It would not be entirely new to many, if not to all to say that Adi shankara was one of the most prominent GURUs that 'Sanathana Dharma' had ever given to its children. Being the embodiment of Jnana Yoga and Advaitha Vedhantha, with-in a very short span of 32 years, he had stretched himself infinitely to bring light to several souls who were lost in the darkness of ignorance. While several minds can argue about the efforts an individual soul had to take to progress in the spiritual path, it is only the MASTER who can grant the ultimate liberation. It is their causeless love and mercy which protects and guide disciples and help them reach towards the ultimate experience. Through Thotakacharya, Adi Shankara taught the universe about how a disciple should be devoted towards his GURU, which is most important and infact, the only aspect that a spiritual aspirant must cultivate.
Once, when Shankara was travelling with his 3 primary disciples - Sureshwaracharya, Hasthamalaka and Padmapadha, a young lad was deeply enchanted by the Master’s spiritual presence and divine love. Without any second thought, he started following Shankara and his disciples. Paying heed to someone newly following them, the Master lovingly enquired about the lad. The boy introduced himself to the Master as Giri and he conveyed his intention to serve and follow the master throughout his life. He requested the Master to agree on his request. Master smiled and lovingly agreed to the lad's request. From that point Giri sincerely dedicated himself in serving his master, by washing his clothes, bringing flowers for worship etc. He served as an example of how a virtuous disciple should be. He understood his Master’s requirement without even being explicitly conveyed and fulfilled that immediately from the bottom of his heart. His lack of intellect and absence of knowledge in vedas, were strongly replaced by his unfathomable trust and devotion towards his GURU.
On a fine dawn, the Master seated himself on a dias and was pleasantly looking towards his disciples. His disciples were informed by the Master, the previous day, that he will be teaching them Mandukya Upanishad. The class was silent for more than a while, before one of the disciples decided to break it. Sureshwaracharya stood up with reverence and asked if the Master is waiting for someone, as the class had not been started yet. The Master smiled and said - why can't they wait until Giri comes and then start the class? This sentence of the master stunned the whole disciple crowd for a moment. These advanced teachings of the master would require a strong understanding in Sanskrit. Giri, who does not understand the basic syllables of Sanskrit, cannot get anything out of the class. Sureshwaracharya and Padmapadha exchanged looks in awe. Unaware of the divine drama that the Master had started playing, Giri was washing his Master's clothes beside a river which was few kms away from the class.
After getting settled with the initial shock, the disciples replied their Master, pointing to a small corner wall - saying that Giri is as ignorant as the wall beside them and they both make no difference. Acharya smiled for a moment. He knew that the time had come now to reward his loving disciple Giri who unconditionally loved his GURU and was an embodiment of GURU SEVA. The next minute, Acharya called Giri's name loudly - "Giri!!". Through the call, Master transferred all the learnings that he had given and will be giving to his other disciples mentally to Giri within few seconds. Giri, immediately attained the enlightenment or the ultimate experience and he very well understood that the root cause of all these benefits were none but his GURU. The moment he understood that, the gratitude and devotion in him made him run towards the class to prostrate on his GURU's feet immediately. He sobbed and cried due to the immense amount of love that he had experienced from his GURU. While he was running towards the class - the knowledge he had received was exercised to sing the praise of his venerable Master as an eight versed sloka - which explained the glory of Lord Adi Shankara, on whose feet he had taken refuge.
Giri's sudden knowledge and his immense potency in framing the sloka in sanskrit, trembled the whole class by surprise. His immediate shift to wisdom was a true miracle created by his GURU and it took others sometime to get the grip of reality. As soon as Giri reached the class, he immediately threw himself to the feet of his GURU. Shankara - who has no match in showering his causeless love and mercy, lifted Giri to his legs and embraced him with love. He gave him the title "Thotakacharya" and named his sloka as "Thotakashtakam". He was later anointed as the head-seer of Jothir Mutt by the Master himself and blessed that his lineage will be called as “Giri Parampara” henceforth.
(Swamynathan is a Bangalore based Software Engineer, who is enthusiastic about the diverse dimensions and knowledge that life offers him. He loves reading and travelling and likes penning down his thoughts when he has nothing else to bother. )