Dharma Questions

 In the Indian philosophy and religious texts, the word Dharma signify  ethical conduct or righteousness.

There is a pleasant narrative about the King Yudhisthira who was the son of dharma  in the Indian epic, Mahabharata, meeting his father Yama ( Dharmaraja or the God of Death) in the forest when they were in exile. Yama wanted to test his son and decided to set up a meeting.

A deer took the fire kindling kit of a  sage and ran away. The sage pleaded with the Pandavas ( the 5 sons of Pandu) who were living in exile at that time. All of them ran in pursuit of the deer who dodged them skillfully for a long distance and then vanished from sight. Yudhisthira , the eldest of them all, asked the others to look for a water source to quench his thirst, and the youngest Nakula upon his instruction went out in search and did manage to find a beautiful lake with crystal clear water and standing cranes. He was going to quench his thirst first when a voice alerted him.

“O Nakula! The water will turn into poison if you take it without satisfactorily answering my questions”.  Nakula, in arrogance, did not pay heed and he fell dead instantly. Nakula’s twin Sahadeva, coming in search of his brother, also found the same lake, saw Nakula dead, and was warned by the voice. But Sahadeva too ignored the crane and died after drinking the water. In the same manner, both, the great Arjuna and Bhimasena met the same fate.

When Yudhisthira , steadfast in dharma,  reached the scene, he was mortified to see his dear brothers dead. But when the invisible being told him what had happened, he was not angry and calmly asked for the questions, knowing fully well that this act could have been carried out by a mighty yaksha, or a  gandharva  to test him.

These were some of the questions asked of, and answered by Yudhisthira.

Question.  “What is heavier than Earth, higher than heavens, faster than the wind and more numerous than straws”?

Yudhisthira answered, “One’s mother is heavier than the Earth, one’s father is higher than the heavens, the mind is faster than the wind and our worries are more numerous than straws “.

Question . “Who is the friend of a traveler? Who is the friend of one who is ill and one who is dying”?

Yudhisthira responded, “The friend of a traveler is his companion. The physician is the friend of one who is sick and a dying man’s friend is charity”.

Question . “What is that which, when renounced, makes one lovable? What is that which is renounced makes one happy and wealthy”?

Yudhisthira replied, “Pride, if renounced makes one lovable, renouncing desire one becomes wealthy and to renounce greed is to obtain happiness”.

Question . “What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease? What sort of man is noble and what sort is ignoble”?

And Yudhisthira responded, “Anger is the invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes a disease that is incurable. He is noble who desires the well-being of all creatures, and he is ignoble who is without mercy”.

Question.  “Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news”?

Whereupon Yudhisthira replied, “He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? The truth about Dharma and duty is hid in the cave of our hearts, therefore that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids). This is the news”.

and now to end the story, I quote from the original source, the translated work in English available at the site link pasted at the bottom of this post.

The Yaksha asked,–‘Thou hast, O represser of foes, truly answered all my questions! Tell us now who is truly a man, and what man truly possesseth every kind of wealth.’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘The report of one’s good action reacheth heaven and spreadeth over the earth. As long as that report lasteth, so long is a person to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable, weal and woe, the past and the future, are the same, is said to possess every kind of wealth.’ The Yaksha said,–‘Thou hast, O king truly answered who is a man, and what man possesseth every kind of wealth. Therefore, let one only amongst thy brothers, whom thou mayst wish, get up with life!’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘Let this one that is of darkish hue, whose eyes are red, who is tall like a large Sala tree, whose chest is broad and arms long, let this Nakula, O Yaksha, get up with life! The Yaksha rejoined,-‘This Bhimasena is dear unto thee, and this Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, then, O king dost thou, wish a step-brother to get up with his life! How canst thou, forsaking Bhima whose strength is equal to that of ten thousand elephants, wish Nakula to live? People said that this Bhima was dear to thee. From what motive then dost thou wish a step-brother to revive? Forsaking Arjuna the might of whose arm is worshipped by all the sons of Pandu, why dost thou wish Nakula to revive?’ Yudhishthira said,–‘If virtue is sacrificed, he that sacrificeth it, is himself lost. So virtue also cherisheth the cherisher. Therefore taking care that virtue by being sacrificed may not sacrifice us, I never forsake virtue. Abstention from injury is the highest virtue, and is, I ween, even higher than the highest object of attainment. I endeavour to practise that virtue. Therefore, let Nakula, O Yaksha, revive! Let men know that the king is always virtuous! I will never depart from my duty. Let Nakula, therefore, revive! My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Let both of them have children. This is what I wish. As Kunti is to me, so also is Madri. There is no difference between them in my eye. I desire to act equally towards my mothers. Therefore, let Nakula live?’ The Yaksha said,–‘Since abstention from injury is regarded by thee as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all thy brothers live!”

Mahabharata – Yaksha Prashna