Feature Article Series: Adi Shankara’s Seven Vairagya Slokas ! (A brief analysis)

It makes every Indian feel proud that KALADY, (a tiny village in the Ernakulam District of Kerala), hallowed by the birth of Jagadguru Shankaracharya, has occupied a predominant place in the world map. It’s certainly praiseworthy and unimaginable that within the short span of life time(32 years) he could achieve many a great thing which no ordinary human being could have ever achieved! It is, therefore, apt to believe in this corollary as to how long a person lived is immaterial, but how he lived and how much did he achieve in life as well as what did he contribute to the society is more important! Such great men and women, no matter a singer, dancer, actor, writer or an Acharya, are born rarely with a definite purpose. Therefore, the pride of our country, Jagadguru Shankaracharya, also belongs to that chosen scholastic class of souls or intelligentsia, born with extraordinary traits beyond human capabilities or imagination.

Shankaracharya was born as the sole and only child of Shivaguru and Aryamba, a dedicated devout couple, who had no progeny for a long time, but got with the relentless prayers to and blessings of Lord Shiva, who had assured them in their dream, that HEwould incarnate as their son in course of time. As a result of their incessant prayers to Lord Shiva, the couple got a son whom they named Shankara, who grew up as their darling child or as the pupil of their eye. Unfortunately,Shivaguru, father of Shankara, bid adieu to this world when baby Shankara was hardly four years old. Thenceforth, he grew up under the sole and absolute care of his mother Aryamba. The boy, considered as the incarnation of LORD SHIVA/DAKSHINAMURTHY, had the potentials of extraordinary wisdom, astuteness and perspicacity. DAKSHINA means wisdom, MURTHY means repository and therefore, the whole name means repository of wisdom.

When, at the age of eight, he expressed his fervent ambition to embrace SANYASAM, the hapless woman, though she did not agree initially, had to accede but, had only a couple of preconditions. Firstly, he should be there by her bedside at her last moments and secondly, he only should perform her obsequies or last rites. Both these conditions he executed as she wished.

With due respect and obeisance to his mother Aryamba and steadfastness to his determination, he embraced Sanyasam and with her blessings, tramped all the way to North India and accepted the discipleship of GURU GOVINDA BHAGAVADPADA to pursue his cherished path of Sanyasam or Sainthood! And in the later years, he became an accomplished spiritual Guru, not only for India, but also for the whole world! Shankaracharya is well known for his philosophy of ADVAITA or NONDUELITY which goes in concurrence or hand in hand with the tenet of TATWAMASI! His logical corollary is that JEEVATMAand PARAMATMA are one and the same. JEEVATMA is an integral part of PARAMATMA,the Supreme Soul.It can neither be created nor destroyed. The soul is a potential spark of the divine power and the entire cycle of birth and death is believed to be functioning on the cosmic principle of THERMO DYNAMICS! In short, we have to believe that there are no two things, there is only one thing or both are same ultimately. We can’t say we are Gods, but we can only say we are JEEVATMA, an integral part of the PARAMATMA or Almighty!

Similarly, the soul, like the body, also needs periodical purification and has, therefore, to be subjected to the purification process which cleanses the soul. Unwanted and irrelevant thoughtsand concepts are automatically removed through frequent spiritual exercises and only good things settle down. A healthy and handsome body without a healthy soul is like a costly mobile phone without a validsim card! Please bear in mind!

He tramped all over India and propagated the philosophy of ADVAITA. He also established 4 monasteries (Mathas) in four prime centres under the care of four learned spiritual Gurus who, he envisaged, would disseminate this ADVAITA TATWA all over the country and accordingly trained innumerable number of disciples also. Born in a cultured and spiritually advanced rural milieu, the young boy thus, grew in to a fully realized spiritual master for the whole world in the later years! His four principal disciples were, Padmapadacharya, Sureshwaracharya, Hasthamalakacharya and Totakacharya respectively.

