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Yaksha Prashna in Mahabharata – The Full Questions Yaksha Asked Yudhisthira


Yaksha Prashna is the famous incident in the Mahabharata. It is found in the Aranya Parva. Failing to answer the question of yaksha, Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima are killed, but are restored to life when Yudhisthira answers the questions correctly. The full questions yaksha asked Yudhisthira can be found below:

Yaksha – What makes the sun rise and who are those near him? What makes him set and on what is he established?
Yudhisthira – Brahma makes the sun rise and the gods remain near him. Dharma makes him set and he is established in Truth.

Yaksha – How does one become learned? How does one attain greatness? How does one obtain a second? How does one become intelligent?
Yudhisthira – One becomes learned through the sacred texts. One attains greatness through austerities. One obtains a second through perseverance. One becomes intelligent by serving the elders.

Yaksha – What is the divine trait of Brahmanas? What dharma of theirs is like that of the virtuous? What are their human traits? Which of their traits are like that of those without virtue?
Yudhisthira – The study of the Vedas is their divine trait. Austerities are like that of virtuous. Mortality is their human trait. Slander is like the conduct of those without virtue.

Yaksha – What is the divine trait of Kshatriyas? What dharma of theirs is like that of the virtuous? What are their human traits? What of their traits are like that of those without virtue?
Yudhisthira – Arrows and weapons are their divine traits. Sacrifices are like that of the virtuous. Fear is their human trait. Desertion is like the conduct of those without virtue.

Yaksha – Which is the single sacrificial chant? What is the sacrificial formula? What do sacrifices need? And what can sacrifices not transgress?
Yudhisthira – The breath of life is the single sacrificial chant. The mind is the sacrificial formula. Sacrifices need speech. Sacrifices cannot transgress speech.

Yaksha – What is the best among those that descend? What is supreme among those that are sown? What is the best among those that stand? What is supreme among those that speak?
Yudhisthira – Rain is the best among those that descend. Seeds are supreme among those that are sown. Cows are best among those that stand. Sons are supreme among those that speak.

Yaksha – Who experiences the objects of these senses, is intelligent, is worshipped by all the beings in the world and breathes, but is not alive?
Yudhisthira – A person who does not render offerings to the five – gods, guests, servants, ancestors and himself - breathes but is not alive.

Yaksha – What is heavier than earth? What is higher than the sky? What is swifter than the wind? What is more numerous than men?
Yudhisthira –The mother is heavier than the earth. The father is higher than the sky. The mind is swifter than the wind. Worries are more numerous than men.

Yaksha – What does not close its eyes while asleep? What does not move when it is born? What has no heart? What grows through speeding?
Yudhisthira – A fish does not close its eyes while asleep. An egg does not move when it is born. A stone has no heart. A river grows through speeding.

Yaksha – Who is friend to one who is travelling? Who is friend at home? Who is a friend to one who is sick? Who is a friend to one who is about to die?
Yudhisthira – A caravan is a friend to a traveler. A wife is a friend at home. A physician is a friend to one who is sick. Charity is a friend to one who is about to die.

Yaksha – What travels alone? What is born again after birth? What is a cure for cold? What is the greatest field?
Yudhisthira – The sun travels alone. The moon is born again after birth. Fire is the cure for cold. The earth is the greatest field.

Yaksha – In a single word, what is dharma? In a single word, what is fame? In a single word, what is heaven? In a single word, what is happiness?
Yudhisthira – In a single word, dexterity is dharma. In a single word, generosity is fame. In a single word, truth is heaven. In a single word, conduct is happiness.

Yaksha – What is a man’s self? What is the friend given by destiny? What is support of his life? What is the best refuge?
Yudhisthira – Child is a man’s self. The wife is the friend given by destiny. Rains are the support of his life. Generosity is the best refuge.

Yaksha – What is supreme among objects that are lauded? What is supreme among riches? What is the supreme gain? What is supreme happiness?
Yudhisthira – Dexterity is supreme among objects that are lauded. Knowledge of the sacred texts is supreme among riches. Health is supreme gain. Satisfaction is supreme happiness.

Yaksha – What is supreme dharma in this world? What dharma always leads to fruits? What does not grieve when it is controlled? What alliance never breaks?
Yudhisthira – Non-violence is supreme dharma. The dharma of Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda always leads to fruits. The mind does not grieve when it is controlled. An alliance with the righteous never breaks.

Yaksha – If abandoned, what makes one pleasant? If abandoned, what does not lead to sorrow? If abandoned, what ensures prosperity? If abandoned, what makes one happy?
Yudhisthira – The abandoning of pride makes one pleasant. The abandoning of anger does not lead to sorrow. The abandoning of desire ensures prosperity. The abandoning of desire makes one happy.

Yaksha – When is a man dead? When is a kingdom dead? When is a funeral ceremony dead? When is sacrifice dead?
Yudhisthira – A poor man is dead. A kingdom without a king is dead. A funeral ceremony performed without a learned brahmana is dead. A sacrifice without dakshina is dead.

Yaksha – What is right direction? What is spoken of as water? What is food and what is poison? What is the right time for a funeral ceremony? Then you can drink and take water.
Yudhisthira – The virtuous are the right direction. The sky is water. The cow is food. A request is poison. The Brahma Muhurta is ideal for funeral ceremony.

Yaksha – Who is a man? Which man possesses all riches?
Yudhisthira – The reputation of good deeds touches heaven and earth. As long as that reputation remains, one is said to be a man. One to whom the pleasant and the unpleasant, happiness and unhappiness and the past and the future are equal, is a man who possesses all riches.

Yaksha – Fame, truth, self-control, purity, uprightness, humility, steadfastness, charity, austerities and brahmacharya are my body. Know that non-violence, impartiality, peacefulness, austerities, purity and lack of envy are gates towards me.

You have always been dear to me. It is fortunate that you are devoted to equanimity, self-control, abstinence, control of the senses and yoga. It is fortunate that you have conquered the six states – hunger, thirst, sorrow, delusion, fear and death. I am your father Dharma. I came here to test you and am satisfied with your non-violence.

Sourceexcerpts from The Mahabharata Volume 3 (2011) Translated by Bibek Debroy published by Penguin Books.




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