Caste system in India. An ancient story about Hindu caste system. Lord Shiva meets Adi Shankaracharya.
In Advait Vedanta, the Hindu caste system is explained by a meeting between Lord Shiva and Adi Shankara.
While there are many schools of thought, the underlying teachings of all thoughts in Hinduism lead to one truth – Consiousness, or Brahman, is one. For creation, the one consciousness or Brahman deludes itself and becomes many due to the illusion of differentiating between the seer and the seen, the body and the mind, I and them.
When consciousness has convinced itself of this diversity, it can take birth and death as a being of any species or (in an ignorant human form) any caste.
Meeting of Lord Shiva and Adi Shankara charya- Explaining Hindu caste system
One day Adi Shankaracharya took a bath on the ghats of the Holy Ganga in Varanasi and proceeded towards the Vishwanath Temple to pay homage to Lord Shiva.
As he was walking towards the temple from Manikarnika Ghat, a cremation worker (lowest social class of that time) approached him along with four dogs from the opposite direction.
Adi Sankara realizing that the cremation worker, an outcaste, was approaching him, stopped and said, “Step aside and let me pass.”
The outcaste continued to move forwards and Adi Sankara spoke excitedly in a loud voice, “Stop! Move away and let me pass.”
The cremation worker stopped a few feet away and smiled. He asked Adi Sankara, “Whom are you asking to move away, sir? Are you demanding the self to do so or the body to do so? For this body is built up of food. Is it your wish to keep it at a distance from that body which is also built up of food? Or do you wish to separate the pure Awareness which is present here from the same Awareness present there?”
Adi Sankara was amazed at these words of the outcaste who continued speaking, “Sir, Does it make any difference to the sun when it is reflected in the waters of Ganga or in the dirty waters of the puddles in the streets of outcastes? Does space change if it remains in a golden pot or in a mud pot? Is there any difference between the outcaste and the Brahmin from the viewpoint of the knower of the Truth? Is your knowledge of the Brahman so bounded?”
Hearing these words of the outcaste, Adi Shankara was amazed. He realized he was in the presence of divinity. He folded his palms in adoration and spoke , “He who perceives all beings with an awareness of same-sightedness, he who acts in accordance with the perception of one consciousness in all and respects every being, he indeed is my Guru. You are my Guru. I bow down at your holy feet a million times”.
As Adi Sankara bowed before the cremation worker, the man and his canine company disappeared. In its place appeared Lord Shiva. Shankara’s mind was filled with intense devotion. He bowed down at the feet of the Great Guru of the Universe and then composed the profound five verses entitled “Maneesha Panchakam” which define the true stance of Hinduism on the caste system.