Shankara went around the country arguing. He came to a place called Mandala — I have been to Mandala many times. It is just a two-hour drive from Jabalpur, situated in a very beautiful place. Narmada, one of the holy rivers of the Hindus, falls in one thousand streams. The mountain is such that the river is divided into one thousand, exactly one thousand, streams. It is a beautiful scene. The story is that there was one monster who had one thousand hands. Narmada is the only river in India which is virgin, other rivers are married. This Sahasrabahu — one thousand arms…. That is the meaning of the name: Sahasra means one thousand, bahu means arms — sahasrabahu means a one-thousand-armed man. He said, “I am going to marry this girl. She cannot escape me. I have got one thousand hands; where is she going to escape?”
So he tried to catch hold of the river with his one thousand hands. But to destroy the virginity of a woman, according to Hindus, is the greatest sin possible. Christians would have rewarded him, given him some place in their trinity: another holy ghost. But Hindus have punished him — at least in the story it is so; he turned into a stone. And really the whole mountain does look as if the Narmada is falling through one thousand hands.
So Mandala has been an ancient place of pilgrimage and has always been a seat of great Hindu scholars. One Hindu scholar had in his youth moved around just like Shankara; Mandan Mishra was his name. Mandala was called after his name, Mandan, because he lived there. He was so famous that the name of the place was changed and called after him.
When he was young he had moved all around the country and defeated all the scholars and philosophers. He was old when Shankara was young, just thirty years of age — he died when Shankara was thirty-three. After defeating everybody Shankara was a little reluctant to go and challenge Mandan Mishra because Mandan was so old. But without defeating Mandan he could not declare that he had conquered the whole country and convinced everybody that what he was saying was true. Reluctantly he went.
Outside the town, at the we]l, a few women were drawing water. Shankara asked them, “can you tell me where the house of Mandan Mishra is?”
And all those women giggled and laughed, and they said, “You need not ask. You just go into the town and you will find it, because even the parrots in front of his house recite the VEDAS. You need not ask anybody, you just go. The very atmosphere around his house will tell you that you have come close to Mandan Mishra.”
Shankara was a little afraid — he had never heard of parrots reciting the whole of the VEDAS. And in the end he went and he saw with his own eyes a row of parrots in the mango trees reciting the VEDAS in perfect Sanskrit. He thought, “this man seems to be difficult. But there is no way to avoid it.” He went in, touched the feet of the old man with respect, and challenged him.
Mandan said, “I am too old, but if you feel that it is necessary, then I am ready. But I feel a little reluctant myself arguing with a young man. You are too young, and I am too old, too experienced and I have won all over the country. You should think twice. Right now you have not been defeated by anybody, but those are the people I defeated in my youth, myself; so think twice.”
Shankara said, “I never think twice. I first take the jump and then think. Are you ready or not? If you are not ready then you will have to become my follower.’
Mandan said, “There is no problem for me; I enjoy a dialogue, I enjoy discussing — and with a man like you it is really joyful. Even to be defeated is a great blessing. To have found someone who has more intelligence than you is not a disgrace. But,” Mandan said, “one thing has to be decided. You will have to find somebody who can preside; otherwise the decision will be very difficult.”
Shankara had heard that Mandan’s wife was as great an intellectual as Mandan himself In fact, in Mandan’s youth they had a six-month-long discussion, and only then was Mandan able to defeat the woman. But the woman had, from the very beginning, put this condition: “If I am defeated then you will have to marry me. If you are defeated then certainly I am going to marry you because….” Mandan saw that he was in a dilemma in every way; he was caught. And he could not refuse a woman, that would be too unmannerly; you cannot refuse a woman. So he fought.
And the woman was really a giant; it took six months, and I suspect she got defeated by her own doing. And I have reasons to suspect it, because anyway she was going to marry him. It would look ugly to be victorious and then to marry a man who has been defeated — that would not be nice — and to have a defeated husband…. So my feeling has always been that Bharti — her name was Bharti — must have arranged it. Six months was enough to prove her mettle. All over the country, for even six days nobody had been able to withstand Mandan. If she could withstand six months, she must have turned the whole of Mandan’s blood to perspiration.
And she must have got herself defeated. Why I suspect it is because of this second debate between Shankara and Mandan. Shankara said, “I would like your wife to preside.”
Bharti said, “I have no problem, if you choose me knowing perfectly well that I am the wife of Mandan Mishra.”
Shankara said, “That I know, but I know also that you are a great intellectual, that you were the only one who almost defeated Mandan. And I cannot conceive of you — being Mandan’s wife, and yourself an independent intellectual in your own right — as being unfair I accept you. Whatsoever you decide will be, without complaint, accepted.”
The debate again lasted six months. Finally Mandan was defeated. Shankara asked Bharti’s opinion.
Bharti said, “Mandan is defeated but you are not victorious yet.” This was the climate of intelligence. She said, “Mandan is defeated but you are not victorious yet because 1, being his wife, according to Hindu scriptures am half of his being. So you have only done with one half of Mandan Mishra. The other half is still here. Now you will have to discuss with me.”
Shankara was tired enough. Six months with Mandan had been such a difficult job that many times he had thought that he was going to lose. And then immediately to begin another debate…. And he knew the woman had kept this Mandan in debate for six months; now what was going to happen? But that woman was really intelligent. She said, “I am not interested in theology — I am a woman — so forget all about your BRAHMASUTRAS of Badarayana; SHRIMAD BHAGAVADGITA, VEDAS; I am not interested in them, my interest is in Vatsyayana’s KAMASUTRAS” — the first book on sexology in the whole world.
Now, Shankara was a bachelor, thirty years old. He said, “Vatsyayana? — but I have not even read him.”
Bharti said, “You can ask for time to study.”
But he said, “Just study won’t help, because I don’t have any practical knowledge.”
Bharti said, “I can give you as much time as you want. You can get married, you can have practical knowledge. But till you defeat me in sexology, on matters concerning sex and its subtleties, you have no right to declare yourself victorious. Mandan is defeated, Mandan has to be your follower; he can help you. He is old, he is my husband and he knows everything about sex. He can help you now he is your follower. But half of his being still has to be conquered.”
Now, Shankara’s disciples must have invented the rest of the story because it seems contrived. Up to then it was perfectly right, historical. Shankara asked for six months’ leave, and in those six months he entered the body of a king who had just died — because he could not have experience of sex through his own body, he was a celibate monk. And the woman had put him in such a spot — either he had to accept defeat and become a follower of Bharti…. That would be stupid: Mandan, his follower, and he himself, Bharti’s follower.
I don’t think it is true — Shankara must have experienced sex through his own body. Now let Hindus and their religious feelings be hurt; what can I do? I cannot believe any nonsense that he entered a just — dead king and used the king’s body and left his own body in a cave — I have been to the cave also — with his disciples. They had to protect the body till he returned, so continuously, twenty-four hours a day, they were guarding the body, taking care of the body. And for six months he lived in the king’s body having all kinds of sexual experiences with his many queens.
And after six months he entered his own body; the king died. Shankara went back to Mandan for the debate — and Bharti simply laughed. She said, “I was just joking. When my husband is defeated, I am defeated. His life is my life, his death is my death, his pleasure is my pleasure, and his pain is my pain. His defeat is my defeat — you need not argue.”
Shankara said, “My God! Then why did you put me to such trouble?”
Osho – “From Personality to Individuality