Introduction to Rudra-Gita

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The Rudra-Gita is contained in Slokas 16-79 of chapter 24 of Skandha IV of Srimad Bhagavata, and chapters 70-72 of Varaha-purana. They belong to the class of Hindu religious literature known as the Puranas. The word ‘Purana' in Sanskrit means ‘a narrative of ancient times'.

The Puranic literature was initially a branch of Vedic learning and not a separate and diversified religious literature, though in later days it came to be identified, in some cases, with sectarian religious literature. While the Vedic revelation is considered fixed and unalterable, the Puranic literature is sought to embody, explain and popularize the philosophy of the Veda cast in a form and against a background that is its own. The Puranic literature is stated to have come into being from the 6th century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. embodying the devotional teachings of numerous cults and sages, and also information on a variety of scientific, occult, social and historical themes.

The Puranas are distinguished as Maha-puranas and Upa-puranas, both being eighteen in number. Srimad Bhagavata and Varaha-purana are considered the Maha-puranas. The topics that form the subject matter of a Maha-purana are primary creation, secondary creation, means of sustenance, protection including Incarnations, epoch of Manus, genealogy of royal and priestly lines from Bhahma down, dynastic history of distinguished emperors, dissolution, purpose of all creative activity and ultimate support or the substratum.

Of the ten subjects, the last one, the Supreme Being Who is the final stay of all, and to Which man's devotion is to be unconditional and total, forms the one theme with which the Bhagavata is primarily concerned. All other subjects are subordinated to it. The object is to bring man into an adequate conception of His excellences and to generate in him unconditioned devotion to the Lord. As for Varaha-purana, it deals mainly with primary creation and secondary creation. It is full of religious and theological matters and glorification of the gods, mainly Visnu.
The Pauranikas say that their accounts are traditions based on the intuition, inspiration and revelation that have come to wise and realized sages. The immortal works of literature and art that have survived several centuries are always considered the works of intuition, inspiration and revelation. On the other hand, rationalists contend that the contents of the Puranas are either imaginary or absurd and do not have historical validity.

In this regard, it may be said that history, as such, has no spiritual value as events are only at the moment and are not in the next. Events become history to the extent they are remembered and become a tradition. Historical facts become spiritual reality to the extent they stimulate a myth and become a psychic verity. For example, the historicity of Christ as such gives no spiritual significance to Christianity, but its Christ Myth does. The events of the historical life of Christ as such have had no significance to posterity. But when it is accepted that he was the expression of the Second Person of the Trinity, that he was immaculately conceived, that he was the Redeemer of men, that his suffering on the Cross was in atonement for man's sins, that he rose from the dead, and that all who take refuge in him will be saved by his blood-then Christ transcends history and becomes a Myth and a Psychic Verity of universal significance. The above cited statements are not open to historical proof; but they have been accepted by the psychic being of the community. As such they have a value far transcending the events of the so called history. The same is the case with the Incarnations in the Hindu tradition. Their validity lies in the fusion their traditions have achieved with the supra-historical foundations of life.

It is not always necessary that the stimulations resulting in a Myth should occur in the dimensions of space and time. They can be purely ideal, too. An ideal manifestation in the psychic life of man can be based on the Cosmic Mind from whom events of significance can take place in the external world. It is sheer ignorance if it is considered that what is external and tangible to the senses alone is real, and what is mental or ideal is always illusory or imaginary. A sensual impact is of a much inferior order to an ideal impact of an enduring and powerful nature. So Myths that become spiritual verities need not necessarily have any historical content. They may or may not have such content. Even if they have, of what use are they that have led to these stimulations, as they are dead and gone? Only ideas as powerful psychic verities remain. In fact, even a historical personality, as a series of events, must cease to be as such, and take shape as a Myth before he becomes a spiritual verity. Also, ideal stimulations of the Cosmic Mind without any reference to history can become psychic verities of even greater potency. Such are the deities worshipped by the Hindus like Visnu, Siva, Sakti, etc. They never had location in earthly space and time except as images used in worship. They are the manifestations of the Supreme Being as Spiritual Verities before which what we call material objects are mere shadows.

