"GOD LIVES NOT ONLY IN HUMAN BEINGS BUT ALSO IN TREES. TREES ARE DEVATAS OR GODS."
—Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
Rudraksha – The Eye of Shiva
Swami Vibhooti Saraswati.
When Swami Satyananda came to Rikhia in 1989, he started to plant trees. One of the trees he worshipped during his period of intense tapasya or austerity, the Panchagni sadhana, was the rudraksha. The botanical name for rudraksha is Elaeocarpus ganitrus and it is from the Elaeocarpaceae family. Rudraksha is the Sanskrit and also the Hindi name which was given to the tree by the ascetic followers of Lord Shiva, the destroyer. The name rudraksha is composed of two words: Rudra, the name for the fierce aspect of Shiva, and aksha meaning ‘eye’ – the eye of Shiva. Swami Satyananda says, “Rudraksha is a deity and Shiva’s favourite tree.”
Rudraksha is a large tree, about the same size as the banyan tree, with a smallish spear-shaped leaf. It grows in mountainous regions like Nepal, where the best rudrakshas are to be found, and takes fifteen to eighteen years to take full shape. The Akhara rudraksha was brought from Nepal. Sri Swamiji planted it himself just outside his first hut, Parna Kutir. When he did the first pruning, he left only three branches, and made the sankalpa or resolve that this tree should produce only the highly auspicious and powerful ek-mukhi, one-faced bead, or nothing at all.
The rudraksha bead
In English this tree is called the ustram after its fruit, which has a hard kernel, the formation of which very much resembles the human brain. These seeds are dried and worn as malas, especially by followers of Lord Shiva, who are known as Shaivites. In the best quality beads, the central hole is already there; one does not have to make it. Rudrakshas that do not have this natural hole are of an inferior quality. A good quality bead will sink when put in water, but a false one will only float on top of the water. When stringing a rudraksha mala, all the faces should be aligned, and silk thread, gold or silver should be used.
In the Akshamalik Upanishad it is written that out of all the malas made of pearls, silver, crystal, shankha (conch), gold, tulsi, sandal and rudraksha, rudraksha is the best. The Devi Bhagavatam states that the large bead is best for those who worship Shakti (the medium and small beads being less and less effective respectively). The Shiva Purana states that Lakshmi stays where the rudraksha is, and that it has miraculous powers. The shastras speak of four colours of bead. The white or brahman bead is considered to be of the finest quality. The red or kshatriya bead comes next in regard to value. The yellow bead or vaishya is third in rank, while the black (shyam) or shudra bead is the least valuable. According to the shastras, the different colours should only be worn according to one’s jati or caste.
The bead’s faces
When dried, the rudraksha bead is about the size of a marble, although there are smaller varieties also. The value of this bead is determined by its size and also, more especially, by the number of ‘faces’ or mukhis it has, because some of them carry an extremely powerful energy. It is the energy contained in it, or its potency for spiritual practice, that gives it its value. The number of faces, from one to twenty-one, is also symbolic of various philosophical concepts. For example, the very rare single-faced bead represents the ‘One Reality’, God or Ishwara, pure consciousness, and is highly prized by sadhakas and temples alike. The also rare fused or double bead symbolizes infinity, and is set in gold, emeralds and rubies.
The six-faced bead is related to Kartikeya, Shiva’s elder son. It increases intelligence, gives a steady mind and governs the genital organs. The seven-faced bead represents the goddess Mahalakshmi, who showers wealth when invoked. The eight-faced bead is related to Ganesha, the elephant god. When worn, it bestows riddhis, delights, and siddhis, powers, removes obstacles and brings success in all undertakings. The nine-faced rudraksha represents Shakti. When invoked, the Mother Goddess blesses the sadhaka with her energy and power. The ten-faced bead is associated with Vishnu, the sustainer. The eleven-faced bead is associated with Lord Hanuman, who bestows wisdom, right judgement, a powerful vocabulary, an adventurous life and success. This bead protects the wearer from accidental death; they become fearless.
