It is reported that Shankara, the greatest Hindu philosopher ever, was awakened by an untouchable. The untouchable became his guru. Up to that time he was a great teacher, a man of knowledge; he had written great treatises on the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and he had been propounding a certain philosophy: vedanta, advait vedant – reality is non-dual, one.
Then one day it happened that he was coming out of the Ganges one early morning; he had taken his bath and he was on the steps going back to his hut when a Sudra, an untouchable, touched him.
He became angry and he said, ”You have destroyed my bath. I will have to go again and purifymyself.”
The Sudra said, ”Wait just a single minute. I would like to ask you – if there is only one, if the whole existence is one, how can I and you exist? How can you become impure by my touch? Who has touched you? Who has touched whom?”
As if from a deep sleep, the sleep of the man of knowledge – and it is one of the greatest sleeps, it is almost a coma – Shankara was awakened.
And the man asked again, ”What do you think? Has my body touched you or has my soul touched you? Has my body touched your body? Or has my body touched your soul? Do you think bodies are different – your body, the body of a Brahmin, pure, and my body, the body of a Sudra, impure? Do you think the five elements out of which bodies are constituted are different for Brahmins and Sudras, the untouchables? Do you think that if my body has touched you, it has touched your soul and made it impure? Or if my soul has touched you, can you say that the soul can also be an untouchable, a Sudra?”
A conversion – his whole life turned upside-down… Shankara never went again to take his bath.
He paid his respect to the Sudra and said, ”You are my guru and you awakened me out of my sleep.I was talking about that which is one but I had not known it.”
A man of wisdom never thinks that he is pure and you are impure.