The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Questions about life
Sansar Chandra

THE MAHABHARATA is an inestimable treasure-house of knowledge and wisdom based on ancient India’s historical, religious, ethical and philosophical perceptions. According to its compiler Maharshi Veda Vyasa, just as butter in milky products, nectar in medicines, Himalayas in mountains and cow in quadrupeds are rated supreme, similarly the Mahabharata is second to none in the range of epics. He has summed up the main characteristics of this work in the following two lines:

"What is here can be elsewhere also but

What is not here cannot be found anywhere".

The Mahabharata is like a vast ocean from where you can extract any volume of information and any length of material at will. Besides the boundless expanse of its richness, there are numerous pearls of wisdom scattered here and there with no parallel whatsoever to match with. "Yudhishthira’s encounter with Yaksha" can be cited as one such great event which has enough of intellectual food to sharpen one’s appetite for learning and experimenting it also.

The encounter of "Yudhishthira with Yaksha, in fact, is the finest example of the quiz culture. TV serials like KBC have made this type of intellectual exercise popular. If Yudhishthira was an exceptionally knowledgeable person and the answers he gave to yaksha were so apt and illuminating that we can make our lives sublime by learning them and acting upon them.

A chosen few, questions and answers are being reproduced below:

What does not close its eyes even while asleep? Who does not stir after having been born? Who is heartless and who advances with a force?

The fish does not close its eyes while asleep, the egg is stagnant after its birth, the stone has no heart and the river gushes forth with a force.

Who is the friend of one living in an alien land and who is so at home? Who befriends the diseased and who is friendly to the person nearing death?

A co-traveller is a friend in sojourn and the wife at home. A physician befriends a patient and charity is friendly to a dying man.

Who moves about lonely and who takes birth again? What is the remedy of cold and which is the widest seed-sowing source?

The sun travels alone. Having born one time, the moon takes birth again. Fire is the panacea for cold and the earth is the largest seed-sowing centre.

What should a man sacrifice to gain popularity? The renunciation of which thing does not plunge him into grief? Which surrender makes him prosperous and surrender of what makes him an exuberant man?

The renouncing of pride leads him to popularity. No one comes to grief by sacrificing anger. Surrendering of desires make people prosperous and abjuration of greed makes him a happy man.

What is the soul of man? Who is his God-given friend? What is the animated spirit that keeps him on the go and what is his best refuge.

A son is counted as the soul of man and a wife is a god-given companion. Rain is the animating spirit that sustains him and charity is the best refuge.

Who is the guest of all the living beings? What is the primeval way of life to be observed? What is meant by nectar and what surrounds the entire universe?

Fire is the guest of all the living beings. The eternal and universally applicable code is the primeval way of life. Cow’s milk is nectar itself and it is air pervades the entire universe.

Which is the enemy of man that cannot be defeated and what is that disease which has no end? Whom would you define as noble and who will be judged as ignoble?

Anger happens to be man’s invincible enemy. Avarice is the disease that accompanies him throughout.

A man who does good to all is noble and the one devoid of mercy will be labelled as ignoble.

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