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Rudra Who Ate His Mother
Excerpt from The Sherpas of Nepal in the Tibetan Cultural Contest
by Robert A. Paul
© 1982 by the University of Chicago
The first real story in the Padma-thang-yig, after introductory passages evoking various aspects of the divinity and the cosmos, is that recounting the primordial tale which, in a symbolic way, gives rise to the whole subsequent set of events. It sets up an opposition between a universal force for evil and its adversary, Padma himself.
In an earlier existence, Padma went to a country called "Du-ljongs-mts'ams to make converts. He decided to convert to the Doctrine a certain householder's son and his servant. He himself took the form of a monk named Thub-bka-gzhon-nu, "Invincible Youth." His disciples were Go'u-ku-dkris, "Kau universal misery," the son; and the servant, Brahmadeva. The son, on becoming Padma's disciple, took the religious name Thar-pa-nag-po, "Black Deliverance"; the servant assumed the religious name Ngan-phag, "Evil Pig."
Whereas Evil Pig understood and accepted the master's teaching, Universal Misery, or Black Deliverance, failed to see the value of a doctrine which preaches the vanity of this world and nonattachment to all things. He therefore banished his teacher and entered upon dissolute ways; he seduced nuns, ate corpses, dressed in animal skins, and, in the form of an ox, led his fellow animals into rapacious practices.
Upon his death he underwent a great number of rebirths in various noxious forms, such as a black jackal, a bee with a painful sting, a worm, and so on. Finally he was born as the son of a courtesan in Sri Lanka, fathered by three fierce spirits of the evening, midnight, and dawn respectively. He was born with three heads, six hands, and a horrible aspect. His mother died nine months after his birth, and the people, fearing this bastard of fatal augury, threw him into a charnel ditch, home of the poisonous snakes of hate, the pig of error, and the cock of desire.
For seven days he kept himself alive by sucking pus from the breast of his mother's corpse. Then for a week he sucked her blood, then ate the breast itself for a week, then the viscera, then the flesh of her buttocks, then the marrow of her bones, the rotten spinal fluid, and the brains. Having grown big in forty-two days in this grisly way, he took the skin of his mother's corpse for his tunic and the skull for his libation cup.
This monster now proceeds to become a source of all evil and terror; he destroys and eats wild beasts, his body exudes every manner of illness, and so on. At the head of an ever-growing army of malignant forces he threatens to conquer the whole world, under the cognomen Rudra-who-ate-his-mother. His army scores victory after victory, until the high gods fear for the worst, seeing that:
If Rudra is not conquered by the power of the Buddha,
The Buddhist doctrine will not flourish, and he, rolling his body to damnation,
With detestable works,
Will experience the weapons of Hell's tormentors (Toussaint, 1933, 3.
Knowing with divine omniscience the way in which Rudra can be successfully challenged, the gods give the assignment to Invincible Youth and Evil Pig. Receiving the benediction of Pawa Cherenzi and Tara, master and disciple respectively assume the guises of a Form-of-a-horse and Form-of-a-pig. They manifest themselves in Malaya, and challenge Rudra by performing nine impetuous dances. He responds with boasts and threats of his own, and the battle is joined.
Then Form-of-a-horse (Sanskrit Hayagriva, Tibetan rTa-mgrin] penetrated by the lower gate of Deliverance [Rudra]
And Rudra, crushed by the head of the horse which stood erect
Stretched out his arms and legs.
At ease and in rich attire,
The horse's head, tinted with a variegated humor, became green.
Form-of-a-pig slid himself into the little bhaga (vulva) and lifted it with his head.
The head of the pig, tinted with a grease bath, became black.
The faces of the horse, and pig embracing, their impurities thick, augmented (ibid. 39)
His distended body in intolerable heat, Rudra cries out in distress, "Father, Mother, Huyu!" In this rather extraordinary manner, Rudra is overcome and converted to the service of the Doctrine. Despite his temporary conversion, however, he remains the symbol of the enemy of Buddhism, with whom Padma must continually do battle.
David-Neel and Yongden (1959) recount a version of this story which is the same in most respects, but includes a certain detail which is particularly interesting from my point of view. This is that, at the height of his powers, Rudra became the lover of the cannibal queen of Sri Lanka. But the avatar of Padma, in order to subdue Rudra, secretly seduced this cannibal queen and sired a son by her.
Physically he [the son] exactly resembled Matamrudra [Rudra who ate his mother], his supposed father, but it was the spirit of Tampatogsken [the equivalent of Invincible Youth in this version] that animated him. In the beginning, the demon did not question the origin of the child and regarded him as his own, but when the latter had grown up and the monster perceived that his so-called son was trying to dethrone him, he suspected the truth (ibid. 27).
In this version, it is the son who looks like Rudra but is really Padma who, along with the good disciple, conquers Rudra. Their method involves a slight variation on the theme:
His former master transformed himself into a horse, entered his body by the orifice of the rectum, and passing through its whole length, came out at the top of the skull. At the same time, Thaiphag [Evil Pig in this version] turned himself into a boar, passed through the monster in the opposite direction, entering at the top of the head and issuing by the rectum (ibid.).