The Origins of the Practice of Dakshina

An Exposition on the Siddha Yoga Practice of Dakshina

An Exposition by Ami Bansal

The cultural and spiritual traditions of India are many thousands of years old. One facet of this ancient wisdom is the deep respect and value accorded to all branches of knowledge. A student seeking instruction in any subject—such as music, art, philosophy, science, mathematics, or any craft or trade—traditionally makes offerings to the teacher to honor the source of knowledge. This is the dharma, the duty, of any student, and is part of the natural cycle of giving and receiving that sustains the universe. This offering is known as dakshiṇa.

The Sanskrit syllable da in the word dakshiṇa means “offering and giving.” The syllable kshi means “to abide or dwell in,” and the syllable na indicates “knowledge.” Dakshiṇa, then, is an offering made by a student to the teacher, through which the student becomes established in the knowledge that has been imparted.

This dharma naturally extends to the field of spiritual knowledge. The Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, the oldest among the philosophical scriptures belonging to the Vedas, convey teachings about the disciple’s sacred duty to make offerings to the spiritual Master, the Sadguru, who imparts the highest knowledge—the knowledge of the Self. The scriptures describe how these offerings were made in many forms—such as gold, silver, cattle, grains, clothing, a plot of land, or other material goods. Each disciple offered according to their means. Many scriptural stories recount how, through a disciple’s offerings of dakshiṇa to the Guru, a divine alchemy took place: the disciple became increasingly established in the Guru’s teachings. This practice of dakshiṇa continues to the present day.

On the Siddha Yoga path, a Siddha Yogi performs many spiritual practices. Each practice has its own benefits and liberating power. One of these beautiful practices is the offering of dakshiṇa. A Siddha Yogi gives dakshiṇa to honor Shri Guru, the bestower of shaktipat initiation and the source of wisdom, guidance, grace, and blessings. Siddha Yogis recognize that by following the Siddha Yoga path, they have the good fortune to attain the four goals of life:

  • dharma, right action performed for the highest purpose  
  • artha, material prosperity gained through dharmic means
  • kama, enjoyment of the pleasures in life
  • moksha, the state of liberation, union with the Divine

Therefore, Siddha Yogis offer dakshiṇa with discipline and regularity as part of their sadhana.


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