by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1896 | 137,618 words | ISBN-10: 818514141X | ISBN-13: 9788185141411

This page relates “the story of karkati”, the 3rd part of chapter 3 of Laghu-yoga-vasistha (English translation). This ancient Sanskrit book contains epic legendry (similair to puranas and itihasa) and deals with the Advaita-vedanta (non-dual) branch of Indian philosophy. It is authored by sage (rishi) Valmiki and condensed (laghu) from an even larger work, forming a discourse between Vasistha (Vasishtha) and Rama. This part is included in the chapter “utpatti-prakarana”.

Part 3 - The Story of Karkaṭī

Summary. Having- shown fully that the universe is nothing but a diversity of Māyā, being in its true state but Caitanya (consciousness) per se, which fact can be perceived through Divine Vision, the author in this story gives out the play of that Caitanya in the present state.

Now that thou hast heard the story of Līlā which removes all belief in the reality of the visible things, know that Brahman alone is that which is the non-dual one and which is Sat, Chit and Ananda, but which manifests itself as this paltry universe. Therefore shake thyself free from this terrible burden of a universe subject to destruction. Know also that the eternal supreme Jīva is no other than the Light of Brahman, shining steady and quiescent like a lamp in a windless place or an ocean without waves and being, like Brahman, above speech, all-pervading, all-full, transcendent, immaculate and indescribable even by the cognizers of that Sat. Like small pieces of wood, which by attrition generating a little fire, expand into a vast flame, Jīva through its manifold experiences of many objects generates in itself the differentiated concepts of  “I,” etc. Through its Saṃkalpa, Ahaṃkāra, is engendered, and by virtue of this Ahaṃkāra, different names such as Chitta, Manas, Prakṛti, Māyā and others have been super-imposed, by the wise, upon this all-full Jīva. This Manas which expands through Saṃkalpas and Vikalpas is generated thus with Brahman as its cause. All the universes which appear only through Manas are no other than its modes. Alone the ocean of Jñāna shines with its countless grand waves of Vṛtti-Jñāna (or mental modifications). The universe appears to be real through Manas only. This reality is only like a dream extending over a long period.

Like the conception of a thief, arising out of the want of true knowledge, in a log of wood (lying by the wayside in a dark night), the conception of the reality of the universe arises in the absence of the knowledge that all is Brahman. Just as there is no difference between Jīva and the imperishable Brahman, when one forgets all about them, no difference at all there is between Jīva and Chitta. Similarly there is not the slightest difference between the ephemeral Manas and the universes. Now hearken to the story of a powerful Rākṣasa woman who lived in days of yore and questioned another through her ripe intelligence and then it will relieve thee from all thy doubts.

She lived on the northern slopes of the Himālayas and was called Karkaṭī. Being a Rākṣasa lady, she was large- mouthed, crescent-teethed and lightning-eyed. It seemed as if the sable rocks themselves yielded their contents to frame her hands and legs wherewith to move and act. Her smile was like a thunder clap. Her eyes whirled in their sockets, like the finny creatures that circle round and round but do not run away. Her two thighs which were like big date trees sup ported a huge cumbrous body. Her nails able to pierce the clouds were of adamantine density. She afflicted the minds of all creatures on the face of the earth with her insatiate gastric fire of hunger which was blazing day and night like the Manvantaric flames. Even should all creatures of Jambu-dvīpa fall a prey to her capacious stomach, she would yet find them a scanty meal, like an ocean in spite of its receipt of river-waters, and crave for more. Her gastric fire would be but slightly appeased like an autumnal heat with slight showers. Now she wanted to appease this fire without any injury to herself and so made Tapas by propitiating Brahmā for aid. For this purpose, she resorted to the Himalayas and having bathed, stood on one leg on the ground and concentrated her eyes upon the sun shining in the sky. After she had passed thus a painful Tapas for 1,000 years, the Lotus-seated Brahmā appeared visibly before her. Are there any objects which cannot be acquired in this world even by the vicious through the performance of rare Tapas? With the arrival of Brahmā before her, she made obeisance to him mentally without stir ring from her spot and reflected thus: “In order to assuage my ever-increasing fire, if I transform myself into the form of an iron-like Jīva-Sūcikā (living needle). I can enter into the bodies of all in the world and consume as much food as I require.” Whilst these thoughts were revolving in her mind, Brahmā asked her the object of her wish. Karkaṭī replied thus “Oh Lord that favorest those, thy devotees who contemplate upon and praise thee. thy servant wishes to be come a Jīva-Sūcikā.”

