Saturday, April 25, 2009


Dakshinamurti and the Dakshinamurtis
Dakshinamurti is a term often met with in Shaivism and Shaivite iconography. Generally, the term Dakshinamurti is translated loosely as "the One facing south," but a more apt translation would be "Favorable Form." The term originally referred to the southern benevolent face of the Panchamukha (five-faced) Shiva Lingam. At the temple of Pashupatinath in Nepal, for example, the southern face of the Shiva Lingam is still called Dakshinamurti. Alternatively, any Linga icon facing southward may also be called Dakshinamurti. An example of this is the Mahakala Jyotirlingam in Ujjain.

Apart from these above rare usages, the term Dakshinamurti, now, is generally associated with specific anthropomorphic forms of Lord Shiva. In the Shaivite tradition, Dakshinamurti is not a singular iconographic form, but a class of forms, all of which are yoga murtis, wherein Shakti is not separately represented but is implicit within the representation of Shiva. While there are several Dakshinamurti forms, three are prominent:

1. Yoga Dakshinamurti - Shiva as the idyllic Himalayan Yogi in meditation.
2. Jnana or Vyakhyana Dakshinamurti - Shiva as the divine Teacher under a banyan tree.
3. Vinadhara Dakshinamurti - Shiva as the divine Teacher of music and arts, holding a lute.

Of these three, the Yoga Dakshinamurti is perhaps the most represented and recognized form of Shiva, and the Vinadhara Dakshinamurti is rarely seen. In common usage, however, when one says Dakshinamurti, the image that comes to mind is that of Jnana or Vyakhyana Dakshinamurti, the idyllic Teacher. It is to this form that the rest of the article is dedicated.

Jnana/Vyakhyana Dakshinamurti

I contemplate, for the attainment of the highest end,
The Supreme Guru, the Lord of Bhavani,
The serene-faced Primal Being,
He who is spoken of in all the Vedas,

Whose hands shine with the symbol of wisdom,

With a book and fire and a serpent,
Bedecked with garlands of pearls,
And a crown blazing forth brilliant
With the digit of the moon,
Resides at the foot of a fig tree,

And removes the ignorance of all.

~ Dakshinamurti Upanishad the Krsna Yajurveda (Mantra 14)

The landscape of ancient India was dotted with numerous centers of Shiva worship. In that the region known as Tamilakam was no different. Within this region, two important and competing kingdoms flourished - the Cholan kingdom to the north and the Pandyan kingdom to the south. In the kingdom of the Cholas, in the city of Chidambaram, a magnificent universal form of Shiva called Nataraja was realized. Around the same time, in the city of Madurai, within the kingdom of the Pandyas, yet another magnificent form of Shiva called Dakshinamurti was realized. While in Madurai, Shiva sat in perfect stillness, in Chidambaram, Shiva stood in perpetual motion.

Like the ever-famous Nataraja, Dakshinamurti is a highly exalted and deeply mystical form of Shiva conveying Him as the Lord of Yoga and the embodiment of all knowledge - worldly and spiritual. In the Dakshinamurti icon we find the Lord in perfect stillness and perpetual serenity. He sits under the banyan tree, the tree of knowledge, facing southward. In His upper hands, He holds a drum representing the sound of creation and a flame representing the fire of dissolution. In one of His lower hands, He holds the holy Vedas, and the other is raised in jnana mudra, imparting knowledge upon the world. Under His foot is the Apasmara Purusha, the personification of ignorance.

Dakshinamurti is the great unseen Master, the eternal Teacher. It is from Him that the holy Vedas and the holy Agamas, and indeed all knowledge has flowed down through the ages and through the sages. He teaches without words and imparts without letters. He guides without speaking and blesses without blinking. His teachings are imparted upon all whose minds are pure and whose hearts are full of devotion. He impels especially those who are on the path of renunciation, those who have given up worldly life to realize Divinity within. He is the Ocean of compassion and Source of the stream of endless consciousness that flows through all.

