Chapter 9 — Description of Shukra’s Body during His Austerities

Vasishta related:—

As Shukra was indulging his reveries in this manner, he passed insensibly under the flight of a series of years which glided over him in the presence of his father. At last his body withered away with age under the inclement sun, winds and rain. It fell down on the ground like a tree torn from its roots. In all his former births his mind thirsted after fresh pleasures and enjoyments, just like a deer hunts from forest to forest after fresh vegetation. He underwent repeated births and deaths in his wanderings in the world in search of its enjoyments. He seemed like something whirled about in a mill or a turning wheel, until at last he found his rest in the cooling beach of the rivulet.

Now the disembodied spirit of Shukra remained to reflect on his past incarnations in all the real and ideal forms of his imagination. It thought of its former body on Mandara Mountain and how it was reduced to a skeleton of mere bones and skin by the heat of the sun and his austerities. It remembered how the wind instrument of its lungs breathed out the joyous music of its exemption from the pain of action. Seeing how the mind is plunged in the pit of worldly cares, the body seems to laugh at it by showing the white teeth of the mouth in derision. The cavity of the mouth, the sockets of the eyes, the nostrils and ear-holes in the open face, are all expressive of the hollowness of human and heavenly bodies. 10 The body sheds the tears of its eyes in sorrow for its past pains and austerities, just like the sky rains after excessive heat to cool the earth. 11 The body was refreshed by breeze and moonbeams, just as woodlands are renovated by cooling showers in the rainy season. 12 It remembered how its body was washed on the banks of mountain streams by waterfalls from above, and how it was daubed by the flying dust and the dirt of sin. 13 It was as naked as a withered tree, and rustled to the air with the breeze, yet it withstood the keen blasts of winter like unshaken devotion in a person. 14 The faded face, the withered lungs and arteries, and the skinny belly resembled those of the goddess of famine who cried aloud in the forest in the howling of wild beasts.

15 Yet the holy person of the hermit, owing to its freedom from passions and feelings and its fervent tapas, was unhurt by envious animals and was not devoured by rapacious beasts and birds. 16 The body of Bhrigu’s son was weakened by his abstinence and self-denial, and his mind was employed in holy tapas, as his body lay prostrate on the bed of stones.