Thou shalt become Sūcikā having the prefix Vi attached to thy name and hence be called Viṣūcikā[1]. Thou shalt afflict those who feed themselves on unwholesome food, who betake themselves to vicious courses, who are ignorant or ferocious, who live in insanitary places, and who are wicked. Thou shalt commingle with Prāṇa Vāyu in the heart and afflicting people with the diseases Padma, Plīha[2] and others shalt be (the disease) Viṣūcikā. Thou shall enter both Saguṇa and Nirguṇa[3] people. But in the case of entry in Saguṇa men, to remedy the above disease, the following Mantras[4] will have to be uttered, viz.,

??Mantra in Sanskrit, see book p. 93 Translittereren

The reciter of the above Mantra should write it on the left hand (with the left) and should pass it (the left hand) over the body of the diseased person. Then he should contemplate upon Karkaṭī, who is crushed with the pestle of the Mantra and hence angry, as having departed for the Himalayas. Then he should regard the diseased person as bathing in the ambrosia of the moon and as free from diseases, mental or physical. Being pure and having duly performed Achamana (sipping water) with all his senses under perfect control, he will destroy all Viṣūcikās through the due performance of the above mentioned means.”

So saying Brahmā vanished from view, whereupon this mountain-sized personage reduced herself to the size of a Jīva-Sūcikā and entered into the minds of the ferocious as well as the timid in order to make them perish. Having entered in the form of Vāyu within all Jīvas in earth and in Ākāśa, she fed upon all their lives in the form of Jīva Sūcikā and Vāyu-Sūcikā. Surfeited with such an enjoyment, she exclaimed “Whirling and making me despondent, my desires do make even the needle to wear away and making me giddy, do destroy me. Away with these desires of mine ! With a cruel heart. I have afflicted many lives in vain. Therefore, I shall divest myself of all desires and perform Tapas in the Himalayas “So saying, she gave up all fluctuation of mind, devoid of any longing- for objects. Thus a thousand years passed, purifying her of the two-fold Karmas, (virtuous and sinful).

While thus, she was engaged in spiritual contemplation with an illuminated mind, free from all the pains of love and hatred and slighting this universe, the all-full Jñāna dawned in her mind and therefore Brahmā came voluntarily to her and imparted to her the following truths: (< Thou hast attained the Jīvanmukti state. Thy mind has been quite illumined; yet thou shalt be in thy old form of a Rākṣasa lady and sup port thyself on earth in the bodies of persons without Jñāna as well as the cruel and the base. Happiness thou shalt en joy thus.” With these blessings, Brahmā disappeared.

Contemplating upon Brahman alone as the non-dual one and as the All, she rested in the actionless state of ‘That.’ “After remaining thus in Nirvikalpa Samādhi for a very long time, she returned to the normal state and with infinite bliss, commingled herself with her mind. Instantaneously the thoughts of her old hunger revived. And as the conception of ‘I’ is incidental to this body so long as it exists in the universe, she resolved upon tasting flesh, the food peculiar to Rākṣasas. Then exulting as nectar in the consumption of the body of the ignorant as directed by Brahmā, she retired to the slopes of the Himalayas and reached the country of the hunters. While she was dwelling in the forest there, a king chanced to go to it along with his just minister. Then the night was enveloped with such an intense gloom as not to be dissipated by the light of even sun, moon and Agni (fire combined together. Fearlessly did they perambulate together on such a night, scaring away Piśācas and other mischievous imps.

So soon as Karkaṭī saw these two passing in the forest, she reckoned upon a good repast in them. At first, she thought that they were ignorant persons without true Jñāna and as such were productive of pains both in this and the higher worlds as also everywhere. On further reflection, she soliloquized to herself thus “According to the direction of Brahmā, those who are not content with any things that come in their way are of weak minds only. On the other hand, will any one be so foolish as to injure those who are of illuminated mind and good qualities? Besides, will such virtuous persons suffer thereby? Such Illuminati will be of undying fame, long life, and impartial bliss, worthy of being venerated by all. As they are more endearing to one another in their ranks than even their own lives, they will, even at their own risk, protect another amongst themselves. They have even the power to make their devotees get into the good graces of Yama and thus overcome him. While even a Rākṣasa lady like myself goes the length of worshipping the wise, who else will not do the same, like a fond dog? Like the full moon which protects this earth (and makes it appear gay), the wise will gladden the hearts of those visiting them. Persons not associating with such wise men will de base themselves and be but as men dead; otherwise they will attain the good effects of Mokṣa and others.” Thus therefore she came to the conclusion of testing them as to whether they were Jñānis or not.

With this purpose, she roared aloud (unperceived) in the Ākāśa outgiving the thunder-clap with the following words “Oh ye who resemble the sun and the moon in the ineffable forest of Ākāśa, showering rain like clouds, Oh ye who are like the countless hosts of vermin writhing and perishing underneath the dark and terrible stone of Māyā, have ye come here simply for the purpose of falling a prey to me this very instant? Ye seem to me to be the wise ones, and yet it strikes me ye belong to the other class also. To which class then do ye belong?

