When Sankara was a little boy, his father had to go to a neighboring
village on some important errand. In the house of Sankara, there
used to be daily worship and daily offering to God. His father used
to worship like that and he also used to offer Naivedya to God and
later distribute the Prasad to all the people who came there.
On one day, as the father went to the neighboring village and as
the mother was out of the house, the responsibility of worshipping
God and offering Naivedya fell on Sankara's shoulders. Sankara knows
the real meaning of the Vedic words ‘Mathru Devo Bhava, Pithru
When his father left the house, he told his son: "My dear
son, I am daily worshipping God and distributing Naivedya to all
the people. Likewise in my absence and in the absence of your mother,
you please try to do like that."
" Sankara promised to do so without fail. He poured some milk
in a cup, put it before the idol of the Goddess and prayed to her;
"Mother! Take this milk which I am offering." Though he
prayed for a long time, the Mother did not take the milk, nor did
She appear. He was very much disappointed. He said again, "Mother!
Mother! You are daily taking the offerings that are given to you
by my father. What sin have these hands of mine committed that you
are not accepting the offering which I am giving to you?" He
prayed to her earnestly from the innermost depths of his heart.
He was prepared to sacrifice even his life and told himself, "My
father asked me to offer this milk to the Goddess, but I am not
able to do so because the Goddess is not receiving the offering,
which I made. It is better that I die".
He went out and brought a big stone to kill himself. The mother
of the universe is very compassionate and she was very much moved
and touched by Sankara's sincerity and she at once appeared before
him and drank the milk that he offered. She drank the whole milk
and placed the empty cup before him.
The boy was very glad that the mother of the universe came and
drank the milk but there was nothing in the cup to distribute to
others. He thought that his father would certainly ask for the Naivedya
of the God after his return. He feared that the father might think
that he drank away all the milk and he may be angry with him. Therefore,
he prayed to the Goddess, "Goddess, give me at least a drop
of milk so that I may be able to give it to my father". But
the Goddess did not come. He again sincerely continued to pray;
the Goddess was moved and she again appeared. Because she was not
able to give the milk that she drank, she gave her own milk and
filled the cup.
There is a belief that because Sankara tasted that divine milk,
he was able to attain the highest learning, knowledge and wisdom
that is ever possible. So the essence of the grace of the Goddess
became the essence of the learning of Sankara. In order to please
his father, he tried hard and was able to get the Goddess of the
universe to manifest herself before him. From this story, we must
learn to revere and obey the orders of our parents implicitly and
Let us also remember his great love for his mother. He knew that
if he did not please his mother, he would not be successful in his
Sadhana. So, even though he desired to take Sanyasa, he was not
prepared to take it without the prior permission of his mother.
Because he was the only son, the mother also was not willing to
permit him to take Sanyasa.
The Sanyasa taken by Sankara is not like the monkshood of today.
By merely wearing a saffron-colored robe, devotion and detachment
do not descend on a person. You know the crocodile incident and
how Sankara got his mother's permission for taking Sanyasa. After
Sankara came to the shore of the river, he told his mother, "Mother,
it is not a real crocodile that caught me in the waters, but it
is the crocodile of Samsara or family that caught me." Sankara
used his skill and his intelligence but never did he do a thing
without the permission of his parents.
Discourse, Summer Course in Spirituality
and Indian Culture at Brindavan, Whitefield, Bangalore District in