On the greatness of Bhasma
1-20. Nârâyana said :– O Best of Munis! What shall I describe to you the effects of using the Bhasma! Only applying the ashes takes away the Mahâpâtakas (great sins) as well as other minor sins of the devotee. I speak this truly, very truly unto you. Now hear the fruits of using simply the ashes. By using Bhasma, the knowledge of Brahmâ comes to the Yatis; the desires of enjoyments are eradicated; the improvement is felt in all the virtuous actions of the householders and the studies of the Vedas and other S’âstras of the Brahmachâris get their increase. The S’ûdras get merits in using Bhasmas and the sins of others are destroyed. To besmear the body with ashes and to apply the curved Tripundras is the source of good to all beings. The S’ruti says so. That this implies the performance of sacrifices by all, is also asserted in the S’rutis. To apply ashes to the whole of the body and to use Tripundra is common to all the religions; it has nothing, in principle, contradictory to others. So the S’ruti says.
This Tripundra and the besmearing with ashes is the special mark of the devotees of S’iva; this again is asserted in the S’ruti. This Bhasma and the Tripundra are the special marks by which one is characterised; it is said so in the Vaidik S’ruti. S’iva, Visnu, Brahmâ, Indra, Hiranyagarbha, and their Avataras, Varuna and the whole host of the Devas all gladly used this Tripundra and ashes. Durgâ, Laksmî, and Sarasvatî, etc., all the wives of the gods daily anoint their bodies with ashes and use the Tripundras. So even the Yaksas, Râksasas, Gandharbhas, Sidhas, Vidyâdharas, and the Munis have applied Bhasma and Tripundra. This holding on of ashes is not prohibited to anybody; the Brâhmanas, Ksattriyas, Vais’yas, S’ûdras, mixed castes, and the vile classes all can use this Bhasma and Tripundra. O Nârada! In my opinion they only are the Sadhus (saints) who use this Tripundra and besmear their bodies with ashes. In seducing this Lady Mukti (liberation is personified here as a lady) one is to have this gem of S’iva Lingam, the five lettered Mantra Namah S’ivâyâ as the loving principle, and holding on the ashes as the charming medicine (as in seducing any ordinary woman, gems, jewels and ornaments, love and charming medicines are necessary). O Nârada! Know the place where the person, who has besmeared the holy with ashes and who has used Tripundra takes his food as where S’ankara and S’ankarî have taken their food together. Even if anybody himself not using the Bhasma, follows another who has used the Bhasma, he will be soon honoured in the society even if he be a sinner. What more than this, if anybody himself not using the ashes, praises another who uses the Bhasma, he is freed from all his sins and gets soon honour and respect in the society. All the studies of the Vedas come to him though he has not studied the Vedas, all the fruits of hearing the S’rutis and the Purânas come to him, though he has not heard them, all the fruits of practised Dharma come to him though he has not practised any, if he always uses this Tripundra on his forehead and gives food to a beggar who uses Tripundra on his forehead. Even in courtries as Bihar (Kîkata, etc., that have got a bad name) if there be a single man in the whole country whose body is besmeared with ashes and who uses this Tripundra, that is considered then as Kâs’î (Benares city). Anybody, of a bad or of a good character, be he a Yogi or a sinner, using Bhasma, is worshipped like my son, Brahmâ. O Nârada! Even if an hypocrite uses Bhasma, he will have a good future, which cannot be attained even by performing hundreds of sacrifices. If anybody uses Bhasma daily either through good companion or through neglect, he will be entitled, like me, to the highest worship. O Nârada! Brahmâ, Visnu, Mahes’vara, Pârvatî, Laksmî, Sarasvatî and all the other Devas become satisfied with simply holding on this Bhasma. The merits that are obtained by using only the Tripundra, cannot be obtained by gifts, sacrifices, severe austerities, and going to sacred places of pilgrimages. They cannot give one-sixteenth part of the result that accrues from holding the Tripundra. As a King recognises a person as his own, whom he has given some object of recognition, so Bhagavân S’ankara knows the man who uses Tripundras as His own person. They that hold Tripundras with devotion can have Bholâ Nâtha under their control; no distinction is made here between the Brâhmanas and Chândâlas. Even if anybody be fallen from the state of observing all the Âchâras or rules of conduct proper to his Âs’rama and if he be faulty in not attending to all his duties, he will be Mukta (freed) if he has used even once this Bhasma Tripundra. Never bother yourself with the caste or the family of the holder of the Tripundras. Only see whether the sign Tripundra exists in his forehead. If so, consider him entitled to respect. O Nârada! There is no mantra higher than this S’iva Mantra; there is no Deity higher than S’iva; there is no worship of greater meritgiving powers than the worship of S’iva; so there is no Tîrtha superior to this Bhasma. This Bhasma is not an ordinary thing; it is the excellent energy (semen virile) of fire of the nature of Rudra. All sorts of troubles vanish, all sorts of sins are destroyed by this Bhasma. The country where the lowest castes reside with their bodies besmeared with ashes, is inhabited always by Bhagavân S’ankara, Bhagavatî Umâ, the Pramathas (the attendants of S’iva) and by all the Tîrthas. Bhagavân S’ankara, first of all, held this Bhasma as an ornament to his body by purifying it first with “Sadyo Jâta,” etc., the five mantras. Therefore if anybody uses the Bhasma Tripundra according to rules on his forehead, the writings written at the time of his birth by Vidhâtâ Brahmâ will all be cancelled, if they had been bad. There is no doubt in this.
Here ends the Thirteenth Chapter of the Eleventh Book on the greatness of Bhasma in the Mahâpurânam S’rî Mad Devi Bhâgavatam of 18,000 verses by Maharsi Veda Vyâsa.