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Sri Dakshinamurty Jnana Prabodhini – 2: Iconography of Dakshinamurty

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Sri Dakshinamurty Jnana Prabodhini – 2: Iconography of Dakshinamurty
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Sri Dakshinamurty is depicted as a young sixteen years old god sitting at the root of a huge banyan tree on a rock or an elevated place, having four hands. He is depicted as sitting surrounded by grey haired sages. Dakshinamurty’s appearance remains very serene with a beautiful smile on his face. He is depicted wearing a crown or a hair-band on his nicely braided locks of hair. His right leg is shown crushing (not killing) an infant with a demon face who is called ‘apasmara-purusha’, and his left leg rests on his right thigh. His lower right hand is shown usually postured in ‘chinmudra’ (index and thumb finger joined and other fingers standing erect); and otherwise it is also shown in ‘abhava-mudra’ sometimes. In his upper right hand he is shown holding a handheld drum (‘damarukam’) which remains coiled with a serpent; and also in the same hand he is shown holding an ‘akshamala’ (rosary). In his upper left hand he is shown holding a torch of flames, and with his lower left hand he holds ‘kusa grass’ or ‘vEdas’. He is also shown wearing a waist bank around his waist. His braided hair holds Ganga and on his lefta dn right sides of his head sun and moon are shown. In some iconographies behind or nearby his vehicle Nandi the bull is also seen.

Let’s see few dhyAna shlOkas from shruti which describe the appearance of lord Sri Dakshinamurty.

“sphaTikarajatavarNaM mauktikiimakshamaalaa-

mamR^itakalashavidyaa.n j~naanamudraa.n karaagre |

dadhatamuragakakshya.n chandrachuuDa.n trinetraM

vidhR^itavividhabhuushha.n dakshiNaamuurtimiiDe |” (Dakshinamurty Upanishad 3)

“I adore the three-eyed, moon-crested Dakshinâmûrti who is of pebble and silver colour, holding in the hands a rosary of pearls, a vessel of nectar, a book and the symbol of wisdom; having a serpent for his girdle, and putting on various ornaments”.

“aadau vedaadimuchchaarya svaraadya.n savisargakam.h |

pa~nchaarNa.n tata uddhR^itya antara.n savisargakam.h |

ante samuddharettaaraM manureshha navaaksharaH |” (Dakshinamurty Upanishad 4)

“May the milk-white three-eyed Primal Being (Bhava) grant us purity of thought, He who, seated at the foot of a fig tree, surrounded by Suka and other sages, holding in the hands the symbol of the blessed wisdom, with axe and deer,—one of the hands resting on the knees, the loins girdled round by a mighty serpent, a digit of the moon enclosed in His clotted hair!”

The crystal color of Dakshinamurty has a great significance. Having a color means it is an Upadhi with which the object is associated with, hence it has a Guna. However, crystal symbolizes no color. Hence it represents the nirguNa-Brahman. White color also signifies Shuddha-Satvika tatwam, which also depicts the purity of the lord.

Depiction of the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty in various temple statues or idols slightly differs based on the Agama being followed. Now, let us understand what all these icons symbolize.

4.1 Dakshinamurty is Everything in this Universe

Ashtamurty form of lord Shiva are nothing but the Pancha-bhuta-s (five divine elements) and Manas, Buddhi, and Ahamkara. These eight elements are the framework required for any cosmic creation.

The pancha-bhutas are viz. Agni (fire), Jalam (water), Bhumi (Earth), Vayu (Air) and Akasa (sky); and the remaining three elements are mind (manas), intellect (buddhi) and Ego (ahamkara). The entire universe is composed of these elements of prakriti (nature) alone. Each element among the pancha bhutas are aoompanied by its corresponding sense of perception which are collectively called as ‘tanmAtrAs’, they are Shabda (Sound), Sparsha (touch), Roopa (sight), Rasa (taste), gandha (smell). These tanmAtrAs are tightly coupled with their corresponding five elements. Without these tanmAtrAs this world cannot be experienced by any living being. SO, they are very essential for us.

Let’s study all of them one by one.

4.1.1 The Upper Right Hand :: Represents Creation (srushti) :: Manifestation of Ether

The handheld drum which is called Damarukam, symbolizes the primordial sound Omkara and it represents Creation (srushthi). It implies that it is lord Rudra alone who creates everything as also evident from the below shruti vAkya.

