Karkati or Goddess Kandara
Tales From Sri Yoga Vashishtham
The Story of Karkati, the Raksasi who became the Compassionate Goddess Kandara
On the northeren slopes of Himalayas, there lived a Rakshasi named Karkati. She was known by two names Vishuchika and Anyayabadhika. Vulcan eyed, Collyreum dark, she looked like a mountain-size doll. Because of her immense body and limbs, her appetite was never satiated like ever hungry ocean fire. She was always worried about her never satisfied palate and stomach. Her mind was always occupied by the thought about her hunger and the ways to satisfy it. It is as if her mind became her body.
In one of her hungry moments she thought ‘If I consume all the people of the Jambu Continent my hunger may be quenched. It is like a sea drawing all the rivers into it. But is it proper to do so? Many of the people are protected by gods because of their worship and prayers. How can I put them into trouble. I shall do immense penance and become griefless with concentrated mind. One can obtain the most difficult, unattainable things with penance’.
With this resolve, she started doing penance on a mountain nearby, standing on one leg and with unblinking eyes. Her mental determination was such that she could continue the penance for nearby thousand year.
Appreciating this tremendous effort, Lord Brahma appeared before her. Karkati mentally greated him in her standing posture. She started thinking ‘What boon shall quench my hunger’? Let me request the Lord for one boon. I shall become living, iron, and non-iron needles. Then I can easily enter the hearts of people in many forms of living needle. I can then eat the entire world to my heart’s content without any difficulty. Killing/satisfying the hunger is the greatest happiness.’
When she requested for this boon, Brahma agreed, as his wont of not denying anything to his devotees. He said,-without being surprised at this unusual request,-
‘Be it so, you will become a needle which causes cholera, you will harass the entire world with your cunning, those gluttonous and are heinous in action and fools in misery. You shall terrorise those in bad countries and places and cruel people by entering their heart and attacking their liver and heart. You shall torment both good and bad people becoming the disease of cholera’.
Brahma thus tinned the strange request into something that can be beneficial to world at large by using Karkati as an instrument for punishing the people who are tormenters of the innocent.
Karkati was happy with this boon which will now save her from the constant difficulty of satisfying her hunger. She then reduced from her mountain size and assumed the sizes and shapes of a small needle. It was like a fancied mountain melting down to an atom.
She was a needle only for sight. She was glossy and glittering like a gem needle. Even so she was full with her mental consciousness and thinking ability. She was luminous with the sun’s rays reflecting on her. Since she was living, even as a needle, her sense energies were appropriately intact in due measure. She was worried only about subsistence. She did not realise the uselessness of a needle – shape for achieving her mental desire and her mountain sized hunger. The only thing she has now is a tremendous power to torment and not enough belly to accommodate all the food that becomes available with her ability to kill.
Gloating with her success in achieving her boon, she went on a spree of killing and tormenting with great glee and cynical pleasure. The Raksasi had now two bodies; one like a fog-garment and the other like smooth silk. She entered the hearts of people with both forms and tormented them cruelly. She began whirlwind tows of the world. In some places she entered the hearts of intelligent people and made them evil minded. She was hiding herself in dust, fingers of hands, in the light of the sky and the fibres of cloth. She moved into arteries, into female genitals, tender grass, bones and joints, deep cut wounds. She was present at places where pilgrims gathered and rested. She cramped the thumbs of people and overwhelmed bodies. She frequented around many kinds of active, colourful cities, towns and villages. With such movement she used to become tired. Then she used to take refuge in torn garments and attack their wearers.
With all this kind of feverish, restless activity, over time she became old. Even so she was able to preserve her metal characteristic with the reinforcement from her living nature.
Suddenly she realised her declining state, due to reduction in the power of penance and felt unhappy. Instead of reducing her activity, she became more aggressive and looked for more and more opportunities to cause pain. If the needle not used, she felt a kind of sickness.
Thus for a longtime Karkati was feeding on human flesh but was never happy or satisfied. She began thinking. ‘Why did I become a needle? Being very small, my power is limited. There is no space inside me even for a morsel of food, or a little juicy meat. On the otherhand, by my foolish wanderings I am drowning myself in mud and being stamped on by numberless feet. I am being polluted by semen. Oh! I am dead. I am orphaned. I have no one to cheer or console me. I am burdened with calamities. I trapped myself in frightful conditions. I want to die but even this is not available to me. Abandoning my old body, I am like one who ran after a glass piece, leaving ‘Chintamani’. When one falls prey to mental delusion, the first thing he gets is catastrophe. Later it explodes into a swell of calamities. I am carrying other’s commands. I am like a servant. Under confusion I am doing silly and mean things. I am the unluckiest of the unlucky. I am behaving in an unpleasing way while I should have been living in a brighter way’.
