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EPISODES FROM MAHABHARATA YAKSHA PRASHNA - IThe episode known as “Yaksha Prashna” in Mahabharata relates to the exchange of questions

and answers between Yama in the guise of a Yaksha who poses 126 difficult questions to Yudhishthira who gives the most fitting answers to those questions. The background to this episode is something like this. One day during their incognito vanavasa, Yudhishthira felt very thirsty and there was no water in sight to quench his thirst. Sahadeva, the youngest of the Pandavas climbed up a tree and spotted a lake at a distance. When he reached the lake to bring water for Yudhushthira, he heard a voice which said “Beware! don’t touch the water before you answer my questions”. Without heeding the warning Sahadeva started collecting water from the lake. No sooner had he touched the water than he fell down dead on the shore of the lake. Seeing Sahadeva not returning, Nakula went after him. He too met the same fate as also his elder brothers Arjuna and Bhima. Finally Yudhishthira went to the lake and he was shocked by seeing all his brothers dead. The Yaksha revealed to him his terrible form and warned him that he should answer his questions before helping himself to the water in the lake. Yudhishthira gave him fitting replies and Yaksha was pleased. Then Yaksha said that he would bring back to life one of his brothers. Yudhisshthira wanted Nakula to be brought back to life. The Yaksha asked him why he was asking Nakula, the son of Madri, to be brought to life instead of Bhima or Arjuna who were his own brothers being Kunti’s children. Yudhisshthira replied that he had two mothers Kunti and Madri, both being wives of his father. He, Kunti Devi’s son, was alive. Therefore it was only just and equitable that Nakula, the eldest son of Madri should also be alive. Yaksha who was none other than Yama, the god of death, was very pleased by Yudhishthira’s reply and brought back to life

all the brothers of Yudhishthira. Given below are the Yaksha’s questions with Yudhishthira’s answers from the great epic of Mahabharata with a simple translation in English. च च च च । ॥26||

Who makes the Sun rise? Who travel with him? Who leads him to set? In whom is he firmly anchored? च च च च । ॥27||

It is Brahman which makes the Sun rise. Devas travel with him. Dharma leads him to set and he is firmly anchored in Truth. च । ॥28||

How does one become a srotriya (one well-versed in vedic lore)? How does one attain greatness? By what means one gets help? O King! By what means one becomes intelligent? । ॥29|| One becomes a srotriya by the study of the Vedas, achieves greatness by penance (tapas), gets help from his own intelligence and becomes intelligent by serving elderly men (of wisdom) च च । ॥30||

Denigrating others is a trait like that of bad people. Abandoning one (who takes refuge) is like the trait of bad people.What is the divinity in brahmanas? What is the dharma of good people which they follow? What is the humanly trait in them? What is it in them which are like that of the bad people? । ॥31|| Swadhyaaya (study of Vedic lore) is the divinity in Brahmanas. च च । ॥32|| What is the divinity in Kshatriyas? What is the dharma of good people which they follow? What is the human-like trait in them? What is it in them which is like that of the bad people? । ॥33|| Bow and arrows is the divinity in Kshatriyas. Sacrificial rites are like that of good people. Human-like trait in them is fear. । च ॥34|| What is Sama in a sacrifice? What is Yajus in a sacrifice? What does the sacrifice invoke? What is it that it does not transgress? । . Penance (tapas) is the good trait in them and human-like trait is death.

It is Rik which the sacrifice invokes and it is also Rik which it (sacrifice) does not transgress. । ॥३८॥ He enjoys all sense objects. A son is the best thing for those who give birth. Mind is the Yajus in it. is intelligent. Seed is the best thing for those who sow. is accepted by all and breaths like a normal human being. । ॥३६|| What is the best thing for the tiller of the soil? What is the best thing for the one who sows? What is the best thing for those who want a stable life? What is the best thing for those who give birth? । ॥३७॥ Rain is the best thing for the tiller. Cows are the best for those who want a stable life. But he does not live (there is no life in him. is honoured by people.॥35|| Prana is the sama in a sacrifice. Who is he? च च । ॥३९॥ . he is as good as dead).

