In this verse Adi Śankarācārya is restating the ātma svarupam. We have been told that ātma is not deha, prana, indriyani, buddhi and śūnyam. If ātma is not anyone of them, then what exactly is ātma? That is beautifully described here; Svātmānam. Svātma means my own self; my own essential nature; or the real self. What is this real self?
If it is concluded, on the strength of recognition or pratyabhijná of self-identity, that Ātman is a persistent entity, what is this pratyabhijná? And what its purpose? In Vedanta, Pratyabhijná is also not enumerated among the right sources of knowledge called pramánas along with pratyaksha, etc. Then how can it be a source of knowledge (pramâna)?
The answers to these questions are enlightened in this seventh stanza of the Sloka/Hymn.
The Concept of Re cognition of an object/thing:
Recognition which is essentially a re- cognition (Pratyabhijnána) consists in re-cognising an object/thing—in the form ‘this is the same as that’—which, having once before presented itself to consciousness, again becomes an object of consciousness at present. Semantics in English can give different names for this – recollection, episodic memory, self awareness, Autonoetic consciousness etc. The basic fact is the transaction between consciousness and an object. Let us see an example – a black colored box with golden handle.
First let us see cognition. In the case of external objects, whenever we experience an object, let us say a box, we invent/use an expression to refer to that experience – a box. Let us say that as a kid I have seen a black colored box with a golden handle.
Now after several years later as an adult I see an identical black box with a golden handle, then what do I say “Wow; it is exactly the same or like the same that I saw/experienced several years earlier as a kid”. All the accidental circumstances of place, time and form are left out of account when I recall and say “wow…”.
In this recollection (Recollection here means consciousness of something as having been experienced before), “I” remain the same; there has been no change to that “I”. In other words, in this recollection, Ātman remains the same through all the varying states of wake, dream and deep sleep (jagrat, svapna, and suṣupti), unchanging though the body changes in infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and old age of an individual. This Black colored box with golden handle is recognized as that Black colored box with golden handle in all the above states. Present both before and after, both at the time of experience and at the time of recollection, Ātman recollects the thing which has persisted in Himself in the form of a samskára or latent impression. So, in the whole process of initial cognition, re-cognition and recall, the Ātman remains the same irrespective of the states of the individual.
The Concept of Re cognition of an Ātman:
Similarly, the pratyabhijnána of Ātman consists in His becoming conscious that He is omniscient, etc., after casting aside the notion that He is of limited knowledge and so on, a notion engendered by His association with Mâyâ. That is to say, the recognition of Ātman’s self-identity consists in the intuitive realisation of His essential nature as the infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss, after eliminating all limitations of Maya and its effects ascribed to Him by the ignorant.
And how do I refer to that experience? As said earlier, every experience is identified through an “wow” expression. What is that expression for ātma? This ever-experienced ātma, is referred to me by me as Aham – Aham iti. It is ever experienced in the form of I-am; I-am; I-am; “I-am’ experience is there continuously. Throughout the waking state, “I-am” continues; the ātma is experienced as I am, during the dream state; even during the sleep state, “I am” continues. You do not verbalise during sleep; but that experience is verbalised after waking; “I am” experience is present in sleep, but it is verbalised, vocalised only in the waking state; verbalisation is later, but the experience is there; even during sleep. Therefore I-am, I-am, I-am, this continuously experienced I am is ātma.
This “I am” or “aham” is present silently without verbalisation. That is why silence is golden and has no price tage attached to it. That is why we don’t understand it also.
When and where do I have this experience of “I am” or aham ? The answer to this question is provided by Adi Śankarācārya in this Sloka. Let us see the meaning of the Sloka in the blog scheduled on 24th October 2021.
In the last three blogs as introduction to the Sloka, we understood that the core of all of us viz., the inner consciousness known as the ātmā is compared to a maha deepam அருட்பெரும் ஜோதி (the light like Sun). The ātmā is described or revealed by comparing it to a light principle as the nearest example due to its self-luminous and self-evident nature called svayam prakāśatvam.
We also saw through experiments that in every perception, I, the ātmā, is independently self evident; and anātmā the object is dependently evident. The infinite consciousness by itself never illumines anything by itself. It is a upakaranaa or upadhi. It needs a medium to illumine. The medium borrows the light and reflect on the object. The mind borrows light from “me” temporarily and throws it on the object thro the 5 indriyas thro which it escapes.. That is called perception/gnana. The light of consciousness, when reflected at an inner equipment, reaches the object to illumine them. This process of reflecting light on objects and perceiving them through the atma-mind-indriyas combination is called व्रित्त्त पररणाम vritti pariṇāma, and when that takes place alone, the object becomes known. In other words for the knower to know we need cit (light), mind (anthakarana) and organs (indriyas) otherwise the object is masked or unknown (avidya).
With this understanding let us now study the Sloka
All this world shines after Him alone shining in the consciousness “I know”—after Him alone whose consciousness, luminous like the light of a mighty lamp standing in the bosom of a many-holed pot, moves outwards through the sense-organs such as the eye. To Him who is incarnate in the Teacher, to Him in the Effulgent Form Facing the South, to Him (Siva) be this bow!
Understanding the Sloka:
Here Śankarācārya wants to point out that the ātmā, the existence consciousness is ever evident and therefore does not require any special process to know. Knowing the ātmā is not a special event taking place by your special effort. Any other object in the world becomes known at a particular time by your special effort and becomes an event in time.
