In the first place, no Hindu scripture calls them harijans; they are called sudras, untouchables. The word harijan was invented by Mahatma Gandhi, for his own politics. Sometimes a great consolation comes just by changing a name. He started calling the sudras “God’s own people,” but nothing changed. And it is very strange that God’s own people should always suffer and the others – who are not God’s own people – should enjoy richness, respectability and all the facilities that are available.
But harijans were happy to lose the name untouchable – so dirty that they cannot even be touched, not even their shadow can be touched. If you touch their shadow, you will have to go through a purification process, you will have to call brahmins, you will have to take a bath in the Ganges, you will have to be surrounded by priests chanting mantras. And only then will you be back again to your own caste; otherwise you have fallen, you have touched the shadow of a sudra.
But by changing their name to harijan, God’s own people, sudras felt very good, very consoled. This is how the politicians and the priests work. In reality nothing changes, just the label. But now it makes them feel that they are God’s own people.
This Shankaracharya of Puri is saying something which is even more stupid than his earlier statement that he would prevent harijans from entering Nath Dwara. Now he is saying, “They are God’s own people, God will come to them.”
I want to ask him: What about others? What about himself? Why are others going to temples? Nobody should go. At least the temple of Puri should be closed to the Shankaracharya. If God is going to come to people of his own choice, then the brahmins – who have been the people of his choice for thousands of years – should not go to the temples. In fact nobody should go. I agree perfectly, there is no need. Those temples should be changed into schools, into hospitals, into anything utilitarian; they have accumulated most of the money of the country, which should be used for schools and colleges.
Now he will be in even more difficulty. If God “comes to meet his own people,” the Shankaracharya has saved himself from his previous statement, but he has put himself into a more difficult and complex position. Now all the Hindus other than the sudras should ask him, “What about us? Is God going to meet us outside of the temple or in the temple? If he meets the harijans – who have been condemned for thousands of years – outside of the temple, then why should we go to the temple?”
In fact, then the very necessity for temples is no longer there. God has to be met outside under the trees, under the stars.
Up to now he was against the harijans – and he is still against them. He thinks he is being a great politician by saying that they need not go to the temples. But I want to create more difficulty for him. All the remaining Hindus should ask him, “What about us – you are putting us lower than the sudras. What about yourself? Why do you go to the temple? And what is the need of all your scriptures?”