Shri Adi Shankaracharya

Shankara was a spiritual and intellectual prodigy who more or less single-handedly revived Advaita Vedanta as the foundational philosophy of the Vedas, at a time when Hinduism was under attack from many quarters. He is believed to have lived from 788 to 820 CE, although some sources date him as early as 100 BCE. An accomplished composer and poet, his scholarly commentary on the Brahma Sutras is considered to be one of the four foundations of the Vedic tradition, along with the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras. He produced commentaries on all of these works, in addition to many original treatises of great power and influence, such as the Vivekacudamani (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination) and Atma-Bodha (Self-Knowledge). He traveled extensively throughout India and South Asia, establishing Advaita Vedantic monasteries and entering into dialogue with thinkers from other schools, including Mimamsa, Samkhya and Buddhist. Shankara composed many moving and beautiful devotional hymns to Shiva and Kali, among other deities in the Hindu cosmology, and laid great emphasis of the importance of a personal god or Ishwara, governing namarupa, the world of name and form. Learn more about him at Like Shankara, I am an Advaita Vedantist. I also share Shankara’s interest in Shiva, although I find my attention focusing more intently on Saraswati in recent years. I regard any such ishta devata as a familiarizing material embodiment of Brahman that functions to mirror and strengthen our knowledge of the deep self, rather than as having independent ontological status. As a svanistha brahmacharin, I do not follow any particular guru. Rather, I try to learn from each person and situation I encounter. In the modern context, my strongest philosophical sympathies are with the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Order, whose scholarly texts, commentaries and translations have inspired me since I first discovered them in 1965. The Vedanta Society Bookstore of Southern California ( offers a particularly rich selection.