The Atharvasiras Upanishad

Shiva Blessing Devotees

by P.R.Ramachander

Introduction

The Atharvasiras Upanishad belongs to the Atharva Veda. It is a strikingly Saiva Upanishad, which extols the virtues and attributes of Lord Shiva, in his aspect as Rudra, as the one and only. Throughout Upanishad he is described as Brahman, the creator, preserver and destroyer of the manifested worlds. Rudra is the lord of all the worlds, of the ones above and of the ones below. Rudra is all. He is Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He is also the one God, Brahman. His form is the form of the universe. He is brahmam, the material universe and the objectivity that we experience in our delusion. He represents both unity and diversity and all the divine qualities of strength and vigor.

The sacred syllable Aum is an aspect of him only. He is both the sacrificer and the sacrificed. He is and he is not, the Being and Nonbeing, past and future, the heaven and the earth, and the abode of all. Through him beings achieve immortality. As Pranava, he carries sounds as well as souls to the world of Brahman. He is beyond the three states of consciousness: namely wakefulness, the state of dream and deep sleep, and seen only by those who have transcended death through his grace. The Upanishad also affirms some important concepts of Saivism: Rudra is the first born, the source of all, the abode of all, lord of the animals, concealer and bestower of grace and knowledge, master of the elements, and breath itself. Worshipping him is equal to penance. Also, it is Rudra only who frees people from the bonds of this world and grants them liberation. The following is an original translation of the Atharvasira Upanishad by P.R. Ramachander. Hope it will help you to understand the significance of Rudra, the red one. - Jayaram V

Translation

Aum ! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious;
May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship !
May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas,
Praising them with our body and limbs steady !
May the glorious Indra bless us !
May the all-knowing Sun bless us !
May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us !
May Brihaspati grant us well-being !
Aum ! Let there be Peace in me !
Let there be Peace in my environment !
Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

[In the Atharvasiras Upanishad, the three syllable letter, which has meaning and also does not have meaning and which is perennial stands alone. It is told that it is the basis of everything and there is no basis for it.]

1. The devas with their upturned hands extended upwards pray to Rudra.

Aum! He who is Rudra, he alone is god. He is Brahma and we salute him again and again.
He who is Rudra, he alone is god. He is Vishnu and we salute him again and again.
He who is Rudra, he alone is God. He is truth and we salute him again and again.
He who is Rudra, he alone is God. He is everything and we salute him again and again.

3-1 Earth is your feet. The Bhuvar Loka (one of the seven worlds above earth) is your middle. And the Suvar Loka (another world above earth) is your head. You are of the form of the universe. You who are Brahma appear united also divided in to two, and divided in to three and appear as if you are beyond all relations (attachments). You are peace. You are vigour. You are that which is offered in fire and that which is not offered in fire. You are that which is given in charity and that which is not given. You are everything and also nothing. You are the entire universe and you are not. You are that which is done and that which is not done. You are that which is at the top and that which is at the bottom. And you are the home for all beings.

3-2 Deeply drinking the somapana (a holy drink) of your grace we have become deathless. We have reached the ultimate. We have seen the devas. Who can cause any harm to us? We humans do not have any shortage of that nectar (your grace).

3-3 You who are primeval are older than the sun and the moon.

3-4 For the sake of this world, this deathless primeval being, catches hold of this world which is created by Prajapathi and which is minute and peaceful, without touching it and attracts its shape of things by shape, peacefulness by peace, minuteness by minuteness and airy nature by its airy nature and swallows it. Salutations and salutations to that great swallower.

3-5 Those gods who reside in the heart reside in the soul of the heart. And you who live in that heart are beyond the triad nature. [The three letters Aa, Uu and ma or three states viz. wakefulness, sleep and state of dream.]

3-6 The head of “the sound of Aum” is on your left side. Its feet are on your right side. That “Sound of Aum” is the Pranava(primeval sound). That Pranava is spread everywhere. That which is everywhere is the greatest. That which is limitless, shines like a white star. That which is also called Shuklam (seminal fluid- the basic unit of life) is very very minute. That which is minute is like a lightning power. That which is like lightning power is the ultimate Brahman. That Brahman is one and only one. That one and only one is Rudra (loosely translated angry one), it is also Eeshana (the form of Lord Shiva with tuft and riding on a bull), it is also the ultimate God and it is also the lord of all things.