Naanaac-Chidra-Ghatto[a-U]dara-Sthita-Mahaa-Diipa-Prabhaa Bhaasvaram Jnyaanam Yasya Tu Cakssur-Aadi-Karanna-Dvaaraa Vahih Spandate |
ज्ञानं यस्य jñānam yasya; yasya means ātmānaha; ātmānaha jñānam. So, the light of ātmā, the light of consciousness of ātmā is भास्वरम् bhāsvaram; is brilliant; because it has to create a long beam; so it can see even the farthest star, I am able to see. Therefore, it is bhāsvaram; it is brilliant. Brilliant like what?
नानात्छिर घटोदर त्स्थत महादीप प्रभा, nānācchidra ghaṭodara sthita mahādīpa prabhā; like the prabhā, brilliance, like the brilliance of maha deepam; a very bright lamp, so that consciousness of ātmā is brilliant like the brilliance of a very bright lamp or big lamp; घट उदर त्स्थत gada udara sthitha; which is placed within a pot;
वहिः स्पन्दते Vahih Spandate Emerges out as a pulse/light
Continuing from the understanding of the first line which means that we presuppose the word तत् tat meaning that bright light of consciousness, that emerges out (वहिः स्पन्दते) through the five apertures, I know that viz. जानामीति Jaanaam-Iiti And then what happens, each beam of light falls on an object, one beam of light falling on sābda, another falling on sparsa; another falling on rūpa, and the moment the light falls on them; what happens, they all become known or bright; the non-luminous one becomes luminous; I know means what; that has become knowable or luminous.
When I say I know (जानामि) the object, the process of knowledge is only one; Verb is single; but on the two sides of the verb, there is a subject and there is an object. The subject reveals self-evidence; object is dependently evident; Depending on whom? Me. Therefore every jānāmi reveals one dependently evident object and independently evident subject. Adi Sankara uses the words; जानामि इति jānāmi ithi – इत्ति iti indicates a process of cognition of the object by the subject which by itself is self evident भानम् bhānam. Since the cognised object is proved only through cognition; it is called dependently evident; अनुभानम् anubhānam.
Thus जानामीर्त तमेव भान्तम् jānāmīti tameva bhāntam, in every jānāmi statement, that ātmā alone reveals itself and sarvam tam anubhāti. Not Sarvam, but yetat samastaṃ jagat. Śankarā uses the same word, bhāntam and anubhāti. yetatsamastaṃ jagat, the whole universe.
Last Line of the Sloka
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
tasmai – means prabuddha puruṣāya; to that woken-up person, who is a jnāni; who is liberated; who is the knower, the known and the process , to that jnani my namaskaaram. So tasmai prabuddha puruṣāya, jnānine namaha. And who is that jnāni?
Shree gurumurthaye – who alone is a guru, who alone can serve as a guru and who is my guru, gurumoorthaye.
Namaha – my salutations.
Thus we can see again that a complex concept in Philosophy of knower- known, the relationship between “being” and “knowing” and the process of cognition is explained by Adi Sankara in just two lines using a simple experiment using a pot and a lamp.
இதனையே “உயிர் இடைவிடாது சிவனோடு பொருந்தி நின்று நீண்டு செல்லும் மனமும் சத்தம், பரிசம், ரூபம், இரசம், கந்தம் ஆகிய புலன்களின் உண்மையை அறிந்துவிட்டு, சுத்தமாயை அசுத்தமாயைகள் பற்றாவகை எண்ணி, தலைவனாகிய முழுமுதற் பொருளை அடைதல் சித்தாந்த நெறியாகும்” என திருமூலர் திருமந்திரத்தில் உபதேசிக்கிறார்
சிறுவித்தினில் அடங்கும் வருபெருந்தரு ஒப்ப, இவ்வுலகை – தன்
இச்சையுடன் மந்திரச்சித்தனும் வித்தக ஞானியும் போல் விரித்து – பின்
இலை கிளை கொடி மலர் காய் கனி வித்தென கணக்கிலா வகையுடன்
வெளி நொடி வரையிலா மாயையால் வேறுபட க் காட்டி பின் மறைத்திடும்
ஆதிஅந்தமிலா மோனநிலை ஆசானாம் அருள்மிகு
தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி பொற்பாதம் பணிந்திடுவோம்
Meaning in English:
To Him who, like unto a magician, or even like unto a mighty Yogin, displays by His own will this universe, undifferentiated in the beginning like the plant within the seed, but made afterwards picturesque in all its variety in combination with space and time created by Mâyâ, to Him who is incarnate in the Teacher, to Him in the Effulgent Form Facing the South, to Him (Siva) be this bow!
In the first Sloka, we dealt with the nature of the Ultimate Reality/ the Supreme Self/the Brahman/God by analysing two states of the Individual Self/Consciousness viz., dream and awake states. In other words, by analysing the dreaming jīvātma and waking jīvātma we learnt about our jīvātma svarūpam. Therefore, first verse is dealing with an important word “tvam”. And now in the second verse, Śankarācārya wants to deal with the word “tat” – tat padārthaḥ, the meaning of the word: tat, i.e., paramātma or Brahman. We saw in the previous blogs, that in all the śāstrās, it is stated that Brahman is the cause of the universe; using the spider as an example, we saw that Brahman is the intelligent and material cause for the universe. We will see now how he “creates” the universe.
Is it Creation or Manifestation?
Śankarācārya brings forth the philosophy that Creation is not there; everything is in potential form. Brahman is the material and intelligent cause to bring it out as His manifestation. This is the core Vedanta Principle that Śankarācārya brings out by citing two examples which we saw in the two videos of the previous blog; the giant Sequoia tree and PC Sorcar, the magician.
