The great sage Adi Shankaracharya was wandering in the southern regions of Bharatvarsha. Passing through the village Sri Bali near Udupi, he met a pious and learned brahmin med Prabhakara. The brahmin had been waiting eagerly for this opportunity, and beseeched the sage to come to his abode and bless his son.
Prabhakara’s son was 13 years old. But he had never uttered a word since birth. His actions appeared strange to the villagers; they believed he was simply a dumb idiot. Constantly worried over his future, his parents were slowly losing hope.
Reaching the brahmin’s hut, the sage saw a boy sitting outside quietly. One glance at the angelic face, and the sage immediately divined that a spiritually advanced soul resided within the boy. In turn, the boy looked up and straightaway prostrated himself in front of the sage.
Wishing to let everyone know about the greatness of the boy, the sage asked: “My child! Why don’t you speak?”
“What about?”, replied the boy, “It is of no use to speak, because ‘that which is’ (God) cannot be grasped through words”.
“Tell me, who are you? Where do you come from?”.
“All pervading, yet unpolluted, I am Atman,” answered the boy, thus composing on the spot a dozen exquisite Sanskrit verses, summarizing the teachings of Vedanta on the ture of the Self.
The villagers stood thunderstruck. The boy’s parents stared with shocked disbelief as words of timeless knowledge flowed out from his mouth, one who had been silent since birth.
With his divine insight, Adi Shankaracharya explained that when the child was very small, his mother had taken him to the river to bathe. The child had slipped from the mother’s hand, and after a few moments, he came up gasping for air. But unknown to his mother, the child had actually drowned...
A hermit meditating by the river had witnessed the child dying under water. At once, he was seized with compassion for the parents at the terrible grief that lay in store for them. And so his soul left his own body and entered the dead child’s body — bringing into the child the fruits of all his years of meditation, the great knowledge and wisdom he had acquired.
Having recounted the boy’s true story to his parents, Adi Shankaracharya took him as his disciple. The boy would become renowned as Hastamalaka, one who holds the knowledge of Brahman (God) comfortably like the sacred fruit ‘amlaka’ in his palm.
In later years, Adi Shankaracharya established four mosteries, ming Hastamalaka as the head of Dwaraka mostery. Hastamalaka wrote extensively on spiritual subjects, with his guru penning commentaries on some of his works.
And the Hastamalaka stotram he had composed with his very first words — continues to be immensely valued for teaching in a nutshell the sublime Advaita philosophy.
- the harbinger