4. Rudra is called the personification of Pranva because he sends the souls towards heaven, at the time of death (dissolution).

He is called the “one who has the shape of Pranava “, because the Brahmins read and propagate the Rik, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas only after reading “Aum”.

He is called “all pervading “ because like oil in gingili (Til), he peacefully pervades all over the world and its beings, from top to bottom and from right to left.

He is called “Anantha (endless)”, because his end is neither at the top nor bottom, nor right nor left.

He is called “thara (protector)” because he protects one from the fear of life which consists of the fear of staying in the womb, fear at time of birth, fear from diseases, fear from old age and fear from death.

He is called “Shukla (white/ seminal fluid) because by pronouncing his name we get rid of all pains.

He is called “sookshma (minute)”, because he pervades in a minute form all over the body without touching any of the organs.

He is called “vaidhyutha (electric)” because as soon as his name is pronounced , in the state of darkness where nothing is visible, the holy knowledge comes like a ray of lightning.

He is called “Para Brahmam (the ultimate reality)", because though he is inside every thing, he is in and out of everything, he is the refuge of every thing and bigger than the big, he is inside every thing.

He is called “Eka (single)” because he singly destroys everything and recreates everything.

He is called “theertha (sacred water)” because he is the ultimate mingling of all sacred waters which are sought after, in the east, south, north ad west.

He is “Eka (loner)” because he creates all beings and travels within them alone without any one realizing where he comes from and where he goes.

He is “Rudra” because he is fast moving form is not understood by all but only by great sages and devotees.

He is “Eeshana” because by his power for creation and upkeep and also because he rules over all devas (gods).

Like approaching a cow for getting milk, we come to you. You are “Eeshana’ because Veda points you out as one who shows the heaven and one who rules over other Gods.

You are also called “Maheswara (great lord)” because you bless your devotees by giving them knowledge, because you created words and brought out knowledge, and because you have forsaken everything and reached a highest state of existence through yoga and your grace.

This is the story of Rudra.

5.1 This god is the one who pervades in all directions. He is the one who came earlier than every thing. He is the one who is in the womb. He is the one who is in all the creatures which have come out till now and all those who are going to be created in future. He is also the one who sees the inside but the one who has a face which looks outside.

5.2 Rudra is one and only one. There is none second to him. He rules all worlds by his power. He pervades fully in all beings. He is the one who, at the time of deluge, absorbs all beings. He is the one who creates all beings and upkeeps them.

5.3 He alone exists, in all organs where birth takes place. He travels among all beings and is the reason for their existence. The seeker would get immeasurable peace by searching and surrendering to this god, who gives everything to the one who asks and who is praiseworthy.

5.4 He converts fire, air, water, earth, ether and everything that exists here in to ash. He who sees this and mentally realizes it and observes the “penance to Pasupathi (Lord of all beings)” and who coats ash all over his body with this ash attains the state of Brahman. By worshipping “Pasupathi (lord of all beings)” like this, the ties of bondage of all beings get cut and they attain salvation.

There is none greater than him, on whom all the worlds are strung like beads. Over ages, nothing so far where greater than him and nothing is going to be greater than him. He has thousands of legs but one and only one head. He pervades every where.

From “Akshara (letter/language/ the deathless being)” time is created. From “time (ages) the “all pervasiveness” is created. This “all pervasiveness" is Rudra. Rudra destroys beings even when he is sleeping. From his “breath” is produced the “power of Tamas (darkness)”. From Tamas is created water. Mixing this water with finger makes it cold. By mixing the coolness the “foam” is produced. From that foam, the galaxy is produced. From the galaxy, Brahmam is produced. From Brahmam, air is produced. From air, “the sound of Aum” is produced. From “the sound of Aum”, Savithri is produced. From Savithri, Gayathri is produced and from Gayathri, all the worlds are produced. They who worship “penance” and “truth”, get permanent happiness. Worshipping that Brahmam, which is the mixture of light, water, essence and nectar, by chanting “Aum Bhoor bhuva swarom” is the greatest penance.

Aum ! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious;
May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship !
May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas,
Praising them with our body and limbs steady !
May the glorious Indra bless us !
May the all-knowing Sun bless us !
May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us !
May Brihaspati grant us well-being !
Aum ! Let there be Peace in me !
Let there be Peace in my environment !
Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

Here ends the Atharvasiras Upanishad, as contained in the Atharva Veda.

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