Question and Answer

Life never goes without questions being asked.  In fact asking question is the main source for all kinds of literature in the world.  Asking questions is ‘a defining trait of humanity’ says, McEvilley and (satirically) quotes a doggerel of a philosopher once told him (Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008. Pp. xxxi-xxxii.):

Fish gotta swaim

Bird gotta fly

Man gotta sit and say

Why why why.

But it is not the philosopher who asks question but every human being does the same.  Thanks for this trait that resulted in producing huge amount of literature of all forms.

Sever times we heard that giving answer is very easy but asking good questions is very difficult.  However, this too depends upon various factors like who is asking the question and to whom the question is addressed; what is the circumstance etc.  No scripture or literature exist without questions asked and answers given.  And Mbh. is no exception to this rule.  In fact, more than any other scripture/literature, one can find more questions and answers in Mbh., not because of its size but also because of the way it accommodates all kinds of thoughts in it.  One need not be surprised by reading so many questions asked by various characters and the answers given to them.  Because those questions and answers make Mbh. very interesting one to read—as those questions often reflect our own struggle in life.  And here, if I simply compile all the questions asked and answers given, without sharing any of my reflection on them.  Though Mbh. is filled with so many question and answer portion, here I would limit with some interesting ones.

The first and foremost section of questions and answers is the dialogue between the Yaksha and Yudhishthira.  While wandering in the forest during their exile period, Yudhishthira sends his last brother Sahadeva to find water.  When he reaches a pond, which is protected by a Yaksha, the latter warns him not to drink or take water.  Not listening when Sahadeva drinks the water, he falls and dies.  When Sahadeva didn’t return, then Yudhishthira sends Nakula to see what happened and he also meets the same fate.  Then Arjuna and Bhima were sent and all meet the same fate.  Finally Yudhishthira  himself went in search of them and shocked to found all his four brothers fall dead.  That time Yaksha appears and tells Yudhishthira what happens.  Then he says that if Yudhishthira could give answer to all his questions, he can receive his brothers alive.  When Yudhishthira agrees for this, Yaksha begins to ask the questions.

This is a wonderful section with short questions with precise answers.  It is too difficult for anyone to comment on all those questions and answers and we have to read them just as they are.  Reading too much of our meaning and interpretation will never help us much, as several questions were bound by their context.  But the climax of the event is not the questions asked or answers given but when finally Yaksha says that Yudhishthira can get back only one of his brothers alive and ask him to choose one whom he prefers. Then Yudhishthira asks Yaksha to give back Sahadeva.  Surprised by his choice Yaksha asks, why he chooses Sahadeva instead of Arjuna whom Yudhishthira desperately is in need to win the future war to get back his kingdom, Yudhishthira says that while he is alive as a son to his mother Kunti, he wants to get back at least one son alive for his step mother Maadri. Please by his response Yaksha, who is none but Dharma himself gives back all his brothers to Yudhishthira.  And here is that dialogue between Yaksha and Yudhishthira


Yaksha: What makes the sun rise?

Yudhishthira: Brahma makes the sun rise.

Q. Whom has he for companion?

A. His company is kept by the gods.

Q. Who is the cause for the setting of the sun?

A. Dharma causes him to set.

Q. In whom is the sun established?

A. The sun is established in Truth.

Q. What makes one learned?

A. The study of the Srutis make one learned.

Q. How is man to attain what is great?

A. Ascetic austerities help a man to achieve the great.

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

A. Steady intelligence serves man as a helpful companion always.

Q. This intelligence you speak of, how is it to be acquired?

A. Serving the old makes one rich in wisdom.

Q. How are brahmins ranked with divine beings?

A. They are considered divine because they study Vedas.

Q. What is it they practice which makes them pious?

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

Q. The brahmins are ranked with divine beings. How are they then, different form divine beings?

A. Brahmins are mortal and divine beings are not. It is this liability to die that makes them not quite divine.

Q. What of kshatriyas? Wherein lies their divinity?

A. It lies in arrows and weapons. (p.244)

Q. What is their practice which makes them pious?

A. Kshatriyas, perform sacrifices and that makes them pious.

Q. Liability to death makes Brahmin less divine. What of kshatriyas?

A. In their case it is liability to fear.

Q. Tell me bout sacrifices. What is meant by the Sama in a sacrifice? And Yajus? There is something which is the refuge of sacrifice. What is it? What is essential for sacrifice?

A. Life is the Sama and mind is the Yajus. Rik is the refuge of sacrifice and it is Rik which is essential for sacrifice.

Q. There is found a person who enjoy all the objects of the senses. He is intelligent. The world holds him in esteem and he is quite popular. And yet, though this man breathes, it is said that he does not live. Why?

A. A man, though he breathes, is considered to be not alive if he does not offer anything to the gods, guests, servants and the Pithris.

