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Hastamalaka the jewel of Adavita crown

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Nidhi Mishra
Nidhi Mishra
An avid reader and writer.

कस्त्वं शिशो कस्य कुतोऽसि गन्ता
किं नाम ते त्वं कुत आगतोऽसि ।
एतन्मयोक्तं वद चार्भक त्वं
मत्प्रीतये प्रीति विवर्धनोऽसि ॥ १॥

हस्तामलक उवाच ।
नाहं मनुष्यो न च देव-यक्षौ
न ब्राह्मण-क्षत्रिय-वैश्य-शूद्राः ।
न ब्रह्मचारी न गृही वनस्थो
भिक्षुर्न चाहं निजबोध रूपः ॥ २॥

‘Who are you? Whose child are you? Whither are you bound? What is your name? Whence have you come? O Child! I should like to hear your reply to these questions.’ Thus spoke Sri Sankaracharya to the boy, Hastamalaka, who replied as follows.

2. I am neither man, God, Yaksha, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra, Brahmachari, householder, forest-dweller, nor Sannyasi; but I am pure awareness alone.

This meeting between Hastamalaka and Guru Shankarachrya proved to be a momentous one when a young boy of thirteen years gives a very prompt reply to Shankar when on being asked about himself. This event is simply the repetition of history as the responses which Hastamalaka gave were the same which Adi Shankar gave to his Guru Govindpad.

Shankaracharya got astonished on hearing the enlightened replies which expounded the real nature of the self from a boy who was dumb till then and his father who was worried brought him before Adi Guru in order to attain his blessings for his dumb child. The comprehensive knowledge that the boy possessed was sufficient enough to prove that the boy was an illustrious soul. His profound Knowledge on the subject of Advita dazzled Acharya so much that Acharya asks his father to hand-over the boy to him and so Hastamalaka becomes the chief disciple of Adi Shankar besides Padampada, Sureshwar, Totakacharya. Hastamalaka=Hasta (palm)+ Amlaka (gooseberry fruit); This name comes from a well-known metaphor. The words HastAmalaka and Karatala-Amalaka are often used in advaita writings. Hastamalaka is one who has the knowledge of the Brahman (God) comfortably like a fruit in his palm. The Hastamalaka Stotra a treatise of twelve verses recited by him holds a place of eminence in the tradition of Advaitic thoughts bearing a unique distinction that none other than Guru Adi Shankar himself wrote a commentary on this fabulous work.

The story of Hastamalaka goes in the manner that while wandering during his Digvijay in order to propagate his vision regarding non-dualism, Acharya Shankar visited a village Sri-Bali near Udupi. The place had the distinction of being an absolutely Aagnihotr village where resided the Brahmanas who performed Yajnas daily and thus called Agnihotris. The place resonated with the sound of Ved-mantras. Most of these Brahmanas were the followers of Purva-Mimamsa school of thought and thus the adherents of various Karmakandas. Sureshwara used to impart them the importance of Jnana.

Among them was a learned Brahmana named Prabhakara who had a son whose face had effulgence but he behaved ignoramusly thus the villagers considerd him foolish or idiot. Prabhakara hears about the arrival of Adi Shankar to his village, goes along with his imbecile son to see him. The Guru is flabbergasted in the presence of this small boy. He looked straight into the boy’s eyes. His eyes had some esoteric glaze. Instatly Acharya realizes that the boy was inundated with the flood of self-Knowledge. Aghast at the immense depth of self awareness, Acharya tells his parents that the child is very much established in Atma-Vidya and so in order to prosper in this skill, he needs to be initiated in to the tradition Sanyas ,thus initiating him into his group of Adavita seers. The self knowledge of this young boy seemed incredible which took the advaita philosophy to new heights and became the torch bearer in Shankarachaya’s Digvijaya by walking the length and breadth of the country along with Shankar.

The ‘Atman’ is attributeless. It is present in the body as the Jiva exactly as the face, in the guise of the reflection, is present in the mirror. The plurality of the Jivas is all about the non-duality of Atman. The element that creates the distinction is the presence of I. The empiric plurality of the Jivas is due to the superimposition, on the non-dual Atman, of the manifoldness of the modes, in which this Atman is reflected. The thoughts mentioned above by Hastamalaka in his quintessential hymn Hastamalakastotra are the gems in the great treasure of Adavita Literature. He states that he is the Atman which – is of the nature of permanent cognition: ‘Nityopalabdhi svarupo aham’. – atma’. Just like the luminosity of the Sun is the prerequisite for all our actions and perceptions, the atman is required for the functioning of the mind and the sense organs. Thus Atman is self luminous. It is as pure as ether and completely liberated.

यथा निष्प्रभं मन्यते चातिमूढः ।
तथा बद्धवद्भाति यो मूढ-दृष्टेः
स नित्योपलब्धिस्वरूपोऽहमात्मा ॥

These verses by Hastamalaka profusely elaborates about the empirical knowledge of self reality that he possessed.

Shankarcharya was the prolific thinker of adavita school of Indian Philosophy. The times of Shankar were marred by conflicts and oppugnancy among all the sects and cults and significantly was the tremendous hounding of the Brahaminical religion. Adi shankara, in order to bring unity among various sects of hindus during that period, wrote five verses- known as ‘pancharathnam stotras’ for each of the sect those following different deities. Simultaneously, he established four mathas in the four corners of India. Among them the Dwarka Peetha was founded at the western point under the patronage of his great disciple Hastamalaka. He was appointed the first Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peetha. Dwaraka Peetha advocates ‘Tattvamasi’ (That thou art) and was formed on the basis of Sama Veda. In this way, we see that under the auspices of these distinguished disciples of Adi Guru Shankaracharya, the tradition of Hindu culture and ethos flourished substantially and to them goes the credit of perpetuating the glorious tradition of Non-Dualism even after Shankarachrya.

Therefore, the role of these pupils is significant in SHANKAR-DIGVIJAYA, which need to be disseminated in every nook and corner of the country to make people aware of the grand contribution of Shankaracharya’s Adavita Darshan.

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Nidhi Mishra
Nidhi Mishra
An avid reader and writer.
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