Pearls of wisdom from the Mahabharata


Yaksa and Yudhisthira: exposition of supreme knowledge

When thirsty and tired Yudhisthira approached the pond to drink water, he was stopped by the Yaksa. Yaksa informed Yudhisthira that Arjuna had threatened and aimed all his divine weapons at him to slay if he stopped him from drinking water from the pond without answering his questions. Yudhisthira agreed to answer and Yaksa praised Yudhisthira  for his humility and asked him to answer his questions before drinking water. “So be it,” said Yudhisthira.

Then began one of greatest expositions of knowledge and wisdom through this dialogue of the Mahabharata.

What makes the sun rise?

Brahma makes the sun rise.

Whom has he for company?

Celestial deities are his companions.

Who is the cause of setting of sun?

Dharma causes sun to set.

In whom is the sun established?

Sun is established in Truth.

What makes one erudite?

Study of Srutis renders one erudite.

How is man to attain what is great?

Ascetic austerities render a man great.

How is it possible for a man always to have a second companion?

Steady intelligence always serves a man as a steady companion.

How is this intelligence acquired?

Serving the elderly renders one rich in wisdom.

How are Brahmanas ranked with divine beings and why?

They are considered divine because they study Vedas.

By what does one become a Brahmana? Is it behaviour? Or birth? Or study? Or learning?

Neither birth, nor study nor even learning makes a man Brahmana. It is conduct that makes a man Brahmana. If the conduct is flawless, man is flawless too. Ignoble conduct damns a man forever. Study of Veda-s is not enough if a man does not conduct himself properly.

Which practice renders them pious?

Their asceticism makes them behave as they do, so they are pious.

If ranked with divine beings, how are Brahmanas different from divine beings?

Brahmanas are mortal while divine beings are not. Obligation to die renders them different from divine beings.

What of Ksatriyas? Wherein lies their divinity?

It lies in arrows and weapons.

What is the pursuit that renders them pious?

Ksatriyas perform sacrifices and that renders them pious.

Obligation to die renders Brahmana-s less divine. What of Ksatriyas?

In their case, it is obligation to fear.

What is meant by Sama in a sacrifice? And Yajus? What is the refuge of sacrifice? What is essential for sacrifice?

Life is the Sama and mind, Yajus. Rik is the refuge of sacrifice and it is Rik that is essential for sacrifice.

An intelligent person who enjoys senses, world holds him in esteem and is popular. Though he breathes yet he does not live. Why?

A man though he breathes, is not considered alive if he does not offer anything to deities, guests, servants and Pitri-s.

What is weightier than the earth itself?

Mother has more weight than earth.

What is higher than the heavens?


What is more fleeting than the wind?


What is more numerous than grass?

Thoughts that arise in one’s mind.

What is the highest refuge of virtue?

Liberality is the highest refuge of virtue.

Of fame?

Gift is the highest refuge of fame.

 Of heaven?

Truth is the highest refuge of heaven.

Of happiness?

Good behaviour is the highest refuge of happiness.

What is the soul of a man?

His son.

Who is the friend granted by Isvara to man?

Wife is the friend bestowed on man by Isvara.

His chief support?


His chief refuge?


What is the best thing of all things that is praised?

Most praiseworthy thing is skill.

Most valuable of all possessions?


Best of all gains?


Best of all kinds of joys?


What is the highest duty in the world?

To abstain from injury is the highest of all duties.

What is it, controlling which will lead to no regret?     

Mind, if controlled, will lead to no regret.

What is that, if renounced, renders one agreeable?

Pride, if renounced, renders one agreeable.

Renouncing what does one become wealthy?

Desire, when renounced, renders one wealthy.

What is it, when renounced, leads to no regret?

Wrath, when renounced, leads to no regret.

Renouncing what renders a man joyous?

Avarice, when renounced, renders a man joyous.

What is THE WAY? By whom is it constituted?

Those who are good, constitute THE WAY.

What is the sign of asceticism?

Staying in one’s own religion is asceticism.

True restraint?

Restraint of mind is true restraint.

What is essential feature of forgiveness?

Forgiveness consists in enduring enmity.

What is said to be knowledge?

True knowledge is the knowledge of divinity.

What is tranquility?

True tranquility is that of the heart.

What is mercy?

Mercy means wishing happiness to all.

What is simplicity?

Simplicity is equanimity of one’s heart.

Which enemy is invincible?


Which disease is incurable?

Covetousness is an incurable disease.

Which man is considered honest?

He who desires good of all creatures, is honest.

Which man is dishonest?

One who is not merciful, is dishonest.

What is ignorance?

True ignorance is not knowing one’s obligations.

And pride?

Pride is a consciousness of one’s being himself an actor or sufferer in life.

What is idleness?

Not discharging one’s duties is idleness.

What is grief?

Ignorance is grief.

What is patience?

Patience is subjugating senses.

What is real ablution?

A true bath, washing mind of all impurities.

What is charity?

Charity is protecting all creatures.

What is wickedness?

Wickedness is speaking ill of others.

What is the reward for one who always speaks agreeable words?

Why, he becomes agreeable to all.

When he acts with judgement?

He receives whatever he seeks.

When he has many friends?

He lives happily.

If he is devoted to a virtue?

He attains a blissful state in the next world.

What is the most surprising thing in the world?

Day after day enter into the Temple of Death, countless lives.

Even while looking at this spectacle, those who remain, believe themselves immortal. Can anything be more surprising than this?

What is THE PATH?

Arguments lead to no conclusion. Srutis are all different, one from the other. There is not even one Rsi  whose convictions may be considered as infallible. The truth about religion and duty is hidden in caves. Therefore, that alone is THE PATH, the great ones have trodden.

What is THE NEWS?

World is full of ignorance like a pan. Sun is fire. Days and nights are fuel. Months and seasons constitute the wooden handle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan. That is THE NEWS.

Who is truly a MAN?

Report of one’s good actions reach heaven and it is showered over the earth. So long as the report lasts, so long is that person called a MAN.

Who possesses all kinds of wealth?

The man to whom the agreeable and disagreeable, weal and woe, past and future are the same, is regarded to possess all kinds of wealth.

Thereafter, Yudhisthira earned the boon of life for all his four brothers by virtue of his Dharma. When all brothers rose from the deep slumber, they were completely fresh and rejuvenated.

When Yudhisthira  implored, Yaksa  revealed his real form as DHARMA, father of Yudhisthira. And then he blessed them for successful completion of Ajnatavasa  and victory in the impending war with Kauravas. Yudhisthira  wept in joy on meeting his father, kissed his father’s feet again and again, sought one more blessing i.e. to overcome lust, anger, avarice, possessiveness, arrogance and envy. To which his father Dharma  responded that the blessing was not required at all as Yudhisthira  had it already.

All boons granted by Yudhisthira’s father came true.

About the author


After a career in private sector in disciplines of Institutional Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Ramakant Tiwari is currently an author and a corporate director. His first book Srimad Bhagvadgita as Swadharmayoga Upanisad was published in 2015 by Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi.
Currently based in New Delhi, he also serves as Co-Convener (Intellectual Cell), Delhi BJP.

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