Hastāmalaka, in his young years idled away his time, showing no enthusiasm for study or work. His worried parents made him prostrate to Ācārya Śaṅkara, who happened to visit their village in Kerala. The perceptive Ācārya having seen signs of wisdom in the lad, asked him five questions about himself.
The boy replied in the form of a verse, negating all descriptions of himself as human or god, by caste or stage of life. His next 11 verses, encapsulated Advaita-vedānta asserting that he is the Ātman, the one eternal Consciousness, the Jīva, Jagat and Īśvara being but illusory.
‘Hasta-āmalaka’ means ‘a gooseberry in one’s palm’. Since the boy’s experience of the Self was as vivid as a fruit in his hand, Ācārya Śaṅkara named him ‘Hastāmalaka’, and his 12-verse response came to be revered as ‘Hastāmalaka-stotra’, upon which Śrī Śaṅkara himself wrote a commentary.
These talks by Swami Advayananda (Acharya, CIF), were recorded during the Adi Sankara Mahotsavam 2017.