His message in a Nutshell
The message that is contained in elaborate discussions in the Bhashyas of Sri Shankara is often succinctly expressed in a century of verses, in ten verses, in one verse or even half a verse. He has reconciled the seemingly contradictory conclusions of the Upanishads and in the integrated view that He has presented the eternal, impersonal, consciousness Absolute is the Brahman, the one without a second. By His power which is inscrutable ( अनिर्वचनीया ) and called maya, or mitya, He appears as the universe, conditions by space, Time, etc., that are ever changing. The jiva is not different from the absolute Brahman, but due to Upadhis appears to be different and subject to limitations. The Upadhis limit comprehensions and are unreal like limitless space appearing like room space, pot space, etc…
Once the conditioning factors vanish, jiva is seen as one with Brahman as taught in the Mahavakya of the Upanishads. The Knowledge of this oneness is liberation or moksha. Karma and Bhakti help from a distance in the attainment of Jnana by bestowing the needed mental purity when done in a spirit of dedication to Iswara.
In His Bhashya on the topic of meditation, Sri Shankara clearly differentiates the qualification between “seeking to scale yoga’s peak ” and “having scaled the same”. He maintains that one who has ascended the yoga has to simply maintain this equipoise, i.e. till chitta shuddhi is ripe enough to maintain the meditational equipoise, karma has to be done by all in nishkama spirit as a dedication to God.
He has also declared in many places that even the obligatory works done in Nishkama spirit have punya as the fruit. He said that any karma done, having been dedicated to God may not bear fruit is improper, indeed such dedication should make work non-fruitful besides bestowing the required mental purity. He Uses the word “फलसंकल्पस्य चित्तविक्षेपहेतुत्वात्”,- in this Geeta Bhashya i.e. mental clinging to the fruits of actions distracts. Therefore any doer of actions who has given up mental clinging to the fruits is a yogin, his mind concentrated, not being distracted. Hence Karma Must not be neglected.
Though Brahman alone is Absolute Truth (Paramarthika), the knowledge of the objective universe – erroneous form the highest stand point – can still be considered as a relative kind of truth for worldly transactions e.g., a mud pot, though a mud, can still be retained for keeping the water in it.
Every one of the several schools which developed in the past Shankara age, bears the influence of Sri Shankara’s teachings in one form or other. His message boils down to the formula – natural growth, assimilating what is compatible and `co-existence’ with what is incompatible.