At which the king thus addressed her “Oh Rākṣasa lady, ever prone to injure all creatures, hear me. But where are you now? We listened to all the sounds you uttered like the buzzing of a young bee.” Thereupon the lady exclaimed “well done” and laughed aloud, standing before them. The king, observing her large form through the intense luster of her large teeth, was not in the least appalled at the sight and said to her thus “Do not open wide agape your capacious mouth like the Minaka (mountain) and afflict yourself thereby. Whatever may be said by persons, who do not long after the fruits of actions, that such fruits are baneful and do not really exist, the light-minded are ever engaged in such light ones only; but the wise of great quiescence are” bent upon the transcendent spiritual actions through their subtle intelligence. Our valor is such as to blow away, like mosquitoes, persons of vicious proclivities like yourself. Therefore abandon all your impetuous foolhardiness. Please apprise us of your real intentions. We are able to confer, even in dream, any objects begged of us through intense desire by any person approaching us then.”

At these words of the king, the lady came to understand that they were persons of unlimited Jñāna, knowledge, power and quiescence of mind. Then in extreme marvel at their noble words and stainless truth, she muttered to herself thus “A stainless mind can be judged through speech, face and eyes. Through those expressions, can their opinion also be well gauged. Those whose doubts (about the higher spiritual path) have not been cleared along with the love of wealth, should be classed under the inferior class of the ignorant.” Then addressing these two grandees, she queried them as to who they were.

The minister replied thus to the questions put by Karkaṭī “(Pointing to the personage near him), he is the King of hunters and I am his Minister. Nightly do we patrol every where to punish the vicious and protect the virtuous. On that mission it is, we have wended our way thither.”

Whereupon Karkaṭī said thus “With the counsels of a wicked minister, a good king too is turned into bad ways; even a bad king becomes virtuous, if counseled by an honest and virtuous statesman. Conversely, a wise King generates a good minister. Therefore when a king is counseled by a statesman of great discrimination, what blessings will he not achieve? As is the king, so will be his subjects. Those only are qualified to be kings or ministers who have developed nobleness of disposition, equal vision over all and a profound study of Jñāna works. Otherwise they are not worthy of discharging such duties. Therefore, if you are not well versed in these Jñāna books, you will have to replenish my stomach and thus forfeit all chances of enjoying your youth. I will now enmesh you both, who are like two lions, in the cage of my questions. Now try to unlock their portals with the keys of your discrimination. Else, you will not be able to outlive that period.” On the King asking her to state the questions, the lady rained her queries on them both like ambrosia. Muni Vasiṣṭha continued Oh Rāma, listen attentively to the questions proposed by the Rākṣasa lady. They are the following:

(1) What is that atom which is the cause of the origin, preservation and destruction of the myriads of heterogeneous universes springing up like so many bubbles on the surface of the ocean?

(2) What is that which is Ākāśa and yet is not?

(3) What is that which, though it is unlimited, has yet a limit?

(4) What is that which though moving, yet moves not?

(5) What is that which, though it is, yet is not?

(6) What is that, which manifests to itself as Chit (consciousness) and is yet a stone (or inert)?

(7) What is that which portrays pictures in the Ākāśa?

(8) What is that atom in which are latent all the microcosms, like a tree in a seed?

(9) Whence do all things originate, like volatility in water, being non-different from that cause like the tidal foams in the ocean?

(10) And in what will these two (volatility and water) become merged as one?

“If you are able to solve these riddles through your intelligence, then you can aspire to a state on my head, like fragrant blossoms gracing my locks. Otherwise, if you muddle yourself over these questions through your obtuse head, you will but serve as a fuel for the gastric fire blazing in my stomach.”

Thereat the minister replied thus “Your questions point but to the non-dual Brahman. Being above the reach of mind and the five Indriyas (organs), it is the endless absolute Jñāna more subtle than Ākāśa and the Supreme Atom of atoms (Paramanu). Out of that Atom, all the former Mundane eggs arose and into It were (or will be) all absorbed.

Question (2). As there is no such attribute as exterior (or interior) to this all-pervading- Brahman, it can be said to be Ākāśa itself; but yet it is not the Ākāśa of the elements, as it is pure Jñāna itself.

Question (3). As there is no abode for it to abide in, it is not limited; and yet it abides in them ever as the Absolute Sat.

Question (4). Through its relationship with many objects, it moves about; and yet it is devoid of motion, as it has no space outside of itself to move.

Question (5). As it is not possible to be known by being pointed to (as this or that), It is not, and yet It w, as It is Be-ness itself.

Question (6) As it is the self-shining Light, it is consciousness per se, and yet it is like the inert stone, since it has not the power of knowing, (being itself the All) (also since It is that which manifests itself in the two aspects of intelligence and matter.)