The twelve-faced bead relates to Surya, the sun god, the ruler. It is good for administrators and executives, etc. The thirteen-faced bead relates to Kamadeva, the god of love; when invoked, one receives all the pleasures and desires of life. The fourteen-faced is a divine gem. When used properly, with the grace of God, the third eye of wisdom starts functioning. The fifteen and eighteen to twenty-one faced beads, according to the instructions of the rishis of yore, are to be kept for pooja or worship to earn the grace of Lord Rudra, who brings prosperity. The sixteen-faced bead bestows the blessings of both Parvati and Shiva and is mostly worn by sannyasins. It is known as Gauri-Shankar. The seventeen faced bead is also related to Goddess Gauri.
Each mukhi or face has its own personal mantra by which its power can be invoked and the wearer blessed by its ruling deity. These mantras, some of which relate to more than one bead, are shown as follows.
Number of Faces Mantra
Ek-mukhi (1-faced) Om Hreem Namaha
Do-mukhi (2-faced) Om Namaha
Teen-mukhi (3-faced) Om Kleem Namaha
Char-mukhi (4-faced) Om Hreem Namaha
Panch-mukhi (5-faced) Om Hreem Namaha
Chhai-mukhi (6-faced) Om Hreem Hung Namaha
Sat-mukhi (7-faced) Om Hung Namaha
Ashta-mukhi (8-faced) Om Hung Namaha
Nau-mukhi (9-faced) Om Hreem Hung Namaha
Das-mukhi (10-faced) Om Hreem Namaha
Gyarah-mukhi (11-faced) Om Hreem Hung Namaha
Barah-mukhi (12-faced) Om Krom Shrom Rom Namaha
Terah-mukhi (13-faced) Om Hreem Namaha
Chaudah-mukhi (14-faced) Om Namaha
Pandrah-mukhi (15-faced) No mantra
Solah-mukhi (16-faced) Om Gaurishankaraya Namaha
Satara-mukhi (17-faced) Sarva mangala mangalye, Shive sarvartha sadhike. Sharanye Triyambake Gauri, Narayani namo stute
Athara to ekeis-mukhi (18 to 21-faced) No mantra
The rudraksha mala
When making a rudraksha mala, silk thread should be used to string the beads together, and their faces should be aligned. Gold and silver can also be used to make the mala. The smaller beads are commonly used for japa, even if the aspirant drinks alcohol or eats meat, unlike the sensitive tulsi, which requires the practitioner to have a more sattwic diet and lifestyle. According to the tantra shastras, the specified number of beads to be worn is as follows: around the neck – twenty-seven or thirty-two; around the forehead – forty; around the ears – six; around the wrists – twelve; and on the upper arms – sixteen. Swami Satyananda wore rudraksha beads around his head, arms and neck during his Panchagni sadhana.
Rudraksha and Ayurveda
Rudraksha is hot in nature, and has magnetic and electric power. It is widely used in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicine. Wearing the mala helps to regulate the blood pressure. The five-faced rudraksha mala monitors blood pressure and cardiac ailments. It must be worn next to the skin to have the required effect. Also, to control blood pressure, put two five-faced rudraksha beads in a glass of water, just after sunset. Drink the water first thing in the morning before any other intake. (Do not use copper glasses, and do not swallow the beads.)
The rudraksha mala is also excellent for tranquillizing the mind against nervous disorders, as it is said to destroy worries and induce positive thoughts and a peaceful mind. For nervousness and coldness due to shock, hold a big five-faced rudraksha tightly in your right palm for ten minutes. You will regain your confidence, and the body will start warming up. In addition, rudraksha are said to be good for those who suffer from diabetes. The therapeutic and spiritual effect of the rudraksha is due to the fact that,whenever the bead touches the skin, human magnetism and electricity is produced.
Rudraksha and the chakras
The rudraksha bead is also related to the chakras or energy vortexes in the human spine. The ek-mukhi or one-faced rudraksha is related to vishuddhi and Lord Shiva. Another name for Shiva is Akasha-adi-pati, the lord of space. The tattwa or element ruling vishuddhi chakra is space. The two-faced rudraksha is related to anahata chakra, the air element, vayu, and Ardhanareshwara, the half-male, half-female form of Shiva. The three-faced rudraksha is associated with the God Agni, the three shaktis or powers – ichchha (desire), kriya (action) and jnana (wisdom), and also with the three gunas. The chakra concerned here is manipura, whose element is fire, agni. This bead is ideal for those who suffer from inferiority complexes, subjective fear, gilt and depression. Its mantra is ‘Om Kleem Namaha’.
