Sūkṣma Rudra: The Micro / Subtle / Atomic

Shiva the Indweller, Liṅgodbhavamūrti Sculpture. The British Museum (No. 19551018.1)

We have seen the enormous physical and cosmic features of Rudra, but something that is omnipresent and the “indweller of all”, gives rise to another unique title, an epithet of Śiva called Sūkṣma (सूक्ष्म), which means atomic and subtle. There is also another similar title called & Kaṇiṣṭha (कणिष्ठ) meaning smallest or youngest, but not same as Sūkṣma. Compared to all the physical descriptions we have discussed, the atomic and subtle characteristic is a total contrast. Our physical bodies are called Sthula, meaning gross/physical, in contrast, we also have the Sūkṣma Śarīra (subtle bodies) which constitutes various aspects like memory, intelligence, intellect, impressions, Guṇa, sensation, identity (ahankara), Vāsanā and more. These aspects are also known as Antahkarana. Yogic Śāstra has clear compartmentalization of thirty such facets of the subtle body. A human being (both physical and subtle body) is divided into layers called Kohsa, and the subtle body belongs to the Prāṇamāyā, Manomāyā, Vijnanmāyā, and Anandamāyā Koshas. Mṛtakeśvara is 31st among the 70 Svayambhu Liṅgas and is called Sūkṣma Liṅga. Among the 28 Siddhantagamas, there is one called Sūkṣmagama. Please note that Sūkṣmā (सूक्ष्मा) also applies to Śakti. The source of all this lies in Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad and Brhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (two among the 18 primary Upaniṣhads), Please remember, in Vedas, atomic nature is the Principle of creation, not just limited to physicality. So, for once let’s start with primary Upaniṣhads and trace its root back to Vedic Āraṇyaka and Saṃhitās.

सूक्ष्मातिसूक्ष्मम् कलिलस्य मध्ये विश्वस्य स्रष्टारम् अनेकरूपम् विश्वस्य एकं परिवेष्टितारम् शिवं ज्ञात्वा अत्यन्तं शान्तिम् एति॥ 4.14
Subtle beyond the subtle in the midst of the hurtling chaos, the creator of the universe who has many forms and being one encompasses all, known as the Benign, one comes exceedingly to the peace.

घृतात् परं मण्डम् इव अतिसूक्ष्मं शिवं सर्वभूतेषु गूढं ज्ञात्वा विश्वस्य एकं परिवेष्टितारं देवं ज्ञात्वा सर्वपाशैः मुच्यते॥4.16
like the cream (मण्डम् ) above (परं) the clarified butter (घृतात्)
 the hidden within (गूढम् ) in all beings/existences (सर्व+भूतेषु ), Knowing (ज्ञात्वा ) him who is exceedingly (अति) subtle (सूक्ष्मं ) who is Sivam/the auspecious one (शिवं ) in all, knowing (ज्ञात्वा that divine (देवं ) who along (एकं ) encompasses all (विश्वस्य परिवेष्टितारं ), one is released (मुच्यतेfrom every bondage (सर्व+पाशैः ).

स्थूलानि सूक्ष्माणि बहूनि चैव रूपाणि देही स्वगुणैर्वृणोति।
क्रियागुणैरात्मगुणैश्च तेषां संयोगहेतुरपरोऽपि दृष्टः॥ 5.12
Forms gross and to the most minute of forms, forms many,-the Spirit in body evolveth them all by his own nature in its working; by the law of action of his works & the law of action of the Spirit in man, by these he evolved them. But there is Another in Whom we behold Cause whereby all these meet together.

तत्कर्म कृत्वा विनिवर्त्य भूयस्तत्त्वस्य तत्त्वेन समेत्य योगम्‌।
एकेन द्वाभ्यां त्रिभिरष्टभिर्वा कालेन चैवात्मगुणैश्च सूक्ष्मैः॥ 6.3
The Lord doeth works and resteth again from His works, one or two or three or eight He yoketh Himself with the Principle of things in their essence & with Time He yoketh Himself and with Self in its subtle workings.

