RudraRudra is one of the most significant Vedic gods. There are a number of hymns in the Rig Veda about Rudra, and three of them are solely dedicated to him. Rudra is the supreme Warrior, the divine Fighter, the God of Power. He is terrible according to the human view: he is dynamic according to the divine view. In the popular understanding of Indian mythology, Rudra is the Storm-God or Thunder-God. It is said that he creates thunder with his arm and uses lightening bolts from the sky. He is also said to use the bow and arrow. Rudra is closely associated with the Maruts, the Divine Sons, who are also connected with the natural forces and the Heavens. In Indian mythology, Rudra wears a golden necklace and is adorned with costly celestial garments. His lips are said to be beautiful, and his hair is always braided.
Rudra is the lord of terror, but, at the same time, he is the Lord of Compassion. We can also say that Rudra is Shivam Shantam. Shantam is the Lord of Peace, the Lord who embodies Peace, and Shivam is the god who embodies the auspicious qualities. According to tradition, this god, Rudra, has no time to spend with the dead. He deals only with the living, the striving, the aspiring. As Christ said of his Father, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living," so, too, this is Rudra.
Human desire makes us feel that ignorance is our lot. Divine aspiration makes us feel that God-realisation is our birthright. Human ignorance is within us and without. With his dynamic, divine energy it is Rudra who frees us from this ignorance and inwardly compels us to march towards the Light, the Light of the Beyond. He does this more powerfully, perhaps, than any of the other gods. He can work in and through us most convincingly when we bring our own heart-elevating and soul-illumining emotions to the fore.
When we invoke the cosmic gods, it happens that sometimes insincerity looms large in our prayer. To some extent the cosmic gods are indulgent of our imperfections. But this particular god, Rudra, is never, never indulgent of human weakness. When an insincere seeker makes others feel that he is a true seeker, Rudra destroys his insincerity. Again, if somebody is sincere in his spiritual life but shows false modesty by claiming that he does not practise spirituality, at that time Rudra comes and destroys that person's false modesty with a divine jolt or inner blow. Many people worship God in order to achieve something, in order to fulfil their aspiration. They pray to God for Peace or Joy or Power. But people in India who know Rudra's tremendous power pray to him not to hurt them or destroy them. Earthbound people feel that when Rudra is invoked, the moment his divine force touches their petty human weaknesses they will be destroyed. Actually, Rudra enters into our aspiring hearts with his dynamic valour not to destroy us but to transform our ignorance. Whenever there is aspiring energy, Rudra is present to offer his indomitable strength to his human devotees.
Rudra marshals the human race to march towards its divine perfection. It is Rudra's divine necessity that impels him to do this work.
You all know that India has been a victim to the caste system. The caste system was begun with great purity and simplicity in the Vedic age. As it was handed down through the ages, it became more and more undivine and unjust until today it is only a pathetic mockery of its original glory and truth. We learn about the original caste divisions in the Rig Veda. The Brahmin is from the highest caste; he is the priest and scholar and is conversant with Vedic philosophy. The Kshatriya is the warrior. He has indomitable princely qualities. The word 'Kshatriya' was not mentioned in the Vedas; rather the word 'Rajanya' was used, meaning the prince with kingly qualities. The Vaishya is the merchant and trader, while the Sudra is the labourer and the servitor. Agni, the Fire-God, is from the Brahmin caste, Indra and Varuna are Kshatriya gods. Rudra and the Maruts are Vaishya gods and Pushan is a Sudra god.
The caste system has its advantages, but through its abuse, India has created a deplorable situation for herself. According to my own inner understanding, the caste system should be considered a boon from a certain point of view. Each caste can be seen as a part of the body of society. In our physical body, each limb has a specific function, a unique capacity of its own. Similarly, each limb of the body of society has a special role. The Brahmin has spiritual and mental development; he is the teacher of the family. The Kshatriya is the protector and the administrator of justice in the family. The Vaishya will look after the financial and material needs of the family. And finally, the Sudra will serve the family. If the four brothers work jointly, then there will be abundant peace, joy and harmony in the family. But if they are at daggers drawn, naturally there will be endless quarrels and misunderstandings. If the eldest brother feels that it is beneath his dignity to waste his time talking to his Sudra brother who is ignorant of Vedic knowledge, then the harmony will be destroyed. If the Kshatriya brother asks himself why he should offer his capacity and valour for his Brahmin brother who perhaps may be living a secluded life in the forest, then naturally he will go his own way and dissension will result.
On the spiritual plane, these four divisions signify the various planes of spiritual capacity, the inner rungs of spiritual height. These spiritual planes correspond in their own way with the levels of human capacity called, on our earthly plane, castes. Not all the gods are equally great or high. The gods also have their relative positions in the divine hierarchy. Each deity has his own permanent place. But needless to say, a cosmic god, even if he is of the Sudra class, is infinitely higher than a Brahmin human being.
In the Rig Veda, we have a significant hymn which mentions that the Mouth of God is the Brahmin — or, let us say, that the Brahmin has come directly from the Mouth of God. The same hymn says that the Kshatriya comes from the Arms of God, the Vaishya comes from the Thigh and the Sudra comes from the Feet.
We all know the significant Gayatri Mantra. But I wish to say there is another Gayatri Mantra: the Rudra Gayatri. It is not as important as the real Gayatri, which is offered to the Sun-God, but it is still very significant. It runs thus: "We meditate on Rudra to give us the supreme Knowledge. We meditate on Rudra to energise our life and to stimulate our mind." This is the prayer that we offer to Rudra. He who wants to be a chosen instrument of God must cry for Rudra, for it is he who will free us from imperfection, bondage and limitation.
The world is for the brave; and those who are brave are already chosen by the divine aspect of Rudra. Spirituality in its purest sense is the acceptance of life. If we want to transform the world, first we have to accept it. When we face the world, what we see initially is imperfection, and our immediate reaction is a feeling of despondency. But the real divine warrior feels that he is indomitable — a perfect match for the darkness of the world — for he knows that Rudra is constantly inspiring him and aspiring in him and for him.
Rudra does not want even an iota of an undivine force to remain within us. Compassion he has in boundless measure, but his compassion he uses only in the form of Light. Where there is Light, Compassion reigns. Again, where there is Compassion, there also is Light. Rudra's Compassion is the Compassion of oneness. Rudra feels that if he is perfect, then his human children must also become perfect. He feels that we can all be perfect, for in our soul's nature we are already perfect.
We are all seekers of the infinite Truth. We have to adore Rudra, the indomitable, not out of teeming fear or excruciating pain, but out of love, out of selfless devotion and surrender. Rudra wants to establish the Kingdom of Truth and Perfection here on earth. He strives to establish the Kingdom of Truth in a world of falsehood, the Kingdom of Perfection in a world of imperfection.