As Karkati, the needle wailed thus within herself a determination grew in her. She decided to do penance to regain her old body. She then stopped her violent activity and proceeded to Himalayas; where she did penance earlier. Karkati withdrew her life energy into the mind and saw her needle hood only in her mind/mental sheath. She proceeded to a Himalayan peak with her breathing body.
The volcanic peak was desolate but friendly with huge boulders and dust. She stuck half of her body into the earth and started her penance, with great discipline guided by her understanding and intelligence and not by desire like hunger. Over a period of time, Karkati (in the needle shape) was covered by mud, drowned in water and shaken by fierce winds, scorched by forest fire, a shower of stones, huge lightnings. But she was unmoved from her place and posture like one in deep sleep.
With no external movement for years on end and due to inquiry into self, Karkati became awakened to Truth. Perceiving Truth, she became pure and got relieved of the needle and Vishuchi attributes. Knowing what should be known, with all the sins eliminated by penance the needle became the pathfinder to her happiness with intelligence. Thus she carried on the ‘Tapas’ for seven thousand years. The intensity of ‘Tapas’ was such as to heat up all the seven worlds.
Then Indra came to feel this heat in his city and enquired of Narada. ‘By whose ‘tapas’ is this world overpowered’? Narada replied: ‘It is Karkati the Raksasi with her present needle body. With this ‘Tapas’ she acquired the great ‘Vijnana’ body.’ As usual Indra sent Vayu to locate her and bring the tidings about her. Vayu after a long search located her. He observed her in her steadfast posture and was amazed at the luster shed by the needle shape. He said ‘O Lord, due to the heat of her ‘Tapas’, Himalaya has abandoned his nature of snow cover and took the shape of fire. Thus he has got into grief while it is sitting there, let us go to Lord Brahma to and pray for a boon to the ‘Needle’. Otherwise a great calamity will visit the worlds.’ Thus when Indra and Vayu approached Brahma, Brahma said ‘I shall grant a boon to the Needle. I am now proceeding to the Himalayan peak’.
In fact by the time Brahma reached Karkati, it was already a thousand years since she was enlightened. Seeing Karkati Brahma said ‘my child ask for a boon’.
Since as needle Karkati was without any sense organs, it could not answer to the voice of Brahma and fell into a musing mood. ‘I am now perfect. I have known what is to be known what is the use of anything else. I have gone beyond reality and unreality. Now I am quiet and peaceful and self reflection and inquiry. Why should I pollute and agitate myself with likes and dislikes.’ Thus determined the ‘Neele’ Karkati kept silent. Brahma observed this and Karkatis’ complete surrender to Truth. She started with a desire to regain her body but she no longer had an interest in it.
Brahma said ‘My child, take this boon and remain on the earth for a while. Enjoy the pleasures of the earth for sometime. Then you can arrive at the supreme state. This is ordained by Iswara. Gain your huge body. Move around the Himalayas. Because of your knowledge you shall not torment the world any more. You are of pure internal vibrations. You will be in meditation always. If at anytime, you become externalised, you shall be the meditative form of the All-Self. You shall be the active embodiment of dhyana and dharma. You shall be playful due to natural body pulsations like the vibrations of air. You will kill only for satisfying your hunger. You will be ruled by discriminatory intelligence.’
After speaking thus Brahma left for his abode. The ‘Needle’ Karkati thought ‘Why should I go against the wishes of Brahma?’ and regained her huge body.
Having acquired all the limbs, Karkati became once again the huge bodied one. Since she was now fully established in pure knowledge, she continued her meditation. After six months she got up from her meditation. Immediately she felt the pangs of hunger. As long as the body is there, there is no turning away from the nature and needs of the body. She started thinking. ‘What should I eat? I should not transgress the law of virtue for satisfying my hunger. What will happen if I do not eat what is not obtained in a proper way? What is the great justification either to my life or death? This body is a jewel of mental illusion. When such an illusion has subsided due to self knowledge what is this perception of body or lack of it?’
