Views to witness ṛta (Cosmic Principle/Truth)
The Vedic view (Darshana) foresees the entire Creation and its Cosmic Phenomenon (ṛta) through the process called Yajñá, hence Vedas are not commandments. Vedas are illustrious homages and processes encapsulated in a poetic construct.
On the other hand, the Vedāntic view is through the concept of inquisition, involving thinking, discrimination, honest analysis of self and one’s own existence. Vedānta elaborates on the metaphysical aspects of Vedas.
Yoga, however, views the union of the “self” with ṛta using various mechanisms. Yogis seek practical tools and methods to remove the “cloud of ignorance” called Avidya, so that the Cosmic Phenomenon (ṛta) will automatically present itself.
Sankhya foresees ṛta as a cosmic duality of “Consciousness” and “Energy”, which is Puruṣa & Prakṛti.
Itihāsa is for us to find role models and real-life situations so that we can use them as examples. Its a historical narration of life and its evolution in a practical sense. This is crucial so that one can learn from the mistakes of the past.
Finally, the Puráńic view is the iconification of these Vedic concepts and surrendering oneself in their glory; this surrender is called Bhakti. Each Puráńa iconified one Divine aspect of Veda as a WHOLE and all-inclusive supreme so that a focused path is laid out for the seeker based on one’s temperament and inherent traits.
Though there are more than a hundred schools of thought expounded in detail by Mādhavācārya, our discussion revolves around Veda, Vedānta, Yoga, and Itihāsa.
In summary, the Vedāntic and Yogic Darshana state that, out of infinite possibilities of Brahman arises a throbbing or vibration (Śakti), the concept of creation and its preservation emerges from this as a thought, this concept is titled Vishnu (Viṣṇu) – meaning that which is “all-pervasive” or that which “encompasses everything”. Hence Viṣṇu is an aspect of Cit Śakti (cit:śakti) and so the entirety of creation becomes Viśvām. In Sanskrit, “Viś” or “Viśta” means that which enters or permeates, hence the title Viṣṇu or ŚipiViṣṭa. Sri Aurobindo famously calls Viṣṇu the space or canvas in which all inhabitants flourish, while Śiva is the auspiciousness that is a natural occurrence untouched by the temporary realities created by Prakṛti. Shiva is Su:Mangalam, and the force or innate indweller of all is Rudra. In the Vedas, it is Prajapathi who is the instigator of creation through the process called Yajñá. He is the owner and the sponsor of the Yajñá, the Brahmana section of Vedas is full of his exploits in instigating creation in diverse forms hence Śakti (resonance) is his daughter. Knowing ṛta and bringing out the amṛta is Satyam – knowing this, realizing this, is Sundaram (the ever blissful joy). Hence “Satyam Śivam Sundaram”. Let us elaborate with a question, that which pervades everything – is it ominous or auspicious? It is auspicious, this concept is called Śiva, and the encompassing nature is called Viṣṇu, the force that propels creation is Rudra, the vibration is called Śakti, the mind and the ruler of the individual’s psychology is Indra, the life-force is Vayu, the brilliance is Surya, the transmutation is Agni, speech is Sarasvatī AB3.1.2 and Vāk which in return is also Agni as He is the Priest(Hotr), and variation/flavor/sweetness of Rudra is the Immortal Soma. Now, let us elaborate on each aspect of this summary in detail, with its origin in the Vedas.
The Viṣṇu of the Puráńas is an aggregated personification of Śakti, Indra, Brahmā and Surya (including many other Vedic Solar Deities called Ādityas), whereas Śiva, thought to be associated with Rudra, Soma, Agni, Varuna, Mitra, Vayu, and Maruts in the Vedic realm, remains a total enigma. Across the literature, we see various sages, Ṛṣi, Asuras, Devatas, Avataras, and many prominent personalities establishing Liṅgas. Historical evidence like the Vrātya seals and Liṅga found in the Indus Valley have been unearthed across diverse lands. In this research, let us not take the historic approach; rather, focus on the literary indications and link them across various schools (Vedic Śākhās).
Confining the aspect of Śiva to just a single concept is impossible; in short, the essence (tatva) of Śiva is a paradox – we will see that soon. Śiva means “bliss”, “auspicious”, “foremost”, “un-manifested”, “raw”, “that which is not”; we will cover each of these aspects one by one with references, so the definition of Śiva/Rudra will evolve in this discussion. Śrī Śankaracharya, in Nirvana Shatakam, addresses Śiva as cit:ānanda:rūpa – meaning the essence of ānanda (supreme bliss) in Cit (Supreme Infinite Consciousness). If Śiva is cit:ānanda then His forever companion Uma is cit:śakti. If Śiva is a calm ocean, then Śakti is a ripple in that calm ocean. This ripple emerges from that ocean and then fades back into the same ocean. So, creation is a ripple, and all of Prakṛti is a resonance. Unlike sukha (happiness), which has a polar opposite called dukha (sadness), ānanda has no polar opposite, meaning it is a forever-state devoid of any polarity, irrespective of cit:Śakti being in action or repose (rest). Hence Śiva says to Uma: “I am the sea and you the wave, You are Prakṛti, and I Puruṣa“. This beautiful reference to Śiva/Śivā being both the wave and still water, both the hasty/active/rapid and yet calm and auspicious is described in Sukla Yajur Veda Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 16.31. Hence, the Rishis ask Rudra to bestow that Anandam.
