Chapter 78 — Karkati Confronts the King & His Minister

Vasishta continued:—

The rakshasi, who was an offshoot of the great garden of the rakshasa demon race, made a loud and tremendous yell like the deep roaring of a cloud. After her deep roar she muttered in a clattering voice like the rattling of a thunder clap following the rumbling of clouds. She said, “Ho, ho? What are you who venture abroad in this dread and dreary desert, dark as the great illusion of maya, which without the light of the sun or moon is as gloomy as the gloom of ignorance? Why are you crawling here like insects bred in stones? What men of great minds are you to have come here like weak minded deviants who have lost their way? You have become an easy prey for me and must meet your fate in my hands in a moment.”

The king replied, “O you demon, what are you and where do you stand? If you are an embodied being, show yourself unto us. Who is terrified by your bodiless form buzzing like a bee? It is the business of the brave to immediately pounce like a lion upon his prey. Therefore leave off your bragging and show us your prowess at once. Tell me what you want of us and whether you terrify us by your vain boasting or utter these words from your own fear of us. Now measure your body according to your speech and confront us without delay. Slow gain serves no good save the loss of time.”

On hearing the king’s speech, she thought it was well said and immediately showed herself to them, uttering her loud shout with a grinning laughter. 10 The king heard her voice filling the air and resounding in the woods. He saw her huge and hideous person by the light of her open mouth and ivory teeth in the act of her loud laughter. 11 Her body was like a huge cliff hurled down by the thunder bolt of the last doomsday. The flashes of her eyeballs blazed in the sky like a pair of bangles or conch shells. 12 The darkness of her appearance would have cast shade on the deep dark waters at the universal deluge that hid the flame of the undersea fire. Her voice was as hoarse as the growling of clouds on the high heads of hills. 13 Her form was like that of a monumental pillar standing between the heaven and earth. The gnashing of her teeth struck the night-rovers with the fear at being ground to death under them.

14 Her figure, like those of the nocturnal demons, yakshas, rakshasas and pisachas, by its erect hairs, muscular limbs, dingy eyes and coal black color, inspired dread of dire disaster. 15 The air she breathed in the lungs snored like the horrible snorting of horses’ nostrils. The tip of her nose was as big as a mallet, and its sides as flat as a pair of bellows or winnowing fans. 16 She stood with her jet black body like a rock of dark agate. Her body joined with her loud laugh gave her the appearance of the all subduing night of dissolution. 17 Her bulky body, resembling a thick cloudy night, approached them like an autumn cloud moving in the forest of the sky.

18 The huge body appeared like a demon rising from underneath the ground and approaching to devour them like an eclipse engulfs the sun and moon. 19 Her ebony breasts were hanging down like two pendant clouds of somber sapphires, or more like two mortars or water pots, with her necklaces hanging on them. 20 Her two arms were suspended from her bulky body like a couple of stout branches from a sturdy oak, or like two logs of burnt wood from her coal-like body.

21 Seeing her thus, the two valiant men remained as steadfast as those standing on the firm ground of certainty who are never led away by doubts.

22 The minister said, “O great friend! What causes this rage and fury in your great soul? It is only the mean and base who are always violent even in trifling matters. 23 Lay aside this great ado for nothing, which does not become you. The wise pursue their business with coolness to crown it with success. 24 Know the soft and slow breath of our moderation has driven swarms of such flies like yourself, just like a slight breath of wind scatters dry leaves and straws. 25 Setting aside all haughtiness and passion of spirit, the wise man conducts his business with a calm coolness of the mind, assisted by reason and practical wisdom. 26 One must manage his affairs with slowness, whether it prove effectual or not, because overruling destiny disposes of everything, which human effort has no power to prevent. 27 Now let us know your desire and what is your object with us, because no suitor who has come to us has been refused of his prayer, or allowed to return in disappointment.”

28 Hearing these words, the rakshasi pondered in her mind, “O, the serene composure of these lion-like men and the affability of their conduct with others. 29 I do not think them to be men of the ordinary kind, and even more wonderful, their inner soul is expressed in the outward gestures of their faces and eyes and in the tone and tenor of their speech. 30 The words, face and eyes express the inner thoughts of the wise, and these go together like the salt and water of the sea. 31 My intention is already known to them, as is theirs also to me. I cannot destroy them when they are indestructible because of their moral excellence.”

32 “I understand them to be acquainted with spiritual knowledge, without which there cannot be a good understanding. Because knowledge of the indestructibility of the spirit takes away the fear of death, and these men lack that fear. 33 Therefore I shall ask them something about which I have doubts. They who fail to ask the wise what they know not must remain dunces throughout their lives.”

34 Having thought so, she opened her mouth, suppressing her roaring voice and loud laughter for a while, and asked her questions. 35 “Tell me, O you sinless men who are so brave and valiant, who are you and from where have you come? The very sight of you has raised my regard for you, like the good hearted become friends with one another, even at their first sight.”

36 The minister said, “This is the king of the Kiratas and I am his councilor. We have come out tonight in our nightly round to apprehend malicious beings like you. 37 It is the duty of princes to punish the wicked, both by day and night. Those who trespass the bounds of their duty must be made like fuel to the fire of destruction.”

38 The rakshashi said, “King, you have a good minister. A bad one is unbecoming of a king. All good kings have wise counselors, and they make the good king. 39 The wise minister is the king’s guide to justice, and it is he who elevates both king and his people. Justice is the first of the four cardinal virtues (justice, temperance, prudence and frugality), and it is the only virtue of a ruler who is called the incarnation of justice (dharma avatara).”

40 “But kings also must have spiritual knowledge because that is the greatest human knowledge. The king who has this knowledge becomes the best of kings. The minister who knows the soul can give the best counsel to guide other souls. 41 A man who feels for others makes a good ruler. Whoever is unacquainted with this rule is not fit to be either a ruler or his minister. 42 If you know this fundamental principle, it is good and you shall prosper. Otherwise you wrong yourselves and your subjects. In which case, you shall be my prey.”

43 “There is only one way for you two young men to escape from my clutches. You must answer my intricate questions according to your best wits and judgment. 44 Now you king and you his counselor give me the solution to the questions that I ask of you. If you fail to give the proper answers as you have agreed to do, then you must then fall under my hands, like anyone who fails to keep his words.”