Dakshinamurti Stotram: Lyrics with Meaning and Explanation

According to most scholars, Shankaracharya composed the Dakshinamurti Stotram about 1200 years ago. Among all the hymns, texts, and commentaries written by Shankara, this particular work is unique, like a precious gem, because it presents the most profound teachings of Advaita Vedanta in delightful verses filled with beautiful expressions and striking metaphors.

Because of its complex subject matter, this hymn can be difficult to understand simply by reading or reciting it. This presentation is intended to help you appreciate Shankara’s brilliant composition.

As you may know, Dakshinamurti is Shiva in the form of a guru, a teacher of spiritual Wisdom. A traditional story says that Shiva once appeared as a youthful guru sitting at the foot of a banyan tree, surrounded by elderly sages eager to be taught by him. 

Yet, Dakshinamurti remained utterly silent. His silence signifies that supreme truth, knowledge of Brahman, lies beyond all words and thoughts. So, instead of speaking, Dakshinamurti taught the sages using a unique hand gesture called chin mudra.

The chin mudra is a symbol that represents the ultimate teaching of Advaita Vedanta,  tat tvam asi, you are that.

These four fingers represent you as a person, while the thumb represents Brahman, the infinite consciousness that’s the underlying reality because of which everything exists. The separation between these four fingers and thumb represents the state of ignorance, the state in which you consider yourself separate and different from Brahman.

These three fingers represent your body, mind, and senses, and the index finger represents pure consciousness, atma, and your essential nature.

The chin mudra shows that atma, your true self, must first be distinguished from your body, mind, and senses. Only then can you discover that your consciousness is utterly non-separate from Brahman, the reality of all.

The chin mudra is visible in Dakshninamurti’s lower right hand. He holds a palm-leaf manuscript in his lower left hand, representing the Vedic scriptures, the source of spiritual wisdom. Most of the other iconography here is similar to other representations of Shiva.

For example, he holds a damaru drum in his upper right hand and fire in his upper left hand, symbolizing his power to create and destroy the universe. His right foot rests on apasmara, a demon who represents ignorance.


Dakshina means South, and murti means form, so Dakshinamurti implies a form of Shiva that faces South. Symbolically, the South represents death, ignorance, and all that’s undesirable. North, conversely, represents immortality, liberation, and all that’s auspicious. It’s appropriate that Dakshinamurti’s disciples sit facing him, facing North, towards liberation and moksha, while Dakshinamurti boldly faces South, having transcended death and ignorance.

It’s highly unusual for the main deity inside a temple to face South. Usually, it faces East. But Dakshinamurti is rarely the main deity of a temple, and instead, is often found in a secondary shrine.

Many Shiva temples, especially in South India, have a Shiva linga as the main deity. The linga is established in the temple’s garbagriha, the sacred chamber, which opens to the East. Worshipers often perform pradakshina (circumambulating the main deity) by walking around a corridor that encircles the garbagriha. The shrines of several other deities are located on the outer wall of the garbagriha. On the South-facing wall, the shrine of Dakshinamurti is found. 

The hymn consists of just ten verses, but it’s traditionally preceded by five dhyana shlokas (verses meant for meditation). These verses describe Dakshinamurti using the imagery and symbolism we’ve just discussed.

Meditation Verses (Dhyana Shlokas)

Dhyana Shloka 1

मौनव्याख्या प्रकटित परब्रह्मतत्त्वं युवानं
वर्षिष्ठांते वसद् ऋषिगणैः आवृतं ब्रह्मनिष्ठैः ।
आचार्येन्द्रं करकलित चिन्मुद्रमानंदमूर्तिं
स्वात्मारामं मुदितवदनं दक्षिणामूर्तिमीडे ॥१॥

SanskritMeaning in English
Maunavyakhya-prakatita-parabrahma-tattvam yuvanamIn perfect silence, a young teacher imparts knowledge of brahman
varshishthante vasad-rishi-ganair avritam brahma-nishthaihto elderly sages, established in truth, sitting around Him.
acaryendram kara-kalita-cinmudram ananda-rupamThe greatest of teachers and embodiment of bliss, whose gesture bestows wisdom,
svatmaramam mudita-vadanam dakshinamurtimidealways smiling, being absorbed in the Self, – I worship Him, Dakshinamurti.

