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Shankara learnt Advaita from a “low caste” Chandala, but he never really got the point, did he?

I wasn't aware of this story but after I chanced upon it twice in a single day, I researched this further and found that is it is quite well known and widely discussed.

Well, if there's ANYTHING useful we can get from this story, it is that caste is wrong. It is a FALSE idea and must be discarded.


The great Sankaracharya of Kaldi, famous for his ideologue Advaita once came across a Chandala who was on his way to Harighat. He, being aghast of the presence of an untouchable told the latter to stay away from his sight. To Shankara’s utter dismay, the Chandala raised some pertinent questions from the same Advaita. “Whom are you telling to keep away, Acharya the fountainhead of all knowledge of Vedas and Upanishads! This body or the atman which resides in this body? Your body and mine are made of the same substance, as pots of varying sizes and colours are made of the same clay. So one such body cannot ask the other of the same to stay away. Are they not part of the same illusion?”

Source: Swaminathan Venkat, The Dalit in Tamil Literature-Past and Present. Indian Literature Sahitya Akademi, Delhi P.17 (as cited in VOICE OF DALIT IN SOUTH ASIAN LITERATURE by Aswini Kumar Mishra)


Sankara, the great Hindu philosopher and reformer, was one day coming from his bath in the Ganges when a drunken outcast accidentally touched him. “How dare you touch me?” he exclaimed. The outcast replied that since the same Supreme Spirit is in all, how could his touch contaminate, and proceeded to expound the philosophy of Oneness. Sankara listened in wonderment and humbly acknowledged that he was right. Whereupon the outcast stood revealed as Shiva Himself, and Sankara fell at His feet.

Source:  HINDUISM: The World-Ideal by Harendranath Maitra (1916)


Instead of Sankara REJECTING CASTE he continued to teach caste, so that his future disciple Vivekananda continued to teach caste, even though he was teaching advaita.


I totally deny this nonsense about the Chandala being "Shiva". The ONLY evidence we have is that Shankara was caught out by his HUGE EGO and Brahminical arrogance. He didn't get the message of TOTAL EQUALITY which is the key message of advaita.

The ONLY way Advaita can make sense is through total equality of all humans, of all human consciousness. Anything less is utter nonsense.


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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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7 thoughts on “Shankara learnt Advaita from a “low caste” Chandala, but he never really got the point, did he?
  1. Subbiah

    Adi Sankara propagated Varunashira Dharma meaning Caste system.
    Only Ramanujar was against Casteism.Only a Brahmin can become Sankarachari in a mutt..So Adi Sankara is a guru for Brahmins only and self respecting non-Brahmins. Shouldbrefrain from adoring Adi Sankara.

  2. Mark Maine

    “The ONLY way Advaita can make sense is through total equality of all humans, of all human consciousness. Anything less is utter nonsense”

    I agree with you 100 percent. Any religion that advocates the non-equality of all humans is a false religion and has no place in this world. The culture that advanced the Vedas instituted a caste system in which millions and millions of people are enslaved politically, economically and religiously. It’s barbaric. Vedic Hinduism is a failure. I am a Hindu and I just can’t accept the evil scourge of vedic caste system.

  3. Arhan

    As far as I know in the “Brahmanical” Smartha-tradition or denomination even Adishankaracharya is considered a form of Shiva along with the Chandala. So it’s still kind of coherent I guess.

  4. Shubhashish

    Some pertinent question which the conclusion made by the author regarding as appropriation of Shiva as Chandala has left.

    Firstly, the author presumes this as a brahmin conspiracy to makeover the incident as puritanical as possible by presenting Chandala as Shiva, then the question arises why a brahmin author would mention a story of a Chandala confronting Shankaracharya and shattering his ego when the brahmins who boast to be superior above else would show themselves as loser and idiot that too when it is read and accessible only to brahmins?

    Secondly, the presentation of Chandala as incarnation of Shiva is similar to presentation of Buddha as Matanga in Matanga Jataka, then why the latter is hailed as demolishing caste barrier and celebrating the first god to be presented as unteachable, while the former despite all the qualities to qualify at par the Buddha story in Jataka, and at times, better than the latter is discarded as a brahminical white-washing?

    Don’t you think as an author you are being antagonistic towards one religion and liberal towards the other? Don’t you think this reflects your prejudices towards Hinduism stigmatising as casteist and not ready to accept shudras as equal?

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I have no idea of the Matanga jataka, and no time to look at it.

    This was NOT about “anti-Brahaminism” if you are able to read plain English. This was about the ridiculousness of the idea that those who preach Advaita also preach caste. There is nothing more ridiculous and logically fallacious.

    The fact that I totally reject ALL religion including many of the claims of Buddha means I don’t really care about these stories or myths. All I do care is that fool “Harijans” or “Dalits” have not learnt the lesson and still continue to believe in religion. They day they overthrow their own chains, they will become free.

  6. kaivalya

    That is just your typical jaundiced way of looking at everything Hindu. You won’t look at the real time implication that Shiva can come even in the form of a chandala and impart knowledge which further implies that divinity knows no caste. Adi Shankara saw Shiva in the chandala and prostrated before him… it is nothing in disagreement with core principle of “sarvam khalvidam brahma” of the Vedanta.

    The tragedy was that vedanta still grew in the lap of vedic ritualism and hence carried on with birth based purity as default. Bhakti based sects were not that particular about varna and Geeta is a great example.


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