Question (7) This is it that depicts the pictures of the series of universes in the Cidākāśa which is very subtle, immaculate and self-existent.

Question (8) As the heterogeneous universes are but the light or manifestation of that One, therefore naught else is but That; yet all the different worlds arising out of the conception of I, Thou, etc., are inseparable from It, being but Its aspect.

So replied the intelligent courtier standing by the side of his king, when Karkaṭī became overjoyed with him and then addressed the king for a solution of her questions, in order to sound his depth of knowledge. The king there upon said thus “It is indubitably certain that this universe is not and it is also as certain that the partless One alone is. Now thou shalt hear an account of the nature of that one, namely Brahman. The mastery of Brahman can be effected through the mind alone after abandoning its Saṃkalpas and Vikalpas. The origin and dissolution of this universe (which is nothing but a mode of consciousness), take place with the complete origination and destruction of the Saṃkalpas of the mind. Such a process is the real state (or import) of the holy sentences in the Vedas; but yet it is exterior to them, as it is through self-experience alone that such a process can be developed. It occupies a state intermediate between Sat[5] (being) and Asat (non-being) and is the real state of the two. It is this Saṃkalpa of the mind that brings into play this world with all its moving and fixed creatures. Thou hast in thy questions referred to Brahman only which, manifesting itself as this universe, is yet the impartite plenum of Jñāna through its being the non-dual Principle from of old. This is the one Reality cognized by men of true love.”

At these words of the king, the Rākṣasa lady felt her whole body cooled as if showers of nectar were rained on it. Having steadied herself after her exultation was over, she gave vent to the following words: “Do not all men wear, as their crown, the feet of such holy personages like yourselves who have rare intelligence, like unto a Jñāna-sun, which has neither degree nor stain, neither setting nor rising? Will despondency ever rise in the breasts of those who associate with Ātma Jñānis, being, as they are, invincible conquerors of Mokṣa-loka? Despite your acquisition of all things through Ātma, please lay your commands on my head, so that I may serve you in some respect?”

To which the king said thus: “Oh wench, that is like a poisonous fruit in the forest of Viṣadruma (or the poisonous trees) of the Rākṣasa race, desist from thy massacre of all lives in this world.” The lady having nodded assent, the king queried her as to what such a carnivorous person, as she was, would do to appease her hunger. The lady said that she would resort to Nirvikalpa Samādhi as she did be fore to alleviate her gastric fire. She remarked further that she would thus pass a long time in the state of Jīvanmukti, tasting the ambrosia flowing within and then reach Videha-mukti. Then she promised on her honor not to hurt any creatures, now that she had developed Jñāna.

While she was meditating upon beating a retreat, the king said “We have encompassed our object very smoothly. If you will choose to accompany us to our palace and there remain as one of our family, we will bestow upon you plenteously the bodies of those villains who betake themselves to murder and other crimes. So long as this body endures, thoughts and other pains incidental to it will not bid adieu to it. Therefore you can devote yourself to Niṣṭhā (meditation) after quenching the fire in your stomach with the victuals supplied to you in the form of the bodies of the vicious. Thus shall you act in this world with true love.”

Thereupon the lady with great exultation walked along with the leonine King and his minister to their golden palace when the sun rose. In six days after their arrival, three thousand wretches were handed over to her by the King. Discarding during nights the resplendent form of Lakṣmī with which she shone during the day in that palace, she trans formed herself into a Rākṣasa woman and piled upon her shoulders the ignorant suicides. Then having taken leave of the King and his counselor, she fled for meditation to the golden Himalaya mountains. Even to this very day, both the King and Karkaṭī[6] are thus moving friendly towards one another. So said Vasiṣṭha to Rāmacandra.

Footnotes and references:


Viṣūcikā is the disease called cholera. The word is com pounded of Vi and Sūcikā. Sūcikā is from Sūch to make known.


These are splenetic diseases.


Saguṇa men are the wise while Nirguṇa are the ignorant.


This is the Mantra to arrest cholera. Excluding the Bījākṣaras such as Oṃ, etc., the meaning of the Mantra is thus Oh Viṣṇu- śakti, fit to be worshiped, prostrations to thee; please come here, take her, take her (Viṣūcikā); burn her, burn her; kill her, kill her; cook her, cook her; churn her, churn her; destroy her, destroy her; drive her, drive her; Oh Viṣūcikā, go away to the Himalayas; oh the essence of Jivas, you are of ( or go to ) the sphere of the moon.”


Here Sat and Asat mean existence and non-existence or Puruṣa and Prakṛti. Whereas Sattā is applied to Parabrahman which is Be- ness as opposed to being- or non-being.


Karkaṭī means a snake in one sense.

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