The Birth of Adi Shankaracharya – Aryamba’s Loving Perspective

18 April 2024
4 mins read
Adi Shankaracharya - Lord Shiva's incarnation

Aryamba looked on with loving affection as she served her husband, Sivaguru, his evening meal. The happy couple was highly respected and loved by the people of Kalady, a tiny village in Kerala.

They had been married for many years but were childless, yet. The sadness of being childless only enhanced the bond between the highly revered husband and wife. They looked at each other knowing their desire would not go unfulfilled. After their evening meal, they retired to bed as usual.

Shiva, looking down from His heavenly home, knew fully well that the time for manifesting the karmic outcomes of two of His favourite devotees and the time for His birth on earth to serve a higher purpose were reaching a resonating crescendo. And it is during these resonating moments that divine beings are conceived.

Shiva, accompanied by his consort Parvati, appeared in their dreams and said, “Your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon. Do you want a son with a long but ordinary life or do you want a son with a short but such extraordinary life that his name will be etched indelibly in the history of mankind?”

Sivaguru replied without batting an eyelid, “The second option, my Lord!” Shiva looked at Aryamba who seemed to be confused by the choice He gave them.

“Why one of these two choices only? Why not a third choice that combines longevity and illustriousness?” Her hesitating eyes seemed to ask Him. Also, she wanted to ask a million more questions.

But all she could bring herself to do was agree with her husband’s choice. After all, wasn’t he more learned than she? Wouldn’t he know what is best for the family? And, who wouldn’t want to be known as parents of an illustrious and famous child? Most importantly, she had unwavering faith in Him.

Noticing the hesitation on Aryamba’s countenance, Parvati had a telepathic dialogue with Shiva, “I think she has doubts about her husband’s choice. And so do I? Why are you giving them an option at all, if what has to happen is the inevitable outcome of their karma?”

Shiva replied, “Nothing is inevitable, Parvati. Karmic effects can come in innumerable forms and designs. That choice was the final test of their worth in manifesting their karma in this particular design.”

Parvati persisted, “But what about her doubts? Would that not come in the way of bringing up the child? Wouldn’t she live in constant fear of the impending death of her son at a young age? Wouldn’t that fear prevent her from making the right decisions for her child?”

Shiva replied with a knowing smile. “Keeping faith despite doubts is the utmost sign of humility. Aryamba has her doubts. But she also knows that her faith will see her through and that her questions will be answered at the right time. Her humble acceptance of her belief in Me will bring her closer to salvation until one day, she is ready to merge into Me.”

So, Shiva and Parvati blessed Aryamba and Sivaguru with a son who would lead an indescribably remarkable but short life. Within a year, Aryamba gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Shankara, in honour of Shiva’s blessings.

Right through her pregnancy, Aryamba was enveloped in a strange, mellow light. Everyone who came in touch with her went away feeling an inexplicable sense of joy and peace. When Shankara was born, a warm, divine aura enveloped the home of Aryamba and Sivaguru.

The heavenly light spread through the lanes and by-lanes of Kalady suffusing the neighbouring homes, fields, ponds, and temples with a beautiful glow covering the entire village in a thick blanket of divine blessings. After that day, neither the place nor the people of Kalady were the same. Kalady became a highly revered holy spot, and the people were all transformed into wise, kind, and compassionate souls because the light of the divine touched them; their karmic reward for being born in the same sacred village as the Lord.

Shankara was a precocious child who was clearly born for a much bigger purpose than anyone in Kalady could envisage. Aryamba felt increasingly humbled with each passing year.  She lost her husband when Shankara was just seven years old. Even then, her faith did not waver but only strengthened. Her doubts about her choice appeared to fade away. She focused the rest of her life on being a good mother to her son.

However, the doubts returned to haunt her many years later. As Aryamba lay on her deathbed thinking of Shankara, her son, she recalled the dream she had before she conceived him.

  • Would she have chosen differently now that she knew the agony of being separated from him?
  • Would she have agreed with her husband’s choice if she had known that her son would leave her, putting the world over her? Why did she have to sacrifice her life for the good of humanity?
  • Was it the greed to be the mother of a splendidly brilliant child that drove her to abide by her husband’s choice?
  • Wouldn’t she have preferred to have an ordinary son who would live long and be by her side always?

She prayed with all her heart that she find answers to these tormenting questions before her last breath. Suddenly, she heard the sounds of approaching footsteps and she turned her head towards it. She sensed the presence of her son even though she couldn’t see him. He had come as he had promised he would; at the hour of her utmost need. The door opened and she witnessed a human form enveloped in a limitless sea of effulgence. While she had no doubt that this was Shankara, her son, she also sensed something far bigger and more powerful than her small human brain could imagine.

Instantly, the truth hit her. She had had the karmic blessings of being chosen as the carrier of the limitless in her limited womb for a while. The choice in the dream was a test of their faith in Him. Moreover, His brilliance couldn’t be contained in human form for very long. His power had to be released back into the universe as soon as His task on earth was done.

He was born to her not to be her son but to become the torchbearer of Advaita for the future of humankind. His intention was to light the torch of Advaita so brightly and deeply that it would remain untarnished until the end of time.

But today, He had come to keep the one promise He made to his earthly mother. He had come not only to perform her last rites but to convert her doubts into a portal for her final salvation. She breathed her last peacefully and contentedly knowing her purpose was served, and secure in the knowledge she will be merged with Him for eternity. For Aryamba, the birth of Adi Shankaracharya was the beginning of the path to salvation.

Photo by Sonika Agarwal on Unsplash

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Ratna Prabha

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