“Namo bhavaya cha |” (Yajurveda iv:5:5:a)

“Salutations to Him who is the source of all things (Bhava)”.

It is again the Bhagawan Rudra alone who assumed the form of Brahma to continue the task of creation as confirmed in the below shruti-vAkya.

“namo midhushhtamaya ” (Yajurveda iv:5:5:g)

“Salutations to Lord Rudra in the form of hiranyagarbHA; the creator of the universe”.

Among the pancha-bhutas it represents Akasa. Among the tanmAtrAs it is the sound (shabda). It is lord Rudra alone who manifested himself as the Sky as evident from the below verse of Satapatha Brahmana of Yajurveda. This also implies that it is Rudra alone who is in the form of shabda (sound) property of Akasa (sky) as well.

Parjanya (the cloud which represents Sky) became such like because of Lord Bhava:

“tamabravīdbhavo ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarotparjanyastadrūpamabhavatparjanyo

vai bhavaḥ parjanyāddhīdaṃ sarvam bhavati so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me

nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:15)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Bhava.’ And because he gave him that name, ‘Parganya’ became suchlike; for Bhava is Parganya, since everything here comes (bhavati) from the cloud (read ‘Sky’). He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

The akshamAlA (rosary) is ‘akshara-mAlA’ or ‘varNamAlA’ – a rosary composed of alphabets. This circular rosary represents the cyclic process of creation which remains in seed form in Vedas. In this connection Mahabharata says that entire creation remains in seed form in Vedas and from the blue-print coded in Vedas in next cycle the creator god creates this universe again, as stated below.

“The names of the Rishis, all things that have been created, the varieties of form seen in existent things, and the course of actions, have their origin in the Vedas. Indeed, the Supreme Master of all beings, in the beginning, created all things from the words of the Vedas. Truly, the names of the Rishis, and all else that has been created, occur in the Vedas”. (MBH book 12:CCXXXII)

Rig Veda also supports this cyclic nature of creation as follows.

“sūryācandramasau dhātā yathāpūrvamakalpayat | divaṃ capṛthivīṃ cāntarikṣamatho svaḥ |” (Rig Veda 10:190:03)

“Dhātar, the great Creator, then formed in due order of previous cycle of creation (yathāpūrvamakalpayat) Sun and Moon. He formed in order of previous cycle of creation, Heaven and Earth, the regions of the air, and light”.

Therefore the akshamAlA symbolizes the cyclic nature of creation and the beads in that mAlA symbolize the seeds of creation contained in the code-words of Vedas. This is why this rosary is not any ordinary form of rosary, rather it is made of aksharas (alphabets), hence also called as ‘varNamAlA’.

Thirdly, in the same hand he holds a snake which actually coils around the damarukaM. This snake is symbolic to ‘kunDalinI shakti’ and ‘kunDalinI yOga’ which is the supreme path which makes a jIvA transcend this material creation and become one with the Brahman! It is Rudra alone who is the ‘kunDalinI yOga’ as well as the serpent power ‘kunDalinI shaktI’ also, as evident from the below verse from Mahabharata.

“Thou art he that unites Jiva with Supreme Brahman through Yoga. Thou art identifiable with that Yoga which causes such a union between Jiva and Supreme Brahman”.(MBH Book14: XVII)

4.1.2 The Head :: Represents Preservation (sthiti) :: Manifestation of Water

The head of lord Dakshinamurty is beautifully adorned with crown or a golden hair-band, his hair is also matted and locked properly. The nicely organized hair and a beautiful crown made of gold studded with gems represents the preservation aspect (sthiti). Apart from that the Ganga decked inside his hair also symbolizes the sustenance aspect because Ganga represents fertility of land, and sustenance of life on the planet as water is the primary element which sustains life. Life originates in water, and sustains in water. There is no life without water! Therefore it means it is lord Rudra alone who protects everything in this universe as evident from the below shruti-vAkya.

“sa.nsR^ijya vishvA bhuvanAni goptA | (Atharvasiras Upanishad 5.2)

“He(Rudra) is the one who creates all beings and upkeeps them”.

It is again the Bhagawan Rudra alone who assumed the form of Vishnu to continue the task of protection as confirmed in the below shruti-vAkya.

“namo girishaya cha shipivishhtaya cha” (Yajurveda iv:5:5:f)

“Salutations to Lord Rudra, who dwells on Kailasha Mountain and who is present in the form of Vishnu”.

