There came a moment when BrahmÔ believed his work on earth was done. He had created everything out of his mind: the entire inventory of beings, from microbe to mountain, stretched away before him. But there was a false note. It all looked like an enameled court painting. Everything moved, everything looked normal. But nothing decayed. Nor grew. Was all to remain intact forever? Was this the earth it behooved BrahmÔ to create? The god smiled a sad smile of solitary soliloquy. He knew it was not.
BrahmÔ's creating suffered from this weakness: all were born exclusively of the mind, and worse still, no one died. Faced with such a world, at once rowdy and inert, a stifled, menacing anger slowly brewed up in its creator, and anger that seemed eager to unleash itself in a final conflagration. BrahmÔ sat apart from it all, his legs crossed, gazing on the world with the contempt of a father reflecting on the mediocrity of his son. In each separate element he recognized a sense of all-pervading fatuity. So Siva was doing no more than showing mercy when he suggested to BrahmÔ what was missing, that figure who alone could save the world from a brusque and spiteful end: Mrtyu, Death.
"Anger rushes out at the world from the orifices of your body, sets it ablaze, scorches its mane. Thus it is flat and arid once again. But still inhabited by those multitudes of men who don't know what to do with themselves. Why reduce the life you have invented to such pettiness? Let men die. And, since among ourselves everything happens many times, they can die many times and live many times. That way they need no longer be humiliated by this endless life, which only oppresses the earth with its weight." Thus spoke Siva to BrahmÔ one day when his benevolent side was uppermost.
Grimly, BrahmÔ agreed. The earth was spared his flames. There was a moment of suspension, as if everything had stopped breathing. Then a girl appeared, a dark girl, dressed in red with large earrings. Crouched on the ground, the two gods gazed at her. Then BrahmÔ spoke: "Mrtyu, Death, come here. You must go forth into the world. You must kill my creatures, the scholars and the muddlers. You must have but one rule: that there be no exceptions." The girl gazed at the god in silence, her fingers nervously twisting a garland of lotus flowers. Then she said: "Progenitor, why have you chosen me to do something that is against every law? And why should I do this and nothing but this? I shall burn on an everlasting pyre of tears." BrahmÔ said: "No prevaricating. You are without stain and your body blameless. Go..." Death stood before BrahmÔ in silence, her shoulders slumped.
Death was stubborn and refused to obey BrahmÔ's order for some time. In Dhenuka, surrounded by ascetics she should already have slaughtered, she stood on one foot for fifteen million years. No one took any notice. She was one of the many who went there in retreat. Mrtyu meditated.
BrahmÔ reminded her of her duty. But Death just changed the foot she was standing on -- and went on meditationg for another twenty million years. Then for another few million she lived with the wild beasts, ate nothing but air, sank under the waters. Then she lay on Mount Meru for a long time, like a log. More millions of years passed. One day BrahmÔ went to see her: "My daughter, what is going on? A few moments or a few million years won't change anything. We're always back where we started. And I'll say it again: 'Do your duty'" As if those millions of years hadn't gone by and she were resuming the conversation after no more than a moment or two, Mrtyu said: "I'm afraid of breaking the law." "Don't be afraid," said BrahmÔ. "No judge could ever be as impartial as yourself. And I can't see why you should cry as much as you do either: your tears will gouge ulcers in the bodies you must kill. Better kill them quickly, without dragging it out so long." Then Death lowered her eyes and went forth silently into the world. She tried to keep the tears from her eyes, as a last sign of benevolence towards the creatures she was slaying.