Dakshinamurthy Stothram- Sloka 6 – Part 1 – Introduction – The Empty Secret – வெறுமையின் வறுமை – Negating the Sunyavadis


In the fifth verse, Śankarācārya enumerated various systems of philosophy, in which there are varieties of confusion regarding the real nature of “I”; and in this sixth verse, Śankarācārya wants to refute the main system, known as mādhyamika bauddisam; or śūnyavādaḥ; which is one of the main pūrvapakṣis of vedāntaḥ. And Śankarācārya does not refute the other systems, because this shoonya vadi has already refuted others and therefore he becomes the main challenger; and therefore Śankarācārya refutes the śūnyavādaḥ in the 6th verse.

The śūnyavādi points out that the essential nature of me; or the I, is nothingness or emptiness. Not only the individual, even the essential nature of the world is nothingness or emptiness. And in support of this conclusion, he takes our sleep experience as the pramāṇam or truth. In sleep we do not experience anything; there is no objective world. In sleep we do not experience the subject also; so neither ‘seen’ is there; nor is there the ‘seer’; neither the ‘heard’ nor the ‘hearer’. Therefore the subject as well as the object, both of them are not there; and therefore śūnyam is the tatvam is their conclusion.

Now Śankarācārya shows in this verse; that in deep sleep state, it is not śūnyam or emptiness. In deep sleep state, there is pure existence; but it is an unqualified existence; which is not available for any transaction. Only qualified existence is available for transaction; unqualified existence is not available for transaction. And therefore we make a mistake that it is emptiness; because we have a general misconception, whatever is not available for transaction is non-existent. This is one of the intellectual confusions. We think the space is nothingness; because space is not available for transaction. But the truth is that, space is not emptiness or nothingness, it is a positive entity. But generally we mistake space as emptiness, because it is not avialable for seeing, touching or any other local view. The same mistake is extended to the pure existence also; because it is not available for vyavahara. And therefore, in sleep, non-transactional existence is available which is my nature. This is the essence of this verse.

To highlight the mistake or the illusion that Sunyavadis have about “existence or otherwise” Adi Sankara brings out an incident that happened during the “Samudra Manthan” (churning of the ocean) as told in the Puranas.

The story of Rahu & Ketu and Maya

According to Puranas, the birth of Rahu and Ketu dates back to the earliest of times.‘Samudra Manthan’ is regarded as one of the most important events in the history of Hindu civilization. The Solar and Lunar eclipse is also associated with ‘Samudra Manthan’. When the ocean was churned by the Asuras and Devas, ‘Amrit’ was produced. This Amrit was stolen by Asuras and to obtain the Amrit, Lord Vishnu took incarnation in the form of a beautiful damsel ‘Mohini’ and tried to please and distract the demons. On receiving the Amrit, Mohini came to Devas to distribute it to them. ‘Svarbhanu’, one of the asuras changed his appearance to a deva to obtain some portion of the Amrit. However, Surya (Sun) and the Chandra (Moon) realized that Svarbhanu was an Asura and not one of the devas. Knowing this, Lord Vishnu severed Svarbhanu’s head with his discus, the Sudarshan Charka. However, even though his head and body became separated, they still remained immortal as the separate entity because before his head was served, he managed to drink a drop of the nectar from the Amrit. The Head is known as Rahu and the headless body is the Ketu. Since then Rahu and Ketu constantly chase the Sun and the Moon for revenge as they are the cause of separating the head and body of the Asura Rahu. It is a popular belief that when they succeed in catching Sun and Moon they swallow them causing Solar or Lunar eclipse but they can’t hold them for long and Sun and Moon emerge again intact as they also had nectar and are immortal.

Let us study the Sloka 6 in detail , in the next blog which will appear on 30th September

Dakshinamurthy Stothram- Sloka 1 Introduction – Part 1 – Mirror

It has been a month since I commenced my journey in search of myself by trying to understand Dakshinamurthy Stothram. Someone told me en route, “If you are searching yourselves, then why don’t you look at the mirror ? simple; why do you undertake arduous journeys?” Very valid question. Infact, this is what all of us do daily either in our dressing room or in the bathroom.