Dhyana Shloka 2

वटविटपिसमीपेभूमिभागे निषण्णं
सकलमुनिजनानां ज्ञानदातारमारात् ।
त्रिभुवनगुरुमीशं दक्षिणामूर्तिदेवं
जननमरणदुःखच्छेद दक्षं नमामि ॥२॥

SanskritMeaning in English
vata-vitapi-samipe bhumi-bhage nishannamSitting on the ground at the foot of a banyan tree,
sakala-muni-jananam jnana-dataram aratbestowing wisdom upon the sages sitting before Him,
tribhuvana-gurum isham dakshinamurti-devamguru of the three worlds, Lord Dakshinamurti,
janana-marana-duhkha-ccheda-daksham namamiremoving the suffering of birth and death, to Him I bow.

Dhyana Shloka 3

चित्रं वटतरोर्मूले वृद्धाः शिष्या गुरुर्युवा ।
गुरोस्तु मौनं व्याख्यानं शिष्यास्तुच्छिन्नसंशयाः ॥३॥

SanskritMeaning in English
citram vatataror mule vriddhah shishya gurur yuvaHow amazing! At the foot of a banyan tree sits a young guru with elderly disciples.
guros tu maunam vyakhyanam shishyas tu chinna-samshayah.
In perfect silence, the guru removes the doubts of His disciples.

Dhyana Shloka 4

निधये सर्वविद्यानां भिषजे भवरोगिणाम् ।
गुरवे सर्वलोकानां दक्षिणामूर्तये नमः ॥४॥

SanskritMeaning in English
nidhaye sarva-vidyanam bhishaje bhava-roginam
Precious treasure of wisdom, medicine for the illness of worldly suffering,
gurave sarva-lokanam dakshinamurtaye namahguru of all worlds – to Him, Dakshinamurti, salutations!

Dhyana Shloka 5

ॐ नमः प्रणवार्थाय शुद्धज्ञानैकमूर्तये ।
निर्मलाय प्रशान्ताय दक्षिणामूर्तये नमः ॥५॥

Sanskrit VerseMeaning in English
om namah pranavarthaya shuddha-jnanaika-murtayeSalutations to Him, the meaning of Om, the embodiment of pure wisdom.
nirmalaya prashantaya dakshinamurtaye namahTo Dakshinamurti, the taintless abode of perfect peace, salutations!

This ends the meditation verses. Now, we will present a brief introduction of each of ten verses of Dakshinamurti Strotam to make them much easier to understand.

1st Verse

In the first verse, Shankara compares the entire universe to the imaginary world you experience, each night in your dreams. When you dream, everything you experience arises inside your mind, yet it seems to be outside of you. Shankara says that the same is true about the world you experience when you’re awake.

विश्वं दर्पणदृश्यमाननगरीतुल्यं निजान्तर्गतं
पश्यन्नात्मनि मायया बहिरिवोद्भूतं यथा निद्रया ।
यस्साक्षात्कुरुते प्रबोधसमये स्वात्मानमेवाद्वयं
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ १ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
vishvam darpana-drishyamana-nagari-tulyam nijantar-gatamLike a city reflected in a mirror, the world is within you,
pashyann atmani mayaya bahir ivodbhutam yatha nidrayaarising in consciousness like a dream, but appearing outside due to maya.
yah sakshat-kurute prabodha-samaye svatmanam evadvayamTo Him who bestows enlightenment by revealing all as the non-dual Self,
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, who, upon spiritual awakening, has truly realized his Self, the one without a second. He understands that the world is within oneself, akin to a dream, but projected by màyà as though it exists outside, similar to a city reflected in a mirror.

After waking up from a dream, you realize that the world you experienced then wasn’t real; it was a projection on your consciousness. In the same way, after waking up from the dream of ignorance, that is, after you become enlightened, you’ll realize that the world you experience all around you is also a projection. It’s a projection on non-dual Brahman, which you’ll understand as identical to your true Self, Atma. 

Near the end of this verse are the words, sri-guru-murtaye nama, salutations to him in the form of guru. This expression not only refers to Dakshinamurti but also to your own guru. Here, Shankara invites you to meditate on your guru as a form or embodiment of Dakshinamurti. 

