Shivaratri is considered to be a very auspicious day. The word “Shiva” itself means the auspicious one. Therefore Shivaratri means “night of auspiciousness” during which we worship Shiva. HE is the embodiment of auspiciousness, who is the embodiment of Mangalam, and who is the embodiment of Ananda. By worshipping Shiva today we can attain all the purusharthas – artha, kama, dharma and moksha. And on this day Shiva puja is done in the form of rudra abhisekham. Sri Rudram is supposed to be a very sacred mantra occurring in the Vedas. Sri Rudram is the glorification of Lord Shiva who is none other than Rudra, which means one who removes all sorrows or pains from one’s mind. “Ruth” means “dukham” and “dra” means “remover”. So the very meaning of Rudram is ‘remover of sorrow” and so we chant Rudram and do abhisekham today. The glory of Rudram is mentioned in Kaivalya Upanishad: a person becomes free from pappas and sins he has committed. Rudram not only sets us from our sins but also give us all the four purusharthas. We chant some Dhyana slokas before chanting rudram and these verses are used for the meditation on Lord Shiva. These prayer verses are beautiful verses and with beautiful meaning. So I thought I will give you briefly the meaning of the dhyana sloka today.
These Dhayana Slokas of Rudram is beautiful as Lord Shiva is described in three different ways depending upon the stage of the seeker, depending upon the maturity of the devotee the Lord HIMSELF is seen from three different perspectives. All the three angles are given in the dhyana slokas and we’ll discuss them.
The first way of looking upon the Lord as a human being, as a person. A beginner looks upon the Lord as a person (as a personal god). Therefore the initial description of the Lord is as a person with hands and legs, asanams and ornaments etc. But once the devotee is evolved enough then he has to change his perspective. The Lord should not be seen as one particular person but Lord must be seen as total creation endowed with all the forms of creation. This is called viswa rupa ishwaraha. Once we have evolved sufficiently then we have to go beyond the viswarupa also. We have to learn to appreciate the same Lord as formless, attribute less, the absolute nirgunam Brahman. In Sanskrit the first stage is “eka rupa” bhakti, the Lord in one particular form. The second stage is “anaka rupa” bhakti, the Lord in manifold form and ultimately the “arupa” bhakti where the Lord is formless. Every devotee has to start as “eka rupa” bhakta and here the devotee has a lot of options. You can choose your personal god as personal gods are many with different names and forms. You can choose Shiva as your Ishta Devata, you can choose Vishnu as your Ishta devata, you can choose Devi as Ishta Devata – all of them you see as a person in the beginning. But once I do sufficient puja then the very same Shiva or any personal God I learn to look upon as the very creation. Viswa, prapanja, eka rupah shariram as Viswarupah. Thus for a Shiva Bhakta, Shiva becomes the whole creation or the whole creation is nothing but Shiva. Similarly for a Vishnu bhakta starts with Vishnu rupam initially with Shankar, gada, chakra etc and he should also evolve to see Vishnu as the very creation. Then all the bhaktas – whether Shiva bhakta or Vishnu bhakta – must go to the final goal stage where he sees Vishnu or Shiva or Devi as Sachithananda nirgunam Brahman which is the ultimate devotion.
The beauty is when we are in the beginning stage there will be differences between Shiva and Vishnu and Devi because the forms are different, the weapons are different, the vahanams are different. Therefore in the first stage every personal god is different from the other. But once you go to the second stage where you see the Lord as the very creation then there cannot be any difference between Vishnu and Shiva because Vishnu represents the whole creation, Shiva also represents the whole creation. How many viswarupams are possible? Viswarupam can only be one and in this stage there is no difference between Shiva and Vishnu. Similarly when you go to nirgunam Brahman stage there cannot be any difference between Shiva or Vishnu or Devi. We start with difference but ultimately we end in non-differences. So initially alone we have got quarrels “Whether Shiva is bigger or Vishnu is bigger” or “whether Shiva worships Vishnu or Vishnu worships Shiva” do both of them worship the devi. So all the quarrels are only when the devotee is in the first stage of personal gods. Veda affirm that we should not grade Brahma or Shiva or Vishnu and if we do so then it is a big sin. And if a person grades gods as superior or inferior etc then he is doing a papam and the Lord will give that person a punishment with “stomach pain”. So if you don’t want “stomach ache” you should desist from comparisons and grading! I am not saying but shastra: if you rank Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as “uttama” or “madhyama” (inferior superior etc) then you will be condemned to pains in the stomach. Therefore remember all the three are one and the same, one god seen in three different forms.
All the three levels of Bhakti is there in the dhyana sloka. We will briefly see the meaning of the sloka.
