The Destructive Power Removes Obstacles in the Way of the Higher Illumination

Sri Aurobindo translates Nilarudra Upanishad, First Part, Verses 6-9: “With fair speech, O mountain-dweller, we sue to thee in the assembly of the folk, that the whole world may be for us a friendly and sinless place.  That thy arrow which is the kindliest of all and thy bow which is well-omened and that thy quiver which beareth blessing, by that thou livest for us, O lord of slaughter.  That thy body, O terrible One, which is fair and full of kindness and destroyeth sin, not thy shape of terrors, in that thy body full of peace, O mountaineer, thou art wont to be seen among our folk.  This Aruna of the dawn that is tawny and copper-red and scarlet-hued, and these thy Violent Ones round about that dwell in the regions in their thousands, verily, it is these whom we desire.”

The overwhelming experience of seeing the Lord in his destructive aspect shakes the peace of mind of the seer, and elicits the spontaneous prayers for the peaceful and nurturing forms of the Divine.  At the same time, the seer recognises that powers of destruction are a necessary element in the development of society, and thus, the implements of destruction, the bow, the arrow, the quiver, are bringers of blessings.

Dawn in the Veda is the harbinger of the rise of the sun of illumination.  This is an inner uprising of knowledge that comes about when the resistance of the being is crushed under the onslaught of the powerful forces which destroy all that resists and opposes this illumination.

The inner sense of the Upanishads, as of the Veda, focuses on the development of the deeper knowledge that recognises the Oneness of the creation and brings about the status of “knowledge by identity”.  The aspect of destruction is required to sweep away those things within the being which prevent or obstruct this recognition.  We can see that in the phrase “destroyeth sin”.  The focus here is not on physical destruction, but on an inner change.  Sin in the Vedic context represents those things which distort or deflect the conscious awareness from the calm, tranquil, serene and receptive state that is a basis for the higher realisation.  The aspiration goes forth from there to achieve the illumination with the coming of the dawn.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Nilarudra Upanishad, pp.393-396


Salutation to Rudra: a Prayer to Bestow the Blessings of Grace, Not Destruction, on the People

Sri Aurobindo translates Nilarudra Upanishad, First Part, Verses 4-5:  “Salutation to thee who bringeth the world into being, salutation to thee, the passionate with mighty wrath.  Salutation be to thy arms of might, salutation be to they angry shaft.  The arrow thou bearest in thy hand for the hurling, O thou that liest on the mountains, make an arrow of blessing, O keeper of the hills, let it not slay my armed men.”

Sri Aurobindo provides his own commentary on these verses:  “In the fourth verse he salutes the God.  Rudra is the Supreme Ishwara, Creator of the World, He is the dreadful, wrathful and destroying Lord, swift to slay and punish.  … Bhamamanyave … means, one who is full of the passion of violent anger.  Rudra is being saluted as a God of might and wrath, it is therefore to the arms as the seat of strength and the arrow as the weapon of destruction that salutation is made.”

“Rudra is coming in a new form of wrath and destruction in which the Aryans are not accustomed to see him.  Apprehensive of the meaning of this vision, the King summons the people and in assembly prayer is offered to Rudra to avert possible calamity.  The shaft is lifted to be hurled from the bow; it is prayed that it may be turned into a shaft of blessing, not of wrath.  In this verse the Prince prays the God not to slay his men, meaning evidently, the armed warriors of the clan.”

We find here the reaction of the human individual to an overwhelming intensity of vision where the destructive powers of existence are unveiled in their unrestrained might.  Arjuna had a similar experience in the vision he was vouchsafed by Sri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and, witnessing the predetermined destruction of the Kuru race in the forthcoming battle, and the power that was making this come to pass, he prayed for Grace and to see the beneficent form once again, as the vision of the  destructive aspect of the creation is overwhelming to the human being who has been granted this vision.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Nilarudra Upanishad, pp.393-396

Nilarudra Upanishad: Rudra the God of Might and Wrath

Sri Aurobindo translates Nilarudra Upanishad, First Part, Verses 1-3:  “OM.  Thee I beheld in thy descending down from the heavens to the earth, I saw Rudra, the Terrible, the azure-throated, the peacock-feathered, as he hurled.  Fierce he came down from the sky, he stood facing me on the earth as its lord, — the people behold a mass of strength, azure-throated, scarlet-hued.  This that cometh is he that destroyeth evil, Rudra the Terrible, born of the tree that dwelleth in the waters; let the globe of the storm winds come too, that destroyeth for thee all things of evil omen.”

The seer of the Upanishad has had a vision of the divine power of destruction which is part of the cycle of birth, life and death that functions to provide opportunity for growth, change and development.  This force, when it manifests, is terrifying and overwhelming to the human being.   We witness the reaction of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita when he is confronted with the vision of the Time-Spirit, the universal destroyer that is wiping away all of the obstacles to the next phase of evolution.

Sri Aurobindo has provided insight to these verses:  “The speaker … records a vision of Rudra descending from the heavens to the earth.  … the image  in which he beheld the Divine Manifestation is described, Rudra, the God of might and wrath, the neck and throat blue, a peacock’s feather as a crest, in the act of hurling a shaft.  … He descended fiercely, that is, with wrath in his face, gesture and motion and stood facing the seer … on the earth and over it, … in a way expressive of command or control. … The people see Rudra as a mass of brilliance, scarlet-ringed and crested with blue, the scarlet in Yoga denoting violent passion of anger or desire, the blue sraddha, bhakti, piety or religion. …  Rudra, whom we know as the slayer of evil, comes.  The Rajarshi describes him as born of the tree that is in the waters.  … The asvattha is the Yogic emblem of the manifested world, as in the Gita, the tree of the two birds in the Shwetashwatara Upanishad, the single tree in the blue expanse of the Song of Liberation.  The jala is the apah or waters from which the world rises.  The Rishi then prays that the  … mass of winds of which Rudra is lord and which in the tempest of their course blow away all calamity, such as pestilence, etc., may come with him.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Nilarudra Upanishad, pp.393-396