It has been an awfully long time since I have had a chance to get back to this blog. Its amazing how a little person can leave you with very little or no time to do anything other than routine day-to-day activities. I am grateful to all the people who have been reading up the older posts and leaving encouraging comments. I hope to resume posting new pages with a bit more regularity (which is not too difficult given my earlier 1.5yr hiatus!).
I am going to start off with a basic Guru Sloka we have all been probably exposed to right from childhood. The first half of the Sloka is very popular, but I have always recited it as a 2-part Sloka. I am not sure if the 2 parts are independent verses, but am presenting them here together anyway.
गुरु ब्रह्मा गुरुर् विष्णुः
गुरु देवो महेश्वरः ।
गुरु साक्षात् परब्रह्मा
तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः॥
भिशजे भव रोगिणाम्।
निधये सर्व विध्यानाम्
श्री दक्षिणामूर्तये नमः॥
guru brahmA gurur vishnuhu
guru devo maheshwarah |
guru sAkShAth parabrahma
tasmai shrI gurave namaha ||
bhishaje bhava rogiNAm |
nidhaye sarve vidhyAnAm
shrI dakShiNAmUrtaye namaha ||
The essence of the first part of the Sloka is that the Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance. I bow before Him (tasmai) and salute such a Guru.
The second part of the Sloka is a bit more loaded. Hey Guru, the teacher of this entire universe (sarvalokanAm), One who heals (bhishaj) all worldly (bhava) diseases (rogiNAm), the store-house (nidhaye) of all knowledge (sarva vidhyAnAm), I salute you Lord Dakshinamurti.
Dakshinamurti is the knowledge embodiment of Lord Shiva. From Wikipedia (whose compilation is much better than anything else I could find), I quote the following:
This aspect of Shiva is his personification as the supreme or the ultimate awareness, understanding and knowledge. This form represents Shiva in his aspect as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom, and giving exposition on the shastras. He is worshipped as the god of wisdom, complete and rewarding meditation. In his aspect as Jnana Dakshinamurti, Shiva is generally shown with four arms. He is depicted seated under a banyan tree, facing the south. Shiva is seated upon a deer-throne and surrounded by sages who are receiving his instruction. He is shown as seated with his right foot on mythical apasmara (a demon which, according to Hindu mythology, is the personification of ignorance) and his left foot lies folded on his lap. Sometimes even the wild animals, are depicted to surround Shiva. In his upper arms, he holds a snake or rosary or both in one hand and a flame in the other; while in his lower right hand is shown in vyakhyanamudra, his lower left hand holds a bundle of kusha grass or the scriptures. The index finger of His right hand is bent and touching the tip of his thumb. The other three fingers are stretched apart. This symbolic hand gesture or Mudra is the Jnana Mudra , a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes, this hand is in the Abhaya Mudra, a posture of assurance and blessing.
Dakshinamurti, in the Saivite system of beliefs is regarded as the ultimate Guru - the embodiment of knowledge and the destroyer of ignorance (as represented by the demon being crushed under the feet of the deity). The Jnana Mudra is interpreted in this way - the thumb denotes the God and the index finger denotes the man. The other three fingers stand for the three congenital impurities of man viz. arrogance, illusion and bad deeds of the past births. When man detaches himself from these impurities, he reaches God. Another interpretation is that the other three fingers denote the three states of life: Jagruti (Fully awake through senses and mind), Swapna (Sleep state - When the mind is awake) and Sushukti (True-self - When the senses and mind go into soul - Atma). The Abhaya Mudra, a gesture with the hand lifted above thigh with palm facing out, fingers pointing, is interpreted as His grace upon His students. The rosary or the snake signifies Tantric knowledge. The fire represents illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance.