The man knelt at the foot of the mountain all night.
At first, his body clung to the remnants of the day's heat exuding from the rocks around him, but all too soon this heat was gone and the mantle of cold dropped insidiously on him like a malevolent spirit seeking to crush him.
A fine hoar frost began to cover his beard and cloak as he strived to focus his mind on maintaining his body temperature at a level that would enable him to survive the night.
The holy man had instructed him how to do this, warning him that many had tried and failed this test and had been found frozen solid by early morning pilgrims who themselves had sought shelter indoors for the duration of the night.
His limbs by now had settled protestingly into the kneeling position.
In the distance, out on the plain, he could hear the occasional cough of a desert tiger as it stalked it's prey. Closer at hand he tensed as he became aware of an all too-familiar sound;
A snake slithering towards him!
He felt a coil of fear touch the very core of his being.
God how he hated them! His grandfather had been killed by one.
He suddenly realized that the bone-chilling cold had driven the snake out from the rocks and it was now seeking warmth.
His was the only heat around!
His breath stilled even further as he felt the snake move in against his leg and stop.
He fought off an urge to snatch it away and hurl it against the nearby rocks.
But almost at the same time, as if some connection had taken place, he understood at a deeper level, that the snake was merely seeking an accommodation with another living creature and was of no threat to him.
He silenced the small fear chattering in his mind, mentally embraced the presence of the snake and focused on totally yielding to the harsh elements and conditions of the night.
It could have been minutes or even hours later when his mind had reached that small still point and his body was somehow insulated from the cold that he 'heard' the voice of the snake in his head for the first time;