The entire world is not always “pleasing” to us. Enclosed in the working of this cosmos, is the secret law, the incomprehensible basis, which can please or make us uncomfortable. As a theist, one usually likes to see the God as always pleasing the desires and pleasure centers of the devotee; but the real world can be quite tiring, quite deceiving, quite troubling for a person with an excessive belief in the certainty of his desires and wishes. Desire is not a crime, neither it creates suffering. Desire is in fact the cause of the creation. However, believing in one’s desires more than in reality can create issues. Desire can motivate you. It can lead you to success. However, if you believe in your desires more than the reality, you will be shattered when you come to the fact that your desires don’t work.
Nature seldom tries to be straight to us. Many people get killed in natural disasters for no known sins; many people suffer for no reason, many people don’t seem to get punished for what they do. Countless others don’t even do what they do. Even we ourselves at the moment are not able to predict what we will be exactly doing at the same time tomorrow. A gas molecule cannot define it’s own path, even if say, it knows its karmic past.
This face of the universe, this face of the Reality, is condensed in the Vedic concept of Rudra. Rudra literally means “one who causes to weep”, or “one who roars”.
The concept of Rudra therefore answers and acknowledges that many secrets of nature always remain incomprehensible. We don’t plainly understand how many disasters happen, how people get punished for what they do; or as a philosophical question: do people even deserve eternal punishment or reward for what they are by birth? This concept, therefore, shuts down the door at concepts like karma which are wholly confident in the future given the past. Instead, it exhaustively envelopes together with the countless possibilities and contrasts of the real world.
Rudra is the lord of disasters and euphemistically the solution for disasters as well. He leads the disastrous Maruts, who in his context are called the Rudras. He also leads many of his own forms – he is one in many. Rudra is the wild form of Indra Marutvān, the Maruts being Rudras. The settling of “mountains” of hurdles, the “Hurdle” himself, all relate Rudra with fierce forms of Indra and Agni. Unlike Indra’s natural weapon, Rudra’s weapon is represented by “artificially made” ones; showing us the power of novelty and unpredictability of the weapons. His darts, arrows, and missiles can hunt anyone anytime. Rudra hence becomes a crooked hunter, which is of course what one would feel the universe is sometimes. Rudra carries attributes of Indra and Soma, all in a wild form. The drink of Rudra is the poison of darkness, which he shares with the lonely “Keśins”, the ascetics with long hair. His path is the mid-region, where Aśvins have their race lap. (Rudra-vartana)
Rudra is both the tree and grassy plain, the horse and the controller, the hunter, and the cultivator. He is addressed as one and many, thereby manifesting as many, much like Rigvedic Indra, Brahmanic Prajāpati, and the Puranic Vishnu. Rudra is described lesser in Rigveda, but is satisfactorily dealt with in the middle part of Black Yajurveda, through a series of sweeping verses. The verses are perhaps one of the most famous of daily Vedic chantings – the “Rudram” or the “namakam”. Prayers to Rudra are some of the most emotional Vedic poems having a sad context, sharing the position with funeral poems of Rigveda. They are so human, yet so deep, and take a high philosophical jump, typically characteristic of Vedas, and make us ride through the varied facets of universe, many of which we don’t like to otherwise imagine.
Rudra as the lord of death, mishaps, and contrasts, was easily mouldable to the Indo European “God of others”, by the later ages. He became euphemistically called “Śiva”, one of his “desirable epithets” in the Yajurveda, and associated with dark sky-earth monism by the epic and Puranic ages. Śiva absorbed his symbols from Indra, Rudra and Agni-Soma, merged all of them with the depiction of the lord of mountain people, or any wild depiction that would essentially associate him with “others”, as defined by the pro-Vaiṣṇavite Hindus.
We can see the translation of the Krishna Yajurveda (TS) Rudra hymns from the next post.
First Anuvaka of “Śrī Rudram” with Meaning English (Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda TS 4.5.1)
(Feb 17th, 2018)
Reverence to your vigor, Rudra! Reverence to your shot,
Reverence be to your bow, Reverence to your (two) hands as well.
With your shoot, that’s most blissful, with your bow turned blissful,
With your blissful quiver-arrows, make us comfortable.
That blissful body of yours, O Rudra, which is not frightening, with auspicious look,
With that body, which is most auspicious, O Retarder of mountains, watch here.
That shot, O Retarder of mountains, which you bear in hand to shoot,
Make that blissful, O Mountain-keeper, don’t weaken the world of man.
With blissful words do we address you, O Retarder of Mountains!
Hence may the WHOLE world be free of illness, be of the good inner spirit.
He has spoken in advocacy – the advocate, the foremost divine doctor.
Messing up all the “serpents”, and all the unseen disease causers.