The Tree and the Material Cause:
And where did this big tree come from? From a very small seed. This is the example that Śankarācārya brings out in Sloka 2 – The seed and tree; He says; the tree is already existent in the seed, before its origination; in dormant condition; potential condition. He uses the expression “nirvikalpa rūpeṇa”; in an undifferentiated form, the tree exists. And why do you use the word undifferentiated? Because in the seed, even though the tree exists, you will not be able to see where the flowers are, which are the branches etc.; the branches, thousands of leaves etc. are going to come; they are all there in the seed.
இதையே அவ்வைப் பாட்டி ‘வெற்றிவேர்க்கையில் ’ குறிப்பிடுகிறார்.
“தெள்ளிய ஆலின் சிறுபழத் தொரு விதை
தெண்ணீர்க் கயத்துச் சிறுமீன் சினையினும்
நுண்ணிதே யாயினும் அண்ணல் யானை
அணிதேர் புரவி ஆட்பெரும் படையொடு
மன்னக் கிருக்க நிழலாகும்மே’’
சிறுமீனின் கண்ணைகாட்டிலும் சிறிய முட்டையில் அரசன் தன் நாற்படை பரிவாரங்களுடன் வந்து தங்க நிழல் தரும் பெரிய ஆலமரம் உள்ளது’ என்பது (தெள்ளிய ஆலின் ) தமிழ்ப்பாட்டியின் வாக்கு. இந்தச் சிறிய விதைக்குள் தன்னைப் பிற மரங்களிலிருந்து வேறுபடுத்திக் கொள்ளாமலும் வேர், கிளை கொப்பு விழுதுகள் போன்ற உறுப்புகள் காணப்படாமலும் சத்தியாக ஆலமரம் மறைந்துள்ளது. இதனை வடமொழியில் ‘நிர்விகல்ப ரூபம்’, அவ்வியக்தம் (un manifested, undifferentiated form ) என்பர். அதாவது, காணப்படும் பிரபஞ்சம் தோன்றுவதற்கு முன் அது ‘ஜகத் காரணமாக’ சூக்கும சத்தியாகப் பிரமத்தில் இருந்தது. அதனால் பிரமம் பிரபஞ்சத்திற்கு வித்து. எனவே, இவ்வுலகம் பிரமத்தினால் படைக்கப்பட்டதன்று. பிரபஞ்சம் படைக்கப்பட்ட தன்று. ஏற்கெனவே உள்ளது. ஏற்கெனவே உள்ள சூக்குமப் பிரபஞ்சம் நம்முடைய கண்ணுக்குக் காட்சிப் படவில்லை. எனவே காட்சிப்பட்ட பிரபஞ்சத்தினை இறைவன் படைப்பு எனக் கருதுகிறோம். பிரமமே முதற்காரணம்.
The world was there in potential form, in Brahman, the kāraṇam, material cause. And therefore Śankarācārya says; बीजस्याऽन्तरिवाङ्कुरो जगदिदं प्राङ्गनिर्विकल्पं Bijasya antha nirvikalpaha ankura asthi. Within the seed, ankuraha, the tree is there; nirvikalpaha, in an undifferentiated, unrecognizable form (unmanifest, undifferentiated, potential form); In the same way, the whole universe, existed in potential form; in whom? Brahmani, the world was existing in Brahman in potential form; therefore, Brahman is the seed of the universe. Bhagavan did not create this world; why? because the world was already there; He didn’t. It was already available inside Him in undifferentiated form.
Now let us come to the second line. मायाकल्पितदेशकालकलना वैचित्र्यचित्रीकृतम् – māyā kalpita deśa kāla kalanā vai citri citrikritam. That unmanifest world was made manifest. The undifferentiated world got differentiated. – citrikritam made to manifest, magnified, multiplied or differentiated. Just as from the undifferentiated seed, gradually differentiation comes; this sprout comes; then you can see the branches, the leaves, the twig, flowers, the fruit, they are all differentiation from the past condition where these differences were not there. And therefore, creation can be called a manifestation or a differentiation or a form of multiplication. Thus, citrikritam means it was diversified, magnified; multiplied.
And for this multiplication of one into the manifold world, what is required. Śankarācārya gives in a very technical form and says māya kalptita deśa kāla. Desa and kāla (space and time), are caused by the māya shakthi (veiling and projecting powers) which is in Brahman. Thus, when I look at through time and space, Ekam Brahma is perceived as anekam jagat. Now what is essence of this entire line? Brahman continues to be non-dual; when māyā shakthi is activated, called vikshepa shakthi, then the time and space comes into existence; and they are the goggles for the consciousness. When I look through the time space spectacle, a non-dual Brahman appears, or is modified into the pluralistic universe. And from the line, what is the main point we get. Brahman is the material cause of the universe.
The Magician, the Yogi and the Intelligent Cause:
Now in the third line, Śankarācārya wants to point out, that the Brahman itself is the intelligent cause also, which throws out the universe out of itself. Not only is the material cause, which becomes the universe, He is the intelligent cause also; which throws out the universe out of itself. And what is the example? svapna prapancha, I am the material cause of the dream world, and I myself am the intelligent cause also, who throw out the svapna world, out of myself. That is said here; yahaḥ vrijrimbayati. yahaḥ means the very same Brahman, the paramātma yahaḥ vrijrimbayati api विजृम्भयत्यपि; not only he is the material cause, he is the intelligent cause also. That अर्प api indicates he is creator also. He is the raw material also. vrijrimbayati api; Very same Brahman creates also. And for creating the world out of itself, what are the instruments used by Brahman. Because we require the creator, the raw material, then the instruments also. Carpenter is the creator, wood is the raw material, but those two are not sufficient, he requires the instrument; What are the instruments used by Brahman? Śankarācārya says Brahman is the instrument also. And therefore स्वेच्छयाsveccayāḥ. By mere sankalpa, without requiring any instrument, swa icchayāḥ, sva saṃkalpa mātreṇa. And this is also not impossible, because we do the same thing in creating the swapna; I am the creator, I am the raw material, I am the instrument also; and saṃkalpa mātreṇa, effortlessly I throw out this svapna prapanchaḥ; Similarly, Brahman throws out the jagat prapanchaḥ.
