Chapter 70 — Karkati as Suchi, the Needle of Colic and Cholera

Vasishta continued:—

Now this Karkati who had been as tall as a mountain-peak, and a rakshasi of the blackest kind, resembling a thick and dark cloud of the rainy season, gradually began to fade away and grow leaner and leaner day by day. Her gigantic cloud-like form was soon reduced to the shape of a tree branch which afterwards became like the figure of a man, and then the measure of only a cubit. It next became the length of a span in its height, and then of a finger’s length in all. Growing by degrees thinner and thinner like grain, it became at last as lean as a needle or a pin. Thus she was reduced to the thinness of a needle, fit only to sew a silken robe. By her own desire that could change a hill to a grain of sand, she had become as lean as the filament of the lotus flower.

Thus the non-metallic Karkati was transformed into the form of Suchi, a black and slender iron needle that contained all her limbs and organs of her body and conducted her in the air anywhere she liked. She saw herself as an iron pin, having neither substance nor length nor breadth of her body. Her mind with its power of thought appeared as bright as a golden needle, like a streak of sapphire impregnated by sunshine. Her rolling eyeballs were as dark as the spots of black clouds moved to and fro by the winds. Her sparkling pupils, piercing through their tenuous pores, gazed at the bright glory (of God). She had observed the vow of silence in order to reduce the plumpness of her person, and her face radiated with joy at becoming as lean as the filament of a feather. 10 She saw a light descending on her from the air at a distance, and she was happy to find her inner spirit to be as subtle as air. 11 With her contracted eye brows, she saw the rays of light extending to her from afar, which caused the hairs on her body to stand up like those of babies at bathing.

12 Her grand energy channel called Brahma nadi or sushumna rose up to its cavity in the head called the Brahma randhra in order to greet the holy light, like the filaments of the lotus rise to receive sunlight and heat. 13 Having subdued the organs of her senses and their powers, she remained as one without an organic frame and identified with her individual soul. She resembled the intelligent principle of the Buddhists and logicians (tarkikas) which is unseen by others. 14 Her minuteness seemed to have produced the minutiae of minute philosophers called the Siddhantas. Her silence was like that of the wind confined in a cave. Her slender form of a puny pin resembled the breath of animal life which is imperceptible to the eye. 15 The little that remained of her body was as thin as the last hope of man. It was like the pencil of an extinguished flame of a lamp that has heat without light.

16 But alas! How pitiable was her folly, which a first she could not understand. She was wrong to choose the form of a slender pin for herself in order to gratify her insatiable appetite. 17 Her object was to have her food and not the contemptible form of a pin. Her heart desired one thing, and she found herself in another form that was of no use to her purpose. 18 Her silliness led her to make the unwise choice of a needle shape for herself. So it is with the short witted. They lack the sense of judging beforehand about their future good. 19 An arduous attempt to accomplish a desired object is often attended by a different result. Even success on one hand becomes a failure on another. In the same way a mirror is soiled by the breath while it shows the face to the looker.

20 How be it, having renounced her gigantic form, the rakshasi soon learnt to be content with her needle form, although she viewed her transformation as worse than her dissolution itself. 21 But see the contradictory desires of the infatuated who distaste in a trice what at one time they fondly wished. This fiend was disgusted at her needle form instead of her monstrous figure. 22 As one dish of food is easily replaced by another, suiting the taste of the gourmand, so this fiend did not hesitate to shun her gigantic body, which she took to taste the heart blood of animals in her pin form. 23 Even death is delightful to the giddy headed when they are over fond of something else. The minimum of a meager needle was desirable to the monstrous fiend to gratify her fiendish desire.

24 Now this needle took the rarefied form of air and moved about after all living beings as the colic wind in quest of sucking animal gore. 25 Its body was like fiery heat and its life the vital breath of animals. Its seat was in the sensitive heart, and it was as swift as the particles of solar and lunar beams. 26 It was as destructive as the blade of a deadly sword, and as fleet as vapors flying in air. It penetrated bodies in the minute form of odor. 27 It was ever bent to do evil, like an evil spirit, as she was now known by that name. Her sole object was to kill the lives of others at her pleasure.

