we are happy to place before our readers this small but important treatise, Shankaracharya and an Untouchable, by Swami Ranganathanandaji, the thirteenth President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. An erudite scholar and an incisive orator, the Swami was known for his originality in his expositions of traditional scriptures. The present book is compiled from a lecture that the Swami gave at the Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, on IS November 1992. It appeared as an article in the December 2008 issue of Pra'buddha Bharata. A lecture given by the Swami on Shankaracharya's greatness has been appended to this book.
Societies discriminate. They discriminate on the basis of colour, language, religion, caste? Nationality, and for countless other reasons. While preaching lofty principles, human beings have forgotten to value them in their own daily life. The present text presents much insight into this problem of discrimination.
The Manisha Panchakam, a set of five verses by Shankaracharya, has been read and interpreted by generations as the essence of Advaita Vedanta. An encounter between the saint and an untouchable provides the background to the text, and in his characteristic way, Swami Ranganathanandaji extracts a radical social message from this encounter. Though Vedanta as a philosophy denies all distinctions between individuals, its adherents never practised this intensely humane philosophy. We firmly believe that, while educating the reader about the true import of Vedanta, this book can, to a great extent, help mitigate our social problems.
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