And he gives two examples here. Even though svapna example is the ideal example, Śankarācārya does not give that example here, because in the first verse already svapna driṣṭanta he has given and therefore he gives two other examples. What are they? मायावीवmāyāvi iva. Like a magician. So, Magician produces many things out of himself; he just waves the hand and you find a hat is there; or there is a dress; or there is a bird; he shows a empty hat, then from that he goes on taking many things; So what is the raw material? Without any raw material, with his own magical power, the magician materialises and we are all magicians in producing the dream world and Brahman is a magician in producing this world. He materialises like the magician. Or महायोगीवmahā yogi iva. Or like a great sidda puruṣaḥ, who can also materializes things. Visvāmitra materialised a world itself called triśanku svargaḥ, and we also read in the books of various sidda puruṣaḥ s, who materialise things. And Śankarācārya gives māyavi iva, mahayogi iva. A siddha puruṣaḥ can also materialise; a magician also can materialise. Thus Brahman is the Intelligent Cause.
Why “Create” at all ?
Adi Śankarāchayra answers one more question, which is often asked; How did this world come into being? Or why did Bhagavan create the world at all? Because he is a jnāni; he does not require anything to be happy. We are ajnānis, unhappy and therefore go on producing things, seeking happiness. But Paramātma need not seek happiness, by creating a world. He must be ātman eva ātmanā tuṣṭhāḥ. He cannot create anything out of desire; then why did bhagavan create the world, if he does not have a desire? This is one question we get often especially when problem comes.
And generally, śāstra gives the answer; the world has to be created, because we have invested in this world; invested in the form of karmas. We have got lot of karmās to be exhausted. Since we have got lot of punya pāpa karmās and the karmās have to be exhausted, and the exhaustion can take place only through experiences, and the experiences require a world.
How did we all get this karmā? Very simple. Because in the previous janma, previous shristhi, we have done lot of good and bad karmās. Some of the karmās got exhausted in the previous sṛśṣṭi; but some reminders were there; for that this sṛśṣṭi. Therefore, how did we get the karmā? Because of the previous sṛśṣṭi. This goes on and on and Adi Śankarācārya answers that question through one single word: bījasyāntati vāṅkuro jagaditaṃ prāṅnarvikalpaṃ punaḥ. That punaḥ, answers the questions. punaḥ means repeatedly, means again and again and again. Adi Shankaracharya puts one punaha; punaha indicates the cyclic nature of the creation;
Thus with two examples and three lines in Sanskrit, Adi Sankaracharya brings out the entire Vedantic Concepts about Brahman, the Creator. Amazing
“To Him who by illusion of Ātman, as by sleep, sees the Universe existing within Himself – like a city seen to exist within a mirror – as though it were manifested without; to Him who beholds, when awake, His own very Self, the second less; to Him who is incarnate in the Teacher; to Him in the Effulgent form facing the South, to Him (Siva) be this bow!”
Vishvam Darpana-Drshyamaana-Nagarii-Tulyam – viśvam means this visible universe; the universe which we see in our waking state is comparable to darpaṇa dṛśyamāna nagari tulyam, comparable to the reflected city being seen in a huge mirror.
Nija-Antargatam – This visvam is within oneself only
Pashyann-Aātmani – This visvam (the world we are experiencing within ourselves only) is actually existing in me, ātmani pasyathi.
Mayayaa – because of the “aadhiṣṭāna ajnānam” i.e., avidya or maya (Ref the previous blogs)
bahiri udbhūtam – appears as though outside,
yathaa – like
nidrayaa – when we are asleep,
(the dream world which is really existing within ourselves appears as though outside, when we are asleep – implied meaning).
Iva – By using the word iva: as though outside, Sankaracharya conveyed that it is really not outside, everything is inside me only.
Yah: – In this context refers to the sleeping person “supta puruṣaḥ”; and this sleeping person was seeing the svapna viśvam outside; the sleeping person was seeing the dream world outside;
prabhodha samaya – but when the sleeping person wakes up, what is his experience; his outside dream world is resolved into himself. All elements of svapna viz. svpna deśa disappears into himself; svapna kālaḥ, svapna padārthaḥ, svapna jīvaḥ, they all dissolve effortlessly; since the entire dream world is resolved into himself, what remains? he the waker alone remains. Therefore, “supta puruṣaḥ, prabodha samaye,
advaiyam svatmānam sākṣātkurute” – meaning that on waking up, the sleeping person recognises himself as the secondless one; without any dream object. After waking up, I do not see the waker; I claim myself to be the waker. This claiming is called sākṣātkāraha. I should not use any other verb. If I say I see the waker, waker appears to be another person. If I say I experience the waker; it appears as though waker is different. Suppose I say I become the waker; even that word is not correct strictly because; there is no becoming involved; I was the waker before, I am the waker now, therefore, I do not even become the waker. I claim myself to be the waker; this claiming is called sākṣātkāraha.
