an awareness in the minds of the people of the spiritual oneness underlying the diversity of this great subcontinent.

Sankaracharya established four mathas (monasteries) in four quarters of India to spread the Advaita philosophy. They are Sringeri in the south, Dwaraka in the west, Badri in the north and Puri in the east. Four prominent disciples of Adi Sankaracharya were the first heads of these Mathas. Totakacharya was the first head of Badri Matha.

Totakacharya was a young boy when he met Adi Sankaracharya. Then his name was Giri. As a student of Adi Sankara, Giri was very disciplined and hard working, but was not very bright.  Daily he watched the beaming faces of the disciples when they grasped the teachings of the Master. Giri often felt that he was not blessed with the intelligence to follow and understand the lessons taught by Adi Sankaracharya. However with great faith and devotion, he continued his service to the Acharya cheerfully.

Once Giri was washing the Master’s clothes when Adi Sankaracharya sat down to begin his class. Since, Giri had not arrived,  Sankaracharya was waiting for him to complete his daily chores. One of disciples asked the Master politely the reason for not starting the class, when the Acharya replied that Giri had not yet come. The other disciples exclaimed that it would not matter as Giri was not bright enough to understand the teachings. Adi Sankaracharya calmly replied that Giri ‘listens’ attentively.

At that moment Sankaracharya  decided to bless Giri for his devoted service and hard work. He mentally bestowed Giri all the knowledge of the spiritual sciences and Vedas.

The student who was busy with his daily work, suddenly felt that he was completely soaked in the grace and blessings of his Guru. Collecting his clothes, he made his way straight to his Guru and prostrated at his feet. In that ecstatic moment, he sang a beautiful sanskrit poem in the totaka meter, in praise of Adi Sankaracharya. The disciples were astonished at the miraculous change and total transformation in Giri, and were surprised at the deep and profound meaning of the verses from one who could not even speak a sentence correctly in Sanskrit till a few moments ago. This poem came to be known as Totakashtakam. Thus a humble student Giri became Totakacharya, and became one among the four prominent disciples of Adi Sankaracharya.

True disciples have to meet their Master but once...the disciple's life pattern changes and in his own inner maturity, he climbs the heights within. - Swami Chinmayananda