In all traditions of Dharma, we have unbroken lineages of gurus and teachers. Each of these gurus was instructed and initiated by gurus before them, who were in turn instructed by their own gurus all the way back to remote antiquity. But who was the first Guru, the original source of knowledge? In theistic Dharma traditions, the Lord Himself is considered the Primal Guru, the Adi Guru; the Guru of all gurus; the Jagadguru, the universal Master; or Waheguru (to borrow a term from Sikhism). It is from the Lord that all knowledge descended down, later to be condensed into volumes of holy books. It is this principle that is embodied most perfectly and beautifully in the form of Dakshinamurti. He is the Bestower of all knowledge (jnana) and Origin of all explanations (vyakhyana). Such is the beauty and esotery of Lord Shiva-Dakshinamurti.

Legend of the Four Kumaras

In the beginning, it is said, the Creator, Prajapati-Brahmā, Himself was born from the supreme Unborn Divine Being, Ishvara, who is called Shiva in Shaivism. The Creator was the firstborn being, and the Golden Germ (Hiranyagarbha) of all further creation.
In the beginning of creation did Brahmā, having worshipped Shiva,
Attain the power to create and was delighted at heart.

~ Dakshinamurti Upanishad (Mantra 20)

Brahmā then began to create. His first creations were his four mind-born sons - Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara (Sanatsujata) - known collectively as the Kumaras. The four Kumaras were instructed to further create beings in this world, but the Kumaras were not interested in worldly life. Their only interest was the pursuit of the Divine. They did not obey their Father's command and instead sought a life of renunciation and meditation.

Seated at the foot of Shiva-Dakshinamurti are these four Kumaras, the founders of the path of renunciation followed by sages and sannyasis everywhere. Forever do the Kumaras look upon Lord Shiva-Dakshinamurti, the Supreme, the Eternal, the Unchanging, the Fountainhead of all knowledge. Esoterically, the four Kumaras represent the four components of the antahkarana ("inner organ") - manas (sensory mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego) and chitta (mind stuff) - ever given to and focused on realizing the Divine Reality within.

Aum, Obeisances to Him who is the very meaning of Omkara,
The Form of pure knowledge, who is serene and without flaw,
To Lord Dakshinamurti obeisances be.
~ Dakshinamurti Stotra, Dhyana Shloka 5

Aum Dakshinamurtaye Namah.

Agnideva © 2009. All rights reserved.

Vaishakha Shukla 1, 2066 V.S. (Yugabda 5111)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ancient Shiva temple found in India

Tuesday, 24 Feb 2009 15:57:07 GMT

The Shiva temple unearthed by a team from Lucknow University's ancient Indian history and archaeology department.

A team of Indian archeologists has unearthed a 2,000-year-old Shiva temple complex in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh state.

The five-temple site was found during excavations conducted by Lucknow University's department of ancient Indian history and archaeology.

“While four temples belong to the Kushana period (2,000 years ago), it appears that the primary temple was constructed during the Sunga period (2,200 years ago),” said Professor D.P. Tewari of Lucknow University.

Spanning an area of 600 acres, the brick temple has been constructed in an 'apsidal' (semi-circular or u-shaped) form, the Times of India reported.

Archeologists also found a number of artifacts that they believe are evidence of the temple being used for the worship of the Hindu God, Lord Shiva.

Also see: Times of India article

Sunday, April 19, 2009

There is the Shining One...

The following excerpt comes to us from the Garuda Purana. The Garuda Purana is a middle puranic text (ca. 600-700 ce) and is composed in the form of a dialogue between Vishnu and Garuda, the divine man-eagle servant of Vishnu. The Garuda Purana is famous as a funerary text because it explains various funerary customs and rituals, and provides detailed accounts of the afterlife in multitudes of heavenly and hellish realms.

After twenty-four chapters discussing life, death, afterlife and rebirth, the Garuda Purana concludes with a chapter entitled An Account on the Law of Liberation which discusses liberation from the cycle of samsara. In this chapter, we find a description of Shiva exalted as the supreme Divine, the Sacchidananda, who is the beginningless, timeless entity. The philosophical purport that follows is very close to Shaivite thought embodied in the earlier Agamas which tended toward dualism (pluralism). The descripition of the individual ("soul") as a spark of the divine which is endowed with beginningless ignorance (anava), and encased in bodies of beginningless karma are clearly doctrines of earlier Agamic thought.

