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YAKSHA PRASHNA

(The Questions of the Yaksha)

What is weightier than earth? Mother


What is taller than the sky? Father
What is faster than the wind? Mind
What is more numerous than grass? Thoughts

kimsvidgurutaram bhumeh
kimsviduccataram ca khat
kimsvidccheghrataram vayoh
kimsvidbahutaram trnat

mata gurutara bhumeh


ktatpitoccatarastatha
manahshighrataram vata
ccinta bahutari trnat

Commentary

i) We call this earth Mother Earth - Bhumi Mata. We worship her as a mother. What can be more
important? The mother who gave birth to us is more important. Our mother is verily our God.

ii) For us humans our parents who gave us life in this world are like gods, the highest, the most
important beings. This is consistent with the Upanishadic pronouncement "Matr devo bhava, pitr
devo bhava" (May your mother and father be like gods to you).

iii) In an instant the mind can travel anywhere, everywhere and back again.

iv) What grows faster than grass? Thoughts grow faster. Waves and waves of thoughts arise in
our minds constantly and move away. There is no end to it. They grow and grow and continue to
grow with newer and newer layers of thoughts - faster than grass.

Summary

1. We should respect our parents.

2. We should keep our mind under control.

3. We should trim our thoughts, weeding out unnecessary worries.


Who is the friend of a traveller? A companion
Who is the friend of a householder? A spouse
Who is the friend of the sick? A doctor
Who is the friend of the dying? His charity

kimsvi tpravasato mi tram


kimsvinmi tram grhesatah
aturasya tu kim mitram
kimsvinmi tram marishyatah

sarthahpravasato mitram
bharyamitram grhesatah
aturasya bhisan mitram
danam mitram marishyatah

Commentary

i) A traveller's best friend is the companion traveller.

ii) A householder's true friend is his wife. A Hindu man takes a woman by the hand at the
wedding ceremony and walks seven steps (sapta padi) with her around the fire as both pledge
their eternal friendship to each other. He says: "With these seven steps you have become my
life's companion. We are both friends. I shall never fail to be your friend. May you also never fail
to be my friend . . . ." " This is the understanding, the promise, the commitment that binds a
Hindu couple.

iii) For a sick person the most desirable friend is a doctor.

iv) For the dying person the charity done during a lifetime serves as a friend by providing a sense
of fulfillment and preparation for the life to come.

Summary

This group of questions stresses the need for and the role of friends and the need to be involved
with others in a mutual, healthy, giving and receiving of support. The first three friendships
referred to in this stanza are with other persons but the last category, the friend at the end of one's
life, is one's own lifetime of giving.

By renouncing what does one become loved? Pride


By renouncing what is one free of sorrow? Anger
By renouncing what does one become wealthy? Desire
By renouncing what does one become happy? Greed
kim nu hitva priyo bhavati
kim nu hitva na shocati
kim nu hitvarthavanbhavati
kim nu hitva sukhi bhavet

manam hitva pri yo bhavati


krodham hitva na shocati
kamam hitvarthavanbhavati
lobham hitva sukhi bhavet

Commentary

i) The question focuses on the need to be loved, to be free of sorrow, and on happiness and
wealth.

ii) The answers revolve around controlling the mind in such a way that we gradually rid
ourselves of our enemies within: pride, anger, desire and greed.

iii) When one succeeds in giving up desire, there is little need for material possessions and one's
sense of well-being (original meaning of wealth) increases. Wealth is viewed here in the context
of what one may have in relation to one's desire.

Summary

1. Every action/inaction is controlled by the mind. Therefore we should practice control of our
minds.

2. Renunciation is not mindless self-denial but a method of exerting control over ourselves.

What treasure is the best? Skill


What wealth is the best? Education
What is the greatest gain? Health
And the greatest happiness? Contentment

dhanyanamut tamam kimsvid


dhananam syatkimuttamam
labhanamuttamam kimsyat
sukhanam syatkimuttamam

dhanyanamuttamam dakshyam
dhananamuttamam shrutam
labhanam shreya arogyam
sukhanam tush ti rut tama
Commentary

i) To be skillful is to be fortunate and worthy of recognition.

ii) To be an educated person is to be a wealthy person.

iii) To be healthy is to possess the greatest gift.

iv) To be contented is to be happy

Summary

1. We should develop skills in areas which interest us most and continue to maintain those skills
in order to excel.

2. The emphasis in our studies should be acquisition of knowledge, especially the higher
knowledge.

3. A person who is not contented and is a slave to greed is a slave to everyone. A person who
makes desire a slave rules the world.

