Friday, 19 August 2011

How Shiva got the Name Rudra

Once Brahma and Vishnu were talking and talking and talking endlessly. In
everything, they are endless! When they are silent, they do not utter a word
for thousands of years; and then again, when they resume talking, they can
talk for thousands of years uninterruptedly.

On this occasion, they were enjoying one of their birthless and deathless
talks when, all of a sudden, Shiva appeared. For some reason, Shiva sometimes
assumes a very rough manner. On that day, everything about him was uncouth.
Shiva is not polished like the other cosmic gods. Around his neck there are
skulls; he is adorned with snakes; his dear ones are ghosts and his favourite
place is the cremation ground. Shivas manners are also not refined. He is
not sociable, let us say.

It was in this unseemly guise that he came to Brahma and Vishnu. Vishnu recognised
Shiva, but Brahma could not. In fact, Brahma became furious at the intruder.
How dare you come and stand in front of us! he exclaimed. We are two cosmic
gods! You have no respect for us!

You cannot recognise Lord Shiva? said Vishnu.

That is not Shiva! insisted Brahma. At that moment, Vishnu opened up Brahmas
third eye. O my God, said Brahma, it is Shiva! He said to Shiva, Please
forgive me, forgive me!

All right, I forgive you, Shiva agreed. At first, Shiva had been furious
when Brahma was insulting him. Shiva wanted to open up his third eye and
destroy Brahma then and there. But when Brahma asked for forgiveness, Shiva
brought forward his compassion aspect. He forgave Brahma unconditionally.

Still Brahma was not fully satisfied. He said to Shiva, You have to prove
that you have forgiven me.

What kind of proof do you want? asked Shiva.

You have to take incarnation in my family, declared Brahma. You have to
take birth as my son.

Fine, fine, said Shiva. I shall take incarnation in your family. I will
be your son.

After it was decided that Shiva would be born on earth as Brahmas son, Shiva
left the presence of Vishnu and Brahma.

Since Vishnu and Brahma had talked for such a long time, both of them were
now completely exhausted. Vishnu said, Let me enjoy a little rest. Brahma
added, Let me also enjoy rest, a very short rest.

As soon as Vishnu lay down, he fell asleep and started snoring. He was completely
in another world. Brahma lay down very near Vishnu. They were practically
side by side. Brahma was still partially awake. The moment Vishnu fell asleep,
something curious happened. From one of his ears a tiny being emerged, and
that being wanted to eat some honey.

A few minutes later, Vishnu woke up. Meanwhile, from his other ear, another
being was coming out. This other being was like an insect. The very nature
of an insect is to bite, so it wanted to bite Brahma. These two tiny beings
were hostile forces, or demons. Their names were Madhu and Koitava. Madhu
means honey and Koitava is from the word kit, meaning insect. Our Indian
mythology is flooded with these two names.

Madhu and Koitava found that the person nearest to them was Brahma, and so
both of them went to kill him. They were evil incarnate. Although one was
like an insect and the other was also very tiny, demons can take any form
they wish. So Madhu and Koitava suddenly became huge and powerful. They were
extremely ugly looking, plus unbearably fat.

After assuming these huge and frightening forms, Madhu and Koitava caught
Brahma off guard and started fighting with him. He shouted, What are you
doing? He fought, but he could not kill them and they also could not kill
him. Then Vishnu entered the picture. He became furious.

From my body you two came out and this is how you are behaving? he thundered.
He then proceeded to destroy the two demons.

Brahma was so happy to see Madhu and Koitava lying dead. He started meditating.
All of a sudden, he said, Shiva promised that he would take incarnation
in my family. He said he would be my son. Look at his lies! Shiva never keeps
his promisesnever, never, never! Brahma reflected for a moment and continued,
I must pray to Shiva and again remind him of his promise. He promised that
he would come to me as my son.

So Brahma prayed to Shiva for five thousand years, but Shiva did not appear
at all. One day, Brahma began shedding bitter tears because Shiva had failed
to keep his promise. Brahma said, I cannot go on in vain. Even after seeing
my tears, Shiva is not coming. I am crying like an infant, but he is deaf
to my prayers. I have now decided to commit suicide. Shiva is a liar. He
is not going to come. So the best thing is for me to immolate myself.

After saying these words, Brahma committed suicide. As soon as he had done
so, Shiva came out of Brahmas mouth. While coming out, Shiva was crying
and crying, and at the same time Brahma was revived. Brahma was so happy
to see his son. When he noticed Shivas tears, Brahma became very concerned.

Why are you crying, why are you crying, my child? he asked.

Shiva said that he was crying while taking human incarnation because he was
entering into world-ignorance. For this reason Brahma gave him the name Rudra,
meaning he who cries pitifully. There is also another aspect to the name,
which is he who destroys. In the course of time, Shiva also manifested
this other aspect using the power of his third eye.

So this is the story of how Shiva came to have the name Rudra.

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