Water corresponds to ‘rasA’ (taste) property among the tanmAtrAs. Hence it is again lord Rudra who exists in the rasA (taste) property also.Now, it is again lord Rudra who exists in the form of water. jalaM (water) is one of the eight forms of Rudra as evident from the below verse.

Waters became such like because of Lord Sarva:

“tamabravītsarvo ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarodāpastadrūpamabhavannāpo vai sarvo ‘dbhyo hīdaṃ sarvaṃ jāyate so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:11)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Sarva.’ And because he gave him that name, the waters became suchlike, for Sarva is the waters, inasmuch as from the water everything (sarva) here is produced. He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

4.1.3 The Left Upper Hand :: Represents Destruction (samhAra) :: Manifestation of Agni

In his upper left hand, Sri Dakshinamurty holds a torch of fire. It symbolizes the destruction (SamhArA) aspect among panchakrutyaM-s. This means it is again lord Shiva who dissolves entire creation into himself at the end of the time as evident from below shruti vAkya.

namah sharvaya cha |” (Yajurveda iv:5:5:b)

“Salutations to the destroyer of everything (sharva) at the end of the time”.

This torch of flame also represents the divine internal fire of consciousness known as jAtAvEda-agni which pervades as the consciousness within us which is again lord Rudra alone.

Among the pancha-bhUta-s Agni is one of the prime element. It is again lord Rudra who manifested himself as the Agni element for the benefit of this world. This is evident from the below shruti vAkya.

Agni became such like because of Lord Rudra:

“tamabravīdrudro ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarodagnistadrūpamabhavadagniva rudro yadarodīttasmādrudraḥ so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:10)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Rudra.’ And because he gave him that name, Agni became suchlike (or, that form), for Rudra is Agni: because he cried (rud) therefore he is Rudra. He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

Among the tanmAtras which correspond to the Agni element, roopa (sight) is a property of Agni hence it is again lord Rudra who exists in that property also.

4.1.4 The Lower Left Hand :: Represents Tool for Sailing across the SamsArA (gyAnam) :: Manifestation of Vedas

If we notice carefully, the lower left hand of the lord is placed on that knee of that leg, which remains folded and kept on the right thigh. The inner meaning is – the left leg what he keeps folded is untouched by Samsaara. Hence the lower left hand which carries vEdas, symbolizes that divine knowledge which when obtained by the grace of Dakshinamurty, makes the receiver, attain the supreme wisdom whereby he becomes untouched by Samsaara even if he lives amidst this world.

Vedas manifested from Rudra alone:

It is Bhagawan Rudra who created Vedas from himself as evident from the below verse which is from a hymn to Mahakala form of lord Shiva.

“kāló ha bhūtáṃ bhávyaṃ ca putró ajanayat purā́ | kālā́d ŕ̥caḥ sám abhavan yájuḥ kālā́d ajāyata |” (Atharva Veda XIX:54:3)

“In Kala erst the text produced what is and what is yet to be. The Riks arose from Kala, the Yagus was born from Kala;”

Same is testified in Svetavatara Upanishad (4:09) also about Rudra projecting Vedas. Here one shouldn’t consider Vedas as just some created items, which are different from Mahadeva. Nothing is different from the Supreme Being Rudra. Even these Vedas which symbolize the divine knowledge are identical with the giver of knowledge viz. Dakshinamurty. Taittirya Aranyaka (10:24:1) of Yajurveda says “purusho vai rudrah”, which means “Lord Rudra is Veda Purusha”. And Rig Veda (10:90:2) says “puruṣa evedaṃ sarvaṃ yad bhūtaṃ yacca bhavyam” which means, “all that was (existed once upon a time) and all that is (manifested in present) and will be (in future), everything is verily the Veda Purusha Rudra alone”.

It is again Mahadeva alone who is the supreme ruler of all knowledge, and protector of Vedas as evident from Taittariya Aranyaka of Yajurveda  as follows:

“ishanah sarvavidyanamishvarah sarvabhutanam | brahmadhipatirbrahmano’dhipatirbrahma shivo me astu sadashivom |” (Yajurveda Taittariya Aranyaka 10:21:1 )

“May the Supreme who is the ruler of all knowledge, IshANa, controller of all created beings, the preserver of the Vedas and the one overlord of Hiranyagarbha, be benign to me. That Sadasiva described thus and denoted by Pranava (OM).”