Swadhisthana is represented by the four-faced rudraksha, which is the symbol of Brahma and also of creation. It increases memory power, and the wearer gains the power of creativity when blessed. The mantra is ‘Om Hreem Namaha’. The element of this chakra is water, apas. The five-faced rudraksha bead is related to the five-faced form of Rudra, and is connected with mooladhara, which is governed by the element earth or prithvi. This bead is good for everyone and anyone can wear it. The wearer of the five-faced mala gains health and peace.
Rudraksha and the planets
According to astrology, one should wear the different faces of rudraksha bead depending on one’s ruling planet. The table below delineates this. Note that the ten and eleven-faced beads are not under any planetary influence.
Related Planets Number of Faces
Sun 1 or 12
Saturn 7 or 14
The wrath of Rudra
Devotees of Shiva believe the rudraksha bead to be the hot tear of rage, which fell from Rudra’s eye as he beheld the effrontery of mankind in the face of the Creator. The name Rudra is from the Sanskrit root rud, which means ‘to weep’. According to legend, the Destroyer had been meditating for many, many years for the wellfare of all creatures. When he came out of his samadhi, he wept when he looked down from his abode on Mount Kailash and witnessed man’s ambitious, unnatural and arrogant technology. His tears rolled down from Kailash to the earthly plane and took the form of the Rudraksha tree.
In its arrogance, mankind had lost its link with God and built a towering metropolis or ‘Triple City’ to symbolize its own greatness. This magnificent creation, however, disturbed the balance between the earth, the atmosphere and the sky, and so Lord Shiva, in his destructive aspect of Rudra, was forced to right the balance. In the Mahabharata it is written, “The Lord of the universe (Shiva) drew his bow and unleashed his arrows at the Triple City (Tripura), burning its demons, and hurling them into the western ocean, for the welfare of creation. Then the ‘three-eyed’ God restrained the fire born of his own anger, saying to it, “Enough! Do not reduce the world to ashes.”
When we consider events today, in particular the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York and the attack on the Pentagon, we might come to realize that what we previously thought to be only myth is in fact a very imminent reality. For the myth that we read about today once took place on this earthly plane many thousands of years ago in another civilization that grew so ‘powerful’ and deluded by its own creation that it ended by being destroying along with all its ‘greatness’, in the blink of an eye.
What was once a reality became history and then it dissolved into the mists of myth that we read about in the Puranas. Once we grow away from our natural environment and rise too high above the earth, forgetting that it is Nature alone who is responsible for our nurture, and Nature alone who maintains the universal balance, our monuments to our own greatness will surely be destroyed by the higher power that keeps the balance of the three worlds. If we want to return to peace and normality, we must bury our megalomania and instead of raising monuments to our egos, plant trees to maintain both the physical and spiritual aspects of our ecosystem. For just by the raising of his eyebrow or the twang of his bow, Rudra can lay low all that humans have built.
Rudraksha - Tree of Life
Dr. Swami Karmananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd)
No spiritual emblem is more closely associated with the path of yoga than the rudraksha mala or rosary. Rudraksha beads are synonymous with Lord Shiva, the overlord of the current reawakening of yogic science around the world. Similarly, no single tree is as rich with scriptural references, spiritual myths and legends as the rudraksha. Its berries, which are said to represent the tears of Rudra, have long been sought for their supposed medicinal and magical properties.
The Rudrajabalopanishad tells us that Lord Shiva was in the state of meditation for many thousands of years. When he opened his eyes from his prolonged samadhi, he beheld the whole vast sufferings and pangs of the unenlightened beings enmeshed in their struggle and confusion, and lacking any way of recognising their plight and the possibility of evolving themselves out of these seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Out of compassion, tears came to his eyes, and these fell to the earth giving rise to a tree called Maharudraksha. Rudra is the name given to Shiva in his destructive aspect and in Sanskrit it means 'howl' or 'cause of tears'.
The physical form
The botanical classification of the rudraksha tree is genus Eleocarpus, family Eleocarpaceae. Over 300 distinct species of rudraksha have been recognised, but of these only six are common. Rudraksha, in the form of large trees or smaller bushes, is found in Tibet, Nepal, India, China, Java, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia and Mauritius.