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 4.14-16, 5.12, 6.3

Rudra is the subtle life force, the inner self, the atman:

ॐ नमो भगवते रुद्राय विष्णवे मृत्युर्मे पाहि॥ प्राणानां ग्रन्थिरसि रुरो मा विशान्तकः। तेनान्नेनाप्यायस्व॥ ॐ शान्तिः ॐ शान्तिः ॐ शान्तिः | ॐ तत्पुरुषाय विद्महे महादेवाय धीमहि तन्नो प्रचोदयात्॥ ॐ शान्तिः ॐ शान्तिः ॐ शान्तिः ॥
AUM (ॐ =Pranava) salutations (नमो ) oh Divine Rudra (भगवते रुद्राय), I surrender/save me (पाहि) from eternal reoccuring death (विष्णवे मृत्युर्मे), Oh Rudra, you are the vital force (प्राणानां) that connects (ग्रन्थि) us all (मा) and you are the cure/an end (अन्तक) to all ill and poison/malus (विश) that corrupts. Hence With your (grace) (तेन) bestow upon us in full (अप्याय+स्व) in various aspects of life (अन्नेन). May my intelligence/wisdom (विद्महे) of that Purusha (तत्पुरुषाय), may our senses/focus/meditativeness (धीमहि) of that great divine (महादेव) May that Rudra (रुद्र) impell/make it sprout (प्रचोदयात्) within us towards that consciousness.

Sri Rudram Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Namakam Closing hymn

कतमे रुद्रा इति दशेमे पुरुषे प्राणा आत्मैकादशस्ते॥
There (इति) are the types of Rudras (रुद्रा) that enter the Purusha/being (पुरुषे), ten are the Pranas (प्राणा) that enter the 5 Karmindriyas and 5 Jnanindriyas and the 11th (एकादश) is the Atman/self/mind (आत्म)

Br̥hadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3.9.4

Rudra is the pure, spontaneous self-experience which is the one consciousness that dwells in all substances. It is the seed of all seeds, He is Prana, He is Atman, it is the essence of this world appearance, it is the greatest of actions. It is the cause of all causes and it is the essence in all beings, though in fact it does not cause anything nor is it the concept of being, and therefore cannot be conceived.

Yoga Vaśiṣṭham 6.1.36 Swami Venkateshananda

As we discussed above all beings have Sūkṣma Śarīra which are Prāṇamāyā, Manomāyā, Vijnanmāyā, and Anandamāyā Koshas (layer of subtle body). Brhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad just confirmed that the 10 Pranas and the Atman are Rudras. But is Rudra the indweller to all? Here is what Vedic Saṃhitās have to say:

मो वः किरिकेभ्यो देवाना हृदयभ्यो नमो विक्षीणकेभ्यो नमो॑ | विचिन्व॒त्केभ्यो नम आनिर्ह॒तेभ्यो नम आमीव॒त्केभ्यः|| 4.5.9
Salutations to the brilliant/dazzling (किरिके) indweller/heart (हृदयभ्यो) of all divinity (देवाना ), Salutations to the one who depletes/destroyer, Salutations to the dweller of holy, to Thoughtful/caring/intelligent (विचिन्व॒त्केभ्यो ), Salutations to the indestructible (आनि+र्हते+भ्यो) स्तु

हि श्रुतं गर्तसदं युवानं मृगन्न भीममुपहत्नुमुग्रम् 4.5.10.8

We sing (स्तु-हि) that which is heard by the Rishis (श्रुत) from their inner hearts/indweller (गर्तसदं) ever young/immortal (युवानं) when the beast of the wild ( मृग ) fearless (भीम ) assailant/taming the (उपहत्नु) the beast within (मुग्रम्).

Please note: Paśū means the animals/cattle which is tied or tamed whereas Mruga means that which is free in the wild.

Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5.9

स हि क्षये॑ण॒ क्षम्य॑स्य॒ जन्म॑नः॒ साम्रा॑ज्येन दि॒व्यस्य॒ चेत॑ति 7.46.2
Together/towards (स) come to us/bestow (हि) of firm/eternal owner (क्षये॑+ण॒) over Earthly realms (क्षम्य॑+स्य॒) and its beings (जन्मन्) and with universal/celestial sovereignty (साम्राज्य), oh heavenly divine (दिव्यसं) consciousness/inner heart/indweller (चेतस् ) 7.46.2

Rig Veda 7.46.2

We saw Upaniṣhads talking about Rudra being Sūkṣma Śarīra, and the indweller of Purusha and being “One without a second”. So, is Rudra still a single entity? In our minds, is Rudra still a persona, an icon, or a sub-concept part of a bigger concept? Is Rudra still a separate Divinity compared to other Divinities? What do Rishis (rśi) have to say when they are no more in conjunction with the physical process of Yajñá, meaning when they are in Āraṇyakas (in forests/wilderness/isolation) and with students sharing their Upaniṣad wisdom? Let’s check both Āraṇyaka and Upaniṣhad, however, there are many topics yet to be discussed, so until then let’s hold our conclusions and keep seeking.

