The title Adiguru is explained as the first teacher (eternal teacher) or the Supreme Master. In this way, we can visualize Lord Shiva as the fountainhead of all wisdom. In the Indian tradition, knowledge is transferred through the lineage of teacher-disciple called as ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’. The eternal wisdom flowed from the Supreme Godhead represented as Lord Shiva. The wisdom championed by the Lord and taught to the first generation of disciples is timeless and no one knows when it all started. However, scriptures say Lord Shiva taught fund of eternal knowledge first to Mother Parvati (Shiva’s consort) and then to the seven sages called Sapta Rishis. These seven sages moved far and wide to the other regions across different regions of the earth to disseminate the divine knowledge to the whole of mankind. Hence, being the first Teacher in the universe or creation, Shiva is called as the AdiGuru.
The absolute knowledge or the supreme knowledge is essentially that of the Universal Self (Paramatma) or what we call as God. It views man as the spark of Universal Consciousness or the Supreme Self or Godhead. A human being is the crown of creation and is bestowed with the power of knowing his existence. In minuscule proportions, he shares the Sat, Chit, Ananda – Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss – which are the properties of the Supreme Self. Human birth is caused due to ignorance. The journey of man moves in the following course:
Asato Ma Sat Gamaya (Untruth to Truth)
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya (Darkness to Light)
Mrutyorma Amrutam Gamaya (Death to Immortality).
In this journey, the Supreme Energy known as Shiva assists man through the Gurus trained by him. Thus, the eternal wisdom flows from the AdiGuru through the seven sages and the succession of Gurus who learned from them in the Guru-Shishya Parampara. The Yogic knowledge gave rise to the several scriptures and the subsidiary texts written on them.
Shiva as Adiguru is also called as Dakshina Murti or the South-facing master. The form of Dakshina Murti is very interesting. He has a matted hair, crescent moon shining on his head (symbol of mystic knowledge), Ganges flowing from the hair (symbol of perpetual purity), snakes coiled around neck and arms (symbol of the Kundalini energy inherent in all humans), possessing three eyes (the third one is the eye of Gnan or wisdom), carrying a trident(the three Gunas or propensities of man namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), Ash smeared all over the body (representing immortality), drum in his hand (ether, sound or the source of creations), and carrying a scripture and Jap Mala in hand (Gnana and Bhakti or the paths of wisdom and devotion). Hence the entire representation of Shiva as Dakshina Murti or AdiGuru is highly symbolic depicting the attributes of the eternal teacher of the whole universe (Jagat Guru).
The seven sages are gathered around his feet and are shown contemplating on the Adiguru imbibing the wisdom flowing from him in torrential strains. The language Lord Shiva chose as the medium of instruction is Silence. Thus, the first set of disciples learnt the eternal wisdom from the Supreme Master just by meditating on him and not through any lectures or discourses. Therefore, by the term Adiguru, we understand Lord Shiva as the Supreme Teacher of the Universe.