। च ॥४४॥ । . The river swells with speed. Egg does not move after being laid (before the chicks come out after it hatches). he is a living dead person. the servants.One who does not offer nourishment (bali. the guests. Father is taller than the sky. food) to these five . The stone has no heart. च ॥४२॥ । Which does not close the eyes while sleeping? What does not move after being born? Which has no heart? What grows (swells) very quickly? च ॥४३॥ Fish does not close the eyes while sleeping. the forbears and the self . च च । ॥४०॥ What is weightier than the Earth? Which is taller than the sky? What Is speedier than air? What is more abundant than grass? च च । ॥४१॥ Mother is weightier than Earth.the gods.is as good as dead. Mind is speedier than air and worries are more abundant than grass.

Wife is the friend while at home. That which leads to immortality is the ancient (eternal) dharma.Who is the friend of one away from home (travelling)? Who is the friend while staying at home? Who is the friend when one is sick? Who is the friend when one is dying? । ॥४५॥ Companion (co-traveller) is the friend while travelling. Nectar is cow’s milk. Physician is the friend when sick. The whole of this world is pervaded by air. O King? What pervades all this world? । ॥४७॥ Agni is the guest for all beings. ॥४६॥ Who is the guest for all beings? Which is the ancient (or eternal) । dharma? Which is nectar. Charity ( Dana) is the friend of one on his death bed. च । ॥४८॥ who moves about alone? Who is born again after being born? What is the remedy for biting cold? Which is the greatest of fields (where corn grows)? च च । .

। ॥५०॥ Which is the one substratum for dharma? Which is the one substratum for fame? Which is the substratum for things leading to heaven? Which is substratum for happiness? । ॥५१॥ Generosity is the substratum for dharma. Charity (daana. Clouds are the means of livelihood. Truth is the substratum of all things which lead to heaven. Good conduct (Virtue) is the substratum of happiness. Charity (dana. gifting) is his ultimate refuge. The Earth is the greatest field.॥४९॥ The Sun moves on its path alone. । ॥५२॥ Which is the soul of man? Who is his God-given friend? What is his means of livelihood? What is his ultimate refuge? च ॥५३॥ । Son is the soul (atma) of man. . gifting) is the substratum of fame. The moon is born again after waning. Wife is the god-given friend. Fire is the remedy for biting cold.

च । ॥५८॥ Discarding which one becomes loved by all ? Discarding which one .। ॥५४॥ What is the best of all goodness? What is the best of all wealth? What is the best of all gains? What is the best of all happiness? ॥५५॥ Generosity is the best of all goodness. Treaty with the good does not fail. By controlling the mind one does not grieve. The dharmas enshrined in the three Vedas always yield fruit. Health is the best of all gains and contentment is the best of all happiness. च च च च ॥५६॥ । Which is the greatest dharma in this world? Which dharma yields fruit always. Controlling which does not one grieve? With whom a peace treaty does not fail? च । ॥५७॥ Ahimsa (non-violence) is the greatest dharma (virtue). Learning is the best of all wealth.

to dancers (and musicians). to dancers and musicians for the sake of fame. to servants and to the King? च ॥६१॥ । Dana to a brahmana is for the sake of dharma. । च च ॥६०॥ What is the purpose of dana (gift. to servants for the sake of proper conduct of affairs and to the king because of fear. One does not .does not grieve? Discarding which one becomes wealthy? Discarding which does one become happy? च । ॥५९॥ One who is without vanity is loved by all. । ॥६२॥ By what is this world enveloped? Why does an entity not shine (does not become known)? What is it that causes one to abandon friends? What is it that prevents one from entering heaven? । ॥६३॥ This world is enveloped by ignorance (of the Reality). One without desires is wealthy and one without greed is happy. charity) to a brahmana. One without anger never grieves.