Now, in the Rig Veda, the word “Śiva” occurs more than 30 times, and all these are not personified names (swarūpa), they are various aspects of auspiciousness and pleasantness. For example, the hymn “Be Śiva with me” means be pleasant with me. The first homage to Rudra itself calls Him “pleasant or peaceful”, then all the synonymous titles follow – such as benevolent, caring, prosperous, glowing, gentle, knowledge & eloquence, love, bond, friendly, pure, generous, compassionate, pure/pious, and many more. In this way, Śiva: the auspiciousness pervades forever, hence the title “Sadā:Śivam”. As the famous Tamil Poet Thirumular, composer of Tirumurai says, Anbe Sivam (அன்பு சிவம்), meaning “Compassion/affection itself is Sivam”. In this, the all-pervasive entirety is Viṣṇu/Hari who manifests beyond kālá (time). Viṣṇu is the canvas for creation, whereas the creative idea is called Brahmā and holds the highest station sought out by Sages. In this creation manifest countless beings with a mind, this mind and its ‘Will’ becomes the ruler – which is Indra. Sri Aurobindo says, “the invisible force that propels creation from the lowest to the highest state of Viṣṇu is called Rudra”. Eventually, everything dissolves or assimilates back to the “forever state of bliss” which is called Śiva. With the above statement are we concluding that Śiva is only an adjective? It’s not up to us to make such assumptions, it is Veda that has to make such a declaration, exploring this will be one of our quests to seek the evolution of Śiva and Rudra, but unlike common understanding, Rudra is not a name, nor a title given to a single person, Rudra is a concept and a phenomenon, and so is Śiva, and we will see that soon. Hence, all these concepts are beautifully iconified into the spectacular realm of Itihāsa and Puráńas.
Introduction to Rudra
The first hymns to Rudra in Rig Veda 1.43 is a declaration and encompass the entirety of Rudra – that He is a Divine Contradiction and a “conscious knower”. The hymns say He is “fierce/mighty”, then in contradiction, they call him “pleasant with beneficent heart”. He is “the resort/lord to all hymns/songs”, He is “the resort/lord of all yajñá/sacrifice”, and “He is bliss”. In conclusion, the hymn addresses Rudras as the family of immortals possessing Amṛta/Soma and this Soma is the home to Supreme Truth (ṛtasya). So, what is this Supreme Truth? As the hymn says, it is “ṛta“, meaning the entire Cosmic Principle/Truth. This Supreme Truth of Immortality is explained in pristine detail in Śatarudrīya/Çatarudriya of Sukla Yajur Veda. This is the first homage to Rudra-Soma sung by Maharśi Kaṇva Ghaura in Rig Veda Mandala 1 Sukta 43. And as we go deeper, we will see the complete assimilation of Soma, Agni, Mitra-Varuna, Vayu and more.
tavyase = mighty/strongRig Veda 1.43
Shamtamam Hruday = pleasant or beneficent heart
gātha-patim = resort to all hymns/songs
medha-patim = the resort of Yajñá/Sacrifice/Oblations
śam-yoḥ sumnam = bliss/ānandam
pra-jāḥ amṛtasya = immortals family possessing the elixir (amṛta)
parasmin dhāman ṛtasya = home to the highest truth (ṛtasya)
Please Note: Both terms “ṛtasya” and “amṛtasya” are synonymously used, soma is also used as its replacement occasionally.
Thou, Oh Agni, art Rudra, the Asura of the mighty skyKṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.3.14, 1.4.11
Rudra, lord of the sacrifice
“ṛtāvṛdha: the supreme form of truth and immortality”
Thou art the beginning and thou art the end of the Vedas, thou art the Gāyatri and thou art OM. Thou art the fire upon which the sacrificial butter/ghee is poured. Thou art he who pours the ghee. Thou art he in honor of whom the ghee is poured, thou art the butter itself that is poured. Thou art those section of Brahmanas that are called Trisuparna, thou art all the Vedas, thou art the section called Śatarudrīya in the Yajushes/Yajur. Thou art holiest of holies, auspicious of auspicious things. Thou animatest the inanimate body. Thou art the Chit that dwell in the human form.Mahābhāratam Moksha Dharma Parva Section 285