Similarly, in self-knowledge, I do not experience the ātma/ In self-knowledge I do not see the ātma. In self-knowledge I do not become the ātma; In self-knowledge I claim I am the ātma. And this peculiar process of claiming is called sākṣātkāraha. So, it is not coming face to face. sākṣātkāraha, if it is translated as direct experience, we will have all kinds of misconception that when I wake up Brahman will be standing in front, smiling, giving darshanam. It is not like that, I am the waker. Therefore, prabhoda samaye, on waking up supta puruṣaḥ svātmaanam advyayam eva sākṣātkārute.
Last Line of the Sloka
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
tasmai – means prabuddha puruṣāya; to that woken-up person, who is a jnāni; who is liberated; who knows I am jagatadhishtaanam, to that jnani my namaskaaram. So tasmai prabuddha puruṣāya, jnānine namaha. And who is that jnāni?
Shree gurumurthaye – who alone is a guru, who alone can serve as a guru and who is my guru, gurumoorthaye.
Namaha – my salutations.
Thus we can see that a complex concept in Philosophy is explained by Adi Sankara in just two lines using two simple day to day events in human life – the examples of viewing in a mirror and dreaming captures the essence of Vedanta. We will conclude the Sloka 1 in the next blog with a summary.
1. Dakṣiṇāmurty. Sthothram – Talks By Swami Paramarthananda; Transcribed by Sri P.S. Ramachandrn; Published by :Arsha Avinash
2. Dakshinamurti Stotra with Mānasollāsa of Sureśvarācārya translated by Alladi Mahadeva Sastri
3.சங்கரரின் தக்ஷிணாமூர்த்தி தோத்திரம்: சைவசித்தாந்த விளக்கம் – முனைவர்கோ.ந. முத்துக்குமாரசுவாமிwww.tamilhindu.com/
Salutations to Dakṣiṇāmurty whose exposition through profound silence is awakening the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman in the hearts of His disciples; who is Himself youthful but is sitting surrounded by old and great sages who are devoted to Brahman. The hands of the Supreme Spiritual Teacher form the Cin-Mudra. His appearance is still and blissful and who rejoices in His own Self which is reflected on his blissful face
Sitting on the ground near the banyan tree (Vata) were all Munis (Sages), who were (sitting) near to the bestower of knowledge. They were (sitting) near to the Guru of the three worlds, the Lord Himself, personified as Dakshinamurthy Deva; near to the one, expert in severing the sorrows resulting from the cycles of births and deaths; I bow to that Dakshinamurthy.
It is indeed a strange picture to behold; At the root (i.e. base) of a banyan tree (Vata) are seated old disciples (i.e. aged disciples) in front of an young Guru, The Guru is silent, and silence is His exposition (of the highest knowledge); and that (silence) is severing the doubts (automatically) from the minds of the disciples.
Salutations to the embodiment of Pranava (Om), Salutations to the personification of the pure, non-dual knowledge, Salutations to the pure and stainless, and Salutations to the tranquil; Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy.
(Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy) Salutations to the one who is (as if) Consciousness solidified, Salutations to the Mahesha (the Great God), Salutations to the one who dwell at the root (i.e. base) of the banyan tree (Vata), Salutations to the embodiment of Sacchidananda (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss); Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy.
Dakṣiṇāmurty is regarded as an aspect of Siva, as the universal teacher. He is the young and radiant Adi-Guru, Para-Guru, the Supreme Guru, imparting knowledge that liberates. He is the very personification of spiritual wisdom and eminence; and one who is immersed in Self. His teaching is through the subtlest form of speech- para vak – beyond the range of the physical ear, abiding in silence; the sort of silence that envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. It is the silence that underlines the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. His teaching transcends speech and thought; it is experience. His listeners are learned and wise; ripe in intuitional understanding. The Guru’s language of silence dispels the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around sitting in silence.
The Banyan Tree:
The banyan tree (vata vruksha) under which the Guru sits symbolizes creation as also the expanding universe, which regenerates itself. The tree known as Akshya vruksha with its unique growth pattern also represents the eternal principle, the Dharma. (Vata derived from the Sanskrit root “vat” means: to expand, to surround and to encompass). It is meant to suggest that Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty who sits under the vata tree presides over the cyclic processes of srishti (creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (absorption or gathering up), tirobhava (suppression) and anugraha (revealing true knowledge).
The iconographic descriptions of Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty are not uniform. In addition, there are several versions of his aspects and attributes. The following, in brief, is a summary position of Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty- iconography.
Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty is depicted as a young person with serene, tranquil and pleasing countenance; seated in a secluded spot in the Himalayas, under a banyan tree, upon a throne or a rock or an elevated platform covered with tiger-skin or deer-skin. Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty who is is always depicted singly.
