Where is the conversation between Adi Shankaracharya and Chandala mentioned? I want the name of the scripture or whatever the source was.

Specifics : The specific conversation I am talking about refers to the one where Adi Shankara demands a Chandala he came across to "move aside" and the Chandala replies "do you mean my body or my atma".



1 Answer 1


Conversation between Chandala (who is none other than Lord Shiva) and Adi Shankara can be found in Shankara Digvijaya (most famous biography of Adi Shankara) written by Madhavacharya (Vidyaranya Swami).

Shankara replied to Chandala in five verses called Manisha Panchakam.

When Adi Shankaracharya was performing mid day ablution at Ganga in Kashi, Chandala came on his way with four dogs and Shankara said "get away from me".

Madhaviya Sri Shankara Vijayam (translated by KV Subbaratnam) says:

  1. On the way an untouchable (chandala ) followed by four big dogs came near Sri Sankara. Sankara said "get away from me, to which the chandala replied,

  2. “The upanishads describe the Supreme Being as non-dual, (non-differential ) faultless, unattached, ever-present and real, omnicient, omnijoyous and all-prevading. It is really a wonder that we should create a differentiation in such a universal Soul'.

  3. “Some (ascetics ) hold the stick and wooden pot in their hand, wear the saffron robes on their body and speak beautifully, Though they do not have even an iota of real knowledge yet they are able to cheat the worldly folk with their external appearance'.

  4. Oh learned man, you said 'go away from my path.' Were these words addressed to the body or the soul, which is separate from the body? If you meant the body, then can there be any difference between two bodies developed with material food What is the difference between the formation of one body and another when both of them are only the altered forms of the five senses? Oh, the greatest among the ascetics. If you meant the soul, is not the soul, which is only a witness to all actions, itself remaining actionless, only one and non-dual.

  5. “How did you entertain the idea of differentiation between a brahmin and a chandala which could not exist in the Supreme Being ? Is not the Sun's image reflected without any difference both in the pure waters of the Ganges and in the pot full of toddy ?

  6. "Oh the greatest among sages, how did the ego arise in you to tell me 'I am a pure Brahman, you are an untouchable? Do not come near, get away'. This differentiation arose because you did not realize that the Supreme Soul, though it has no births, is pervading through all bodies and is existing everywhere'.

  7. “How did you, by ignorance, forget that the great Supreme Soul, is beyond the realm of thoughts, indescribable, indestructible, without an origin and faultless in any manner? How came you to entertain the idea of the “ I” in this physical body which is as unsteady as the ears of an elephant?

  8. "Even after obtaining the knowledge capable of leading to salvation, people get a desire to get control over all other people; Alas! Even great saints get immersed in the illusions of the Lord, who is the greatest among the magicians.

Adi Shankara replied to Chandala as follows:

  1. When he thus finished speaking Sri Sankara determined “ this man is not a mere untouchable'; Sri Sankara was surprised and replied as here under, exhibiting his own majesty,

  2. 'Oh the best among men, what you have stated is true. On hearing these words from you, a realised soul, I have given up the thought that 'you are an untouchable'.

  3. All understand the Upanishads, which are the crest of the Vedas. They control the five senses and also concentrate in the mind. There is no doubt about their deep meditation on the monoistic supreme soul, Still they do not refrain from differentiation.

  4. It is my deep conviction that the great man who has realised the Self and to whom the whole world appears as the Supreme Being itself, be he a brahmin or a chandala, is to be respected.

  5. He who holds the determination that by the word 'I' is meant that spirit, which pervades all bodies from Lord Vishnu and other Gods with shapes and forms (Saguna) down to the small insect in the world, and not what appears to and is comprehended by the five senses, is my preceptor, even though he is a chandala.

  6. He is my preceptor, who has a steady determination that whenever any knowledge is obtained by apprehending any object, however perishable the object may be, that indestructible knowledge alone is meant by the word ' '.

Thus Sri Sankara clears the doubts arising in the questions put to him, Sri Sankara has composed what is known as “Maneesha Panchakam' five verses, which contain the above reply in his own words. They are appended to this book with text and English translation.

  1. While he was thus replying, Sankara, the great world teacher, who was well versed in all the sastras saw not a chandala in that form but, the Lord Viswanatha with the crescent moon on his head and with the four Vedas in visible forms (as dogs).
  • Thanks for going to great lengths for answering my question! Appreciated.
    – Shvetaketu
    May 18, 2018 at 8:48
  • @Shvetaketu apart from what was said above check out the actual medieval manuscripts of this story in Sanskrit. Manuscript #1, Manuscript #2 and Manuscript #3
    – Haridasa
    Apr 10 at 22:22
  • Same manuscript, but 3 versions
    – Haridasa
    Apr 10 at 22:22

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