The Philosophical Climate of Shankara’s time

To better understand the radical changes Shankaracharya brought, it is helpful to understand the times into which he was born. Hindu society was weighed down by the yoke of caste system. Priests used religion and rituals as a means of aggression, subordination and control over the lower castes, as it was more a means of intimidation rather than a means of solace for the people. And both Buddhism and Hinduism had become devoid of true spiritual content. Shankara was born at a time when spiritual insight was conspicuous by its absence.  As one scholar said about the times:

"India was going through great intellectual, spiritual and social turmoil. Vedic religion had become a mere performance of elaborate rituals… Buddhism was past its heyday of freshness and purity and had degenerated into innumerable philosophical schools based purely on logic . . .Hinduism had developed into a number of intolerant sects. Squabbles, dissensions and corruption prevailed in the name of religion. It was into such an age of fuming confusion, chaotic intellectual anarchy and social decadence that . . . Shankara was born … to impart to it the philosophy of non-duality."