The four Cardinal Ashrams or Mathasestablished by him are:

1)Govardhan Peetham (East) Puri Odisha,2)Dwarka Sharada Peetham (West),Dwaraka,Gujarat, 3)JyotirmathPeetham(North) Jyothirmath, Badrikashram, Uttarkhand, 4)Shri Shringeri Sharada Peetham(South) Shringeri Karnataka and also Shri KanchiKamakotiPeetham, Kancheepuram Tamil Nadu.

He propagated his ADVAITA Philosophy through discourses and debates with the then contemporary thinkers. He defeated many thinkers like Mandana Mishra and Sarasavani in philosophical disputation (ThatwachinthaVadaprathivadam), experienced Gruhasthshramam through transmigration of the soul and finally, ascended the JNANA PEETHAM, the highest point or the pinnacle of wisdom, an exquisite recognition, achieved only by recognized/realized souls!

Within his short span of lifetime (32 years A D. 788 -820 -8TH Century), he also wrote about 114 great Sanskrit books on Vedanta and also a large number of interpretations of Upanishads, besides many other books like KANAKADHARA STHOTHRAM, BHAJA GOVINDAM, MATHRU PANCHAKAM, MAYA PANCHAKAM etc. The story of Hasthamalaka, who never spoke until Shankara met him, what he told Shankaraabout his identity and how he became one of his four ardent disciples later, all these interesting events bring goose bumps( romancham) all over our body!

It is believed that he took his SAMADHI at KEDARNATH (UTTARKHAND) in A D 820.

The Sanskrit word for BHAJAGOVIDAM is MOHAMUDGARAM (MOHAM means Desire and MUDGARAM means the thornywood/hammer that destroys desire). The ‘DESIRE’is hammered and destroyed.Each of those books reveals his erudition, ingenuity and the overall dimension of India’s ancient pristine culture. Among the innumerable number of books, he had authored, the seven Vairagya Slokas (Vairagya= Dispassion= Virakthi) are more famous and outstanding, irrespective of epoch and time, applicable to all human beings alike.

Once upon a time, a king had a night watchman who used to guard the palace,remaining himselfawake the whole night at the gate. He used to keep a gong (a disk- shaped percussion which means CHENGALA in Malayalam) and bang on it frequently with a padded hammer and produce a resounding tone to protect the palace from thieves and robbers. The other objective was to keep himself also awake. While banging on the gong, he also used to utter loudly, JAGRATA, JAGRATA, which means BE ALERT, BE ALERT (be wary, wary).

One night he couldn’t report for the night duty as he had to go to another village for some urgent personal work and therefore, engaged his young son in lieu of him. The boy was a learned person in his previous birth. By virtue of the wisdom acquired in his previous birth, he used to recite loudly some Sanskrit Slokas also along with the usual JAGRATA, JAGRATA alert. Meanwhile, the King who wasstrolling in the balcony, was closely listening to these unusual utterances.

Next day morning, the King went to the watchman’s house. Seeing this unusual presence of the king, the watchman was taken aback and frightened as to whether his young son had committed any serious mistake while on the night duty, the previous night. He received the king with due respect and waited for a while. The king gave him some gifts and told him:

” Listen, your son, while crying out loudly, JAGRATA, JAGRATA, yesternight, was also reciting some meaningful Sanskrit slokas which instantly opened my eyes and took me to a powerful philosophical domain, which I had never visited nor dreamt of nor discerned so far. Hence these gifts”!

Now, let us delve into those seven VAIRAGYA SLOKAS which are applicable to all human beings on the face of earth and in fact, everyone should try to understand the inner meanings wrapped in each of them. The ACHARYA expects everyone to be mentally prepared to face anything and take life as it is! Such alertness and preparedness always help one to be wary in life. We should always bear one thing in mind that everything is ephemeral and nothing is permanent in this worldly life. Generation Operation and Destruction are HIS amusing ongoing games. (Hence GOD).

The set of Sanskrit slokas, which opened the King’s inward eye, containsindescribable and powerful inner meaning and message. The slokas which involve sparks of high philosophical insights and give tremendous will-power potential to face all agonies and problems, trials and tribulations in life, are the following:


Our parents who are our visible GODS, our brothers and sisters, kith and kin and our amassed wealth, nothing is eternal, but, ephemeral! And whatever material objects we proudly possess, the house we dwell, nothing is eternal but transient and will vanish in a flick of time. We are always reluctant to part with our fond possessions without knowing that nothing is going to remain here including us. So, it is better to practise dispassion so that the impact of shock caused by the loss will be bearable. This is sheer MAYA and therefore, be mentally alert and wary about the impending events to bear the brunt of future agonies. So be wary always!