He is usually depicted with four arms. In his upper right hand, he holds a rosary (aksha-maala) in kapittha-mudra, as if counting beads of japa-mala; or a snake (sarpa: symbol of tantric knowledge) or both. Sometimes, he is also shown holding a drum (damaru) with a snake coiling around it. The damaru, the srishti (creation) aspect of Shiva, represents the primeval sound and rhythm from which the universe emerges; and, into which it dissolves before re-emerging. The snake coiling around the damaru, symbolizes Kaala (time); it could either be the beginning or the end of time. In his upper-left-hand, he holds a flaming torch (Agni) symbolizing enlightenment or illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance. It also stands for his samhara (absorption or gathering back the created existence) aspect. His lower-left-hand resting on his left knee (the back of the hand touching the knee) gestures varada-mudra bestowing a boon (varadam vamahastam); and, it also holds a bunch of kusha grass or a palm-leaf manuscript symbolizing scriptural knowledge. The lower right-hand is depicted in a number of ways; and, the position of its palm, its fingers/gesture often defines the nature of a particular form of Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty. The lower-right-hand:
either gestures grace (his anugraha aspect) or assurance (abhaya-mudra); or
gestures jnana-mudra (thumb and middle/index finger meet each other and touch the heart (jnana mudram hrdi sthane); or
it faces inwards (abhyantara mukham karma) as in the temple at Ilambyankottur (conveying that knowledge comes from within); or
is held in chin-mudra (the index finger of his right hand is bent and touching the tip of his thumb – the other three fingers are stretched up) indicating identity of the Absolute and the individual; or
is held in Vykhyana-mudra (similar to chin-mudra)- but, facing the viewer as if imparting a teaching, while seated in a relaxed position; and so on
Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty is most usually depicted in a seated posture; and at times in standing, as in his Veena-dhara variation (holding a veena). But he is not depicted in reclining (shayana) postures. While seated in Virasana, his right leg is stretched down (lambaka padam); and, is stamping upon (samharaka) the dwarf (apasmara–puruṣaḥ : representing ignorance and delusion). This suppression (nirodha) of ignorance is described as the tirobhava aspect of Sri Dakshinamurti. And, his left foot bent at the knee is resting on his right knee or thigh (sayanam padakam or kunchita-paada). His sitting posture is relaxed; his body position and carriage is free from bends and rigidity. His general aspect is calm and meditative.
The Hair and Decorations:
His luxuriant hair of matted locks (jatabhara, jatabhandha, jatamandala or jatamakuta), said to represent his sthithi (preservation) aspect, is adorned and enriched with jewelry, the crescent moon, a snake and bunches of wild flowers such as durdhura (dhatura). The mass of the jatas is either disheveled or held together by a snake or a band (patta-bandha); and, is arranged in conical shapes to resemble a crown. In the middle of jatabhara, resides a small smiling face of the Ganga. Curly hair locks fall onto his shoulders and upper arms. On his forehead, he bears a vertical urna (third eye). It is said dhurdhura (dhatura – belonging to Solanaceae family) and other forest-flowers as well as the cobra must be positioned over the right of his head ; the skull and moon over the left ; and , Ganga in the middle. Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty is modestly adorned with rudraksha-mala; garlands of wild flowers; flowers above his ears (karna avathamsam). The yagnopavita (sacred cord) runs across his chest, which is adorned with sandal-paste, garlands and necklaces. He is ornamented with kati-bandha jewelled waist band; naga-bandha armlets; anklets with little bells; bracelets; kirti-mukha earring in his right ear and conch- shell earrings (shankha-patra) or an open circular earring (karnavali or vrutta-abharana) in his left earlobe.
The Complexion and the dress code
The nature of Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty is sattva, pure, blissful, bright and serene (shantha). His complexion is radiant like a clear crystal (shuddha spatikopama); or the pure silvery white pearl (spatika-rajatha-varna mauktikeem); or soothingly bright as the jasmine flower or the moon (kundendu dhavala prabha). He is also described as glowing like gold (hema prabha) or dark (shyamabha) . Some Tantric texts describe his complexion as white as milk (kshira-gaura) or snow-white (Kailasadri-nibha), absorbed in self (bhava shuddha). His countenance is free from even the slightest traces of disturbance (klesha vargitam). A soothing and gentle smile lights up his expression. His steady gaze is fixed upon the tip of his nose (nasagra drshti yuk) or on the tip of his toes (padagre drhsti patam). His eyes must be slightly open (kimchid unmiltair netraih), as in contemplation (yoga dhyana-anusarinam). He is dressed in white upper garments (sittottariya) and yajnopavita (sita-upavita). His lower garment is of tiger skin (vyagra charmambara) or silk (divyambara) , held in place by a serpent.
The great teacher-god is surrounded by many animals, particularly the deer and the Nandi bull. The Rishis eager to absorb the Guru’s teaching are at his feet. Their numbers and names are mentioned differently in different texts. For instance; Karanagama mentions four Rishis: Agasthya, Pulasthya, Vishwamitra and Angoras. The Kamikagama mentions seven Rishis : Kaushika, Kashyapa, Bharadwaja, Atri, Gautama and two others. And, the Amsumad-bhedagama mentions seven Rishis as Narada, Vashista, Jamadagni, Bhrighu, Bharadwaja, Sanaka, and Agasthya. The texts also mention that the number of sages depicted could either be one , two or even three (esham ekam dvayam vapi trayam vaparsvayor nyaseth). The aged sages must all be shown with matted hair coiled up (jata bhara); dressed in white; and, wearing rudraksha maala . Their height is prescribed not to reach above the chest of Sri Dakshinamurthi.
Significance of the name:
Let us now dwell on the name. Why is he called Dakṣiṇāmurty? It is mentioned repeatedly that he is called Dakṣiṇāmurty because he is facing south and also because the deity is placed in the southern quarter of the temple. Some say that the name of the deity may have been derived because of this practice. However, there are few other explanations too.
Yama, the Lord of Death, is in the southern direction. Usually this is considered inauspicious, for example, we are not advised to do Achamanam, japam or any mangala kaaryam facing south. Some people do not even sit facing south while eating. Since Yama, being the Lord of death is a dreaded one, Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty who liberates one from eternal death, saṃsāraḥ., is actually face-to-face with Death, challenging him. In other words, Jnana is the panacea for saṃsāraḥ., death. He who gains Jnana is never afraid of death. Death is kAla, and Shiva, Jnana, is kAla-kAla, or Shiva deals Death to that very Death. To signify this we have Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty facing south.