The rudraksha tree flowers in the rainy season, the flowers being white and hermaphroditic. Rudraksha trees usually first bear fruit after about five years, but Some take up to twenty years to do so. The fruit appears in the months of November and December and the seeds lie concealed in the centre, covered with a bluish-purple pulp.
The making of a bija
Preparation of rudraksha beads must be carried out in a particular way. The seeds are sun cured and the outer skin is torn away, revealing the round, oval or almond-shaped seed often with adhering strands of pulp. This pulp is removed by boiling in water mixed with lime (sodium bicarbonate).
The seeds must then be further cured by soaking in various precious oils, including almond oil mixed with musk, and oil from sacred trees. Finally, the prepared beads are roasted in the smoke of a sacred fire in which seven different sacred woods have been consumed. Afterwards, ghee may be used to harden the beads and black ash from the fire may be rubbed into the seeds as well.
Quality and classification
The best quality of rudraksha beads are divided into crescent-shaped sections, like the segment of an orange. These segments are referred to a 'mukhas' or faces, and its significance is determined by the number. Multi-faced beads are commonly divided into 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 22 mukhis, although rare aberrations which provide more faces are found.
According to 'Yoga Sara', spiritual attributes and powers corresponding to the gods abide in the beads according to the number of faces or mukhis. This determines the suitable mantras to be recited upon the mala and the particular value of the mala for the wearer.
The single faced rudraksha (ekamukhi) is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva himself. According to one legend, every year Lord Shiva endows three such seeds to the world- one passes to his most precious devotee, the second to a political leader, king or statesman, while the third is kept by the Lord himself. It is rare and precious and carries the properties of all other rudrakshas. Whoever wears it will be absolved of sin, and if self-control is practised, he becomes one with the absolute (pure consciousness). It bestows both pleasure (kama) and liberation (moksha).
The two-faced rudraksha is considered sacred to Ardhanarishwara, who is hermaphroditic, (half Shiva- the male principle and half Parvati- the female principle). This reflects the tantric conception of the divine personality possessing both male and female attributes which are deserving of worship. The seed is also known as Gauri Shankara and makes possible the attainment of all desires and wishes. It bestows concentration and one-pointedness of mind, confers tantric powers, and brings peace in conjugal life, and facilitates the awakening of kundalini shakti in serious sadhaks.
The five-faced (pancha mukhi) is the most common and readily available type of rudraksha. It is worn by religious devotees, sadhus, yogis and swamis alone. It is sacred to Shiva as Kaala-asi (kalagni), destroyer of Yama, god of death. It symbolises Lord Shiva in his five aspects or panchabrahma (Sadyajata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Ishana); and is said to ward off the five heinous actions (panchamahapataka). According to Shiva Purana, 'It is lordly. It bestows all sorts of salvation and achievement of all desired objects'!
The bija mantras for wearing rudraksha beads, according to the number of mukhis, is as follows: (1) Om hring namah, (2) Om namah, (3) Om kling namah, (4) Om hring namah, (5) Om hring namah, (6) Om hring hrang namah, (7) Om hrung namah, (8) Om hrang namah, (9) Om hring hrung namah, (10) Om hring namah, (11) Om hring hrung namah, (12) Om krong kshang rong namah. (13) Om hring namah, (14) Om namah.
In psychological terms, the different mukhis act as voltage regulators, determining the intensity and frequency of the current of spiritual energy drawn from cosmic sources and integrated into the psychic personality of the individual wearer. This depends upon the personal attributes, samskaras and level of evolution, and the type and number to be worn.
Rudraksha beads can be of five colours and were worn according to one's caste. According to Rudrojabalopanishad, white beads are produced only in heaven and are to be worn only by gods; brown beads should be worn by brahmins; red beads are for kshatriyas, yellow beads are for vaishyas and black beads are for sudras. The most highly prized are white, followed by red, then golden, black and brown. The first and third varieties are rare, so the traditional association with each caste is not on a basis of value or rarity.
Sometimes red and black are not the natural colours, but are produced after soaking the beads in oil-dyes during the preserving process.
Blood pressure and rudraksha
Rudraksha occupies a unique place in the Hindu Materia Medica. It has always been considered to possess properties which prevent ageing, prolong life and rejuvenate the human organism.