śuddhasphaṭika saṅkāśaṃ trinetraṃ pañca vaktrakam |
gaṅgādharaṃ daśabhujaṃ sarvābharaṇa bhūṣitam
This is the first stage where we look upon Lord Shiva as a person. And what is HIS complexion? Suddhaspatika Sankasam, Shiva is very, very fair. Mrs. Shiva, Parvathi, is dark. Maybe this is to show that there should not be any fights over black and white! Shiva is as fair as a crystal. Then trinetram, HE has three eyes represented by the sun, the moon and the fire. The sun and moon represent the ordinary eyes. Agni the third eye represents knowledge. In the mythology you’ll find that Lord Shiva with the third eye destroyed everything including Manmatha (god of kama) and HE also destroy tripurantaka asuras etc. Philosophically the third eye represents Janani Agnih. When we mean Lord destroys Kama we mean HE destroys all our petty desires. IF we have the third eye of wisdom like Shiva we can also burn Kama, kroda, loba, etc. Tripura rakshasas represent the three sharirams, the three gunas, and the three avasthas. With the help of the third eye a person destroys all the sharirams (sthula, sukha and karam). In short, HE destroys samsara, thereby HE destroys all our problems. Pancavaktrakam – the Lord who has five faces or five heads. Four heads on four sides and one head looking up (you should not ask where is the place!). The five heads are enumerated in the Vedas in the well known mantra sandyo jatham prapadh is the first one, vamadevayah is the second, agorabyo is the third one, tat purushaya is the fourth one, eshanah is the fifth. The fifth head is very important for those people who seek self-knowledge, all the apara vidya and also para vidya. It is from the standpoint of eshanah that we look upon Lord Shiva as Dakshinamurthy. Lord Shiva is the authority of Vedas. Then Gangadaram means is one who has got Ganga devi or Ganga river on his jatta. From Lord Shiva head only Ganga is blessing all people. Philosophically Ganga represents brahma vidya or self-knowledge. There are a lot of similarities between Ganga and self-knowledge. Both originate from the Lord’s head. Ganga is a perennial river not like our local Madras river that dry up, similarly the tradition of self-knowledge is also perennial. Ganga flows from higher plane to lower plane, atma-vidya too flows from guru in the higher plane to sishya in the lower plane. If you dip into Ganga it refreshes your body and mind, similarly if you dip in brahma vidya (self-knowledge) you like refresh yourself. Ganga has got various ghats (steps). You should approach only through the ghats otherwise you’ll be swept away. Ganga is a powerful river. There are lot of rocks and it;s ice cold. Even a powerful swimmer cannot swim in this river. So if you want to have a bath you must go to a ghat. Likewise if you want self-knowledge you must follow a tradition of approaching a guru. You insist on self-efforts like using translation it will only cause confusion. There are so many common features and the Lord is called Gangadarah. Dasabhujam – the Lord who has ten hands which are stretched in all the ten directions (four main quarters, four secondary quarters and then up and down). Sarva bharana Bhushitam – One who has many ornaments on HIS body. All the ornaments of Shiva are made up of snakes!
nīlagrīvaṃ śaśāṅkāṅkaṃ nāga yaṅñopa vītinam |
vyāghra carmottarīyaṃ ca vareṇyamabhaya pradam
vyāghra carmottarīyaṃ ca vareṇyamabhaya pradam
Nilagrivam is the one who is blue necked and one who swallowed the poison to save the whole world. Sasankankam is one who has got moon on HIS head. Philosophically the moon represents the time principle for we determine “thiti” and kala from its movement. Therefore Shiva has Kala under HIS control. nāga yaṅñopa vītinam – HE has got the sacred thread which is another snake. vyāghra carmottarīyaṃ ca is the tiger skin that HE is wearing as a dress. Varenyam means that HE is the goal of all the people as HE is the nature of Ananda. Abaya pradam is ONE who gives protection, refuge to all the devotees.
kamaṇḍal-vakṣa sūtrāṇāṃ dhāriṇaṃ śūlapāṇinam |
jvalantaṃ piṅgaḷajaṭā śikhā muddyota dhāriṇam
HE has got Kamandalu and aksha mala and that’s why HE is the representative of all sanyasis. Shivaratri is considered to be very sacred as many take sanyasa deeksha on this auspicious day. Shiva represents tyaga and Vishnu represents bhoga. Shiva has got jatta and HE does not even have a proper dress. Shiva represents the sanyasi parampara. HE has got sulapaninam to destroy all the asuras. Jvalantam is ONE who is shining, one who is bright. Pingalajatta means jatta is golden yellow in colour as it is not washed (there is no shampoo etc) and it has become brawny colour. And sikha that is standing upward like a plane and one who is keeping Ganga jalam in HIS matted hair.
vṛṣa skandha samārūḍham umā dehārtha dhāriṇam |
amṛtenāplutaṃ śāntaṃ divyabhoga samanvitam
HE is amrutham as abhisekam is indicated, HE is ananda and HE is one who has Uma devi as the second half of HIS body. Even after sanyasa HE has got a peculiar problem for he cannot leave his wife. Wherever HE goes Uma devi will also come. And one who is seated on a divine simhasanam that is the Himalayas. And one who has all the bhoga as Himalayas have all the gold, gems etc.