Now, regarding the world you experience, where did it come from? How did it arise? 

In the Hindu worldview, the universe is cyclic; it goes through periods of manifestation and Dissolution. After undergoing Dissolution, the universe remains in an unmanifest state until the next cycle of creation begins. Then, like a sprout emerging from a seed, the universe manifests again.

Verse 2

बीजस्यान्तरिवाङ्कुरो जगदिदं प्राङ्निर्विकल्पं पुनः
मायाकल्पितदेशकालकलनावैचित्र्यचित्रीकृतम् ।
मायावीव विजृम्भयत्यपि महायोगीव यः स्वेच्छया
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ २ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
bijasyantar ivankuro jagad idam pran nirvikalpam punahAt first, the world was undifferentiated, like a sprout inside a seed,
Maya-kalpita-desha-kala-kalana-vaichitrya-citrikritamthen it became differentiated into time and space, projected by maya.
mayaviva vijrimbhayaty api maha-yogiva yah svecchayaTo Him who created the world at will, like a magician or a powerful yogi,
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, who, akin to a magician or a great yogi, manifests this world out of his free will. Before creation, this world was undifferentiated, like a sprout within a seed, and later became variegated due to its association with space and time brought forth by màyà.

Here, Shankara compares Dakshinamurti to a magician. Magicians have the skill to make something like a rabbit or bird suddenly appear before your eyes. So, too, Dakshinamurti has the skill or power to make the entire universe appear. That creative power wielded by Dakshinamurti is the power of Maya.

In the next verse, Shankara explains that Dakshinamurti himself is brahman, the underlying substratum or fabric of existence upon which the entire universe is projected.

Verse 3

यस्यैव स्फुरणं सदात्मकमसत्कल्पार्थकं भासते
साक्षात्तत्त्वमसीति वेदवचसा यो बोधयत्याश्रितान् ।
यत्साक्षात्करणाद्भवेन्न पुनरावृत्तिर्भवाम्भोनिधौ
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ३ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
yasyaiva sphuranam sad-atmakam asat-kalparthakam bhasateHis own conscious existence appears in the form of the projected world.
sakshat tat tvam asiti veda-vacasa yo bodhayaty ashritanWith the Vedic dictum, tat tvam asi, He imparts knowledge to his disciples,
yat sakshat-karanad bhaven na punar-avrittir bhavambho-nidhauthrough which they never return to the ocean of birth and death.
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Him, Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, whose brilliance, akin to existence itself, illuminates this world, which is akin to unreality. He enlightens those who have taken refuge in him with the message of the Vedas, declaring, ‘Thou art verily That!’ Realizing this truth leads to liberation from the cycle of birth and death, with no return to the ocean of transmigration.

Enlightenment results from realizing that you, tvam, your essential nature as pure consciousness, is fundamentally identical to, tat, to Brahman, the fabric of existence on which the universe is projected.

That fabric of existence is not inert; it’s conscious and aware. As Brahman, Dakshinamurti not only bestows existence on everything but also bestows sentiency on all living creatures, being the infinite, all-pervasive consciousness. That very consciousness dwells in us all. It looks out through our eyes and hears what comes in through our ears. It illuminates all our perceptions, revealing the world around us.

In the next verse, Shankara compares that consciousness to a lamp inside a pot, shining out through many holes, holes that represent our five senses.

Verse 4

ज्ञानं यस्य तु चक्षुरादिकरणद्वारा बहिः स्पन्दते ।
जानामीति तमेव भान्तमनुभात्येतत्समस्तं जगत्
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ४ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
nana-cchidra-ghatodara-sthita-maha-dipa-prabha-bhasvaramLike a lamp inside a pot, shining out through many holes,
jnanam yasya tu cakshur-adikarana-dvara bahih spandateit is His consciousness that shines out through the sense organs,
janamiti tam eva bhantam anubhaty etat samastam jagatrevealing everything in the world as “I know it.”
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Him, Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, whose consciousness flows out through the senses like the eyes, resembling a powerful light emanating from a pot full of holes. Through him, the glorious one, the entire world shines, and individuals perceive, ‘I know.’