4. These questions and answers provide a practical guide to mental, social and physical well-
being.

What is a man's self? His progeny


Who is his God-given friend? His wife
What supports his life? Rain
What is his principal duty? Charity

kimsvidatma manushyasya
kimsviddaiva kritahsakta
upajivanam kimsvidasya
kimsvidas ya para yanam

putra atma manushyasya


bharya daivakritahsakha
upajivanam ca parjanyo
danamasya parayanam

Commentary
i) A man's progeny represents the reflection and extension of his own self.

ii) His wife is his best friend, as discussed in an earlier shloka.

iii) Man's most basic need for food can be met only by adequate rainfall for crops.

iv) Giving and sharing serve as the foundation upon which a person should base his or her life.

Summary

These questions and answers focus attention on those areas immediate to the individual self:
children, spouse, the element essential to sustain life and the concept of sharing.

Is there a person who enjoys all pleasures of the senses, who is intelligent, is respected by all
creatures and worshipped by the world, who breathes and yet is not alive?

The person who fails to satisfy Gods, guests, servants, pitrs(9) and his Atman(10), may breathe
but is not alive.br>

indriyarthananubhavan
buddhimallokapujitah
sammatah sarvabhutanam
ucchvasanko na jivati

devatatithibhrtyanam
pitrnamatmanashcayah
nanirvapati pancanam
ucchvasanna sa jivati

Commentary

This question underscores the standard by which a person can be deemed to be a living being. To
be alive in the world means to fulfill certain duties, discharge certain obligations. The reference
to pitrs emphasizes the Hindu reverence for the past. The reference to Gods, guests and servants
explains what must be given in return for the pleasure and respect received. The final
requirement is self-respect. All these are to be viewed as components of a society that an
individual must relate to. This relationship is stressed as the essential requirement to qualify a
person as a human being.

Summary

1. We should recognize and fulfiil our responsibilities in society.


2. In addition, the duties to one's own self are equally important and these include a constant
effort to obtain knowledge of the self.

What makes the sun rise? Brahma


Who moves around him? Gods
What causes the sun to set? Dharma
How is he held firm? Truth

kimsvidadityamunnayati
ke ca tasyabhitashcarah
kashcainamastam nayati
kasmimshca pratitishthati

brahmadityamunnayati
devastasyabhitashcarah
dharmascastamnayati ca
satye ca pratitishthati

Commentary

i) There are two interpretations to this riddle;(11) one sees the sun (aditya) as the natural wonder,
the life-giving center of this world system and a principal creation of Brahma; the other
interprets the sun to be the atma jyoti, the inner light.

The sun rises into view each morning as ordained by the Creator, Brahma. At the same time, the
supreme knowledge of the Vedas causes the illumination of the atma jyoti.

ii) As Savitri said to Yama in an earlier section of the Mahabharata, "It is the truth of the good
(people) that causes brilliance in the sun." Also, "By the power of the Rig Veda the sun rises in
the morning; the same sun stays fixed at high noon by the power of the Yajur Veda; It is the
power of the Sama Veda that causes his brilliance at setting."*

iii) Gods keep the Atman company, just as the planets, named after the Gods, circle the sun.
When the self is realized through knowledge, that inner illumination leads to the man-God
relationship which is the quest of Hinduism.

iv) The sun and the atma j yoti are firmly fixed in truth. The sun is held in space by physical laws
of gravitation, energy and motion - by evident truths. The atma jyoti is sustained by eternal
Truth, which exists beyond time.

v) The end result of this knowledge is dharma or right conduct. Dharmic action performed under
the guidelines of one's own faith is interpreted as the cause for the brilliance of the atma jyoti.

*from the Taittiriya Brahmana.

Summary

The sun in all its phases, rising, setting or fixed in space, recalls the rising within us of the atma
jyoti. The natural laws governing time and the heavenly bodies and the moral law, dharma, are
equated here.

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