A key feature of earlier dualistic Agamic thought is that the individual entities ("souls" or pashus) existed beginninglessly steeped in anava and karma. But, through repeated cycles of creation, these pashus have the privilege of gaining physical bodies within the field of maya. In gaining physical bodies, pashus can work out their karmas and overcome anava through yogic meditation and with the grace of Shiva, and thus become liberated from individual existence. It is this Agamic principle that is explained in the puranic excerpt below.

It might be somewhat surprising to find this sort of "Shaivite" thought in a so-called "Vaishnava Purana." However, this should not be all that surprising because all schools of Agamic thought came from the same place, and still share all the key features of Tantra - Deity worship, iconography, definite theism, mantra mediation, yantra-mandalas, rituals, initiations, etc. It is only in the second millennium of the common era that we see Agamic schools divide into distinct branches (Shaiva, Vaishnava, Shakta), and further divide into sub-branches based on philosophy.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2009. All rights reserved.


The Blessed Lord said:

Listen, O [Garuda], and I will explain to you what you have asked, even by the hearing of which a man is released from the world of change.

There is the Shining One, Siva, who has the nature of Supreme Brahman, who is partless, all-knowing, all-doing, Lord of all, stainless and secondless, Self-illumined, beginningless and endless, beyond the Beyond, without attributes, Being and Knowing and Bliss. That which is considered the individual is from a part of Him.

These, like sparks of a fire, with beginningless ignorance, separated and encased in bodies by beginningless karma, are fettered by forms of good and evil, giving happiness and misery – with nationality of body, length of life, and fortune born of karma. In every life obtained, they have also, O Bird, a higher and more subtle body, the linga(-deha), lasting until liberation.

The unmoving things, worms, goats, birds, animals, men, the righteous, the thirty-three Devas [of the Vedas], and also the liberated, according to their order, having worn and cast aside the four sorts of bodies thousands of times, one becomes a man by good deeds, and if he becomes a knower he attains liberation. The embodied, in the eighty-four hundred thousands of bodies before attaining human birth, can obtain no knowledge of the truth.

Through millions of myriads of thousands of births sometimes a being obtains human birth, through the accumulation of merit. He who, having obtained a human body, difficult to get, and a step to liberation, does not help himself over – who in this world is more sinful than he? The man who, having obtained this highest birth and superior senses, does not understand what benefits the soul is [termed] a “slayer of Brahman”.

Without a body, nobody obtains the object of human life; therefore should he guard his body as wealth and perform meritorious deeds. He should always guard his body, which is the means to everything. Living, he should make every effort to protect it, in view of welfare. A village again, a field again, wealth again, a house again, good and evil actions again – the body never again.

The wise always adopt means for the preservation of the body; even those afflicted with diseases such as leprosy do not wish to give it up. It should be guarded for the sake of duty; duty for the sake of knowledge; knowledge for the sake of Yoga-meditation – then he is soon released.

Excerpted from:
The Garuda Purana
Chapter XVI: 5-21
Trans. E. Wood and SV Subrahmanyam [1911].

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hail to the infinite Shiva

Hail to the infinite Shiva, personified as the Lord most high!
Beyond description, beyond words and meanings, beyond experiences is He,
Who is neither a He nor a She nor anything in between.

Hail to the compassionate Shankara, personified as the Lord of light!
Beyond representation, beyond shapes and forms, beyond grasp is He,
Who is neither here nor there nor anywhere in between.

Hail to the divine Shambhu, personified as the Lord of power!
Beyond comprehension, beyond heavens and earths, beyond realms is He,
Who is neither in the past nor in the future or anytime in between.

Beyond the beyond indeed is Paramashiva, the neti neti [1],
The unrestricted, unbound, immutable, the Supreme.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva © 2009. All rights reserved.

[1] Vide: Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II.iii.6) of the Shukla Yajurveda.

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