At the tender age of eight, Shankara takes Sanyas, the sainthood.
Later, he traveled around India, building spiritual centers and preaching to people. A great thinker and orator, and an advocate of Advaita philosophy, Shankara ardently encouraged of the path of devotion (Bhakti) too.
While Advaita suggests that man and the God are not different entities, the path of devotion suggests that God is a higher being and is different from man. He has written many verses including Shivananda Lahari and Soundarya Lahari that stress the importance of Bhakti.
Shankara had many disciples who traveled with him spreading his philosophy and helping people.
One such disciple was Padmapada, and Shankara had a great love for him. His other disciples despised this boy for all the attention he was getting from his master. But, Padmapada, a meek and hardworking boy, never grew egoistic about his master’s admiration.
As the days went by, those disciples could not tolerate the continued attention he enjoyed. They took the matter to Shankara and even blamed him that he was partial towards Padmapada. Shankara responded to them with just a smile.
One day, Shankara was walking with his disciples along the banks of Ganga. On the other shore was Padmapada, washing his master’s clothes. Shankara thought it was time for him to teach a lesson to his other disciples. He called Padmapada from this shore, asking him to bring his clothes. Immediately after hearing this, Padmapada started to walk towards Shankara over the high-flowing Ganga. To the surprise of the other disciples, he did not drown in the water. Instead, for every step he took, a lotus rose from the river and supported his feet.
Hence, he was called Padma-Paada (the lotus-feet).
Then Shankara told his disciples: “My love for Padmapada is just a response to how deeply devoted he is to me. What you are receiving from me is a direct response to how you are devoted. Not just me, the whole universe responds to your true inner feelings”.
A similar anecdote is famous in the life of Jesus as well.
Jesus of Nazareth declared that he was the son of God. And that he and the God were one. And that the Kingdom of God was within everyone. And that belief could move mountains.
When Jesus Christ took birth, people already knew that he was the one they were waiting for as their savior. Though he lived only for 33 years, he was well known during his time and he had many disciples.
One day, some of his disciples were traveling in a boat and suddenly they encountered a cyclone. When they started crying and praying Jesus for help, Christ reaches them walking on the river and asks them to come with him.
But his disciples looked terrified. They doubted if it was truly Jesus who had come to their rescue or was it the devil that was trying to lure them.
At last, Peter, one of the disciples, makes up his mind, jumps off the boat and starts walking towards Jesus. To everybody’s surprise, he was walking on the water without drowning. Even Peter was surprised. When he was near Jesus, he asked him how it was happening.
Immediately the miracle vanished and he started drowning in the water. Jesus lifted him up from the water and asked: You of little faith, why did you doubt?
Intellect always asks HOW. That is its business.
In both the stories, you can see how a deep trust the disciples had in their masters. While Peter’s trust was momentary, Padmapada did never doubt. He was so deeply involved that his whole being was filled with Shankara, and there was no `how’ in him.
Here, one thing you need to understand: You are absolutely an empty being. The ego or your assumptions about yourself is just a set of thoughts.
When you fill your mind with the thoughts of a great master, or a deity, your mind becomes capable of expressing the power of the deity itself. But remember, as a devotee, you are not creating any miracles. It is just happening out of your devotion.
Miracles happen in the realm of an absolute trust.
However, if you want to move in the path of the magic, you will have to let go of your intellect and start trusting your emotions. When it comes to spirituality, it is always about believing. In religion, you go with an assumption that there is God. If you cannot even assume it, then no path opens up for you to tread. This very assumption that there is God makes way for you to approach God.
Taken from – The Magic of Devotion, online course.