But the country was sick; scholarliness was at its climax, people’s heads were really heavy with learning and knowledge, so it was necessary to remove that useless weight from their heads. And scholarliness can only understand argument. Scholars may listen to the language of the heart after being defeated by logic. So Shankara defeated them in debate.
And remember, that a person who has known the truth can utilize logic in a right way, but logic can be dangerous if used by a person who doesn’t know truth. Logic is the end, logic is everything for the one who doesn’t know truth, but the one who knows truth can use logic in the service of truth; one who knows truth can make logic the servant. Truth can ride on logic also. Usually logic is like a sword in the hands of children, they will harm others and harm themselves with it. But a person with knowledge can use logic in a sensible way – like a grown-up person using the sword. He will not harm anyone with it, but will protect others from any mishap.
Shankara made the right use of logic. If used properly, even poison can become medicine. An intelligent person can always turn the poison into medicine, and Shankara did utilize logic in the service of truth. He toured the whole of the country – he went from one corner to the other. He debated and he used logic; he argued with people whose sick minds could not go beyond the intellect and who had forgotten the language of the heart. He debated whenever he saw that some genius was lost in words and could not find the door to truth. He argued with people who were overburdened with scriptures and who were struggling to come out of it. It was only the prologue.
Whenever someone was defeated in the debate of the meaning of the scriptures, at once Shankara made him a disciple. The real, important thing is this: as soon as someone was defeated in argument, Shankara utilized his defeat. In the moment of that defeat, when the individual was stunned, when his ego was shattered, when his intellect and his logic didn’t work, when he became helpless and started sinking, Shankara at once put the other boat in front of him. “If the boat of your logic is sinking, let it sink. I have got another boat, the boat of the heart – the boat of love, the boat of devotion.”
During such moments he must have sung: Oh fool! Sing the song of the divine, sing the song of the divine, sing the song of the divine. He has called these pundits, fools. You must understand that he debated so that your foolishness could be cut off. All illusions disappear as soon as your foolishness is destroyed. He utilized that moment of transition when your mind becomes thoughtless – when all the clouds disappear and for the first time you are looking at the open sky. Shankara didn’t debate to explain truth, by debate he removed the clouds so that the sun of truth could be seen.