That is the benevolence of lord Shiva! Who on this earth can attain knowledge by moving away from Lord Shiva? It’s all the foolishness of those who attempt to deny themselves from worshiping this greatest benevolent Lord. He himself is the destination (Moksha), he himself is the lord, he himself is the means to attain him (knowledge), it is he who is the preceptor (as Dakshinamurty) who confers the knowledge, it is he who protects the knowledge and it is again he himself who is in the form of the source of knowledge (as Vedas). Such is my divine father, my lord, my self – the illustrious Mahadeva!

4.1.5 The Left Leg :: Represents the Supreme state beyond Samsaara (Aja-EkapAda)

The goal of attaining knowledge is to raise ourselves from the level of ignorance to the realization of ‘tat twam asi’ principle as expounded in the Upanishads. This leg of Sri Dakshinamurty symbolizes the supreme state of Kaivalya which is untouched by Samsaara. This foot is the object which one needs to long for.

This is a superficial understanding. There is a deeper meaning surrounding this raised up leg of Bhagawan Shiva. Not only in the iconography of Dakshinamurty, but in every form of Shiva, the lord mostly sits or stands with one leg raised upwards. Take for instance Nataraja form. This form of Shiva where he stands or sits supporting one leg on ground and one leg on thigh or raised upwards teaches us about the “Aja-EkapAda” principle. Lord Shiva is Aja-EkapAda, where “Aja” means “unborn”, and “EkapAda” means “one footed”.

Lord Shiva is the unborn supreme god as evident from below shruti verse.“ajaata ityeva.n kashchidbhiiruH prapadyate |
rudra yatte daxiNaM mukha.n tena maaM paahi nityam.h |” (Svetaswatara Upanishad 4:21)
“‘Thou art unborn (Aja),’ with these words some one comes near to thee, trembling. O Rudra, let thy southward facing face protect me for ever!”

Lord Shiva who created this universe from one portion of his infinite form called Skambha (linga) and his rest of the form is still beyond all this universe. Therefore he stands on one foot as Skambha and pervades with one portion (pAda) into the universe while keeping his rest of the portion as un-manifest to the universe. This is evident from the below shruti verse.

“ékacakraṃ vartata ékanemi sahásrākṣaraṃ prá puró ní paścā
ardhéna víśvaṃ bhúvanaṃ jajā́na yád asyārdháṃ kvà tád babhūva |” (Atharva Veda X:8:7)
“Up, eastward downward in the west, ‘it rolleth, with countless elements, one-wheeled, single-fellied. With half it hath begotten all creation. Where hath the other half become unnoticed?”

This is the reason, why lord Shiva always rests one foot on the ground or on ApasmAra demon which all represent the mundane world, and keeps one of his foot above all the mundane existence. This teaches us the infinite nature of Lord Rudra who with a portion of his pillar of fire of consciousness (skhambha / linga) engendered this world and he although pervades within this world, still extends beyond this world and is higher than the highest supreme brahman.

Therefore the left and right leg posture of Dakshinamurty teaches us about his “Aja-EkapAda” principle.

4.1.6 The Right Leg :: Tirodhana Krutyam

In the iconography of Sri Dakashinamurty, lord is shown to be pressing an infant under his right foot. That infant looks an infant by his body, but his face resembles a grown up male demon and has full moustache. This demon is called ‘apasmAra purusha’ (demon of ignorance or Avidya), and also called as ‘apasmriti purusha’ (demon of forgetfulness).

What does the ‘apasmriti purusha’ make us forget? He makes us forget about our true identify – the identity of a Jiva being same as the very Brahman. He symbolizes the ignorance that makes us lose our control on indriyas (senses) and consciousness and run after sensuous things.

It should be noted that the lord simply crushes that demon but doesn’t kill. This is because that demon is not a demon but rather an instrument of Mahadeva alone. That demon is a symbolic representation of Maya (Illusion) under which all creatures remain blanketed. It is this blanket of Avidya which makes us see this entire jGat but hides the Brahman (Shiva) from our eyes. This is called ‘TirodhAna’ which means, ‘Curtaining or veiling’. It is again Lord Shiva who curtains us under his Maya. Therefore, till the moment we remain happy with our sense gratification, enjoying the worldly pastimes, and take no interest in liberation; within us the ‘apasmAra-puruha / apasmriti-purusha’ remains fully alive or un-subjugated.

