34: DAKSHINAMURTI ASHTAKAM - THE HYMN TO THE GURU OF ALL GURUS
This contains what is well known as dakshiNA-mUrti ashTakam, a hymn of ten verses composed by Adi Shankara. Though popular, since it is a capsule version of the entire advaita vedanta, it needs to be studied carefully. The famous commentary called mAnasollAsa, by his disciple Shri Suresvara-charya (maNDana-miSra, was his earlier name before he took sannyAsa) is our main source for interpreting this hymn.
वर्षिष्टान्ते वसदृषि-गणैर्-आवृतं ब्रह्म-निष्टैः
स्वात्मारामं मुदित-वदनं श्री-दक्षिणा-मूर्तिम्-ईडे
varshishTAnte vasad-Rshi-gaNair-AvRtaM brahma-nishTaiH /
svAtmArAmAM mudita-vadanaM Shri-dakshiNA-mUrtim-IDe //
Tr. I propitiate that dakshiNA-mUrti, who is the Transcendental Absolute declared by an eloquence called Silence, who is a youth, who is the best of the Gurus surrounded by great disciples who are themselves firmly rooted in Brahman, who is the prince among preceptors, who shows by his hand the cin-mudrA, who is Bliss personified, who revels in His own Self and who always radiates happiness.
This has been numbered verse No.0 because, it is not part of the dakshiNA-mUrti ashTakam. But it is traditionally recited as a preliminary verse to the hymn. Maybe it was also composed by Shankara himself. It propitiates that form of Lord Shiva by which He is known as a youthful world teacher seated beneath the sacred fig-tree, facing South (dakshiNa means 'south') and teaching elderly disciples through silence. The South indicates a downward path (spiritually) and the North indicates an upward path. He faces south so that we may face Him and therefore face north, that is, face the side of, and look forward to, Immortality. The word dakshiNA means also 'efficient'. He is the One who can teach us the most difficult thoughts in the most efficient manner. He is the teacher of all teachers. He is the Ultimate which is inaccessible even to the mind and speech. His silence is an eloquence of the Experience of Bliss. He is the Form which makes us understand if only we make the effort. The Absolute and its Energy -- namely, the Lord and the Mother Goddess -- have sometimes two different Forms, sometimes a single form in which it is half masculine and half feminine - the classical ardha-nArISvara Form - and sometimes they have a third Form in which one of them is subordinate to the other. In the Form of kAmAkshi the Lord is subordinate and the feminine Shakti is dominant. In the Form of dakshiNA-mUrti, the Lord is the dominant factor; here is the Form where there is no explicit expression of vibrant Energy. The Form of the Bliss-filled Goddess is sublated by the sat-cid-Ananda Form of dakshiNA-mUrti. That is why She is called dakshiNA-mUrti-rUpiNI in Lalita-sahasranama.
Over to Shloka 1