digdevatā samāyuktaṃ surāsura namaskṛtam |
nityaṃ ca śāśvataṃ śuddhaṃ dhruva-makṣara-mavyayam
One who is surrounded by dig devatas and one who is worshipped by all suras and asuras. Until now you got description of Shiva as a personal god. Now the sloka give a different and higher angle of nirgunal brahma swarupam. nityaṃ ca śāśvataṃ śuddhaṃ dhruva-makṣara-mavyayam and these are all definitions of formless Brahman. It is nitya, (eternal), sasvatam (changeless), suddham (pure), druvam (without any movement), aksharam (without any distraction) and avyayam (without any taint). According to the level and maturity of the seeker we can see Shiva as personal god or we can see Shiva as nirgunam Brahman. Then having given these two aspect the dhyana sloka gives the third aspect, that is anaka rupam or vishwa rupam.
sarva vyāpina-mīśānaṃ rudraṃ vai viśvarūpiṇam |
evaṃ dhyātvā dvijaḥ samyak tato yajanamārabhe
The very same lord is not seated in Kailasa but HE is the form of whole vishwa or cosmos and who is all pervading and who is the ultimate lord. Here we have to reverse the order, first eka rupa then anaka rupa and finally arupa. Having meditated on Shiva in one form or the other according to the maturity of the devotee thereafter rudra abhisekham should be done. First we have to meditate and only then do the rudram puja.
There are two more dhyana slokas and those two I will briefly discuss.
jyotiḥ sphāṭika-liṅga-mauḷi-vilasat-pūrṇendu-vāntāmṛtaiḥ |
dhyāye-dīpsita-siddhaye dhruvapadaṃ viproஉbhiṣiñce-ccivam
This is a beautiful sloka whee Shiva is seen as a jyotih linga, a shining linga which is pure like sphatikam. We have different kinds of linga. In fact the pancha bhootas are seen as five lingas: prithvi linga, jala lingam, agni linga, vayu linga and akasha lingam to show that everything is the Lord. In this sloka Lord Shiva is seen as Akasha lingam. If you look at the sky it also looks like a linga with a curvature. An akasha in which all the lokas, the entire brahmadam is there. From pathala to nabhasthalanta upto brahma loka. The total cosmos (the 14 lokas) are located in the aksaha and the akasha is the linga. If the akasha is the linga then who will do the abhisekam? You cannot do it with the local 1 litre or 2 litre of milk! The sloka says that the abhisekam is done by purnendu chandrah. According to mythology when the moon emits rays it is also emitting some water also. Because of the water content the moon rays are cool. That moon emits amruta jalam on a full moon day that pervades the whole space. And that is coming from the moon partum for the akasha lingam or cosmic linga. Therefore on every full moon day rudra abhisekam is taking place.
And what kind of Lord is HE? He is ekam, misam, manisam. He is one absolute ultimate God we should worship by constantly chanting the Sri Rudram mantram. One should worship Shiva for dhyaya, dipsita, sidhaya dhruvapadam. For attaining all the four purusharthas. The people are many and their desires are not one but many. Suppose I say: choose one boon from the Lord not everyone will opt for moksha. Some will ask for relief from water problem, another person will say that his stomach pain should go or this and that. By chanting Rudram one can ask for any purushartha from Shiva who is abhishekam. One should worship that Shiva who is ever changeless. Dhruvapadam means nirguna swarupam (changless).
brahmāṇḍa vyāptadehā bhasita himarucā bhāsamānā bhujaṅgaiḥ
kaṇṭhe kālāḥ kapardāḥ kalita-śaśikalā-ścaṇḍa kodaṇḍa hastāḥ |
tryakṣā rudrākṣamālāḥ prakaṭitavibhavāḥ śāmbhavā mūrtibhedāḥ
rudrāḥ śrīrudrasūkta-prakaṭitavibhavā naḥ prayaccantu saukhyam
brahmanda vyaptadeha, here one Lord Shiva is worshipped in eleven different forms. They are all pervading in nature, they are snow white like vibhuti, they all have serpa abaranam (snake as ornaments). All have necks dark in colour from poison and all of them have got moons (shashikala) in their eleven heads. All of them have got bows and arrows as their weapons (ścaṇḍa kodaṇḍa hastāḥ) to destroy the asuras.
Tryaksa, all of them are three-eyed and all of them have rudraksha mala. They all remove fear from the minds of the devotees. All the eleven are different aspects of the one and the same Shambu. And if you want to know the glory of the Lord Shiva śrīrudrasūkta-prakaṭitavibhavā the source of knowledge is Sri Rudram. Those whose glories are mentioned in the Sri Rudram of the eleven lingas, may all these rudras bless us with happiness and all the four purushartas. That is why after chanting rudram we chant chamakkam indicating all our desires. Remember chamakkam includes not only material desires but also spiritual desires also. We are asking vivekam, vairagyam, shashta sampathi, mumukshatvam, sadhana chatustaya sampathi we are asking for self-knowledge, we are asking for moksha. That is why chamakkam is required for all of us. Therefore chanting rudram and chamakkam we can ask for any purushartha. On this auspicious day when we chant we will be blessed in the path of moksha ultimately.