Hastamala was one of the first four disciples of Adi Shankaracharya. He is believed to be the son of Prabhakara of the Mimamsa School and lived at present day Gokarna in Karnataka. He is considered to be jivanmukta, liberated while living in the body.
Legend has it that as a child, Hastamala could not speak and was considered dull-witted. Once on a pilgrimage, the child slipped into water. A yogi who happened to witness this revived the child by entering into his body.
When Adi Shankaracharya visited Gokarna, Hastamala’s father took him to the great teacher.
Shankara asked boy who he was. The body suddenly recited twelve beautiful verses, saying that he was but pure consciousness with no distinctions.
The twelve verses deal with the nature of reality. It is known by the names of Haptamalaka Shloka, Vedanta Siddhanta Dipika and Viveka Manjari. Adi Shankaracharya wrote a commentary on it and it is known as Hastamalakiyam.
Shankaracharya accepted the child as his disciple and named him Hastamalaka, as the boy had expounded the truth as clearly as if he held it like an amalaka fruit in his hand.
Hastamalaka is also credited with another work, Anubhava Vedanta Prakarana on Advaita Vedanta, where the last sentence of each verse has the refrain, “I am the true self.”
Source – Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV published by India Heritage Research Foundation.