सर्वो वै रुद्रस्तस्मै रुद्राय नमो अस्तु । पुरुषो वै रुद्रस्सन्महो नमोनमः । विश्वं भूतं भुवनं चित्रं बहुधा जातं जायमानं च यत् । सर्वोह्येष रुद्रस्तस्मै रुद्राय नमो अस्तु ॥ 10.24.42
Everything (सर्वो) is therefore (तस्मै) that (वै) Rudra (रुद्र) we surrender/ our salutations (नमो) so it be, said/concluded (अस्तु) | Purusha/consciousness (पुरुषो) itself is that (वै) Rudras delight (रुद्रस्सन्महो) to him we surrender/salutations again and again (नमो नमः) | All that is (विश्वं) and all beings (भूतं) and all celestials dimensions (भुवनं) and all the wonders (चित्रं) all possibilities and diversities (बहुधा) all that is born/all happening/ all existence (जातं) all that has come into being (जायमानं) is that (यत् =is that Rudra) | Entierity is controlled (सर्वोह्येष) Rudras delight (रुद्रस्सन्महो) to him we surrender/salutations (नमो) so it be, said/concluded (अस्तु) |

Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.24.42

The above exactly landing in Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad is as follows:

ततः परं ब्रह्मपरं बृहन्तं यथानिकायं सर्वभूतेषु गूढम्‌।विश्वस्यैकं परिवेष्टितारमीशं तं ज्ञात्वाऽमृता भवन्ति॥3.7
Henceforth/moreover, further than (ततः परं) Greatness known to us/our personal Divine (बृहन्त) is Brahman/infinite that is further/superior (ब्रह्म+परं ) thought each enjoyed their own bodies/individuality (यथानिकायम्) He is the indweller hidden in all (सर्व+भूतेषु+गूढम् ) he along encompasses all entirety and is its authority (विश्वस्य+ एकं+ परिवेष्टितारम + ईशाम् ) knowing/realizing that one becomes amṛta/immortal (ज्ञात्वा+अमृताः )

एको हि रुद्रो न द्वितीयाय तस्थुर्य इमांल्लोकानीशत ईशनीभिः। प्रत्यङ्जनांस्तिष्ठति सञ्चुकोचान्तकाले संसृज्य विश्वा भुवनानि गोपाः॥ 3.2
There is (हि) The One (एको ) Rudrā (रुद्रो) and none (न) other than He, none can make Him second (द्विती) in being (याय) that is in existence (तस्थु:र्य) among the worlds( इमां:ल्लोका), He is the authority (ईशते) by His own authority (ईशनीभिः)| In all worlds/dimensions (भुवनानि) is His convolution and projection and guardians (संसृज् + ज्य + गोपाः) in entirety (विश्वा), He is established (तिष्ठति) in all beings (हे जनाः) as the indweller (प्रत्यङ्); and all beings (भूत्वा), at the time of final dissolution (अन्त:काले), become/withdraw into Him (सञ्चुकोच)

Please note: When we say “time of final dissolution” we need to refer to the source in Taittariya Aranyaka 10.18 wherein Rudra itself is TIME, hence the title “कालाय नमः”. Futher his titles enumerate as Mahakaal, kālāgnirudrāya qnd trikāgnikālāya

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 3.7/3.2

Let’s compare this statement from Katha Śākhā:

अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषोऽन्तरात्मा सदा जनानां हृदये संनिविष्टः। तं स्वाच्छरीरात्प्रवृहेन्मुञ्जादिवेषीकां धैर्येण। तं विद्याच्छुक्रममृतं तं विद्याच्छुक्रममृतमिति ॥2.3.17
The Purusha, the Spirit within, who is no larger than the finger of a man is seated for ever in the heart of creatures; one must separate Him with patience from one’s own body as one separates from a blade of grass its main fiber. Thou shalt know Him for the Bright Immortal, yea, for the Bright Immortal.

Katha Upaniṣhad 2.3.17

Finally, let’s take notice of how all the above is consistent with both Mahabaratam Itihāsa and Maharśi Vaśiṣṭha’s Ramayana, also known as Yoga Vaśiṣṭham. Please take note of the contradiction that Rudra is:

Rishi Kasyapa said, ‘Rudra exists in the hearts of men. He destroys the bodies themselves in which he dwells as also the bodies of others. Rudra has been said to be like atmospheric visitations and his form is like that of the wind-gods. ~Shanti Parva 73

“The illustrious Rudra is Death’s self, the year becomes his bow; Kala Ratri the Death-night therefore, which is Rudra’s shadow” ~Karna Parva 34

Mahabaratam Shanti Parva 73 / Karna Parva 34

Rudra is the pure, spontaneous self-experience which is the one consciousness that dwells in all substances. It is the seed of all seeds, He is Prana, He is Atman, it is the essence of this world appearance, it is the greatest of actions. It is the cause of all causes and it is the essence in all beings, though in fact it does not cause anything nor is it the concept of being, and therefore cannot be conceived. It is the awareness in all that is sentient, it knows itself as its own object, it is its own supreme object and it is aware of infinite diversity within itself.

