Adi Shankara, the founder of a systematic, philosophical system for the Hindus, died at the age of thirty three. He became enlightened somewhere about the age of seven. When he was seven his father had died. He was the son of a poor father, a poor brahmin; the mother was only living for him, the only son.
At the age of seven, Adi Shankara asked his mother that he wanted to renounce the world. Can you conceive of a child of seven years old thinking of renouncing the world? – must be another Mozart, a Mozart of spirituality.
The mother said, ”Your father has died and you want to renounce the world. Don’t you think of me?”
Adi Shankara said, ”I can only promise you one thing: before you die I will be present, so in your last moments you can die peacefully. But right now, allow me to renounce the world. I want to become a sannyasin and to go in search.” The mother refused.
Not to hurt her, Shankara remained for a few days more. One day he went to the river. He used to go for his bath every day, but that day he insisted that his mother should also come with him.
The mother was a little concerned: why he was so insistent? But when he became absolutely adamant that ”if you don’t come, I will not go for the bath. Then I cannot worship and then I cannot eat either,” so the mother had to go.
The mother was standing on the river bank and the little child, seven years old, was caught by a crocodile. A crowd gathered, but there was nothing that could be done. Both the feet of the boy were inside the mouth of the crocodile, and Shankara shouted to the mother, ”Now there are only two possibilities: either you give me permission to renounce the world and become a sannyasin or the crocodile is going to eat me. It is up to you to decide. Be quick!”
It is a strange story. How did the crocodile conspire in this? And the mother of course immediately shouted, ”I allow you, you can become a sannyasin. Even this much will be a solace to me, that you are still alive.”
And the story goes that the crocodile immediately left him and disappeared. Must have been a very saintly crocodile... Whatever the case – perhaps it is only a parable – one thing is certain: that Adi Shankara at the age of seven must have convinced his mother that either she had to allow him to be a sannyasin or she had to be ready for his death. How he managed it, that is a different matter.
But one thing is certain: he gave her the clear-cut choice, either death or sannyas. Obviously the poor mother had no choice; she allowed him. At the age of seven, Adi Shankara became a sannyasin. In the whole history of the world there is no other case parallel to Shankara.
Somewhere between the age of seven and eleven – there is no historical record of it, but it seems just between seven and eleven – he must have become enlightened. At the age of eleven he started writing his great commentaries on the UPANISHADS, and on one of the greatest and most complicated scriptures that exists in India, Badrayana’s BRAHMASUTRAS.
At the age of eleven it is almost impossible even to understand it – and Shankara wrote the greatest commentary. It has defeated all the great commentators of the past and all the great commentators that came after him. Nobody has been able to go beyond these flights of consciousness and bring such tremendous meaning to the almost dead scripture of Badrayana, BRAHMASUTRAS.
The way he interprets is possible only after enlightenment. Each small word... the way he gives a turn to its meaning. Something which was looking very ordinary immediately becomes extraordinary. He has the touch that transforms everything into gold.
By the time he was thirty-three, he had written all the great commentaries on all the great scriptures, and he had traveled all over the country and defeated all the so-called great philosophers, theologians, priests. At the age of thirty-three he died. Consciousness is not limited to your physical age. Consciousness can go far ahead of you, your body.