28 Her body divided into two halves; one was as fine as a silken thread and the other as soft as a thread of cotton. 29 Suchi ranged all about the ten sides of the world in her two forms and pierced and penetrated into the hearts of living beings with all her excruciating pains. 30 Karkati gave up her former big body, and took the form of the acute and small needle in order to accomplish all these purposes of hers, whether they be great or little. 31 To men of little understanding, a slight business becomes an arduous task. The foolish fiend had recourse to her austerities in order to do the mean work of a needle. 32 Again, however good and great, men can hardly get rid of their natural disposition. The great rakshasi performed her austere tapas in order to become a vile pin for molesting mankind.

33 Now as Suchi was wandering about in the sky, her aerial form which was big with her heinous ambition disappeared in air like vapor, or like a thick cloud in autumn. 34 Then entering in the body of some sensualist or weak or too fat a person, this inward colic flatulence of Suchi assumes the shape of cholera. 35 Sometimes she enters the body of a lean person, but also in those of healthier and wise people, first appearing as a choleric pain, then becoming real cholera at last. 36 She is often delighted to take her seat in the hearts of the ignorant. But afterwards she is driven back by good acts and prayers, and mantras and medicines of the wise.

37 In this manner she continued many years in her rambles. Sometimes her two-part body (pin and cholera) flies in the air, but most often she creeps low on the ground. 38 She lies concealed in the dust of the ground, and under the fisted fingers of hands. She hides herself in sunbeams, in air and in the threads of cloths. 39 She is hidden in the intestines, entrails and genitals. She resides in the bodies of pale and ash colored persons. She lives in the pores, lines and lineaments of the body, and also in dry grass and in the dried beds of rivers. 40 She has her seat among the indigent, and in the naked and uncovered bodies of men, and in those who are subject to hard breathing. She dwells in places infested by flies and of obstructed ventilation, and also in green verdures excepting only mango and wood-apple trees. 41 She lurks in places scattered with bones and joints of animal bodies, and such as are disturbed by violent winds and gusts of air. She lies in dirty places, and in cold and icy grounds, and likewise in polluted cloths and places polluted by them. 42 She sits in holes and hollow places, withered trees, and spots infested by crows, flies and peacocks; also in places of dry, humid and high winds and in benumbed fingers and toes. 43 She is in cloudy regions, in cavernous districts of the form of rotten bodies, in regions of melting and driving snows, and in marshy grounds abounding in anthills and hills of malura trees. 44 She exhibits herself in the mirage of desert sand and in wildernesses abounding with ravenous beasts and snakes. Sometimes she is seen in lands infested by venomous reptiles, disgusting leeches and worms. 45 She frequents stagnant pools soiled by dry leaves and those chewed by pisacha ghosts. She haunts hovels beside road crossings where passengers halt and take shelter from cold. 46 She rambles in all places, everywhere leeches suck the blood of men, and vile people tear them with their nails and hold them in their fists to feed upon them. 47 In this manner she is everywhere in the landscape of cities, until she is tired with her long journey through them.

48 Then she stops in her course like a tired bullock whose body is hot from travelling through towns with loads of cotton and utensils on its back. 49 She lays down to rest in some hidden place, like a needle tired with continued sewing. There she drops down like thread from the hand of the sewer. 50 A hard needle held in the hand of the sewer never hurts his finger, because a servant, however sharp he may be, is never faithless or injurious to his master. 51 An iron needle, grown old in its business of stitching, was at last lost by itself, like the rotten plank of a boat bearing the burdensome ballast of stones in it. 52 It wandered about on all sides of its own accord and was driven to and fro like chaff by the driving winds, according to the course of nature.

53 Someone takes it up and feeds the last end of a thread in its mouth. The malady of cholera is caught by those human parasites who glut themselves with food supplied by the sap of another. 54 The malady of colic, like the needle, is ever fond of feeding with its open mouth on the pith of others. It continually finds the thread-like heartstring of some body put into its hole. 55 Thus the strong bodies of greedy and heinous beings are nourished by the sap of the weak and innocent, just like colic disease preys on the lean bodies of the poor, and the sharp needle is supported by the thin thread of the needy (who cannot afford to buy new suits). 56 Though the heart of Suchi, like the hole of the needle, was to receive the thread-like sap of the patient’s heart, yet her power to pierce it was like that of the sewing needle, which is as potent as the piercing sunbeams to penetrate into the toughest substances.