After this musing she sat silent. She then heard a voice from the celestial fields. ‘O Karkati go and enlighten and awaken the stupid and foolish people who are ignorant.’ Hearing this, she rose from her seat and descended from the peak to the plains and entered the land of Kiratas. During that night she saw two people, the king of Kiratas and his minister who were engrossed in search of devilish beings causing problems to their people. They were armed with bows and arrows. Seeing them Karkati thought ‘I have now met my meal. I shall test them for their nobility. If they are of noble quality, I shall not eat them. I may love my body. But I will never feed on men of quality. Saints comfort their minds more than do their lives. To disregard men of quality is death. To worship them is life.’ She thus acted appropriate to a person who was free from the feeling ‘I am the body’.
With this determination, she accepted them with a thunderous laughter and said ‘you seem to come here to be my feast.’ The two gentlemen did not show any fear, and on the contrary challenged her to attempt killing them. Karkati realised that these two men were of pure behaviour and were good. She felt ‘I think these are people with knowledge of self. I shall ask them about my doubts in knowledge.’ She then addressed the two and said ‘I shall ask some questions. I am interested in listening to your answers. If you give the answers that satisfy me, I shall leave you alone.’ They agreed for the challenge.
The then asked them a set of two hundred questions of the type: ‘What is that which is a thing and not a thing? Who achieves and abides as ‘I’? who decides to become I?’
Both of them, one after the other gave answers saying ‘O lotus eyed one, what you are referring to is Paramatman. You have framed the questions in good language reflecting enlightenment.’
With the answers given by the King and minister, Karkati became delighted and said ‘what a delight. Your intelligence is illumined by the sum of knowledge. Hearing your pearls of wisdom my heart became like the moon fields which are cool, passive, pure and softly brilliant. Conversing with noble people like you, I am enlightened and illumined like night by moon. Now my desire to eat is gone.
I shall now return to the mountain peak and shall engage in deep, unwavering meditation. I shall hold my body and leave it in due course at my will. O King, till I leave my body I shall not hurt or harm any being. I shall give you the mantra which will save your people from all disease.’ After giving the mantra to the King she wanted to leave for the peak. But the King requested her to be his guest in his palace. Karkati then said ‘O King, I am a Raksasi. I cannot be pleased with ordinary food. My original nature will not go away till my death.’ To this the king replied ‘O faultless one, live in my house for a few days as a lady of normal size bedecked with golden jewels. I shall in due course assemble all the bad characters in my kingdom, worthy of capital punishment at one place and arrange a good meal for you. Afterwards you can return to your Himalayan abode,’ she agreed and went along with the king and minister.
This kind of arrangement continued for a while. After a visit, Karkati used to return to her abode and remained in Samadhi for four to five years. She then came down to the King. The king used to assemble all those who were ready to be hanged. Karkati used to carry them and made a meal of them happily. After a while the king departed to the manes. His successor continued the practice. Karkati made friends with all the successor kings. She relieved the people of calamities, effects of ghouls and cured them of all diseases with her powers. Karkati became Kandar Devi for the people and they worshipped her.
Thus Karkati, the Raksasi became a compassionate goddess Kandara.
Sri Rama, the young Prince of all Ayodhya, puts this question to Sri Vasista, the great Rishi and preceptor of the Ishvaku Dynasty.
‘O Bhagwan, the repository of knowledge, please enlighten me on this: you said that there is nothing like Ignorance because of the oneness of the Brahman and the self and the manifest world. Then what is liberation? What are these divisions and deformations as objects and grief?’
Sri Vasista replies ‘O, Rama this is a timely and excellent question. It deserves an elaborate reply.
‘Origin, measure and measurable are all Pure Intelligence and Primarily Transcendent – nothing else. The later distinctions and divisions as duality and oneness are all like the quarrel about the horns of a rabbit. Because of consenting to sorrow the Pure, the Immanent, the Infinite the Unequalled the Peerless Brahman appears to be many, to be Impure, to be non-existent and to be finite. It is a childish fabrication to say that waves are different from water. Such a diversive understanding is a consequence of not understanding the fundamental cosmic principle. Rope-snake duality, enemy-friend differentiations – such opposites are possible only in Brahman.
Mind is born from the self as a firm self-perception. Whatever mind imagines/fancies that alone it perceives. Whether it is existent or non-existent, whatever mind fabricates or conceives or imagines, that alone abides firm. Whatever it visualises that appears as real.
If this is known then there is no duality, no liberation or one is liberated from duality, from existence and non-existence.
In this context I shall narrate an ancient story. In this there are many questions posed by the Raksasi, story of Karkati.Now O Rama, I have answered your question. When mind is dissolved with the realisation of Self, all divisions between grief and object, you and I disappear. Even a Raksasi, for whom body is self, gets transformed.
Article by : P. N. Murthy
Source: Bhavan’s Journal 31 December 2008
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