However, those few righteous souls who take the refuge of Mahadeva (Dakshinamurty) with the intent of sailing across the ocean of transmigration (Samsaara), and resort to his uplifted foot, and accept the gift of knowledge (Vedas) bestowed by his lower left hand; for such people it is again the great Dakshinamurty who suppresses the ‘apasmAra-puruha / apasmriti-purusha’ by his right foot and subjugates him under our control. This is called ‘un-veiling’ or ‘un-curtaining’ and is technically termed as ‘Anugraha’ (grace). Once the lord’s grace is conferred, the Jiva finds only the presence of Brahman (Shiva) in every iota of this universe, and most importantly within his own self. He becomes capable of seeing himself within all others, and seeing everything within his self. This is ‘brAhmI-sthiti’ (state of oneness with Brahman).

Now, let’s see some more internal secrets related to this. We have ‘dashEndriyAs’ (ten sense organs), viz. five sense organs, and five motor organs. Each of these sense organs are associated with their corresponding power. We experience and enjoy this universe with the help of these senses alone whose interpreter is ‘manas’ (mind). Eye sees, but it is the mind which makes the sight interesting or repulsive to see. It is not fault of eyes to look at a beautiful woman; the sight becomes faulty only due to the interpretation made by the mind which attaches lust with the picture under the vision. Therefore subjugation of senses is highly important for one’s upliftment in spiritual journey.

Indra is the lord of ‘indriyas’ (senses), all indriyas belong to his dominion. It is he who makes the Indriyas unrestrained for a person who desires enjoyments; and also it is he again who keeps them subjugated for the sake of a seeker of liberation. Rig Veda gives a beautiful verse related to this context.

“ud yat sahaḥ sahasa ājaniṣṭa dediṣṭa indra indriyāṇi viśvā | prācodayat sudughā vavre antar vi jyotiṣā saṃvavṛtvat tamo ‘vaḥ |” (Rig Veda 5:31:3)

“When out of strength arose the strength that conquers, Indra exposed all the cosmic senses (indriyāṇi viśvā) that he possesses. Forth from the cave he drove the milky mothers, and with the light (jyotiṣ) laid bare empowering darkness (tamas)”.

The above verse when interpreted in terms of Yoga or Vedanta it reveals us a great truth. When a sadhaka is determined to attain liberation, out of that strength of determination arises the strength which conquers the lowly sensual pleasures associated with the lower senses which are barriers in the path of realization. For such a sadhaka, Indra the lord of senses, helps in subjugation of lower senses and exposes (reveals) the supreme senses (e.g., dispassion as opposed to passion etc.), and then releases the nectar of immortality from the cave of the crown, and with the divine effulgence of brahma-jnAnam destroys the empowering darkness of avidya.

This phenomenon of removal of darkness (avidya) is achieved when one resorts to Mahadeva in the form of Dakshinamurty. For a devotee who aspires for realization and resorts to Bhava, he as the lord of Indriyas subjugates them like the ‘apasmAra-purusha’ who remains subjugated under his feet; and reveals knowledge and confers liberation.

This auspicious Indra who does such a great benefit to the spiritual aspirant is again none other than Mahadeva as evident from the below shruti.

Rudra manifested as Indra:

“sa.vai.tvam.ity.abravīd.aśanir.eva.iti yad.aśanir.indras.tena |” (Kaushitaki Brahmana 6:3:41)

“Prajapathi said to Rudra ‘Thou art Asani’ ; for Asani is Indra”.

4.1.7 The Lower Right Hand :: Anugraha Krutyam :: jIva-brahma-Aikyam

The lower right hand of Sri Dakshinamurty remains positioned in a blessing posture with its fingers showing ‘chinmudra’ (Index and thumb fingers remain joined and other fingers stand erect). This ‘chinmudra’ is symbolic of oneness of jIva with the eshwara.  This hand also symbolizes the ‘anugraham’ task which means grace. Anugraham is the final task which succeeds the task of ‘tirodhAna’. This task of grace is nothing but the conferring of liberation to the Jiva.

This final stage of liberation depends on the preceding stages viz. acquiring the brahma-jnana by following Vedas (as bestowed by his lower left hand), desire to transcend the material world as symbolized by the raised left leg which remains untouched with the world, then one needs to seek Dakshinamurty’s help to overcome his power of illusion (tirodhana) and for self-restraint. Finally one gets uplifted to a stage where he identifies himself as one with the supreme Brahman (anugraha).