You experience the world around you and everything that happens in your mind because, fundamentally, you are a conscious being. Consciousness is your true, essential nature. Yet, most people don’t think of themselves in this way.

Instead, they identify themselves with their bodies and minds, so they consider themselves male, female, young, old, happy, sad, and so on.

In the next verse, Shankara says that all such false identification results from Ignorance.

Verse 5

देहं प्राणमपीन्द्रियाण्यपि चलां बुद्धिं च शून्यं विदुः
स्त्रीबालान्धजडोपमास्त्वहमिति भ्रान्ता भृशं वादिनः ।
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ५ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
deham pranam apindriyany api chalam buddhim cha shunyam viduh“I am the body, life force, senses, intellect or nothingness.” thus they believe,
stri-balandha-jadopamas tvaham iti bhranta bhrisham vadinahbeing completely deluded like the weak, childish, blind, or dull.
Maya-shakti-vilasa-kalpita-maha-vyamoha-samharineTo Him who removes all this delusion, projected by the power of maya,
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, who dispels the great delusion of those who, like women, children, the blind, and the dull-witted, mistakenly identify the body, vital airs, senses, fickle intellect, and void as the Ātman. These individuals are extremely deluded by the play of māyā’s power.

Due to false identification, problems that truly belong to your body and mind are wrongly accepted as belonging to your true self.

This false identification is the root cause of all suffering. Dakshinamurti, as your teacher, can remove that false identification altogether. Then, you’ll know very clearly that your true nature as pure consciousness is utterly unaffected by the problems of your body and mind.

Pure consciousness is the divinity within you. It’s the ever-present source of peace, joy, and contentment. As the light of awareness, it never ceases to shine within you, even during deep sleep. When clouds or an eclipse cover the sun, it continues to shine.

So, too, your consciousness shines continually, even during dreamless sleep, as Shankara explains in the next verse.

Verse 6

राहुग्रस्तदिवाकरेन्दुसदृशो मायासमाच्छादनात्
सन्मात्रः करणोपसंहरणतो योऽभूत्सुषुप्तः पुमान् ।
प्रागस्वाप्समिति प्रबोधसमये यः प्रत्यभिज्ञायते
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ६ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
rahu-grasta-divakarendu-sadrisho maya-samachadanatLike the sun or moon covered during an eclipse, due to the power of maya
san-matrah karanopasamharanato yo ‘bhut sushuptah pumanyour mind and senses are covered during deep sleep, yet consciousness remains,
prag asvapsam iti prabodhasamaye yah pratyabhijnyayateand after waking up, is recognized as I slept.
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Him, Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, the Self, who, in the deep sleep state induced by the withdrawal of the senses, is covered by māyā, similar to the sun and moon being devoured by Rāhu. During this state, he exists solely as ‘existence’ itself. Upon waking, he recognizes himself as the one who previously slept.

Verse 7

बाल्यादिष्वपि जाग्रदादिषु तथा सर्वास्ववस्थास्वपि
व्यावृत्तास्वनुवर्तमानमहमित्यन्तस्स्फुरन्तं सदा ।
स्वात्मानं प्रकटीकरोति भजतां यो मुद्रया भद्रया
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ७ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
balyadishv api jagrad-adishu tatha sarvasv avasthasv apiIn the states of waking, dream and sleep, and in every every stage of life,
vyavrittasv anuvartamanam aham ity antah sphurantam sadathe very same consciousness shines continually as the true Self.
svatmanam prakatikaroti bhajatam yo mudraya bhadrayaTo Him who reveals the Self to His devotees with His sacred gesture of wisdom,
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, who, through the auspicious mudrā, reveals to his devotees his own Self. This Self is persistently present as the ‘I’, shining within, across various and mutually exclusive states such as childhood and waking.

With the chin mudra gesture, Dakshinamurti shows your consciousness’s identity with Brahman’s all-pervasive consciousness, the fabric of existence.

