Entering the Grace Meditation Hall at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, one's gaze is immediately drawn to Dakshinamurti, the radiant, beautifully adorned black stone image seated on the gold marble-painted tiered platform in the far corner. A closer encounter reveals an undeniably blissful countenance. Such a serene gaze, a look that silently speaks. For a receptive devotee of God, regardless of religious tradition or spiritual background, the quiet but insistent invitation to come closer is palpable.
How does that one who is ever silent speak? And what is the message? A soulful encounter with the meditative gaze of Dakshinamurti quiets the mind and opens the heart to the truth of being—a revelation of spiritual essence beyond words and thoughts. In a moment of profound stillness, it is experienced. Then, soon after, the questions begin to arise.
Who or what is Dakshinamurti, and why is he here? Is this part of Kriya Yoga? Who are those four elders sitting around him? Why does he have four arms? And what is it that they're holding? What is that small face above his face? And wait, is that a baby under his foot? What am I supposed to think about all of this?
Who is Dakshinamurti?
Dakshinamurti is a form of Lord Shiva. This particular form is Shiva as the Adi Guru, the foremost teacher, the Teacher of all teachers, and the embodiment of nondual wisdom. Shiva indicates Ultimate Reality, Para Brahman, the primal Atman, the Self, or the soul of the universe. Shiva is known as the Lord of Yoga. This is an essential connection for us as a Kriya Yoga Center.
Describing Dakshinamurti is much like explaining a poem or a symphony, or a delicious meal, for that matter. The true meaning is always in the experience of it, not in the description or the cognitive understanding. However, learning the background or structure of a poem, a piece of music, or the ingredients of a meal can aid discernment and appreciation. Keeping in mind that the notes on the page are not the music nor the menu the meal, we can explore the profound teachings that support an encounter with Reality.
My first encounter that pointed to Dakshinamurti was my entry into discipleship with my guru, Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. When I asked him if he would be my guru and accept me as his disciple, he said, "I will play that role for you." Even with my limited knowledge at that time, I knew he was pointing to something beyond the physical and personality levels.
He would play that role. But if he was playing a role, then who was the real guru? Some would answer that question by pointing to Paramahansa Yogananda, the Satguru in our tradition. And yet Yogananda himself said, "I am not the guru, God is the only guru, I am only God's servant." All the great ones point to That—that which is the same Ultimate Reality as the Self of all.
Guru is the teacher, and the guru is God. Guru is, in the final experience, the true Self. What we learn from Dakshinamurti is Tat tvam asi or "That thou art." We are the one Reality that is the source and the substance of all life. That is the truth of our being. Because this Reality is infinite and unbounded, we cannot objectify it or fully express it in words, but we can know it. We can realize it by experiencing it directly. The heart of the teachings of Dakshinamurti is the experience of that Reality, and everything about Him points to it. Everything about the form itself is an avenue of teaching and revelation.
Dakshinamurti - the meaning
The name Dakshinamurti means south-facing form. Murti is form, and dakshina means south-facing. The initial instruction from the name signifies the devotee's meeting with the Eternal One, who removes the fear of death. According to this teaching, Yama, the Lord of death, occupies the south. The Eternal Lord, the embodiment of immortality, sits facing south. Therefore, facing death. There is no fear of death in the awakened consciousness that Dakshinamurti represents. When the devotee comes to sit at the feet of Dakshinamurti, they naturally face north. North is the direction of immortality and freedom from the karmic cycles of birth and death known as samsara.
Those who practice the meditative disciplines of Kriya Yoga make that directional turn from south to north, from "the unreal to the Real, from ignorance to the light of Truth." With this turn, we reverse the searchlight of our attention. Instead of looking into the world of ever-changing conditions for happiness or security, we reverse our direction and seek truth and lasting happiness within. We look to the Lord; we seek higher Truth. We turn, change, embrace a new point of view, and wake up. That is the very heart of yoga, being restored to our original wholeness, our eternal Self.
Teachings of Dakshinamurti
The form of Shiva as Dakshinamurti, the Adi Guru, specifically and skillfully transmits the message of nondual Reality—That thou art. As we study, learn, and experience this murti, the form becomes the point of entry into the formless.
Spiritual study is a primary practice for Kriya yogis. The essential method for worship of Dakshinamurti is svadhyaya, study of the nature of consciousness. In this case, the form itself provides a teaching. To sit with, meditate upon, and contemplate the form of Dakshinamurti along with the study of scripture such as Shankaracharya's Dakshinamurti Stotram, steadies the mind through concentration and becomes an avenue of awakening through the gateway of purified discernment.
Shankaracharya's treatise informs the student that instruction occurs through mauna vakya or silence. Atma jnana, or Self-knowledge, is silently revealed from within. The reality of the Self as unbounded, pure, conscious being cannot be put into words or objectified. Atma jnana is knowing the truth of the Atman, the essence of our being, and the realization of the nondifference between Atman and Ishwara, Atman and Brahman, Soul and Spirit. Once realized in the temple of silence, our doubts and limits are dispelled.
It is said that a compassionate glance of a guru, or a realized being, dries up the ocean of samsara, the cause of suffering. When the ocean dries up, all that lives in it fades away too. All the errors connected to our web of suffering are gone.
I worship Lord Dakshinamurti,
who is the Teacher of teachers,
whose hand is held in the sign of Knowledge,
whose nature is Bliss,
who ever revels in his own Self
and who is ever silent. –Shankaracharya
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Dakshinamurti Teachings: The Essential Guide
Explore the ancient wisdom of Dakashinamurti, a revered form of Lord Shiva. Learn about the symbolism and its teachings on Self-realization, wisdom, and enlightenment. Discover its importance in spirituality and meditation.
The class includes teachings from Adi Shankaracharya’s revered Dakshinamurti Stotram, guiding the spiritual practitioner on the journey from ego-identification to Self-realization.