4.1.8 The Sun on the head :: Symbolizes Intelligence

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty there is always a picture of sun (sUrya) shown attached to his crown. Sun is symbolic to intelligence. Among the eightfold forms of Bhagawan Rudra, Aditya is one of them as evident from the below shruti.

Sun (Intellect) became such like because of Lord Rudra:

“tamabravīdīśāno ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarodādityastadrūpamabhavadādityo vā

īśāna ādityo hyasya sarvasyeṣṭe so ‘bravīdetāvānvā asmi mā metaḥ paro nāma dhā iti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:17)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Îsâna (the Ruler).’ And because he gave him that name, the Sun (Aditya) became suchlike, for Îsâna is the Sun, since the Sun rules over this All. He said, ‘So great indeed I am: give me no other name after that!’”

4.1.9 The Moon on the head :: Symbolizes manas (mind)

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty there is always a picture of Crescent Moon (chandrama) shown attached to his crown. Moon is symbolic to ‘manas’ (mind). Among the eightfold forms of Bhagawan Rudra, Chandrama is one of them as evident from the below shruti.

Moon (manas or Mind) became such like because of Lord Rudra:

“tamabravīnmahāndevo ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākaroccandramāstadrūpamabhavatprajāpatirvai candramāḥ prajāpatirvai mahāndevaḥ so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:16)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Mahân Devah (the Great God).’ And because he gave him that name, the moon became suchlike, for the moon is Pragâpati, and Pragâpati is the Great God. He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

4.1.10 The vAyu (Air) present around :: Is again Rudra alone

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty explicitly we cannot find out any symbol for Vayu (air) because Air is an invisible element. However, as per the Advaita Vedanta followers of the school of Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam (Not of Arya Samaj), the ‘bandhanam’ (waistband) which girdles around the waist of lord Dakshinamurty symbolizes the wind element. Whatever it may be, the fact is, air is always present around but not visible to the eyes. And this Air which is one among the pancha-bhUtas (five divine elements) is again a manifestation of Rudra alone as evident from below shruti.

Vayu (Air) became such like because of Lord Rudra:

“tamabravīdugro ‘sīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarodvāyustadrūpambhavadvāyurvā ugrastasmādyadā balavadvāyugro vātotyāhuḥ so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:13)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Ugra.’ And because he gave him that name, Vâyu (the wind) became suchlike, for Ugra is Vâyu: hence when it blows strongly, they say ‘Ugra is blowing.’ He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

Vayu corresponds to ‘smell’ among the pancha-tanmAtrAs; therefore it is again lord Dakshinamurty who is present within our power (knowledge) of smelling.

4.1.11 The Rock Seat (Earth) and plants :: Manifestations of the lord

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty, the lord is shown seated on a high seat made of rock under the banyan tree. Below the rock on the ground the disciple sages remain seated. Surrounding the seat on the ground are shown various plants with fully blossomed flowers. Earth along with her entire vegetation is again a manifestation of Rudra and one fo the aspect among the eightfold forms of Mahadeva as evident from below verse.

Plants (represents Earth and entire creation sustained on earth) became such like because of Lord Rudra:

“tamabravītpaśupatirasīti | tadyadasya tannāmākarodoṣadhayastadrūpamabhavannoṣadhayo vai paśupatistasmādyadā paśava oṣadhīrlabhante ‘tha patīyanti so ‘bravījjyāyānvā ato ‘smi dhehyeva me nāmeti |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 6:1:3:12)

“He said to him, ‘Thou art Pasupati.’ And because he gave him that name, the plants became suchlike, for Pasupati is the plants: hence when cattle (pasu) get plants, then they play the master (patîy). He said, ‘Surely, I am mightier than that: give me yet a name!’”

Among the tanmAtras associated with the Earth element, the lord Dakshinamurty is present in the form of knowledge of sensation of touch ‘sparsha (touch)’.

4.1.12 The Banyan Tree :: SamsAra Vruksham :: Root Symbolizes Brahman (Shiva)

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty, the lord is shown seated underneath a huge ‘Vatavruksha’ (banyan tree) and the same ahs been stated in Dakshinamurty Upanishad as follows.

