Chapter 82 — Friendship with the Rakshasi; Criminals as Food

Vasishta continued:—

The silly Karkati of the forest, having heard the king’s speech, pondered well the sense of the words and forsook her levity and malice. She found the coolness and tranquility of her heart after its fervor was over, just like a peacock when the rains set in, or a lotus bed at the rising of moonbeams. The king’s words delighted her heart like the cries of cranes flying in the sky gladden the passing clouds in the air.

The rakshasi said, “O how brightly shines the pure light of your understanding. It glows as serenely by its inner brilliance as it is illuminated by the sun of intelligence. Hearing the elements of your reasoning, my heart is as gladdened as when the earth is cooled by the serene beams of humid moonlight. Reasonable men like you are honored and venerated in the world, and I am as delighted in your company as a lake of lotuses with full blown buds under moonbeams. The company of the virtuous scatters its blessings just like a flower garden spreads its fragrance all around and, like the brightness of sunbeams, brings the lotus buds to bloom. Company of the good and great dispels all our sorrows, just like a lamp in the hand disperses surrounding darkness. I have been fortunate to have found you as two great lights in this forest. Both of you are entitled to my reverence. Please let me know what good intent has brought you here.”

10 The king answered, “O offspring of the savage race of rakshasas, the people of this province are always afflicted in their hearts by a certain evil. 11 It is the stubborn disease of choleric pain that troubles the people of this part. Therefore I have come out with my guards to find her out in my nightly rounds. 12 No medicine removes this choleric pain from the hearts of men, so I have come in search of the mantra revealed to her for its cure. 13 It is my business and professed duty to persecute such wicked beings as yourself who infest our ignorant subjects in this way. This is all I have to tell you and do in this place. 14 Therefore, good lady, promise in your own words that in future you will never injure any living being.”

15 The rakshasi replied, “Well! I tell you truly, my lord, that I shall hence forward never kill anybody.”

16 The king replied, “If that be so, you who lives on animal flesh, tell me how can you support your body if you abstain from animal food?”

17 The rakshasi replied, “It has been six months, O king, since I have risen from my samadhi meditation and fostered my desire for food, which I wholly renounce today. 18 I will return to the mountain top, resume my steadfast meditation, and sit there contented as long as I like in the posture of an unmoving statue. 19 I will restrain myself by unshaken meditation until my death, and then I shall quit this body in its time with gladness. This is my resolution.”

20 “I tell you now, O king, that until the end of this life and body of mine, I shall no more take the life of any living being, and you may rely assured upon my word. 21 There is Mount Himalaya by name, standing in the heart of the northern region and stretching in one sweep from the vast east to west. 22 At first I lived there in a cave by its golden peak. I was in the shape of an iron statue, and also like a cloud fragment, and I bore the name of Karkati the Rakshasi. 23 There by the austerity of my meditation I obtained the sight of Brahma and I expressed my desire to kill mankind in the shape of a destructive needle. 24 I obtained the boon accordingly and passed a great many years in the act of afflicting living brings and feeding on their entrails in the form of choleric pain.”

25 “Then Brahma prohibited me from killing the learned and he instructed me in the great mantra. 26 He gave me the power of piercing the hearts of men with some other diseases that infest all mankind. 27 I spread myself far and wide in my malice and sucked the heart blood of men, which dried up their veins and arteries and emaciated their bodies. 28 Those I left alive after devouring their flesh and blood begat a race as lean and without veins as they had become themselves.”

29 “You will be successful, O happy king, in getting the mantra for driving away cholera pain, because there is nothing impossible that the wise and strong cannot attain. 30 Receive immediately, O king, the mantra that Brahma uttered to remove choleric pain from the cells of arteries weakened by cholera. 31 Come and let us go to the nearby river. After you are both prepared by washing and purification, then I will initiate you with the mantra.”

32 Vasishta said:—

Then the rakshasi proceeded to the river side that very night accompanied by the king and his minister, all joined together as friends. 33 These two men, being sure of the rakshasi’s friendship by both affirmative and negative proofs, made their ablutions and stood on the river bank. 34 Then the rakshasi tenderly told them the mantra that Brahma had revealed to her to remove cholera pain, and which was always successful.

35 Afterwards as the nocturnal fiend was about to depart and leave her friendly companions behind, the king stopped her with his speech. 36 The king said, “O you of gigantic stature! By teaching us the mantra, you have become our teacher. We affectionately invite you to take your meal with us tonight. 37 It does not become you to break off our friendship which has grown at our very first meeting like the acquaintance of good people. 38 Give your ill-favored form a little more graceful figure and walk with us to our home and stay there at your own pleasure.”

39 The rakshasi replied, “You can well provide a female of your own kind with her proper food, but what entertainment can you give to my satisfaction? I am a cannibal by nature! 40 It is only a rakshasa’s food that can satisfy me, not the little morsels of petty mortals. This is the innate nature of our being and it can not be done away with as long as we carry our present bodies.”

41 The king answered, “Ornamented with necklaces of gold, you shall be at liberty to remain with the ladies in my house for as many days as you may like to stay. 42 Then, for your food, I will produce the robbers and felons that I seize in my territories. You will have them supplied to you constantly by the hundreds and thousands. 43 Then you can then forsake your attractive form, resume your hideous rakshasi figure, and kill hundreds of those lawless men for your food. 44 Take them to the top of the snowy mountain and devour them at your pleasure. Great men always like to take their meals in privacy.”

45 “After your recreation with that food and a short nap, you can resume your meditation. When you are tired with your meditation, you can come back to this place. 46 You can then take other offenders for your slaughter. Killing culprits is not only justifiable by law, it amounts to an act of mercy to rid them of their punishment in the next world. 47 You must return to me when you are tired of your meditation because friendship, even that formed with the wicked, is not easily done away.”

48 The rakshasi replied, “You have spoken well, king, and I will do as you say. For who is there that will slight the words of the wise spoken to him in the way of friendship?”

49 Vasishta said:—

Saying so, the rakshasi assumed a graceful form and wore necklaces and bracelets, and silken robes and laces. 50 She said, “Well king, let us go together,” then followed the footsteps of the king and his counselor who walked before her and led the way.

51 Having arrived at the royal residence, they passed that night with their agreeable meal and discourse together. 52 As it became morning, the rakshasi went inside the house and remained there with the women. Meanwhile the king and the minister attended to their business. 53 Over the course of six days, the king collected together all the offenders he had seized in his territory and from other parts. 54 These amounted to three thousand heads which he gave to her.

She resumed her fierce dark form of the black fiend of the night. 55 She laid hold of thousands of men in her extended grasp, like a cloud fragment holds drops of rainwater in its wide bosom. 56 She took leave of the king and went with her prey to the mountain top, just like a poor man takes gold that he happened to find in some hidden place. 57 For three days and nights she refreshed herself with her food and rested. Then regaining the firmness of her understanding, she employed herself in meditation.

58 After four or five or sometimes seven years passed, she used to get up from her tapas and return to where men live and to the court of the king. 59 There they passed some time in confidential conversation, then she returned with her prey of the offenders to her mountain seat. 60 Thus freed from cares even in her lifetime, she continued to remain as a liberated being in that mountain.