The south-orientation of Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty appears to be based on the notion that he is seated in the Himalayas looking towards the land-mass where the aspirants reside; that is towards south.
Another way of understanding it is; Suta –samhita describes the five faces or five aspects of Shiva which are turned towards four cardinal directions and the space above, as: on the West: Sadyojata (representing earth, and pervading ego); on the North: Vamadeva (water and manas); on the South: Aghora (fire and Buddhi); on the East: Tatpuruṣaḥ (air and maya); and above all: Isana (akasha and soul). The South face of Shiva is Aghora. Aghora the benevolent is predominantly of sattva nature with minimal of rajas and tamas. It is a state of pure being and energy. It is pure knowledge (para-vidya); and, Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty represents that knowledge. Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty who corresponds to Aghora the south aspect of Shiva is therefore represented facing south.
The great seer Sri Ramana Maharishi who perhaps is closest to Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty in his ideals and in his teaching methods, explained the term as Dakshina + Amurthy, meaning a formless entity, one which is capable but is without form. Dakshina refers to He, who is competent to create, sustain, and dissolve this Universe; and, who, however, in reality, in his Absolute state, is A-murthy i.e. formless.
He is called Dakṣiṇāmurty because of his boundless compassion (Dakshinya) towards all creation. Dakshina , it is said , also means favourable (anukula ) to the devotee. Dakshina is also interpreted as grace. Sri Dakṣiṇāmurty is regarded the very embodiment of grace. It is explained that ‘grace’ (anugraha) is an act of unbound compassion releasing the individual from the coils of saṃsāraḥ.. As Guru, he is the sublime ideal of spiritual wisdom adorned with grace towards all aspirants. And, only through his grace can one attain liberation.
The term ‘daksha’ denotes one who is capable, skilful or an expert. Daksha also signifies the intelligent or competent. Dakṣiṇāmurty is the Daksha, the Master in music, arts and in all that is accomplished artistically; an exponent, an authority on scriptural learning; an adept in Tantra-vidya; a supreme Yogi; and, a teacher beyond compare who teaches the true knowledge that liberates.
The Panchakshara (पञ्चाक्षर) literally means “five letters” in Sanskrit and refers to the five holy letters Na, Ma, Śi, Vā and Ya. This is prayer to Lord Siva and is associated with Siva’s Mantra , OM Namah Sivaya of which is also called the Panchakshari Mantra.
Here is a translation in Tamil of the epic Sthothram by Adi Sankaracharya
As I wrote last week, I have commenced my journey in understanding myself. Nothing works without a prayer and I am a strong believer in that life style. So, I will start with a prayer on who else except the one and only Lord Arunachala at Thiruvannamalai who through Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi kindled the enquiry “WHO AM I?” in millions of people in the Universe, me being the latest ignorant one , the “jada jana”. This will be a composition by Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar. The blog will appear under Carnatic Musing in the Menu on 9th April 2021
An introduction to Dakshinamurthy will be presented in the blog that follows on 16th April. I am deeply obliged to Mr. Sreenivasa Rao for kindly permitting me to use his blogs where he has covered the subject in it’s entirety
This will be followed by a blog on the Dhyana Slokas (துதிப்பாடல்கள்) that will be published on 24th April 2021 coinciding with the Divine Wedding of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareshwarar at the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
After that I plan to take time for each of the Slokas as I am a learner. These blogs will be longer than usual, as these will include apart from the translation in Tamil, excerpts from the various commentaries that I tried to read for my understanding. The first Sloka is planned in the month of May
As a kid nearly 60 years back, Visalakshi Ammman Kovil (Temple is more than 300 years old ) in Batlagundu (Vattlagundu), situated in Nilkottai Taluk of in Dindigul District in Tamilnadu, on the bank of HARIDHRA RIVER (MANJALARU – no idea if the river exists today!) was the only place which I used to go regularly for prayers, not because I understood what a prayer is and the need for one; but that used to be the mandate those days for boys at the “Agraharam (an ungated community!)” from the family. Visalakshi Amman & Lord Visvesvarar are the principal deities and the temple included several Deities such as Ganesha, Subramanya, Chandikeshwarar, Dakṣiṇāmurty etc. For each of the Gods, we used to recite a specific Sloka and when it came to Dakṣiṇāmurty, we used to recite as a routine. Here is a short video of the temple (Photo Courtesy – My friend Muthunarayanan alias Muthappa)
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheswara
Guru sakshath ParaBrahma tasmai Sri Guruve Namah.
I did not know anything about either God or the Sloka except that I had to recite it at that particular spot where Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty was situated. All I knew was that He was a form of Siva. Never in my life subsequent to that period and even in my dreams did I imagine once, that one day I will be writing about the Sthothram on Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty by Adi Śankarācārya. Blessed I am indeed to even think of consolidating what is written and explained by legends and doyens of Spirituality and Vedāntaḥ.
But strange is the nature and power of “the Ultimate Reality”. Study of Vedāntaḥ and listening to Spirituality oriented Discourses is the most familiar route for spending time after retirement for most of us and I am no exception to this. One such lecture by Prof. Mahadevan of IIM, Bangalore was the spark I needed to dive into the Ocean of Vedāntaḥ Concepts brought out in Dakṣiṇāmurty Stotram. Realizing that I am getting old and spending time on spirituality, my son presented me with a book titled “The Upanishads” by Sri. Eknath Easwaran. This added fuel to the fire. As I was exploring these two topics, I learnt that I can’t do either if I don’t know Tattva Bodha. Now this is the third dimension to my time management. My preoccupation with these three books and commentaries by Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Omkaranada and Swami Sravapriyananda drove my grandchildren (my daughter’s young boys) to the conclusion that their “Thatha” (grandfather) who used to spend lot of time playing cricket and organizing/fixing the place rendered as a “mess” by them is not doing it anymore and is lost. They even declared my room as “Thatha’s Corner “– The lost and found room. The fact is that as a “Thatha” I am lost; but I am trying to find out as to who I am instead of where I am.