First of all, human birth on this planet is a great blessing of the benign Almighty. Of course, it also depends upon one’s action in his previous birth or PoorvaJanma Karma (Law of Karma)! Nevertheless, the human birth in this Samsara Sagara or in this vast ocean of birth and death, in repetition over many generations, itself is an agony. Wife or dharma patni, progeny, all relations, in a broader sense, the whole worldly life itselfis full of agony only. In short, everything in this world gives only agony which once on earth, one can neither avoid nor postpone, but endure only. It is only Karma Phalam or fruit of action. Whatever remains undone in one birth is carried over to the next birth. Action is of three folds VIZ, PRARABDHA KARMA, SANCHITHA KARMA AND AGAMI KARMA. Our own body itself is a Prarabdha and whatever is bound to be done exclusively by us, such burdensome actions and responsibilities to be discharged in the taken birth, come under this Nomenclature. Sanchitha Karma is what we gather or collect in our ongoing journey of life. Agami Karma is what is yet to come in future. All these only augment the magnitude of Karma! Whatever destined to do but, one could not do would be carried forward to the next birth whenever it comes, but it surely comes. The process of birth and death will continue as long as Karma and temptations or passions continue. In short, everything generates or contributes agony only. Be therefore, alert and wary always!


KAMAM(PASSIONS) KRODHAM (ANGER) LOBHAM(GREED), All these evil traits or qualities are thieves or robbers hiding in our body. They steal the pearl or jewel of our wisdom the greatest wealth one can have in his life time. They deprive us of our treasure which we have amassed by dint of hard work, endurance and steadfast perseverance. When we express such evil qualities on various occasions due to ignorance, we seldom notice that such basic values are eroding slowly. It is therefore, imperative that we remain alert or wary (JAGRATHA)against such possible thieves who ruthlessly steal away the precious gem or jewel of our wisdom, because of our carelessness. The experience ofEmperor Parikshit(also called VISHNU RAATAN=means one who was saved by VISHNU) who expressed uncontrollable anger to the deeply penancing Shamika Rishi by putting a dead snake around his neck, for not giving him water as he came very thirsty after hours of hunting in the forest, is a classic example of the aftermath of ANGER! All those undesirable qualities had brought ruin to many, we have seen in history and epics. AAGRAHAM(desire), ATHYAGRAGAM, (greed)DURAGRAHAM(over greed or avarice)and KARAGRAHAM (prison)!The result of ATHYAGRAHAM and DURAGRAHAM, which tempt one to amass huge wealth through unethical means,is that it finallylands him up in prison. So, be wary always!


Shankaracharya has generalized human beings also as animals, but unlike animals, man is a biped (two legged) animal. By dint of his animal passion, man is wandering madly after all worldly /sensory pleasures, passions and possessions Without realizing that life is very short and uncertain and therefore, has to be spent very wisely to take maximum advantage. Otherwise, by the time we realize, it will be too late and we can’t make good of it. The time spent unwisely is a loss for ever which only paves the way for future remorse. We therefore, have to beware our time and spend very carefully. Always we should ensure that our time is utilized properly and fruitfully to avoid future compunction of conscience or repentance. So be wary always!


All that we see and experience in this world are only an illusion or MAYA! Everything will disappear abruptly one day. No one ever bothers to ponder that our earthly possessions and pleasures are illusory and transient and will vanish like a dream one day. So too the elegant flowery youth which is only a transitional phase in one’s life and disappears once one embarks on the successive stage of old age, which seldom does one notice! To be precise, the life of a human being on earth is like that of a flower which comes one day, exists in this world, charms everyone and disappears in a flick of time on another day, like a flickering lightning! If we live with this awareness of inconsistency of everything, we won’t have to repent at a later stage. So be wary always!


