The Dakshinamurthy sthotram is another one in a long list of sthothrams that are both seemingly simple but highly enlightening, if only we opened ourselves to knowing instead of understanding. In my view, to truly appreciate the value of these sthotrams, we need remove this feeling of divinity, awe and respect inbred in us when these sthotrams are read. These feelings only foster the need for miracles and protection restricting our ability to know them. Only devoid of these feelings can we see these sthotrams for what they really are, timeless and priceless pieces of wisdom that hold true irrespective of the state of being.
Isn’t it strange that we can learn physics without holding in awe the molecules, atoms and photons, without relating them back to ourselves. After all we are formed of those same molecules, atoms, photons that we are learning about. So, why does it not affect us in the same way as the sthotrams. Why is it that we worship the sthotrams as sacred and treat physics as external? We experiment with things external to us to get the brain to understand, while all the time we just had to look inside ourselves to know.
But, coming back to the Dakshinamurthy sthotram, the first verse of this sthotram is the most revealing:
Viswam darpana drusyamana nagar thulyam nijantargatham, Pasyannathmani mayaya bahirivoth bhutham yatha nidraya, Ya sakshath kuruthe prabodha samaye swathmanameva dwayam, Thasmai sri guru murthaye nama idham sree Dakshinamurthaye. || 1 ||
The World is a reflection of the truth on the mind's mirror as if the atma is watching its own projection on the outer world just as a dream during sleep. I salute that Dakshinamurthy who by virtue of action lets the atma become aware of time and experience duality with only one's own self.
If we stop for a second and think “what is this world to me?”, note I am not asking “what is this world?”, but “what is this world to me?” That is the only question that needs to be answered.
Why not “What is world?”, because the answer to that is simple. The world around me can be nothing else other than the truth!! The fact that my brain cannot grasp it, is the problem. But, that cannot alter the fact that what is around me and including me is just the truth.
It is as Schrodinger said, “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived” or Shankaracharya says in his Advaita Prakarana:
Mayaya bhidyate hyetananyathajam kathancana tattvato bhidyamane hi martyatmamrtam vrajet ||19|| na bhavatyamrtham mrthyam na mrthyamtrtham tatha prakrteranyathabhavo na kathancidbhavisyati ||21||
The immortal is birthless and appears this only due to illusion and only in appearance does an immortal become mortal The immortal cannot become mortal nor can the mortal become immortal. The intrinsic nature of immortal cannot in any manner change.
To take another mundane example to explain this. We see a movie on the TV. Now, “what actually is movie?” is a easily answered question, it is just RF waves (modulated with information) transmitted by the TV station. This cannot change. Whether your brain understands modulation or not, whether your brain understands RF waves or not, whether your brain understands the working the TV or not, the fact that the movie is RF waves is not going to change.
Similarly, the fact that what is around me is the truth is not going to change irrespective of whether my brain understood it or not. The interpretation of the truth around us is done by the brain just as how the interpretation of the information in the RF wave is done by the receiver in the TV. Hence, the first first sentence of the Dakshinamurthy sthotram. What I think as “The world is just a reflection of the truth on the mind’s mirror”. If we think about it, what is the world to me? It is just what I think it to be. Do I really know what it is if the brain did not interpret the signals for me?
Light reflected off a flower falls on my eyes, this travels to my brain, the molecules of the pollen travel to my nose, this travels as signals to my brain. The brain takes both these signals processes it and gives me back and answer saying it is a flower, the pollen is tickling my nose, the brain sends a signal back to the nose to sneeze, I sneeze. If the brain had not interpreted the pollen, I don’t sneeze. After all what is the flower, the truth appearing to me as what I translated as “flower”. Neither did the flower tell me so nor the truth that was the flower tell me so. So, it is just my brain’s interpretation that is a flower. Isn’t that true?
Now, to whom is this interpretation given? After all “I myself am also just the same truth”. If we ask ourselves what is “I”, taking away the subjectiveness from it. We start realizing, on the gross level, that is also just a interpretation of signals to the brain of the same truth interpreted differently and called as “I”. Hence the second sentence in the sthotram “As if the truth is watching its own projection in the outer world just as a dream when asleep”.
Signals from various sense organs, signals from various organs within the body, signals traveling via the various nervous systems within the body travel to the brain, the brain interprets them we have our hands, we have our legs, we have our body, our face. How many times have we seen paralyzed people who do not recognize their own body because the signals are missing. People in coma where a number of signals are missing, yet some form of recognition of the truth exists and hence the “I” persists still.
The last sentence of this verse of the sthotram is the most intriguing of all. “I salute that Dakshinamurthy who by virtue of action lets this atma become aware and hence experience duality” What is that Dakshinamurthy that they are saluting? Is it the brain that makes this possible? Is it the thought of “I”? Is it consciousness? Is it coherence? Is it focus? Not sure.
But that “Dakshinamurthy” which no one translates, but leaves it as a revered God, is what I think the most important knowledge that we are missing and need to find, know and break away from, to break this illusion of “I”.