They lie – the bronze-colored, the fire-colored, as well as the brown, the well-gracious.
These Rudras, thousandfold, around this in the quarters, of them, do we decrease the wrath.
He who creeps away, having a blue neck, exceedingly rouge,
He have the cowherds seen, Him have also the water-carriers seen.
And him all the beings. Seen, may he make us comfortable.
Reverence be to the blue-necked, a thousand-eyed, Rewarding one,
Thence have I paid reverence to those, his beings.
Abandon the bowstring from bow’s two notches
And these shots in your hand – cut them off!
Having let down your bow, O thousand-eyed, Of hundreds of types of shots!
Blunting the fronts of darts, Be blissful and of good spirit to us.
Stringless is his bow, of him of braided hair, and without darts is the quiver;
Gone are his shots; Empty is his sheath.
The weapon that is on your bow in hand, O Most Rewarding One,
With that, guard us around, from all sides, free from diseases.
Reverence be, for your unstrung brave weapon,
Reverence to your both hands, also to the bow.
May your weapon from the bow discriminate us, from all sides;
And your this dart-case – place away from us!.
Question: Although you’ve mentioned that Rudra, Agni, Indra, and all divine concepts aren’t in human form why do some verses in the above praise Rudra’s body, braided hair, and eyes, and so on….what’s the connection?
If you pay attention, you will note that it is not about śarīram (the material body that is perishable) but is tanu – the perceptive body through which you see and you are seen by the world. To us, it is like an interface between what is our śarīra and this world.
Devas don’t take a single śarīra, they are hence not mentioned so. But tanu is what is the impact of any conceptual force in others. It is common to all. Thence, we pray to Rudra to make his tanu benevolent/auspicious towards us. ( “tanvā śantamayā giriśantābhicākaśīhi”) This tanu, unlike the later meaning of the Sanskrit word, is not the body, but the combo of perception of yours and what you are perceived. Hence, while śarīra “feels”, tanu “perceives”/”sees”. This is also why you pray to give “perception” to your tanus so that they may see the Sun. When we pray to Rudra to make us feel comfortable, we urge him to have a good tanu on us. To discern with a good tanu.
Rudra, Agni etc. are divine concepts, and they can be thought of in various tanus. (But not śarīras) While later devas are famed for their śarīra, the pores of which encompass universes, such a designation or definition or limitation is not observable in Vedas for the devas, since it is not their “body” that is imagined, but their tanu. This tanu is defined based on poetic metaphors or functional attributes – hence why it is impossible to make an idol of Vedic devas. If you are blind enough to not experience the devas all around you and inside you, there is no way by which you can worship them.
That logic is why you kindle a fire, create the tanus of divinities, and offer them your obeisance. The Agni is your child and your father – that is the paradoxical statement. Thus while devas create us, we recreate the tanus of devas. Aditi gives birth to Dakṣa, but from our Dakṣa, tanu of Aditi is reborn.
Behind every description of what you may see as of “body”, you will actually realize the functional/poetic attributes clearly. For example, the hetiḥ of Rudra is what afflicts. The tanu is what interacts with us and recognizes us. Hasta/Bāhu is what acts. Or to poetically assume the spiritual sun, you call Rudra having golden hands. Other than such mentions, you do not really find the mention of śarīra or other attributes, like the shape of eyes, number of hands, peculiarities of the form, etc. It is near to impossible to imagine Vishnu with a triśūla or even a mustache if ardent devotees would admit it. 🙂 Now return to Vedic devas and try to picturize them – you will fail terribly and that proves that they are not portrayed by means of material forms anywhere.
2nd Anuvaka of “Śrī Rudram”
with Meaning English
(Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda TS 4.5.1)
(June 19th, 2019)
- Homage to him, golden handed, to the commander and to the lord of quarters homage!
- Homage to the trees, to green-hairs, (grasses/grassy plains) to the lord of bound beings homage!
- Homage to the tender grass-like, to the resplendent, to the lord of paths, homage!
- Homage to the brownish, to the Tormentor, to the lord of foods homage
- Homage to the green-haired, (tree/sun symbol) to the one having (yājñic) share, lord of prosperities, homage!
- Homage to the weapon of “Being”, to the lord of moving world, homage!
- Homage to the roarer, to the one with a bent bow, to the lord of fields, homage!
- Homage to the driver, to who does not weaken, to the lord of forests homage!
- Homage to the Rouge (/risen sun), to the lord of settlement, to the lord of trees homage!
- Homage to the mutterer (or minister), to the trader, to the lord of bushes homage!
- Homage to the extender of earth, creator of spaces, to the lord of plants homage!
- Homage to the loudly calling, one who makes cry, to the lord of walkers homage!
- Homage to the entirely concealed, to the runner, to the lord of beings, homage!!