Sky is water. Shraddha performed without a shrotriya (one who has studied the Vedas) is as good as dead. The cow provides food. It is attachment (to worldly things) that prevents one from entering heaven. A sacrifice performed without dakishina is (like) dead.shine because of darkness. A country without a king is (like) dead. । ॥६७॥ Good people are the direction. च । च ॥६६॥ What is quarter (direction)? What is called water? What is food? What is poison? What is the proper time for Shraddha? Answer these questions and then drink or take away water from this lake. . । ।।६४॥ How does a man become (like) dead? When does a kingdom become dead? When does shraaddha performed in memory of forebears is considered as good as dead? When does a sacrifice becomes as good as dead? । ॥६५॥ One who is poor is as good as dead. It is greed which prompts one to abandon one’s friends.

What is the highest patience? What is called modesty? । ॥६९॥ Always sticking to one’s own dharma is penance(tapas). Enduring pairs of opposites (like heat and cold. What is called knowledge? What is calmness? What is the highest form of kindness? What is straightforwardness? च । च ॥७१॥ Realisation of the Self is knowledge. च च च । । ॥७०॥ O King. happiness and sorrow. honour and dishonour. Calmness is the calmness of the mind.) is patience. Control of the mind is real control.Begging is poison. Kindness is the desire to see all beings happy. What is known as control. Straightforwardness is equanimity in all circumstances. Brahmana is the time for Shraddha. O Yaksha! What do you think about this? च च च । ॥६८॥ What is said to be the mark of tapas?. friendship and enmity etc. च च । ॥७२॥ . Refraining from doing improper deeds is modesty.

च च च । ॥७६॥ What is called by Rishis as sthairya (stability.Which foe is invincible for men? Which is the disease which has no end? Who is a sadhu (good person)? Who is a bad person? ॥७३॥ Anger is the invincible foe. A sadhu (good person) is one who does only good to all beings.gifting)? । . unshakability). Indolence is not fulfilling one’s duties according to swadharma and sorrow is ignorance. च च sorrow? । ॥७५॥ च ॥७४॥ । । O King. What is known as dhairya (courage)? What is the highest type of snana (bathing)? What is dana (charity. What is delusion? What is vanity? What is indolence? What is Delusion is ignorance of dharma. Vanity is false pride about oneself. One who is cruel (to all beings) is a bad person. Greed is the disease without end.

च । ॥८०॥ What is called egotism? What is termed dambha? Which is the highest Who is a learned person? Who is an atheist? Who is a fool ? What is daivam (grace of God)? What is paishunya । ॥८१॥ Egotism is the height of ignorance (of the self).॥७७॥ Firm adherence to one’s own dharma is sthairya. Control of the senses is dhairya. An atheist is a fool. The highest daivam (grace of God) Is the result of daana (charity. Dambha is when one falsely poses oneself as a dharmic (virtuous) person. Providing protection to beings is Dana. gift). What causes samsara (cycle of births and deaths) is desire. Heartburn is jealously. Ridding the mind of all impurities is the highest type of snana. Paishunya is tarnishing others . च । ॥७८॥ च desire? What is jealousy? । च ॥७९॥ A learned person is one who has knowledge of dharma.

॥८६॥ He goes to eternal hell who dubs as false all Vedas.e. there will be harmony between dharma. . specially erotic) are mutually contradictory. artha and kama । ॥८४॥ O King. artha (wealth) and kama (desire. tells him that there is nothing which he can give to him ( i.च च च ॥८२॥ । Dharma (virtue). devas and sacrifices to forebears. dharma sastras. brahmanas. who goes to eternal hell? Please quickly give me an answer to this question of mine. च च च । ॥८५॥ He goes to eternal hell who. having invited a poor begging brahmana. How can there be harmony among these which are opposed to one another? च च । ॥८३॥ When there is harmony between one’s dharma and one’s wife. the brahmana).

whether by clan in which born. it is only virtuous (good) conduct that confers brahminhood. by the study of Vedas or by shrutam (learning acquired by hearing from saints. One whose conduct does not become weak never becomes weak himself. hear me. । ॥८७॥ One who is very rich but neither gives to the needy nor enjoys the wealth । च ॥८८॥ O King. । ॥९०॥ One. च च ॥८९॥ । O Yaksha. teachers and elders)? Tell me your considered view on this. especially a brahmana. by virtuous conduct. Undoubtedly. neither clan nor Vedic studies nor learning confers brahminhood. च च च । .च himself will go to eternal hell. One whose good conduct is killed is as good as dead. should zealously guard his good conduct. How does one gain brahminhood.

