An Audio Course on Vedanta Texts- Prakarana Granthas: Manisha Panchakam by Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati.
The Five verses on the Essence of Mankind or Wisdom of Unity.
The legendary story connected with these five verses by Shankara is as follows. One day in Varanasi in the early morning Sri Shankara was returning from a bath in Ganga and, as is the tradition even now among all monks, proceeded to have the first darshan of Sri Vishveshwara as soon as the temple gates opened. In his water pot, he carried the Ganges water for the Abhisheka of Jyotirlingam. Perhaps at that time, the streets leading to Sri Vishveshwara’s shrine were as narrow as we find them today. So, in the semi-darkness of pre-dawn, Shankara found his way blocked by what appeared to be the bulky form of a low-caste sweeper or Chandala. Instinctively he cried in dismay “Away, move away!” In fact, the sweeper (Antyaja), in his own line was not only just as distinguished as the Dvija (twice-born) but actually was a camouflage of the same Shiva who had come to bless the earth in the human form of the Acharya. The Antyaja then reacts by not budging an inch from the path, and retorted, “What should go away from what? Is it the physical body or the self that you are referring to? If the body, all bodies are made of the same stuff so why should one be away from another and if the self, how can it get away and from what, since it is non-dual.” Shankara listened to the words of wisdom from the untouchable, and then afterwards poured out his heart in these five verses in recognition of the essence of the non-dual Self.