There are some things that one never tires of talking about or marvelling over…and every time there is something new to say, new to discover, joyfully so! Obviously, there is my Guru – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and then not so obviously there is the Rudram. I’ve already expressed my feelings about the Rudram, and yet today I feel like doing so once again!
Like a ball of Gulab Jamun that must be dipped in sugar syrup to be categorised as a sweet, I feel the effect of the Rudram is to pronounce on all who have been drenched in it to be immortal, beyond mundane living. Every time I hear it I experience the essence of my existence in the rhythmic uncoiling of these chants. You may be unfamiliar with this ancient language, yet your soul resonates to it.
For that hour and a half of morning bliss, one is transported to the realm of the Gods. Even if you don’t understand a word, those divine shlokas funnel through your ears and transform your very being! Long after the young veda pundits have left the stage and wrapped up the puja, run off with the lingam, garlands and fruits, and your eyes slowly open to the trailing note of Lingastakam, you feel wrapped in the sacred cloth of sanctity.
Sri Rudram begins as a prayer for protection. You pray to Rudra to save you from his terrible ire:
Vijyam dhanu kapardhino visalyo bhanavaam utha,
Anesannasyeshwa aabhurasya nishamgadhi. 1.12
“Oh God with the mane of hair,
Let your bow loosen its string,
Let your quiver become empty,
Let your arrows lose the power to hurt,
Let your sword be always in your scabbard.”
Later, the Rudram is about seeing God in everything, saluting all of Nature, all of Creation – Seeing Shiva in all things: good, bad, ugly, beautiful. Otherwise, there is a human tendency to accept the “good” and reject the “bad”. These verses help us to unify the diversity created in the mind. Like a steam-roller flattening the rubble of self-created chaos, paving the way to compassion and a celebration of life as it is.
Whether you understand the meaning or not, the shlokas transcend common comprehension to convey their meaning to you.
I feel the Rudram is a living presence…a giant serpent unfurled by the tongues of those chanting it, magnificently making its way through the Universe. Rudram is interactive – it doesn’t just pass by, it pulls you into its consciousness – the grand, consciousness of the Universe, and in the process of hearing it, it swallows you, so that you are floating in that stream of Divine Consciousness. You become the stream. You are the Consciousness – vast, expansive, slowly unfurling blessings into the Universe.
As you step out of the airy Vishalakshi Mantap, you take that state of elevation with you. Whatever your eyes touch you bless. Your footsteps are hallowed, whatever they touch becomes sacred. (Nevermind, that you are already standing on sacred ground!). Every pore of your being bubbles with Divinity.
I remember the meaning of the last stanza of Lingashtakam. It’s promise rings true!
लिङ्गाष्टकमिदं पुण्यं यः पठेत् शिवसन्निधौ।
शिवलोकमवाप्नोति शिवेन सह मोदते॥
Lingaashtakam-Idam Punnyam Yah Patthet Shiva-Sannidhau |
Shivalokam-Avaapnoti Shivena Saha Modate ||
9.1: Whoever Recites this Lingasthakam (hymn consisting of eight stanzas in praise of the Linga) near Shiva (Lingam),
9.2: Will Attain the Abode of Shiva and enjoy His Bliss.
This is true of the Rudram as well. Listening to the Rudram in the presence of my Enlightened Master – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – there’s no doubt that we have reached the Abode of Shiva – Kailash – the peak of Bliss and Eternal Celebration!