Well, that is exactly what I have been doing so long and so foolishly. Every time I see myself in the mirror, I think that I am the smartest guy around, trying to be one of the specially initiated in the field of Vedanta. Hardly did I realise that all I do is nothing but dreaming and I am the one who wanders in the region of the many and variable.

Mirror and its features: Talking about Mirrors, look at this building, the Museum of Contemporary Arts at Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

MOCA, Cleveland, Ohio

What an impressive architecture! I can see the whole street, the traffic, the buildings etc in the mirror – in other words, the “दर्पण नगरि Darpana Nagari” (Darpana – Mirror; Nagari – City/Street) as we call in Sanskrit. Let us keep looking at it a bit more and contemplate as to what we see. We could see four distinct features. They are

1. The Mirror is the base and supports (अधिष्टानं adhiṣṭānam) the reflected street. The relationship between the mirror and the reflected street is one of supporter-supported relationship (अधिष्टान आदेय स्म्बन्धः adhiṣṭāna-ādeya-sambandhaḥ).

2. Then the second feature is that the reflected street does not have an existence of its own, even though it is experienced by me. I experience the street, the cars that move, the buildings and everything . But all of them are surreal. They all are borrowed from the mirror. And therefore the reflected street has borrowed existence; whereas the mirror has got its own existence (i.e., whether the reflection is there or not, mirror exists), the reflection cannot exist without the mirror. Therefore, the mirror is having independent existence (सत्यम् sathyam) , whereas reflection is having dependent existence (मित्यम् mithyam).

3. Whatever events that happen in the reflected street, will not affect the mirror. If there is a car accident that is reflected, it does not crack the mirror. If it is a water spill on the road that is reflected, it does not wet the mirror. Therefore mirror is असंगत्त्वम् asaṃgattvam. This “unaffectedness” of the mirror is the third feature of the mirror.

4. Since the reflected objects are having dependent existence (mithya) i.e., having no existence of their own, they are as good as non-existent. This means they cannot be counted along with the mirror; they are uncountable and therefore what is countable is only one; even though there are hundreds of reflected objects, thousand reflected objects; none of them can add up to the mirror. And therefore this non-duality अद्वैयत्वं (advaiyatvam) is the fourth feature.of the mirror.

Here are the pictorial representations of the features of the Mirror.

Never ever in my life so far (until I started studying the Dakshinamurthy Sthothram), did I bother to focus on the philosophical features of a mirror and it is a new learning.

Talking about this new learning, never did I realize too, that these four features are very much applicable to my dreams too. Let us see the “Dreaming” process in this perspective in my next blog which will be a week later.

To be continued……

Prologue for the Sloka 1 – Master Piece

The Master Piece

It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the Universe with all its changes strikes the reflective temper of human beings. Through this reflective temper, human beings constantly question their experiences. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experiences of an individual.

One of the fundamental laws of Vedanta is “ I am different from whatever I experience”. In general, this whole world that I experience therefore, comes under the Category – “The experienced” or in other words “The object” and I come under the category “The experiencer” or “The subject”.

Now, start the reflective temper by dismissing the object and the subject only remains. In this world I interact with persons and I clearly say that “I am not like this person; I am not like these group of persons; I am not this animal; I am not this; I am not that, I won’t be like that, I am different etc.”….and the list goes on. This way you go on dismissing everything that you experience as an object different from you and finally dismissing the world itself as an object. This is the first level of reflection. The next level is to look at yourselves, since you ruled out the world.

I am not the world that I experience ; but then who am I ? To my limited knowledge, there cannot be any other question other than this simple question which evoked such a vast, deep and wide analysis of the individual experiences by the Saints & Philosophers of Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma. One lifetime to understand the material available may not be adequate. Yet from this ocean of information and knowledge I will venture out and reproduce what is quoted in the basic source book on Vedanta “Tattva Bodha”.

स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीराद्व्यतिरिक्तः पञ्चकोशातीतः सन् अवस्थात्रयसाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिष्ठति स आत्मा ।

‘I’ (addressed as Atma) am the one who is distinctly different from the gross, subtle and causal bodies; who is beyond the five layers (kośas); who abides as the self-evident witness to the three states of experience (of the nature of existence/awake-awareness/dream-fullness/deep sleep).

