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Adi Shankara consolidated the Advaita Vedanta, an interpretation of the Vedic scriptures that was approved and accepted by Gaudapada and Govinda Bhagavatpada siddhānta (system). Continuing the line of thought of some of the Upanishadic teachers, and also that of his own teacher's teacher Gaudapada, (Ajativada), Adi Shankara expounded the doctrine of Advaita — a nondualistic reality.

He wrote commentaries on the Prasthana Trayi. A famous quote from Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, one of his Prakaraṇa graṃthas (philosophical treatises) that succinctly summarises his philosophy is the following:[4]

Brahma satyaṃ jagat mithyā, jīvo brahmaiva nāparah — Brahman is the only truth, the world is an illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self

This widely quoted sentence of his is also widely misunderstood.[citation needed] In his metaphysics, there are three tiers of reality with each one more real than the previous. The category illusion in this system is unreal only from the viewpoint of the absolutely real and is different from the category of the Absolutely unreal. His system of vedanta introduced the method of scholarly exegesis on the accepted metaphysics of the Upanishads, and this style was adopted by all the later vedanta schools. Another distinctive feature of his work is his refusal to be literal about scriptural statements and adoption of symbolic interpretation where he considered it appropriate. In a famous passage in his commentary on the Brahmasutra's of Badarayana, he says "For each means of knowledge {PramaNam} has a valid domain. The domain of the scriptures {Shabda PramaNam} is the knowledge of the Self. If the scriptures say something about another domain - like the world around us - which contradicts what perception {Pratyaksha PramaNam} and inference {Anumana PramaNam} (the appropriate methods of knowledge for this domain) tells us, then, the scriptural statements have to be symbolically interpreted..."

Adi Shankara's contributions to Advaita are crucial. His main works are the commentaries on the Prasthanatrayi (Brahma Sūtras, Bhagavad Gītā and the Upanişads) and the Gaudapadiya Karikas. He also wrote a major independent treatise, called Upadeśa Sāhasrī, expounding his philosophy.

The necessity of a Guru

Shankara taught that access to Vedic texts, a prerequisite for liberation, should be restricted, in accordance with caste rules, to upper-caste Hindu males. He seems to have generally held that liberation can only be attained by a male renunciant of the Brahmin caste.[5] According to Shankara and others, anyone seeking to follow the philosophy of advaita vedanta must also do so under the guidance of a Guru (teacher).[6]