The Untouchable

A Brahmin spent all his time in performing ritualistic prayer. He lived on the banks of a holy river and spent the whole day meditating in peace and quiet. He was very touchy about any kind of dirt coming into contact with him. He even cooked his own food and allowed no one to touch him, lest another’s touch defiles him! Despite the pious life he led, he had a terribly violent temper.

One day, a washer man sat at the riverbank, washing his dirty linen. As he scrubbed and rinsed the clothes in the river water, a few drops of dirty water flew off and fell on the passing Brahmin. The Brahmin went wild with rage. He shouted and rebuked the washer man harshly. He even hit him mercilessly. He said, “How dare you! You lowly, untouchable washer man. Don’t you know that this area is my domain? No one is allowed to enter here. With whose permission are you using the river? Your dirty splashes of water have defiled me. Go away, this instant. Get out!”

The bewildered washer man gathered up his clothes and walked upstream to complete his chores. The angry Brahmin proceeded to enter into the river saying, “I shall have to bathe, to get the dirty touch of this untouchable, off my pure body.”

A few minutes later, the Brahmin realized that, some two hundred meters upstream, the washer man was bathing in the river too. He yelled out sarcastically, “I have to cleanse my body of your lowly touch. Why do you need to bathe you untouchable? You ought to feel honoured that I touched you!” The washer man said calmly, “Sir, you just said that the touch of my body has defiled you. Surely your touch has sanctified me, but what about the dirty words and abuses, you showered upon me? I have to wash off the filth of your burst of anger. I need to cleanse myself of the anger and malice you showered so freely upon me.”

The Brahmin was at a loss for words. The washer man continued, “Excuse my saying so Sir, but the water is flowing from me to you. How would you be able to cleanse your body by bathing in the water that has been dirtied by me, just a few minutes back?”

The Brahmin hung his head in shame. Anger is the worst exhibition of ego. If one cannot control his anger, he not only defiles those around him by his dirty speech and thoughts; he also defiles himself. He bathes in the wrath of his own anger, every time he makes anyone a target to it. Words of anger defile the mouth and tongue of the speaker first and the other person later!