Rudraksha beads are recognised as antipyretic (will lower elevated body temperature), anti-helminthic (ridding the body of worms), and anti-paralysant. They help their wearer to maintain a perfect balance between the three vital airs- namely bile, wind and phlegm.
The major physiological influence of rudraksha on the human body is to control the blood pressure. This is very important, not only for those with hypertension and hypotension, but also for those who wish to meditate successfully. This is because the blood pressure changes during meditation and people can have experiences which they mistake as spiritual; or feel heat or cold in the body; or even feel irritability.
Physiologically, this is how rudraksha works. In the side of the neck there is a group of pressure sensitive cells called baroreceptors. They continually monitor the changing blood pressure accompanying each cardiac impulse, and relay this information to the vasomotor centre in the base of the brain. This centre makes any minute adjustments in heart rate and cardiac output, which enables a constant blood pressure to be maintained. At the time of meditation, when rudraksha is worn in contact with the baroreceptors, control over the cardiac impulse is enhanced so that variations do not occur and meditation is not disturbed by these transitory influences.
Therefore, upon the basis of their own clinical experience, doctors, healers and physicians of every healing science in India today, routinely prescribe the wearing of rudraksha as an adjuvant in controlling blood pressure and managing heart disorders.
Further medicinal uses
Various species of Eleocarpus are utilised in many traditional systems of healing. For example, an infusion of bark and leaves is used as a mouthwash for inflamed gums. The fruit, which is high in citric acid, is used in some organic brain disorders, pneumonia, ulcers, dysentery and diarrhoea, and as an emetic. The leaves are high in vitamin C content and are used for rheumatism and as an antidote for poison. A bark decoction is also used for rheumatism, indigestion and bileousness. The seeds are used, again for rheumatism, typhoid fever and epilepsy. Sufferers from smallpox, chickenpox or leprosy may be given the paste derived by rubbing the dried fruit or seed on a stone.
The Atharva Veda, puranas and Upanishads delineate curative and healing properties of each type of bead, but expert advice should be sought before using any of these methods.
In spiritual life, the rudraksha mala is received from the guru at the time of initiation. When received from a guru, such a mala is of infinite value, and no price can be set for it. Perhaps its value can best be assessed as all you have or can offer to the guru forever, be it in the form of service, prayers, devotion, money, material goods or everything. In fact, a mala worn without the blessings of a guru, or saint is considered ineffectual or even detrimental to its wearer, as such a mala has been purchased for ego gratification, while the mala is intended to eradicate the ego of a sincere aspirant.
The number of rudraksha beads worn is variable. According to the scriptures, the benefits attained by wearing 1100 beads cannot be described in thousands of years. 'Let those who have faith wear 3 beads in the top knot, 6 in each ear, 12 round each wrist, 36 over the crown of the head, 32 or 27 tightly around the neck, and 108 as a garland. They will surely attain Rudrahood', enjoins the Rudrojabalopanishad.
Rudraksha should be worn by all those who wish for both pleasure (kama) and liberation (moksha) in life, and especially by devotees of Shiva or his consort, Kali, Uma, Parvati Devi, enjoin the scriptures. It is equally venerated by householders engaged in active worldly life in order to work out their karma.
Other tantras claim that the wearer of the rudraksha mala will obtain riddhi (psychic prosperity). Rudraksha mala is also used in various sadhanas for repetition of mantras, charms and incantations, and as a protective armour against ill-luck, accidents and diseases.
In the tradition of kundalini yoga, rudraksha is symbolic of the ajna chakra (bhrumadhya), the seat of spiritual insight and intuition. By virtue of kriya yoga, or by force of long and vigorous austerities, the emotional and reproductive energies are redirected upwards within the body of a yogi. The 'seed' commonly released through the urethral meatus of a man is transmuted by the practices of yoga into the more subtle secretions of the regenerated pineal and pituitary glands in the brain itself.
This transcendental 'seed' of Lord Shiva is then released in the world by the sages, yogis and masters as their compassionate works and actions having a far reaching influence upon the evolution and destiny of mankind as a whole. Rudraksha is the symbol of this transmutation of sexual energy into spiritual energy within the yogi's nervous system, and its subsequent ejection from the third eye (ajna chakra) as tears of divinely inspired, compassionate, intuitive and spiritual action for the evolution of our race.