Q is for the questions that need to be honoured in the Mahabharata

While the five Pandavas were in exile, a sage came to them complaining that he could not perform his sacred rituals, because he no longer had the two sacred sticks which he used, to light up the sacrificial fires for his rituals. He had hung the sticks from the low lying branches of a tree and they had got entangled in the antlers of a deer that was passing under the tree. The deer had bolted with his sticks. The sage requested the Pandava brothers to help him get his fire making sticks back from the deer. One by one, the brothers went to the nearby lake in search of the deer. First one of the twins went, his name was Nakula.

When Nakula reached the lake, he felt very thirsty. He knelt down to drink some water from the lake. But before he could drink it, he heard a voice say,

“Stop, this lake belongs to me, If you drink from it before answering me, the water you drink will immediately turn into poison and you will die. Answer me first.”

Nakula looked around, saw no one and without waiting to answer any question, he drank deeply of the lake. He immediately fell down dead. Seeing that he was taking long to return, Yudhishtira, the eldest of the brothers sent the other twin, Sahadeva. The same thing happened to Sahadeva and he too failed to return. Yudhishtira next sent Arjuna and then Bheema. When none of his brothers returned, Yudhishtira decided to go investigate the matter himself.

Yudhishtira reached the lake and saw all his brothers lying dead by the lake. His heart was filled with confusion and grief, who had done this? Why? What could he do? Many questions filled his mind, his heart was filled with intense grief and suddenly his throat felt parched too. He knelt down to drink some of the water and he too heard a voice say,

“Stop, this lake belongs to me, If you drink from it before answering me, the water you drink will immediately turn into poison and you will die. Answer me first.”

Yudhishtira looked around and asked the voice, “Is that how my brothers died?” and the voice said, “yes, they did not heed my warning and directly tried to drink from my lake to quench their thirst without honouring my questions.”

Yudhishtira, the eldest of the brothers, known for his wisdom, stepped back from the lake, even though he was thirsty,  even though his mind demanded immediate answers about the death of his brothers,  even though his heart was filled with grief, he chose to step back and answer the voice.

The voice asked many questions and Yudhishtira mindfully answered them all. Here are some of my favourite questions:

Q. What is faster than the wind? Yudhishtira answered, ‘the mind.’

Q. What is more numerous than the grass that grows on this earth? Yudhishtira answered, ‘thoughts.’

Q. What is more valuable than gold? Yudhishtira answered, ‘knowledge.’

Q. Name the only thing that man can conquer? Yudhishtira answered, ‘Ones own mind.’

Q. Name man’s most dreaded enemy? Yudhishtira replied, ‘anger.’

Q. What is the greatest wonder on this earth? Yudhishtira said, ‘Évery day people die, yet man lives as if he is immortal. This is the greatest wonder on this earth. ‘

Q. What is the true path that man should follow?

Yudhishtira answered, ‘not from arguments for they lead to no conclusion; not from the shrutis, the sacred words that have come down through the sages, because there is not one interpretation that even all the sages will agree upon, the answer to the true path lies within each person, which can be heard in silence and solitude alone.’

At last the invisible owner of the voice was pleased and appeared before Yudhishtira in his true form as Yama-Dharma, the god of death. Dharma breathed life into all the brothers and confessed that he himself was the deer as well as the sage and had staged this drama to test the Pandava brothers.

The five brothers blessed by Dharma, returned to their home in the forest.

And this is what I get, in the midst of all our physical requirements (thirst) burning questions about the what why where how and who of unfolding stories in the outer world and the anguish in our hearts associated with these…. we need to step back, be mindful and honour the questions that arise in our being. Without this mindful stepping back from the drama, life turns into poison. But when we do take that much required step of being mindful, the very same water from the very same lake is life giving.

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8 Responses to Q is for the questions that need to be honoured in the Mahabharata

  1. gapark says:

    What a great story! The fact that it has a happy ending is awesome, but as you say, the messages it presents are so worth pondering. I am trying to be more mindful in my life. Stopping by on the A-Z road! Gail

  2. Tarkabarka says:

    Very wise answers 🙂 Sometimes traditional riddles don’t make sense to the modern mind, but these are still very clever.

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  3. Fee says:

    Great post, I really enjoyed this one. I try to practice mindfullness every day.

  4. Arti says:

    Thank you for this wise post. Tales buried deep in my childhood come to light with your posts and magically what seemed mythical then, looks like reality today. Thank you.

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