Vedanta identifies the features of a human body-mind-intellect complex with three types of bodies, 5 types of sheaths/layers, 5 sense organs 5 action organs , the mind the intellect and the three states of the consciousness (viz, wake, dream and deep sleep). This means that the “Atma (“I”) ” is beyond all these 21 seamlessly integrated features of body-mind-intellect complex.

“I” am not the world; “I” am not the body, “I” am not the mind/intellect. If “I” am different from all these three; then “I” must be a conscious principle, because I am experiencing them.

Thus the entire object or anātmā consists of three factors, the world, the body and the mind; and “I”, the ātmā, the observer consists of the consciousness principle called chaitanyam. This is the fundamental concept that we are trying to grapple with in Vedanta

At this stage I am again reminded of this excellent poem “Master Piece” by “Author Anonymous” which I posted in my blog on June 12, 2020 (Masterpiece – Prabhu’s Ponder (prabhusponder.com)).  It simply moved me – what deep understanding of the subject and what an expression! The author wanted to remain Anonymous and clearly stated that “spirituality decreases when it is attributed to a person. I was but a scribe.”

This master piece is what “I” am and can only be experienced rather than be defined.

Now in the first Sloka, the subject matter is: What is the relationship between I, the consciousness principle, and the entire universe; the inert matter. What is the relationship between I the ātmā, the consciousness principle, and the world, the inert principle called anātmā.

So अत्मअनात्म सम्भन्दः atma-anātma sambhandaḥ “ஆன்மாவும் அண்டமும்” “Jivatma and the Jagat” is the subject matter of the first verse; and Sankaracharya beautifully explains this with the help of two examples of mirror and dream, about which we will see in the coming blogs.


Throughout the blogs, you will see fair mix of words in Sanskrit and Tamil. Wherever possible, I will try to use the transliterated/ words with verbatim letters in English for easy understanding based on my elementary knowledge.


As each Sloka brings out the essence of Vedanta, it is necessary that some basic concepts of the Vedanta is discussed first before dwelling into the Sloka. As such there will be introductory blogs which will cover the concepts before taking up the Sloka and its meaning. With my limited understanding I will try and make these conceptual blogs simple through day to day examples. If you find them too elementary, please bear with my ignorance. It will turn out that we may need a minimum of 4-5 blogs to cover each Sloka. Get ready for a long haul.


Last Friday, the last of six verses of Nirvana Shatakam (Atma Shatakam) was posted along with the Tamil Translation thereof. This Shatakam addresses the very complicated inquiry of “Who am I?”. Though the answers provided by Adi Sankara appears very simple from an over all reading perspective, the subject itself is the essence of the Advaita philosophy and I can vouch for myself that my understanding is not even at the “skimming” level in this field. My attempt however provides me a reminder that what was attempted was just a drop of water in an ocean. This was also reinforced by the quality of comments that I received from my friends and relatives. One of them was in the form of a poetry rightly titled “Master Piece”. It simply moved me – what deep understanding of the subject and what an expression! The author wanted to remain Anonymous and clearly stated that “spirituality decreases when it is attributed to a person. I was but a scribe.” Here is that Masterpiece

Master Piece

And so I chiseled

Stone by stone

For there was to be none


Than this

For He had given me the skill par none

They had borne support as they must

And All the world had but come together

To make this dream come alive

The sculpture that would reveal it all

That masterpiece before we fall

The true identity that we all search

The salvation I was looking for

And as I painstakingly

chipped each piece away

True hue of its, I want to bare

Art of mine I trust

Though in me, I felt rust

And as it revealed itself

The masterpiece I see! All its glory!

In shock, I recognize

The masterpiece!

The masterpiece…

Its nothing but me! my story!

For while in search of

Our destiny

We fail to see

Lost our sight

For such is our plight

This masterpiece is the star

That carves the stone beyond par

For however tall the sculpture stands

Shows it not

But What a masterpiece

The sculptor was!