The Vedas show the two-fold path for man’s progress — the one related to making a living (worldly affairs) and the other for salvation. The first is known as the Pravritti marga which implies social action related to the worldly living and the other is known as Nivritti marga which stresses spiritual progress by way of inward contemplation.
Adi Sankara’s Soundarya Lahari, a hymn in 100 verses, provides a holistic approach to the physical, social, economic, psychological, mental and spiritual welfare of the individual, said Sri R. Krishnamurthy Sastrigal in a lecture. When caught in this world, we have to fulfil worldly obligations to oneself, family and society. But this is not an end in itself. We have to realise that we have to consolidate our future beyond this life as well. While engaged in this purpose, we need to live an ethical life. To fuse our living with the future one has to align our thoughts with the Supreme Being.
In one hymn, Adi Sankara teaches how to achieve this. Our day-to-day activities can be dedicated to the Goddess and thereby we fend ourselves from evil or harmful thought, word or deed. The good and bad we do (not wealth) is our earning, which accompanies us through the cycle of birth. As Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, desire and anger instigate us to do evil. The wise thus aim to keep these two at a safe distance.
Adi Sankara’s advent had ushered in a timely revival of spiritual progress. It was a time when people were confused about their religion and faith. Due to the prevalence of many sects, there arose quarrels leading to doubts about what to believe in. His philosophical discussions are based on the Vedas and the authority of the Vedas is accepted on their being apaurusheya, meaning not authored by any human being.
The Advaita philosophy he propounded through philosophical treatises, commentaries and devotional hymns that form the corpus of his writings, stresses the all-pervading presence of only one Supreme God. His influence — in terms of realising Atma Tatva on the one hand and of practising devotion to the Supreme Lord which promises a way to salvation on the other — is thus far-reaching.