57 Suddenly and at last, Suchi came to find the fault of her wrong choice for a puny body which was filled with her scanty fare of a bit of thread. She began to repent of her folly. 58 However, she continued with all her might to trudge on in her accustomed course of pricking and piercing the bodies of others. In spite of her great regret, she could not avoid the cruelty of her nature. 59 The sewing man cuts and sews the cloth agreeably to his own liking. But the weaver of destiny weaves the long loom of lengthened desires in all bodies and hides their reason under the garb of her own making.

60 The colic Suchi went on like the sewing needle in her business of piercing the hearts of people by hiding her head, just like it is the practice of robbers to carry on their rogueries by covering their faces. 61 She, like the needle with the sewing thread behind it, raises her head to make and look at the loop-hole that she should penetrate like burglars making and marking holes in the wall for their entry. 62 She entered the bodies of the weak and strong alike, like the needle stitching cloths of all textures, just as it is the custom of the wicked to spare neither the just nor unjust. 63 Colic pain, like the piercing needle, being pressed under the fingers, lets off its griping like the thread of the needle in its act of sewing. 64 The acute and unfeeling colic, being as ignorant of the softness or dryness of the object as the stiff and heartless needle, pierces the hardiest breast without deriving any sweetness from it. 65 The needle is comparable to a rich widow. Both are equally stern and full of remorse. Both are equally veiled and speechless and, with their eye of the needle, are as empty in their joyless hearts.

66 The needle hurts nobody, yet she is dragged by the thread which is no other than the thread of her fate. 67 After her trudging, slipped from the finger of her master, the needle peacefully sleeps in company with her fellows of dirt and dregs. For who is there who, when he is out of work, does not deem himself blessed to be in the company of his equals? 68 The herd of common people is ever fond of mixing with the ignorant rabble because there is nobody who can avoid the company of his equals.

69 The lost needle, when found by a blacksmith and heated in the hearth, flies to heaven by the breath of the bellows, after which it disappears in the air. 70 In this manner the current of vital airs, by force of the acts of its prior states of existence, conducts the breath of life in to the heart, which becomes the living spirit. 71 The vital airs, being diminished in the body, cause the colic pains known by different names such as flatulence, bile and the like.

72 The colic caused by spoiling the vyana vital energy produces many diseases and affects all the members of the body with a watery fluid. When it affects the lung’s breathing, it causes the vaya sula or pulmonary colic and is attended by disfigurement of the body and an insanity or hysteria known as the hysteric colic. 73 Sometimes it comes from the hands of sheep-keepers, or by the smell of sheep’s wool in blankets. At other times it seizes the fingers of children and causes them to tear their bed cloths. 74 When it enters the body through the foot, it continues sucking blood and, with all its voracity, becomes satisfied with very little food. 75 It lies in the glandular vessel of the feces with its mouth placed downward and takes as its prerogative any form it likes to assume.

76 It is the nature of malicious people to show the perversion of their hearts by doing injury to others. It is characteristic of base people to raise a row for their pleasure, and not for any gain or good to themselves. 77 The miserly think much of their gain of even a single penny, so deeply rooted is the avaricious selfishness of human nature. 78 It was only for a particle of blood, or as much as could be picked out by the point of a pin, that the colic Suchi was bent on the destruction of men. So the wise are fools in their own interests.

79 “How great is my master-stroke,” says the needle, “that I have come from stitching the shreds of cloth to piercing the hearts of men. So be it and I am happy at my success.” 80 As the rust of the lazy needle passes off in sewing, without being rubbed with dust, so must it rust unless it is put into the action of piercing patient and passive shreds. 81 The unseen and airy darts of fate are as fatal as the acts of cruel advanced cholera, though both have their respite of their massacres at short intervals. 82 The needle is at rest after its act of sewing is done; but the wicked are not satisfied even after their acts of slaughter are over.

83 It dives in the dirt and rises in the air. It flies with the wind and lies down wherever it falls. It sleeps in the dust and hides itself at home and in the inside, and under the cloths and leaves. It dwells in the hand and ear-holes, in lotuses and heaps of woolen stuffs. It is lost in the holes of houses, in clefts of wood and underneath the ground.

84 Valmiki added:—

As the sage was speaking in this manner, the sun went down in the west, and the day departed to its evening service. The assembly broke after mutual salutations, to perform their sacred ablution, and joined again on the next morning, with the rising beams of the sun to the royal palace.