Chapter 74 — Consummation of Suchi’s Tapas

Vasishta speaking:—

The god of the winds saw Suchi standing erect, like a crest on the summit of the mountain, amidst that vast tract of desert all around. She stood upon one leg fixed in her meditation and roasted by the burning sun over her head. She was dried up to a skeleton by her continued fasting, and her belly was contracted to shrunken skin. Now and then she inhaled the hot air with her open mouth, then breathed it out as her heart could not contain the repeated influx of air. She was withered under the scorching sunbeams, and battered in her frame by the hotter winds of the desert, yet she moved not from her stand-point as she was relieved every night by the cold bath of moonbeams. She was content covering her head under particles of dust and did not like to change her state for a better fortune. She gave up the possession of her forest to other living beings, and lived apart from all in the form of a crest of hair. Her breathings being withdrawn to the cranium, appeared out of it like a tuft of hairs or bushes clapped on her head.

The god of air was astonished to see Suchi in this state. He bowed down to her and was struck with terror as he saw her more carefully. He was so overawed by the blaze of her body that he dared not ask her anything, such as, “O saintly Suchi, why do you undertake these austerities”? He only exclaimed, “O holy Suchi, how wonderful is the sight of your tapas!” Impressed with veneration for her holiness, the god made his departure to heaven from where he had come.

10 He passed the region of the clouds and reached the sphere of the still air (sthira vayu). Then leaving the realm of the spiritual masters behind him, he arrived at the ecliptic path of the sun. 11 Then rising higher in his airy car, he arrived at the city of Indra where he was cordially embraced by the lord of gods for the merit of his sight of Suchi. 12 Being asked what he saw, he related all that he had seen to the assembled gods in the court of Indra.

13 Pavana, the wind god, said, “There is a king of mountains in the high Himalayas situated in the midst of Jambudwipa (Asia). It has Lord Shiva, who bears the crescent of the moon on his forehead, for his son-in-law. 14 North of it is a great peak with a plain land above it. That is where the holy Suchi holds her hermitage and performs her rigorous tapas.”

15 “What more shall I relate other than that she has abstained even from air, and has made a mess of her entrails coiled up together? 16 She has contracted the opening of her mouth into a needle hole, and stopped even that with a particle of dust in order to restrain it from receiving even a cold dewdrop for food. 17 The fervor of her tapas has made the snowy mountain forsake its coldness and assume an igneous form which is difficult to approach. 18 Therefore let all of us rise and go to the great father of creatures for redress, or know that the result of her fervent tapas must prove to our disadvantage.”

19 Hearing Pavana’s words, Lord Indra in company with the other gods proceeded to the abode of Brahma and prayed to him for their safety. 20 Brahma answered, “I am going even now to the summit of the snowy Himalaya to give Suchi her desired boon.” Upon this assurance of Brahma, the gods all returned to their celestial abodes.

21 During this time Suchi became perfect in her holiness. She began to glow with the fervor of her tapas on the mountain of the immortals. 22 Suchi very clearly perceived the passage of time by fixing her open eyes on the sun and by counting days by the rays of solar light penetrating the opening of her mouth, the needle hole. 23 Suchi, though flexible as a bit of thread, had attained the firmness of Mount Meru by her erect posture. 24 She saw, by the ray of sunlight that penetrated the eye of the needle, that her shadow was the only witness to her upright tapas. 25 Suchi’s shadow, the only attendant on her tapas, hid herself under her feet for fear of the midday heat. So do people find their best friends forsake their company in times of adversity.

26 The union of the three persons of the iron, the ascetic, and shadowy Suchi, like the meeting of the three rivers (Asi, Varana and Ganga), described a triangle in the form of the sacred city of Benares. 27 This union of the three, like the confluence of three rivers of Triveni (Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati), purifies the sins of men by the three different colors of their waters, namely the blue, black and white. 28 A person becomes acquainted with the unknown cause of all only by reasoning in his own mind and by means of his self-consciousness. Awareness of one’s own mind is the best guide in all things. O Rama, there is no better teacher for men.