Tales : ‘That which Is’

Once, when the great yogi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankar, was travelling through India with some students, he came to a small village in what is now Karnataka. In that place there lived a pious and learned brahmin who had a son of thirteen years that gave his father great concern. The son had a pleasant, angelic face, but his behaviour made the villagers think he was not normal – he sat idly all day, never speaking, and all assumed he was dumb and perhaps simple as well.

Upon Shankaracharya’s arrival in the village, the boy’s father presented himself before him, told the yogi about his son that never spoke, and humbly begged the master to come and bless him.

When the yogi came to the brahmin’s hut, to everyone’s surprise the boy seemed to recognise the visitor’s greatness and immediately prostrated himself before him. Adi Shankar saw that the boy was not defective, as everyone believed, but in fact was highly spiritual. “My boy,” the yogi said, “why don’t you speak?”

“What about?” the boy replied. “‘That which Is’ cannot be grasped through words.”

“Tell me,” said Shakaracharya, “who are you?”

In response, the boy composed twelve Sanskrit verses on the nature of Self, giving the essence of the advaita teachings of Shankaracharya himself.

Thereupon Adi Shankar took the boy as his student, and named him ‘Hastamalaka’, which means, ‘holding the knowledge of God like a fruit in the palm of the hand.’

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