Q. What is weightier than earth itself?

A. The mother has more weight than the earth.

Q. What is higher than the heavens?

A. The father.

Q. What is fleeter than the wind?

A. mind.

Q. What is more numerous then grass?

A. The thoughts that arise in the mind of man are more numerous.

Q. What is the highest refuge of virtue?

A. Liberality.

Q. Of fame?

A. Gift is the highest refuge of fame.

Q. Of heaven?

A. Truth is the highest refuge of heaven.

Q. of happiness?

A. Good behaviour is the highest refuge of happiness

Q. What is the soul of man?

A. His son.

Q. Who is the fried granted by gods to man?

A. The wife is the friend bestowed on man by the gods.

Q. His chief support?

A. The clouds

Q. His chief refuge?

A. Gift.

Q. The best of all things that are praised: What is it?

A. The most praiseworthy thing is skill. (p.245)

Q. The most valuable of all possessions?

A. Knowledge.

Q. The best of all gains?

A. Health.

Q. The best of all kinds of happiness?

A. Contentment.

Q. What is the highest duty in the world?

A. To abstain form injury is the highest of all duties.

Q. What is it, controlling which will never lead no regret?

A. Mind.

Q. What is that, which, when renounced, makes one great.

A. Pride.

Q. Renouncing what does one become wealthy?

A. Desire.

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

A. Wrath.

Q. Renouncing what does make man happy?

A. Avaruce,

Q. What is THE WAY? By whom is it constituted?

A. Those that are good constitute THE WAY.

Q. What is the sign of asceticism?

A. Staying in one’s own religion is asceticism.

Q. True restrains?

A. The restrains of the mind is true restraint.

Q. What is essential feature of forgiveness?

A. Forgiveness consists in enduring enmity.

Q. What is shame?

A. Shame is withdrawing form all unworthy acts.

Q. What is said to be knowledge?

A. True knowledge is the knowledge of divinity.

Q. What is tranquility?

A. True tranquility is that of the heart.

Q. What is mercy?

A. Mercy means wishing happiness for all.

Q. What is simplicity?

A. Simplicity is equanimity of the heart.

Q. Can you tell me what enemy is invincible?

A. Anger.

Q. What disease is incurable?

A. Covetousness is an incurable disease.

Q. Which man is considered honest?

A. He who desires the good of all creatures is honest. (p.246)

Q. Which man is dishonest?

A. One who is not merciful is dishonest.

Q. What is ignorance?

A. True ignorance is not knowing one’s duties.

Q. And  pride.

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

Q. What is idleness?

A. Not discharging one’s duties is idleness.

Q. Grief? What is grief?

A. Ignorance is grief.

Q. What is patience?

A. Patience is subjugating the senses.

Q. What is real ablution?

A. a true bath consists in washing the mind clean of all impurities.

Q. What is charity?

A. Charity consists in protecting all creatures.

Q. What is wickedness?

A. Wickedness is speaking ill of others.

Q. By what does one become a brahmin? Is it behaviour? Or birth? Or study? Or learning?

A. Neither birth nor study nor even learning makes a brahmin. It is behaviour that makes a brahmin. If his behaviour is faultless the man is faultless too. Bad conduct dames a man of ever. Study of the Vedas is not enough if a man does not conduct himself properly.

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

A. Why, he becomes agreeable to all.

Q. When he acts with judgement?

A. He gets whatever he seeks.

Q. When he has many friends?

A. He lives happily.

Q. If he is devoted to virtue?

Q. If he is devoted to virtue?

A. He obtains a happy state in the next world.

Q. What is the most wonderful thing in this world?

A. Day after day there enter into theTempleofDeath, countless lives. Looking on this spectacle, the rest to them, those who remain, believe themselves to be permanent, immortal. Can anything be more wonderful than this?

Q. What is THE PATH?

A. Arguments lead to no certain conclusions. The Srutis are all different, one form the other. There is not even one rishi whose opinion can be accepted as infallible. The truth about (p.247) religion and duty is hidden in the caves. Therefore, THAT alone is THE PATH along which the Great have trod.

Q. What is the NEWS?

A. The world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire. The days and nights are the fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wodden handle. TIME is the COOK = that is cooking all creatures in that pan. That is THE NEWS.

Q. Who is truly a MAN?

A. The report of one’s good actions reach heaven and it is spread over the earth. As long as that report lasts, so long is that person called a MAN.

Q. Which is the man who is considered to possess every kind of wealth?

A. The man to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable, weal and woe, the past and the future, are the same, is considered to possess every kind of wealth.—Kamala Subramanian, Mahabharata, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,Bombay, 1985, VANA PARVA . Vol. 1. pp.244-48.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, March 7, 2012


(will continue….)