He who is bent on carrying out his swadharma is the real pundit च । ॥९२॥ One who is well-versed in the four Vedas is worse than a Sudra if his conduct is bad. One with many friends lives happily. who talks soft and sweet with concern for others. The one whose actions are preceded by careful scrutiny. च च । .॥९१॥ Students. teachers and thinkers in various shastras (scientific disciplines) are fools if their conduct is bad. analysis and planning achieves success in his endeavours. One who performs agnihotra and other karmas enjoined by his swadharma and who has control over his senses is considered a brahmana. च । ॥९३॥ What does a person. gain? What does one gain when one embarks on a project only after critical examination of all its pros and cons? What is the gain of one who has many friends? What does a stickler to dharma gain? च च ॥९४॥ । One whose talk is sweet and sincere is loved by all. One who follows the path of dharma goes to heaven.

The Vedas are different from each other. There is no one Rishi whose ideas can be taken as authentic. one who cooks vegetables on the fifth or sixth ahas ( from home is happy. There is no greater wonder than ॥९८॥ Nothing can be established by logical arguments. च । ॥९७॥ the day in one’s own house. who is free from debts and who is not away Every day living beings pass into the abode of Yama. But others want to remain here permanently (They perhaps think that their turn will not come). Therefore the path one has to follow is the one taken by great souls.च ॥९५॥ Back to who is happy? What is wonder? What is the path? What is the news? Answer all these four questions and let your brothers who are dead come life. . । । this. च च च च च । ॥९६॥ ) of O Yaksha. The truth about dharma is very secret (and difficult to comprehend).

using days and nights as fuel and stirring the mix with ladles of months and seasons. । च ॥१००॥ O Destroyer of enemies! You have correctly answered all my questions. Now describe to me the person who is rich (wealthy) in all respects च । ॥ १०१॥ The fame of good deeds done by one spreads in the earth and the heaven. happiness and sorrow as well as what is past and what is yet to come. As long as that fame is alive one is known as a purusha च। च ॥१०२॥ One is considered wealthy in all respects if one maintains equanimity between likes and dislikes.च ॥९९॥ The news is: Time is cooking all beings in the huge cauldron of ignorance on the fire of the sun. । . come back to life. Therefore let one of your brothers. च । ॥१०३॥ O King! You have answered the questions regarding purusha and a man who is wealthy in all respects. whom you wish.

tall as the sal tree with broad chest and long arms.॥१०४॥ O Yaksha! Let Nakula of dark complexion and red eyes. why do you want Nakula. you want Nakula to be revived । . ? । ॥१०६॥ Leaving out Bhima who has the strength of ten thousand elephants you want Nakula brought back to life. on the strength of whose arms all the Pandavas rely. Arjuna is your refuge. what is the emotion which prompts you to ask for the life of a brother born of the sapatni (cowife) of your mother? । ॥१०८॥ Leaving out Arjuna. In spite of it. । ॥१०५॥ O King! Bhima is dear to you. to be brought back to life. । ॥१०७॥ People say Bhima is very dear to you. come back to life. born of the second wife of your father.

। ॥११३॥ For me just as Kunti is mother so is Madri. I wish to be kind. therefore. च च । ॥११२॥ Kunti and Madri were the two wives of my father. let Nakula live. Let Nakula. O Yaksha!. it will destroy.॥१०९॥ If dharma is destroyed. greater than the . My mind is determined that both of them should be with a son. Therefore I never forsake dharma lest it. I wish to have them both placed in the same position. destroy me. virtue. if it is protected. । च never deviate from swadharma. I In my opinion kindness is the greatest dharma. च च । ॥१११॥ People know me as a King whose conduct is governed by dharma. live. Nakula live. च । ॥११०॥ च highest purushartha. it will protect. Let. therefore. thus spurned. I do not make any distinction between them.

let all your brothers come back to life. ॥ ॥ .॥ As you have placed aanrusamsyam (non-violence. kindness) above artha (wealth) and kama (desire).