This infinite consciousness can be compared to the ultimate subatomic particle which yet hides within its heart the greatest of mountains. It encompasses the span of countless epochs, but it does not let go of a moment of time. It is subtler than the tip of a single strand of hair, yet it pervades the entire universe. No one has seen its limits or boundaries.

Yoga Vaśiṣṭham 6.1.36 (Translation of Swami Venkateshananda page 377)

Now we should ask two simple questions, First, what does Rishi Vaśiṣṭha mean when he says above “No one has seen its limits or boundaries”? Well, Let’s go back to Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 4.18:

यदाऽतमस्तान्न दिवा न रात्रिर्न सन्न चासच्छिव एव केवलः। तदक्षरं तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं प्रज्ञा च तस्मात्प्रसृता पुराणी॥
यदा अतमः तत् न दिवा न रात्रि न सत् न च असत्। केवलः शिवः एव तत् अक्षरम् तत् सवितुः वरेण्यम्। तस्मात् पुराणी प्रज्ञा प्रसृता॥ Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 4.18
When there is no darkness, not day (न दिवा) nor night (न रात्रि), not being (न सत्) nor non-being/no basis for anything (न च असत्), immutable/ unchangable/ unblemishable/ unaltered (तत् अक्षरम्), that the supreme light of the Creating Sun (तत् सवितुः वरेण्यम्) as its source (तस्मात्) all that is to be known and ancient (पुराणी प्रज्ञा) has come to be (प्रसृता) from that absolute singularity known as Shiva (एव केवलः शिवः)

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 4.18

Second, what does Rishi Vaśiṣṭha mean when he says “It is subtler than the tip of a single strand of hair, yet it pervades the entire universe?” Both Vedas answered this for us by saying:

नमो ज्येष्ठाय च कनिष्ठाय च नमः पूर्वजाय चा परजाय च || 4.5.6
नमो॑ बृहते च वर्षीयसे च नमो वृद्धाय च संवृध्वने च ||4.5.5
Salutations (नमो) to one who is the eldest/oldest (ज्येष्ठाय) and to the one who is youngest/most subtle (कनिष्ठाय). Salutations to the one who is ancient/known (पूर्वजा) and one who is current/stranger (परजा). Salutations to the one who is the largest/all-encompassing (Bṛhat बृहत्) and of highest/great importance (वर्षीयंस्) and ever growing (संवृद्ध)

Viṣvarūpam = the cosmic form or the all-encompassing omni-form.
Pururūpam, meaning multiform/multihued
Virūpam, meaning multifold altering forms
Vahurūpa meaning multi-formed

 Kṛṣṇa Yajur Veda Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5, Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.23.1, Rig Veda 2.33.1, Mahabharatam Drona Parva 202-203

Does Yoga Vaśiṣṭham and Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad have this link back to Āraṇyakas? We have just seen above in Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.24.42:

All that is (विश्वं) and all beings (भूतं) and all celestials dimensions (भुवनं) and all the wonders (चित्रं) all possibilities and diversities (बहुधा) all that is born/all happening/ all existence (जातं) all that has come into being (जायमानं) is that (यत् =is that Rudra) | Entirety is controlled (सर्वोह्येष) Rudra’s delight (रुद्रस्सन्महो) to him we surrender/salutations (नमो) so it be, said/concluded (अस्तु)

Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.24.42

This is why Rig Veda 6.49.10 called him the father to all creation:

भुवनस्य पितरं गीर्भिराभी रुद्रं दिवा वर्धया रुद्रमक्तौ ।बृहंतमृष्वमजरं सुषुम्नमृधग्घुवेम कविनेषितासः ॥
Of all dimensions/celestial mansions (भुवन) are your progeny (गर्भिन्) and you the father/source (पित), oh Rudra (रुद्र), by day/dawn (दिवा) and by dusk/night ( रुद्रमक्तौ ) you encompass everything (वर्ध) | Oh great and honorable and timeless/ageless (बृहंतमृ + ऋष्व + अजरं), most gracious(सु-सुम्न), unconditional one, we/rishis sing our poetic hymns (कविने) to the Supreme (इषितासः/iṣitāsaḥ). 6.49.10

Rig Veda 6.49.10

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