Due to the power of Maya, countless forms are projected on that fabric of existence; as Shankara explains,

Verse 8

विश्वं पश्यति कार्यकारणतया स्वस्वामिसम्बन्धतः
शिष्याचार्यतया तथैव पितृपुत्राद्यात्मना भेदतः ।
स्वप्ने जाग्रति वा य एष पुरुषो मायापरिभ्रामितः
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ८ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
vishvam pashyati karya-karanataya sva-svami-sambandhatahThe world appears as cause and effect, as master and servant,
shishyacharyataya tathaiva pitri-putrady-atmana bhedatahas teacher and student, as father and son, in different forms.
svapne jagrati va ya esha purusho maya-paribhramitahTo Him who sees all this, while awake or dreaming, due to the power of maya,
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, who, appearing as an individual deluded by māyā, perceives the world filled with differences in both sleep and waking states. These differences arise from various relationships such as cause and effect, property and owner, disciple and teacher, father and son, and more.

You experience all those worldly forms due to the consciousness that dwells within you. And that consciousness is Dakshinamurti himself. So, Dakshinamurti is both the all-pervasive consciousness dwelling in every creature, as well as the very fabric of existence, the underlying reality because of which everything exists; as Shankara explains,

Verse 9

भूरम्भांस्यनलोऽनिलोऽम्बरमहर्नाथो हिमांशुः पुमान्
इत्याभाति चराचरात्मकमिदं यस्यैव मूर्त्यष्टकम् ।
नान्यत्किञ्चन विद्यते विमृशतां यस्मात्परस्माद्विभोः
तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥ ९ ॥
Sanskrit VersesMeaning in English
bhur ambhamsy analo ‘nilo ‘mbaram ahar-natho himamshuh pumanEarth, water, fire, air, space, sun, moon, and consciousness –
ity abhati caracaratmakam idam yasyaiva murty-ashtakamHis eight-fold nature appears in the form of sentient and insentient things.
nanyat kincana vidyate vimrishatam yasmat parasmad vibhohThe wise know that nothing at all exists separately from Him.
tasmai shri-guru-murtaye nama idam shri-dakshinamurtayeTo Him, Dakshinamurti, God in the form of guru, salutations!

We pay homage to Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Guru, whose eightfold form encompasses both the sentient and insentient aspects of the world—earth, water, fire, air, sky, sun, moon, and human being. Discerning individuals recognize that nothing exists beyond him, as he is the greatest and omnipresent.

Everything that exists is a manifestation of Dakshinamurti so that you can meditate on Him in any form, including the form of your guru. In the last verse of this hymn, Shankara describes the phala and the tremendous benefits you can gain from its profound teachings.

Verse 10

सर्वात्मत्वमिति स्फुटीकृतमिदं यस्मादमुष्मिंस्तवे
तेनास्य श्रवणात्तदर्थमननाद् ध्यानाच्च सङ्कीर्तनात् ।
सर्वात्मत्वमहाविभूतिसहितं स्यादीश्वरत्वं स्वतः
सिद्ध्येत्तत्पुनरष्टधा परिणतं चैश्वर्यमव्याहतम् ॥ १० ॥
sarvatmatvam iti sphutikritam idam yasmad amushmin staveBecause this hymn reveals the Self of all,
tenasya shravanat tad-artha-mananad dhyanacca sankirtanatthrough listening, reflecting, meditating, and reciting it,
sarvatmatva-maha-vibhuti-sahitam syad ishvaratvam svatahyou can gain liberation, knowing your own consciousness as the Self of all,
siddhyet tat punar ashtadha-parinatam caishvaryam avyhatamand gain limitless freedom, as well as great yogic powers.

The hymn reveals the principle of Universal Selfhood. By listening to it, reflecting on its meaning, meditating on it, and singing it, one can attain identity with Īśvara, along with the great power of being the Universal Self, automatically. Additionally, one can obtain the unobstructed power that manifests itself in eight different ways.

Yogic powers include the ability to become as tiny as an atom or grow to the size of a mountain. But, more significant than all such powers is moksha, liberation, through which you transcend all worldly suffering while alive and, after death, remain utterly non-separate from Brahman.

With this verse, Shankara concludes the Dakshinamurti stotram. We’ll conclude with a mantra to Dakshinamurti, which is often chanted for prayer and meditation.

om namo bhagavate dakshinamurtaye Om!

Salutations to Lord Dakshinamurti.

mahyam medham prajnam prayaccha svaha
Please bless me with intelligence and wisdom.

om shantih shantih shantih

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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