“viiNaa.n karaiH pustakamakshamaalaaM bibhraaNamabhraabhagala.n varaaDhyam.h | phaNiindrakakshyaM munibhiH shukaadyaiH sevya.n vaTaadhaH kR^itaniiDamiiDe |”  (Dakshinamurty Upanishad 1:10)

“I adore Him who in His hands holds a veena, a book and a rosary, with a cloudlike throat, who is rich in gifts, girdled by a mighty serpent, resorted to by Suka and other sages; who has made the foot of a fig tree His abode”.

A doubt may arise in the minds of the readers – Why does Dakshinamurty sit under a banyan tree, why not a mango tree or a coconut tree? Well, it is neither related to the vast space this tree covers nor is related to the amount of shade what it gives. Let’s me explain the internal meaning of this tree.

This banyan tree is not any ordinary tree. Banyan tree has a great Vedantic and Yogic significance. Banyan tree has a special quality of having secondary roots hanging from the branches. These secondary roots grow downwards and on touching the ground they give birth to another of their kind. This represents an eternal cycle of creation. This tree is called ‘samsAra vruksham’ (the world tree) as depicted in Bhagawad Gita and is stated to be present vertically inverted. It is further stated that the roots of this tree remains hidden and originates from Brahman. Dakshinamurty who sits at the feet of the banyan tree is the Brahman from whom the tree of samsaara originates.

This tree in reality doesn’t exist anywhere outward in this universe. It is an internal phenomenon, a tree which exists within the microcosm (our body). The various nerves (nAdIs) of our body are the branches, and the one central nerve which passes through the spine and is called ‘sushumna’ is the stem of that tree. Its roots are in Sahasrara and originate from Brahman. This is clarified in below verses from Uttara Gita.

“nAnAnADIprasavakaM sarvabhUtAntarAtmani | UrdhvamUlamadhaH shAkhaM vAyumArgeNa sarvagam.h |” (Uttara Gita 18)

“As various Nãdis have sprung up from the Susumnã, the receptacle of the Inner soul of all Jîvas – and are stretched out in all directions of the physical body, therefore it is considered like a huge tree reversed. The Tattva-Jnãnins alone are able to walk on every branch of this tree by the help of Prãna-Vãyu”.

“dvisaptatisahasrANi nADyaH syurvAyugocharAH | karmamArgeNa suShirAstirya~nchaH suShirAtmakAH |” (Uttara Gita 19)

“In this human body there exist seventy-two thousand Nãdis which admit of sufficient space for entrance into them through Vãyu; the Yogins alone become acquainted with the true nature of these Nãdis by the virtue of their Yoga-Karma”.

So, the Dakshinamurty sitting at the bottom of the vatavruksha (banyan tree) teaches us that it is he (Shiva) who is the parabrahman, knowing or reaching whom one never comes back to this world again.

4.1.13 The Sages seated below :: Also symbolize Rudra alone

In the iconography of Sri Dakshinamurty, divine sages like Kumaras, Suka, and Saptarishis are shown seated as disciples on the ground and Shiva as the leader of that spiritual conference. This entire arrangement is a ‘sabhA’ (conference or group) for spiritual discourses where the speaker (sabhA-pati) speaks through silence and the audience grasps the supreme knowledge of divine through that silence which is the mode employed by the speaker to discourse his teachings.

But in any case the listeners are not different from the speaker, because everything is Rudra alone. It is he alone who remains as the host (sabhApati) of all conferences and again he himself remains in the form of the audience (sabhA). This is clearly evident from Yajurveda as stated below.

“namah sabhabhyah sabhapatibhyashcha vo namo |” (Yajurveda IV:5:3:p)

“To you Rudra, who remain in the form of those who sit as members (audience) of assemblies and those who preside over them (host), salutations!”

Therefore the giver of knowledge and the receiver of knowledge both are Dakshinamurty alone. Duality exists only at the relative level, not at the absolute level.

4.1.14 makarakunDalaM and tATankaM :: Ear rings – which reveal great secrets

Sri Dakshinamurty is always shown wearing non-matching ear-rings on both ears. On his right ear he wears an ornament called as ‘makara-kundala’ (crocodile shaped ear ring), whereas on his left ear he wears ‘tATanka’ (circular ear ring). Strange is it? Well, in this world no god or no human ever decorates himself or herself with uneven or un-matching ornaments. It is only Mahadeva who does all strange things. Wait! There is nothing strange here. He is Bhagawan Ishana, the supreme preceptor who has his own unique copyrighted style of teaching. So, in this apparently strange way of decorading himself he has a great secret to preach us which we’ll discuss now.