How can I find out the answer to the question “Who am I”? The legendary Tamil Saint Thirumoolar comes to my rescue in his epic Thirumandiram
“நரருஞ் சுரரும் பசுபாசம் நண்ணிக்
கருமங்க ளாலே கழித்தலிற் கண்டு
குருஎன் பவன்ஞானி கோதில னானால்
பரமென்ற லன்றிப் பகர்வொன்று மின்றே”.
மனிதர்களும்,தேவர்களும் பாசத்தில் அகப்பட்டு பல்வேறு வினைகளைச் செய்து அதனால் அழிந்து போகின்றனர். இதைக் கண்ட பின்பு ஒருவன் செய்ய வேண்டியது என்ன? ஒரு குற்றமற்ற ஞானியைத் தன் குருவாகப் பற்றிக் கொண்டாலே போதும். “பரத்துடன் கூடி நீயும் பரம் ஆவாய்” என்று உபதேசம் செய்வதன்றி அந்த குரு செய்ய வேண்டியது எதுவும் இல்லை.
As mortals like me, get trapped by “attachment” and perform actions which lead us nowhere, one has to look for a Guru who will make him understand that “You are That”. Fine; I need a Guru. How do I look for Guru at this Old age? Thirumoolar gives a response to my query.
“ஆட்கொண்ட வர்தனி நாயகன் அன்புற
மேற்கொண்ட வர்வினை போயற நாடொறும்
நிற்கின்ற செஞ்சடை நீளன் உருவத்தின்
மேற்கொண்ட வாறலை வீவித் துளானே”.
ஒரு குருவாக வந்து மாணவனை ஆட்கொள்பவர் ஒப்பற்ற ஈசனே ஆவார். அவர் தன் மாணவனின் வினைகள் அழியும் வண்ணம் நாள்தோறும் உபதேசிக்கிறார். அவர் நீர்மலிந்த நீள் சடையை உடைய சிவனே அன்றி வேறு எவரும் அல்ல. சிவனே மனம் இரங்கியும் கீழே இறங்கியும் வந்து மாணவனின் வருத்துகின்ற வல்வினைகளை அழித்து விடுகின்றார்.
Thirumoolar further states Lord Siva Himself comes in the form of a Guru to help us understand ourselves. It is with this confidence, that I am undertaking this journey, with Lord Dakṣiṇāmurty as my Guru and Adi Śankarācārya’ Stotramon on the Lord as the first leg of my journey.
To be honest, nothing that I will be writing in the months to come is mine, except the attempt to focus my understanding and in that process try to express the Sanskrit Slokas in my mother tongue – Tamil; it is only my limited understanding of the vast literature available in public domain. The purpose of documenting my understanding is with the hope that someday someone as ignorant as me (hopefully not when they become “the lost Thatha”), will take baby steps as a novice like me, into this delightful field of spirituality holding this piece of document as the helping hand. If that happens, that will be the biggest gift that I would be automatically passing on (without holding back) to all the people in the public domain whose works I have used extensively. There is no commercial interest whatsoever.
A word of caution here – Millions of pages have been written over centuries by “Subject” – “Matter” – Specialists to provide commentaries for the Slokas in these books. Summing them up into few lines is absolutely immature and childish; yet as a child I have started my baby steps on Vedāntaḥ. Pardon me for that. But Children have the right to enquire and ask questions. The child I am, I am asking questions to myself with the fond hope that someday I will find answers as to who I am.
Seeking your Blessings and wishes as I commence my journey. You are most welcome to join me in my journey. Looking forward to your wonderful and valued company. A broad based schedule for April & May will be posted in the next blog.
பற்றிடும் அடியார்தனை பொன்திரவியமென காக்கும் ஆண்டவன்
பூதப்பிரேத பிசாச கணநாதப் பரமேஸ்வரம் பிரபு
மூவினைவிளை பகைபாவமச்சம் களைவோனே
தில்லையம்பதிவாழ் மிளிர்பிறைதரி சிவனே
வேண்டும் வரமளிக்கும் உன் பொன்மலர்பாதமிரு பணிவேனே
மத்யமகாலம் – கண்டநடை
கருஒளிமிகு வடிவுடன் அழல் ஆதவன் விழிஉடையோன்
திரிசூலம் கபாலம் உடுக்கை பாசக்கயிற்றுடன்
கலீர்கலிரென ஒலி கால்தண்டை அணி ஞமலி வாகனன்
மின்னார் செஞ்சடையும் அநிசமாலையெனஅரவு அணியோன்
Meaning in English
I pray , the lotus faced, the Lord Swarna Kaala Bhairava. He has blood red colored flame in his hand and gas long curly hair who is compassionate and gas a dog as his mount. He holds the rope that pulls us out from this earth, skull and trident in his hand. He shines red like the flame and has auspicious eyes. He provides treasures to the devotees like the land lord to the peasants. He controls all the demons and spirits. He removes the sins (past, present & future), sorrows. He lives in Chidambaram. I pray and bow to the feet that provides whatever I wished for. He has dark blue lustre and has powerful eyes like sun. With trident, skull and the destiny rope, he walks with the anklets making majestic sound with his dog. With his red hair locks tidied up,, he wears the snake as garland. I salute the Swarna Kala Bhairava.