At the time of Shankara's life, Hinduism had lost some of its appeal because of the influence of Buddhism and Jainism. Shankara stressed the importance of the Vedas, and his work helped Hinduism regain strength and popularity. Although he did not live long, he had travelled on foot to various parts of India to restore the study of the Vedas.
Shankara's theology maintains that spiritual ignorance (avidya) is caused by seeing the self (Atman) where self is not. Discrimination needs to be developed in order to distinguish true from false and knowledge (jnana) from ignorance (avidya). Shankara proposed that, while the phenomenal universe, our consciousness and bodily being are certainly experienced, they are not true reality, but are rather maya. He considered that the ultimate truth was Brahman, the single divine foundation, which is beyond time, space, and causation. Brahman is immanent and transcendent, but not merely a pantheistic concept. Indeed, while Brahman is the efficient and material cause for the cosmos, Brahman itself is not limited by self-projection, and transcends all binary opposites or dualities, especially such individuated aspects as form and being.