‘makarakunDala’ is an ear ring which is always worn by males, whereas ‘tATanka’ is the ear ring worn by females. DakshinaMurty wears both because he and his consort Bhavani are never different. He teaches us the Ardhanarishwara principle of his form. It is he who is the father and it is again he who is the mother (as Uma). His left side being female he wears ‘tATanka’ on the left ear ring.

However this is not the end of the secret teaching what he passes on to us. This form of him preaches us that he himself is the parabrahman of Vedas and Vedanta. Ardhanarishwara is the Brahman of Vedas as described clearly in Taittiriya Aranyaka of Yajurveda as follows.

“R^itam satyaM paraM brahma purushha.n kR^ishhNapi~Ngalam.h | uurdhvareta.n viruupaaksha.n vishvaruupaaya vai namo namaH |” (Taittiriya Aranyaka 10.23.1)

“Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Righteousness (rita) and Truth (satyam), is the androgynous purusha the Ardhanareeshwara, dark blue and reddish brown in hue, absolutely chaste (having semen raised up) and possessing uneven eyes (three eyed) . Salutations to Him alone whose has this universe for his form”.

The same fact has been stated in Sri Vidya tradition in Lalita-Sahasranama Stotram which is present in Brahmanda Purana, where Lalita (Uma) who is stated to be the Brahman is stated to be of the androgynous form (half-male-half-female) because Shiva and Shakti are always one and the same.

“shrishiva shivashaktyaikya rupini lalitambika |” (LS verse 183)

“Who is the blessed shivA (who is identical with shiva). Who is the unity of Shiva and Shakti; Is Lalitambika”.

So, whether you are a Shakta and call Lalita as Brahman or you are a Shaiva and call Shiva as Brahman, both mean one and the same; difference is only in the direction of your vision; where, leftists are Shaktas and rightists are Shaivas.We have seen the oneness of Dakshinamurty and Lalitambika. Let’s see the oneness of their doctrines as well. Dakshinamurty is the foremost preceptor of Atma-Vidya (Advaita Vedanta) which is the doctrine for realization fo the ‘self’. Interestingly, it is the same Dakshinamurty who happens to be the foremost preceptor and origin of Shri-Vidya tradition also. How can one god preach two different traditions? Answer is – those two traditions are not two, they are one and the same. Shri-Vidya is verily the Atma-Vidya alone as also detailed in teh below verse from Lalita Sahasranama Stotram.

“Atmavidya mahavidya shrividya kamasevita | Shrishoda shakshari vidya |” (LS verse 118)

Atmavidya: Who is Atma – vidya, the doctrine of the Self.
Mahavidya: Who is Maha – vidya, the great doctrine (also a deity).
Shrividya: Who is Srhi – vidya (the fifteen lettered Mantra of the Devi).
Kamasevita: Who is meditated upon by Kamadeva, the god of love.
Shrishoda shakshari vidya: Who is the Shodashakshari – vidya, the sixteen lettered Mantra of the Devi.

This is why the great Adi Shankaracharya who re-established Advaita Vedanta in this country, he has also established the Samayachara / Dakshinachara path of Shri-Vidya as well. Both these paths lead to the realization of the self and are identical. On one path one goes uttering “nEti nEti nEti”, in another path one goes uttering “mAtA mAtA mAtA”, and outwardly even if these paths appear different, in reality they are identical and lead to the same destination. This is because Lalitambika is Dakshinamurty alone as confirmed in the below verses from Lalita Sahasranama Stotram.”Svatantra sarvatantreshi dakshinamurti rupini | Sanakadi samaradhya shivagyana pradayini |” (LS verse 140)

Svatantra: Who is the only Independent Being OR whose Tantra (Sri Vidya) is the independenta dn supreme doctrine
Sarvatantreshi: Who is the presiding deity of all the Tantras.
Dakshinamurti rupini: Who is one with the form of Dakshinamurti.
Sanakadi samaradhya: Who is worshipped by Sanaka and other great ascetics.
Shivagyana pradayini: Who imparts the knowledge of the Supreme Being (Shiva).

In above verse we see that Lalita is called as Dakshinamurty whom Sanaka and other sages worshipped and she (as Dakshinamurty) conferred Atma-Gyanam to them. Isn’t this enough to understand that Lalita and Dakshinamurty are one and the same and their doctrines viz. Sri-Vidya and Atma-Vidya are one and the same.

To be continued…

The article has been republished from author’s blog with permission.

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