Consequent to the in-fights among castes, sub-casts and the outcastes, promoted by the priests and the upper castes, the Hindu faith stared its polarisation. The rivalry took extreme dimension with rampant ‘untouchability’. Many in the faith started converting themselves into other religions like Buddhism and Jainism that embraced humanity without such parochial approach.
Even among the priests and Brahmins there were disputes between Shivaites and Vaishnavites. Shivaites belonged to those who worship Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, while Vaishavaites were devotees of Lord Vishnu. Among Vaishnavaites again, there were sectarians like Ramites and Krishnites. Naturally Hinduism became a skeleton.
Sankara, a Brahmin born at Kalady in Kerala, became a great scholar who gave new commentaries and purports to Vedic literatures. He mastered all Vedas, Ventantas and Meemamsas and interpreted them with a new vision. According to him the spirit of all is one; the under-current of every philosophical concept is non-duality – Advaita. He travelled from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and defeated all the pundits in arguments with his Advaita philosophy. He established many ‘Matts’.
In spite of being a great seer and philosopher, his cult of apartheid had not totally vanished.One day, Sankara went to Varanasi to worship Lord Shiva of Kasi. He went to the holy Ganges and took his bath. Clad in his saffron cloth, smearing Vibhuti all over, adorning the garland of beads around his neck and with other insignia, he walked towards the temple. The pathway was narrow and crowded. On the way he encountered with a couple seemingly belonging to Chandalas, the out-castes. They were ugly in appearance with old and dirty rags about them.
“Move away,” shouted the Acharya (Sankara), “How dare you untouchables come across me and pollute my person?”The male Chandala gave a sarcastic smile at the seer and addressed him looking straight into his eyes.“Noble soul,” he addressed, “You seem to be a learned soul and a mendicant. Now, tell me and enlighten us as to what part of human creatures is untouchable? Is it the soul or is it the mortal body composed of the five elements that is untouchable? As you are aware, all the human souls are but the fragments of that Supreme Soul, the Paramatma. After death, all these human souls will merge with the Paramatma. The body of yours as well as mine will be burnt and will become ash after death. Please therefore tell me which part of us is untouchable?
And, haven’t you learnt in the Bhagwat Gita, that:
Vidya Vinaya Sampanne
Brahmane Gavi Hastini
Suni Chaiva Swapake Cha
(One who observes the humble scholar, the Brahmana, the cow, the she-elephant, the dog and the Chandala with equal dignity alone is the seer).
The Acharya was deeply moved at these words of true wisdom from a Chandala. He reflected deeply. He realised that the Chandala was none other than Lord Shiva who had manifested to inculcate the essence of Adavita Philosophy in him. The Acharya lost all his vainglory and prostrated before the Chandala couple.
( To be concluded )