Hastamalakacharya’s Story

by Babaji Bob Kindler 

The author of this nondual stotram, mute from birth, was actually a mahasiddha who had entered into a drowned baby’s body to console the mother.  After the wondrous incident related below, he became one of Shankara’s four main disciples and wandered with him throughout India.  Hasta-amalaka means, “fruit in the palm of one’s hand,” and has symbolically come to represent the state of a knower of Brahman who has clearly attained Self-realization.

IN THE DAYS of Gaudapada and Shankaracharya, the Great Advaitins who conferred upon the world of religion and philosophy the invaluable gift of restoring the truths of Nonduality to their rightful prominence, there lived a man, a Brahmin, with one son.  This man, Prabhakara was his name, had one child, a boy.  To the utter disappointment and mounting alarm of  Prabhakara and his wife, he found that by the thirteenth year of life, his son had never uttered one word.  He appeared to be mute for all intents and purposes.  The doctors could find nothing, and the boy appeared to be perfectly normal.

Now, being a Brahmin, Prabhakara knew that his son, also a Brahmin, would have to earn his keep someday.  A Brahmin studies and reads the Vedas, performs sacrifices with mantras and incantations, and officiates at many ceremonies for the public at large.  How then could his son perform the duties of his caste if he could not even speak?
It was with this nagging concern always in mind that Prabhakara came to know one blessed day that the great Advaitin, Shankaracharya, was coming to his city.  The sage was famed far and wide by this stage of his brief life, and was also known to be possessed of many yogic powers.  This fact brought Prabhakara much hope, for his plan was to bring his son to the great savant and healer for a definitive solution.

On the day of Shankara’s proposed arrival, the city of Sriveli was bedecked with the many colorful banners of the various sects and lineages of the city, and the people were in a festive mood.  Many Brahmin families lived in Sriveli, and the place was famed for its religious scholars of vast learning and erudition.  The great Acharya was also aware of this, and was anticipating arrival into the auspicious center of learning.

After the arrival, and the honorable welcome of Shankara on behalf of the city’s officials, the great preceptor attended the famous temple of Hara Parvati and offered worship to the deities there.  Then he situated himself in convenient lodgings nearby and accepted the many respectful and reverent visitors who flocked to his dwelling for darshan and counsel.  It was then that the Brahmin Prabhakara made his appearance in the presence of Shankara with his son accompanying him, carrying fruits and sweets for offerings to the great teacher.

This famous and exceedingly exceptional moment in time is unique, even in the life of the amazing Advaitin.  It all began with Prabhakara’s testament to his son’s mute condition, and after weeping out his tale of woe he asked the Lord for the reason as to why the young Brahmin was so afflicted.  Without offering any explanation, the great Acharya merely turned to the young boy, now lying prostrate at his feet, and catching his eyes  asked him the following questions: “Who are you, and who do you belong to?  Where are you going in this life, and from where have you come.  By what name are you called?  I would know the answers to these questions, dear boy, for your presence has inspired me greatly.”

The father, the village elders and the gathered villagers looked on as a moment of silence ensued.  Then, to the amazement and awe of all present, the young Brahmin stood, looked directly into the great Advaitin’s eyes, and spoke words of nondual nectar in clear and lucid fashion: