Shankaracharya receives wisdom from a woman

In the beginning, Shankaracharya did not pay attention to women. He felt that women were not suited to spirituality. Then, when he was about to lose the debate to Bharatishastri, it dawned on him that Mother Kali was on Lord Shiva's chest.

There are two ways to interpret Mother Kali's pose. Some say that Shiva was giving her all energy, all power, and that is why she was able to kill all the enemies; another way is to say that Shiva was dead and Kali was standing on his chest to revive him. So you can choose whichever explanation you prefer.

Anyway, Shankaracharya's pride was smashed. Now it happened that one day he was going to his own temple. Right on the steps near the entrance to the temple there was the dead body of a man and beside it the man's widow was bitterly crying and screaming.

Shankaracharya said to the widow, "Give way to me. I want to enter into the temple."

The widow said, "I know who you are. You are Shankara. Your philosophy is: 'Brahman is all-pervading. Everything is pervaded by Brahman; everything is pure consciousness.' This is the philosophy you preach. But do you practise it? You tell the whole world that the world is an illusion and only Brahman is real because Brahman is all-pervading. If everything is Brahman, then am I not That? Am I not Brahman? And this dead body of my husband, is it not Brahman also?"

Shankaracharya was shocked to hear her words. He knelt down at her feet. His devotees were stunned. He said to them, "She gave me the wisdom. If I am preaching that Brahman is all-pervading, then Brahman is inside this dead body and it is equally inside this widow."

So this is how Shankaracharya received wisdom from a woman. Then he wrote many, many poems all dedicated to the female Goddesses. He felt that he could not look down upon women, for they represent the Divine Mother.