The Puranas are not at all to be read as history and geography, nor are they to be regarded as fiction. They belong to an order different from both history and fiction. They are the up-throw of a people's mind struggling to express their quest for a meaning for life and their findings in this respect. They represent the more enduring and enriched reactions of the psyche of a race to the fleeting events of space and time. It is in their cumulative spiritual effect and not in the validity of their individual statements that we should seek the values they embody. They attempt to integrate philosophy, history and traditions in a way to stimulating in man a keen sense of an omniscient, omnipotent and all-loving spiritual Reality that can be communed with, prayed to and visualized in various forms of spiritual glory. God in various forms and divine personages has become concrete to the Hindu psyche. In so far as they are facts of memory in the minds of men, they fulfill the role of history. In so far as the stimulations they generate are of spiritual dimensions, they are linked with Eternal Verities that transcend history.

The questions of three-dimensional factuality, dates and location stated in the Puranas are irrelevant matters. The true question is whether the thought-forms they generate have sufficiently soaked into the psychic substratum of the worshippers and remain potent enough to stimulate their whole being.

In a pertinent passage, the Varaha-purana observes that the mythological stories should be viewed as pertaining to two different planes, the concrete and the abstract. The concrete is exemplified by the characters figuring in the stories and the abstract by the qualities in them.
Srimad Bhagavata is also known as Visnu Bhagavata. Its excellences are of such a transcending nature that it has practically eliminated all the other Puranas from the minds of men. It is the one book that is widely studied by all devotees and commented upon by scholars of all schools of thought. Though it is a Vaishnava-related Purana, and therefore sectarian in a way, its sectarianism is not one of narrowness and exclusion, but only its way of eliciting the undivided attention and devotion of men to the Deity in focus. In the sublimity, fervour and comprehensiveness of the pattern of devotion it inculcates, in the dignity, elevation and terseness of its Sanskrit diction, in the lyrical beauty and wealth of its imagery, Srimad Bhagavata is unparalleled among the Puranas.

The purpose of the Bhagavata Purana is to produce a whole-hearted acceptance of the Visnu concept and evoke devotional responses of the highest order from the mind of man. The synthesizing principle for the Bhagavata is bhakti or devotion of the highest order considered the fifth value of life. Bhakti is not merely the purifying agency, a means for a higher end; but it is the highest end itself, transcending liberation.

According to Prof. Hazra, the present text of the Bhagavata must have taken shape in the early half of the 6th century A.D.

As for the Varaha-purana, it is in the form of a conversation between Varaha, the Boar-incarnation of Lord Visnu and Dharani, the Earth held up by him in his tusk, as given by Suta, the mythological narrator. The whole discourse is in reply to Earth's questions to the Lord seeking enlightenment as to the creation, sustenance and destruction of the world and what constitutes righteous conduct and virtuous action for happiness in life, and ultimate liberation from worldly existence.

According to P.V. Kane and R.C. Hazra, the earlier parts of the Varaha-purana could not be later than the 10th century A.D. while there could have been some interpolations as late as the 15th century.

The Rudra-Gita is in the nature of exposition of the hymn of praise of Lord Visnu by Rudra for liberation, in so far as it is from Srimad Bhagavata. As for the content from Varaha-purana, it speaks of the identity of Visnu, Siva and Brahma as given by Rudra and a hymn on Visnu. Though the Rudra-Gita, drawn from the two Maha-puranas, is primarily meant to extol Visnu glorifying his achievements and inculcating steadfast devotion for him, it is not biased. Devotion for Visnu is only preferential, but not exclusive. It emphasizes the identity and oneness of all divinities.
The Gitas that find place in Maha-puranas such as the Uddhava-Gita, the Rudra-Gita, the Bhikshu-Gita, the Sruti-Gita, the Hamsa-Gita propound Monism as the essence of their philosophy.

 

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