Shankaracharya Gets Illumination from a Butcher

In India, there is a popular story of how the great scholar, Vedentin and Sage Shankaracharya gained illumination from a lesson where he learned to see God in every person. Sri Chinmoy writes of this illumining tale.


Lord Shiva

“…India’s Shankaracharya is by far the greatest Vedantin that our Mother-Earth has ever produced. At the dawn of his spiritual journey, before he had attained to the Consciousness of the Absolute Brahman, a certain feeling of differentiation plagued his mind. Hard was it for him to believe that everything in the universe was Brahman. One day as Shankara was returning home after having completed his bath in the Ganges, he chanced to meet a butcher—an untouchable. The butcher, who was carrying a load of meat, accidentally touched Shankara in passing. Shankara flew into a rage. His eyes blazed like two balls of fire. His piercing glance was about to turn the butcher into a heap of ashes. The poor butcher, trembling from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, said, “Venerable Sir, please tell me the reason of your anger. I am at your service. I am at your command.” Shankara blurted out, “How dare you touch my body which has just been sanctified in the holiest river? Am I to remind you that you are a butcher?” “Venerable Sir,” replied the butcher, “who has touched whom? The Self is not the body. You are not the body. Neither am I. You are the Self. So am I.” The Knowledge of the One Absolute dawned on poor Shankara. People nowadays in India claim that the butcher was no other than Lord Shiva who wanted Shankara to practise what he was preaching. But, according to many, Shankara himself was an incarnation of Lord Shiva…”

Excerpt from : Seventy Three Years Ago Sri Chinmoy, My Ivy League Leaves, Agni Press, 1972.

Today in India, this story in different forms is sometimes re-enacted in Theyyam worship. – A wide ranging type of ritual worship where often the lower castes are given prominent roles in the performance.


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