Wealth, praise, life, everything is ephemeral or temporary. Another important thing to remember is that death is certain, but uncertain as to when it will come. What everyone should remember is that YAMA, the God of Death never shows even the leastclemency to anyone, soliciting for extension of life but, strikes at the right moment without any delinquency in exercising his duties. But, when, where, how and at what time are beyond human ingenuity. There are certain things which God has very tactfully concealed from man. For example, memory of previous birth, premonition of next birth, what another person thinks and time of death are unknown to everybody. There may be obvious reasons for keeping these things beyond human perception. We simply ignore many important things as banal under some hallucinations, without fully understanding its future implications and consequences. We later realise the loss, the influx of time and the golden opportunities and repent enormously. What is the use if wise counsel prevails later? Only, penitence over the colossal waste of time. So be wary always!


Man will be here on the face of earth only as long as KARMA or ACTION propelled by VASANAS or TEMPTATIONS exists which alone brings him back to earth again and again through generations.When his KARMA is over, the process is complete and he gets JANI MOCHANAM or liberation from further birth and attains SALVATION orVAIKUNTA LOKA.

SALVATION or MOKSHA is of 4 kinds:
SAAMEEPYAM(Placement close to VISHNU), SAAROOPYAM(Getting VISHNU’S identity), SAALOKYAM(Getting SIVALOKA, or LOKA of any preferred GOD) AND SAAYOOJYAM( Identification with the PARABRAHMAM or the SUPREME SOUL when AVIDYA or IGNORANCE or AJNANAM completely vanishes), being the highest point of SALVATION or PARAMA PURUSHARTHAM) AVIDYA in a different dimension means persistence of ABSOLUTE IGNORANCE).

So, birth and death and further birth depend upon our ACTION and VASANAS. Everything is ambiguous and there is no premonition or prior information about anything or what is impending.

That is the grandeur of ALMIGHTY GOD! So, be wary always!

Thodupuzha K Shankar

It is therefore, very clear that we have to jettison all our EGO, BOASTING, REVENGE, POSSESSIVENESS, VANITY, NARROW/MEAN MINDEDNESS, GREED, AVARICE, SELFISHNESS and EXPECTATIONS AGAINST ACTIONS, etc. and live an exemplary life. Our life should be a message to others and the future generations. Our whole and sole aim should be to attain accomplishment of birth. We should practise attachment with a sense of detachment any time. Devotion to GOD or BHAKTHI is more important. BHAKTHI is of two types, NISHKAMA BHAKTHI(No expectation in return) example- PRAHLADA and KAMARTHA BHAKTHI (expectation in return) example -DHRUVA. Devotion or Bhakti should be coupled with absolute unconditional surrender! So, Bhakti (devotion), Jnana (enlightenment) and Vairagya (dispassion) are the three methods advised by Acharyas to attain salvation. If we have all these things in our subconscious and we apply a mild dose of philosophy, life will be comfortable, without grumbling about what is happeningas natural in life. Accepting whatever comes with a PRASADA BUDHI, is what we need always which adds to our happiness!

Remember, life is swaying between two breaths-inhalation and exhalation like the pendulum of a clock and once it stops everything is over and therefore, we have to live and enjoy a worthy life in full measure!Everything is uncertain in this world!

SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM says, “ATHMANA ATHMAANAMUDHARETH’, means, one has to improve himself and no one else can improve him. (SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM-Chapter-22 SARGAM 58)- means the soul can be improved by the same soul only and by no one else) A can be improved by A only and not by B.So, theresponsibility is vested with every individual.

This is what Shankaracharya envisages through these VAIRAGYA SLOKAS!

(N. B. It is apt to mention here with pride that this writer did his Pre-University and graduation from SREE SANKARA COLLEGE, KALADY)

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One Thought to “Feature Article Series: Adi Shankara’s Seven Vairagya Slokas ! (A brief analysis)”

  1. sankaracharya

    After reading Thodupuzha’s writing on Sankaracharyas teaching one could understand human run after luxurious life only to enjoy without thinking his moral duties. It leads to face in numerable troubles in life.
    Just like a teacher Tho dupuzhaji teaching us worthy lessons. As a reader I am very thankful to Shankarji.

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