Namaste astu bhagavan vishvesvaraya
tripurantakaya trikal Agni kalaya kalagni
sadashivaya sriman mahadevaya Namah
May (our) salutations be to You, O Bhagavan, who is vishvesvara (the lord of the universe), mahadeva (the great God), triyambaka (the three-eyed One), tripurantaka (the destroyer of the three cities), trikagnikala (the time of the agnihotra when the three fires garhapatya, daxinagni, and ahavanIya are used), kalagnirudra (the Rudra who consumes everything as the fire of kalagni at the time of destruction), nilakantha (the bluethroated One), mrityunjaya (the conqueror of Death), sarveshvara (the lord of all), sadashiva (the ever-auspicious One), and shriman mahadeva (the celebrated and great God).
As we can see from the above verse, Lord Shiva has several names. ‘RUDRA’ is one of the several names of Lord Shiva. Have you ever wondered why Lord Shiva is called ‘Rudra’? The word ‘Rudra’ is derived from two words – ‘Rud’ means Dukham (sorrow) & ‘Ra’ meaning Eliminator. So Lord Shiva gets the name Rudra because he removes sorrows which are caused by ignorance.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, Worship the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing.” Psalm 100
Since ages, all religions praise God with music in different forms. One of the most gratifying of such praises is the Vedic chanting in Hindu religion. ‘Shri Rudram’ is one of the most magnificent hymns from the Vedas and is part of the Yajurveda. Shri Rudram has two parts. The first part, chapter 16 of the Yajurveda, is known as Namakam because of the repeated use of the word “Namo” in it. The second part, chapter 18 of the Yajurveda, is known as Chamakam because of the repeated use of the word “Chame”. The purpose of this hymn is to instill into our minds with an affirmation that God is imminent in every speck of space, in every unit of time, in every nook and corner and in every particle of creation. Just as by pouring water at the root of a tree, all its branches are nourished, so by pleasing Rudra (Lord Shiva) through Rudra Japa, all the Gods are pleased.
According to Vedic and scriptural lore there are four types of Rudra parayanas (recitations) that can be performed. These are Rudram, Ekadasa Rudram, Maha Rudram and Ati Rudram – each being more potent than the preceding one. Chanting Namakam once followed by chanting Chamakam is called Rudram. The second one is Ekadasa Rudram. First the eleven Anuvakas (verses) of Namakam, followed by the first Anuvakam of Chamakam are chanted. Next, the eleven Anuvakams of Namakam are repeated with the second Anuvakam of Chamakam. Thus, for 11 full chantings of Namakam, one full chanting of Chamakam is completed. This is called Ekadasa Rudram.
Following the above method, if eleven Ekadasa Rudrams are repeated, it is called Laghu Rudram. Eleven Laghu Rudrams is one Maha Rudram. Ati Rudram, the biggest of all Rudra japas, is Maha Rudram recited eleven times (i.e., 14641 Namakams and 1331 Chamakams will be chanted in 1 Ati Rudram). A verse in the Hindu scriptures says: “A person reciting and applying daily the Namakam, Chamakam and the Purusha Sooktam is honored in the brahma loka.”
By now, you must be wondering, what is the connection between the ‘SKY beyond Sky’ with Rudra Japa. This summer, I was fortunate to join a Vedam study group from California on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash to offer Ati Rudram along with 70 other pilgrims for world peace. We named our team the SKY (Sai Kailash Yatra) team. Mount Kailash located in Himalayas is regarded in many sects of Hinduism as the abode of Lord Shiva, the ultimate destination of souls and the spiritual center of the world. Lord Shiva is therefore believed to dwell at its summit. Hindus generally perform a pradakshina of the deity by walking around it in a clockwise manner in a temple. Mount Kailash is the abode of Shiva and thus in reverence, pilgrims perform a parikrama (similar to a pradakshina), by walking around the entire mountain. This is not as easy as it may sound. A parikrama of Kailash involves trekking through rough terrain, crossing streams, climbing steep trails, camping on the mountain side and traversing a pass high in the mountains reaching approximately 19,000 ft. above sea level. The hike usually takes three days and is slightly over forty two kilometers, the same distance as a marathon.
If you ever had set a goal to run a marathon, how would you train your body and your mind? How soon would you start your marathon practice? Life is too short to just go to work, come home, watch some TV, rinse and repeat. If you are an adventure seeking person like me, I bet you would certainly have some goals like ‘I want to climb Mt. Everest one day’, or ‘I want to participate in a triathlon’, or ‘I want to travel around the world’, or ‘I want to hike the Appalachian Trail which is 2200 miles long’, etc. These goals may sound crazy to some people. We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come true, it takes tremendous amount of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.
When I learned about the trip, six months before starting the journey to Kailash, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I never ran a single mile on the road; can I prepare for a marathon in six months?’ I didn’t know how to chant Rudram and I had never hiked a mountain. Now, I had set two big goals for myself – being fit physically AND mentally.
Being physically fit would make hiking the mountain which is approximately 21000 ft. high possible, and learning to chant the Rudram would enable me to be mentally fit. The goals motivated me to learn the Rudram and increase my activity every day to improve my physical fitness which comes with other perks like good health and wellness. Eating healthy, staying fit and constantly engaging in a mental affirmation that ‘I can do it’ are really important to successfully completing an adventure of this magnitude.
I started with baby steps – learning one Anuvakam of Namakam and Chamakam a week. It took close to three months to learn 11 Anuvakams of Namakam and 11 Anuvakams of Chamakam, leaving just three more months to the start of the big journey. In those three months, the whole SKY team practiced chanting ‘Shri Rudram’ once every morning together as a group for 90 days. Also, the team organized hiking trips every weekend to slowly acclimatize our bodies to the higher altitudes. Most of the people in the group were from the west coast, a few were from the east coast; I was the only one on the team from the midwest. I used to join the chantings every morning on the phone through a conference call and, at the same time increased my physical activity by regularly exercising at a local gym, and incorporating physical activity during the course of my day like climbing stairs and running on inclined surfaces. When we pray passionately, purposefully and collectively, and according to God’s will, God will respond powerfully. After three months of collective Rudram offering in the form of Sadhana (spiritual practice), our Journey to Kailash began on June 23, 2012 and it truly turned into an adventure of a lifetime.
by Pranavi Tella. Reproduced from Shanthi Sandesh, vol 7. no. 4, Nov 2012