atha tvam asi no brahman
atha—therefore; tvam—You, my Lord; asi—are; naḥ—our; brahman—O Supreme Brahman; parama-ātman—O Supersoul; vipaścitām—for the learned wise men; viśvam—the whole universe; rudra-bhaya—being afraid of Rudra; dhvastam—annihilated; akutaścit-bhayā—undoubtedly fearless; gatiḥ—destination.
My dear Lord, all actually learned persons know You as the Supreme Brahman and the Supersoul. Although the entire universe is afraid of Lord Rudra, who ultimately annihilates everything, for the learned devotees You are the fearless destination of all.
For the purpose of creation, maintenance and annihilation of this cosmic manifestation, there are three lords—Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva (Maheśvara). The material body is finished at the time of annihilation. Both the universal body and the small unit, the individual living entity’s body, are susceptible to annihilation at the ultimate end. However, the devotees do not fear the annihilation of the body, for they are confident that after the annihilation they will go back home, back to Godhead (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna [Bg. 4.9]).
If one strictly follows the process of devotional service, he has no fear of death, for he is predestined to go back home, back to Godhead. The nondevotees are fearful of death because they have no guarantee of where they are going or of the type of body they are going to get in their next life. The word rudra-bhaya is significant in this verse because Rudra himself, Lord Śiva, is speaking of “fear of Rudra.” This indicates that there are many Rudras—eleven Rudras—and the Rudra (Lord Śiva) who was offering this prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is different from the other Rudras, although he is as powerful as they are. The conclusion is that one Rudra is afraid of another Rudra because each and every one of them is engaged in the destruction of this cosmic manifestation. But for the devotee, everyone is afraid of Rudra, even Rudra himself. A devotee is never afraid of Rudra because he is always secure, being protected by the lotus feet of the Lord. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (9.31), kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati: “My dear Arjuna, you may declare publicly that My pure devotee will not be vanquished under any circumstances.”
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