Over a thousand years ago (788 AD), Shivaguru and Ayamba lived in the village of Kaladi, in Kerala, India. They were a pious and benevolent couple, who earnestly desired to have children.
On a visit to the Deity Shiva temple of Trichur (a town in southern part of India), they spent the day worshipping Deity Shiva devotedly. That night both of them had the same dream. In the dream Deity Shiva, disguised as a Sage, said to them, "I am pleased with your devotion. You can choose to have either one extraordinary son with a short life or many ordinary sons." The couple replied, "God, give us one extraordinary son."
Sure enough, months later, Ayamba gave birth to a son. The child was named Shankara, which is another name for Deity Shiva. At age five, Shankara had his sacred thread ceremony and as per the custom of that time, he went to live and study with a learned teacher.
During one of his visits home, Shankara learned of his father's death. Shankara's mother grew weak after that so Shankara spent more time taking care of her.
On one occasion, Shankara's mother wondered, "Will I ever be able to go to the river to take a bath?" Shankara consoled her by saying that she need not go all the way to the river because the river would come to her. Then he and his friends, with great effort, changed the course of the river so that it now began to flow by their house. His mother was pleased with his devotion to her and blessed him.
As a young boy, Shankara felt sad when he saw that the country was in disunity. He felt that he should become a sanyasi (monk) and travel across India telling everyone about the importance of spiritual practice and unity. So he asked his mother's permission to become a sanyasi. She refused, saying, "I am old and all by myself. Who will look after me? You should get married and live here with your wife."
Shankara was deeply troubled. He wanted to fulfill his life's goal but would not leave home without his mother's permission. He wondered what he should do. He did not have to wait long.
One evening, as Shankara was bathing in the river, a crocodile caught his leg. It appeared that he would be dragged to his death. His mother, who was on the bank, was greatly alarmed. Shankara shouted, "Mother, I want to die a sanyasi, please give me your permission now!" His mother could not refuse her son's final request, so she agreed.
At that moment, the crocodile released Shankara and disappeared into the river. Shankara came out of the river, safely. His relieved mother realised now that this had been God's plan all along. She understood that Shankara was meant to be a great sanyaasi and Saint. So she blessed him and said, "Son, you have great tasks ahead of you. I will not stand in your way."
Shankara accepted his mother's blessings and left home at the age of twelve. He promised to return whenever she needed Him. He went on to become a great Guru (Āchārya). He spent the rest of His short life uniting people all over India through His devoted worship of God. He helped them see that the various Deities and paths they followed, were all forms of one God, Who exists everywhere and in everything.
Shrī Shankarāchārya's story shows His love, service and obedience towards his parents. He could start His extraordinary, Divine mission at such a young age only with their blessing. We too can gain parents' and God's blessing and support, by learning to obey and love our parents and elders and by chanting (repeating) God's Name in all our daily activities.
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