The Significance of the Satarudriya
The Rudra-Adhyaya, known also as the Satarudriya, occurring in the Yajur Veda, is a soul-stirring hymn offered to the all-pervading Almighty, designated as Rudra-Siva. He is present in auspicious, benign forms by way of sustenance of all things created, and also as terrible forms which He assumes at the time of the dissolution and destruction of the cosmos at the end of time. Apart from these two major aspects of the Supreme Reality, viz., the sustaining and the destroying, the constructive and the destructive—we may say the positive and the negative—there is an inscrutable, un-understandable mystery behind the envisagement of God-Being in our practical lives.
The purpose of this magnificent hymn, the Satarudriya, is to set aside, once and for all, the extra-cosmic notion of God that people sometimes entertain in their religious fervour, and to instil into the minds of people the greater, profounder knowledge of the fact that God is not merely the creative extra-cosmic Parent of the universe, but He is also immanent in every particle, in every speck of space, in every unit of time, in every nook and corner, in every particle of creation.
A very intriguing aspect of God presented in this wondrous hymn is that God is both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the right and the wrong, the positive and the negative, the high and the low, the conceivable and the inconceivable, the mortal and the immortal, existence and non-existence —every blessed notion of God and its correlative, or we may say the counter-correlative, the opposite, which also is included in the existence of God. Thus the counter-correlative of white is black, and God is both the white and the black. If we say that something is good, there has to be something else that is bad. But God is both aspects blended in a transcendent Presence which is neither the good nor the bad, yet is both the good and the bad, the subject and the object. Every experience, every perception, every way of human thought is involved in this predicament of juxtaposing, blending or bringing together contraries in God-Being.
The whole of life is nothing but a war field, as we are sometimes told, a Mahabharata—an arena of battle where forces collide with one another—because the universe does not present itself as a uniform, featureless, spread-out continuum of a single form of existence, but as a mixture of contrary elements. We may call them the centripetal movements and the centrifugal movements—energies that tend towards the centre and energies that direct themselves away from the centre towards the periphery of the cosmos, towards the objects of sense. The battlefield of life is nothing but the field of the conflict of these two tendencies, everywhere, in the process of evolution—a tendency towards the centre of the universe, and the opposite tendency that moves away from the centre towards the circumference of the cosmos.
Thus, whenever our conceptions, cognitions and perceptions get tuned to the tendencies in the universe that move toward the centre of the cosmos, we appear to be seeing good things, beautiful things, happy things, pleasant things; but whenever perceptions, cognitions, outlooks get entangled in those tendencies which move outwards—away from the centre, towards the objects, thus externalising consciousness—things appear unhappy, ugly, bad and evil. So, the perception of this disparity of characters in things is not due to any actual disparity in the cosmos, as disparity is not really there, but is due to the incapacity of the human individual to conceive the totality of being at one stroke. The weakness of the faculty of human perception is that it can only dichotomise those characters that belong to the subject and those belonging to the object.
The Rudra-Adhyaya lifts us above all these human ways of looking at things, above mortal thinking and individualistic perception, and admonishes us to recognise the Mighty Being in every little thing in the cosmos, whether they are liked ones or disliked ones, good ones or bad ones, necessary ones or unnecessary ones, pleasant ones or unpleasant ones. It is only here that we read, with consternation, that God is praised as the Lord of thieves, the Lord of bandits, the Lord of dacoits marauding on the mountain tops, and as He who is present in workshops, in marketplaces, in the streets, in earth, water, fire, air and ether—in all things in creation.
The Rudra-Adhyaya, or the Satarudriya, is a great meditation on the cosmos, or the Virat-Svarupa of the Lord, as the original Almighty before creation and also after creation, in whom the whole of creation is absorbed in a blend of unity with its own existence. The mind of man cannot operate here, because to think all things at once—in every way, and in every form of description—is something practically impossible for the human mind; and meditation supreme is nothing but this effort of the human mind to lift itself above bodily and empirical perceptions and to envisage the universe as one single being in which the subject and the object are blended together.
Usually, the human being is regarded as the subject and the universe, or the world of objects, is regarded as something external. Here, in this meditation of the Almighty, Rudra or Siva, is conceived as the Universal Presence in all creation. The distinction usually drawn between the thinker and the thought, consciousness and matter, subject and object, is overcome by an effort of consciousness which unites itself by a deep communion with that Being who is not only the consciousness that meditates, but also that which is meditated upon.
In a way, the Purusha Sukta is similar to the Vishvakarma Sukta, the Hiranyagarbha Sukta, and such other great hymns of the Vedas, including the Varuna Sukta of the Atharva Veda, all of which present a picture of the Almighty as a blend of contraries—not only philosophically or metaphysically, but even socially, ethically and morally—so that no one who has not lifted himself above the limitations of human thought can offer prayers in this manner. No man, except a superman, can pray to God in this way. I feel this is not a man's prayer to God; this is a superman's dedication to the Almighty, a great protective measure, a solacing force and a redeemer from every difficulty and trouble in life.
This Rudra Adhyaya, this Satarudriya, this hymn should be chanted, heard, and made an instrument of daily prayer to God, by which one's mortal sins are destroyed and the spiritual light is lit within—by which one's internal eye beholds that Presence which outwardly is manifest as the universe and inwardly as the mind and consciousness. Thus, this is a universal meditation which is expressed in the Vedas as a hymn of prayer to the Supreme Being, here addressed by the epithet of Rudra, Siva—the One without a second. May His Grace be upon us all!