It is said that just as a disciple seeks a capable guru, so does a guru seek a worthy disciple. They are said to look out for each other. After Shankaracharya took renunciation, he became a wandering ascetic. He tool to solitude as his way of life. Lord Shiva was his sole companion. With his staff in hand, he walked through various lands, admiring the beauty of nature, as the visible manifestation of the Divine. Having traversed a long distance from Kerala, he arrived at the holy hermitage of Sage Govindapada (said to be at Nashik). It was located in a tranquil forest and had sublime surroundings. The serene atmosphere relieved him of his fatigue and exhaustion. He saw deerskins and bark clothes hanging and knew that he had arrived at the ashram of a worthy sage. The young Shankar was desirous of seeking the knowledge at the Supreme (Brahman). He spoke to the ashram inmates who were disciples of the sage. They directed him to approach the sage, who lived in a cave, with an entrance of a mere cubit in width. Shankar encircled the cave three times, to pay his obeisance to the reverend sage. He then sang a hymn in his praise, out of faith and devotion. He praised the sage as a manifestation of the Lord Adisesha, (who later manifested as Patanjali) and sought his blessings to be instructed in the truth of the Brahman.
The sage, who was in samadhi was pleased by his prayer. He asked Shankar, as to who was he. Shankar replied, ‘Reverend Sir, I am neither the earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor the sky, nor any of their properties. I am not the senses or mind even. I am Shiva, the divisionless essence of consciousness.’ The sage recognised the young Shankar, as the great God Shiva Himself. He said that he was aware of his coming to him and gladly accepted him as his disciple. Govindapada extended his feet through the mouth/opening of the cave, which Shankar worshipped out of innate respect, devotion and faith. His devoted service to the sage, got him his loving affection and guidance. He received knowledge of the Brahman, Vedanta and learned the mahavakyas (the great vedic sentences), which are the essence of knowledge of the scriptures ie. prajnanam brahma (Brahman is pure consciousness), aham brahmasmi (I am Brahman), tat tvam asi (Thou art That) and ayamatma brahma (This Atman is Brahman). The young Shankar thus got his guru and the knowledge that he sought from him, which transformed him into the great Shankaracharya, in later life.