Yakshaprashna is the forty fourth upa parva included in the third maha parva, named as Vana parva or Aranyaka parva in the epic Mahabharata. The original epic was composed by Vyasa in Sanskrit. Vyshampayana had narrated the historical events that happened in the forests to Janamejaya upon his queries.

What were the questions of the Yaksha and how Yudhishtira had answered them?

The questions of the Yaksha and the answers of Yudhishtira are listed below:

Question 01: The Yaksha questioned, “What is it that makes the Sun rise? Who keeps him company? Who causes him to set? And how he is established?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Brahma makes the Sun rise; the gods keep him company; Dharma causes him to set; and he is established in truth.”

Yudhistira answering to the questions of Yaksha near the pond where the Pandava brothers had passed out
Yudhistira answers Yaksha
Question 02: The Yaksha asked, “By what does one become learned and attain the very greatness? What is the second option to acquire higher levels of knowledge?”

Yudhishtira answered, “It is by the study of the Shrutis or Vedas that a person becomes learned; it is by ascetic austerities that one acquires the very greatness; it is by serving the old persons that one becomes wise or intelligent, by that a person acquires a second or higher levels of knowledge.”

Question 03: The Yaksha asked, “How the divinity of the Brahmanas constitutes? What induces their practice that is like that of the pious? What also is the human attribute of the Brahmanas? And what practice of theirs is like that of the impious?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The learning of the shruthis constitutes their divinity: their asceticism induces behavior that is like that of the pious; their liability to death is their human attribute and defamation is their impiety.”

Question 04: The Yaksha asked, “What institutes the divinity of the Kshatriyas? What induces their practice that is like that of the pious? What is their human attribute? And what practice of theirs is like that of the impious?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Arrows and weapons are Kshatriyas’ skilled divinity; celebration of sacrifices induces their act which is like that of the pious: liability to rule by Dharma is their human attribute; and refusal of protection is that act of theirs which is like that of the impious.”

Question 05: The Yaksha asked, “How Sama, Yajus, Rik (Rig) are depended on Atharvas?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Life is the Sama of the sacrifice; the mind is the Yajus of the sacrifice: the Rik is that which is the refuge of the sacrifice; and it is verses of Atharvas which reward fruitful sacrifices experienced with common hymns.”

Question 06: The Yaksha asked, “What is required to cultivate land? What is the desired value to those that sow? What is of the foremost value to those that wish for prosperity in this world? And what is of the foremost value to those that bring forth?”

Yudhishtira answered, “That which is of the foremost value to those that cultivate is rain: that of the foremost value to those that sow is seed or grains: that of the foremost value of prosperity is food and offspring’s have the highest value.”

Question 07: The Yaksha asked, “Who is that person, enjoying all the objects of the senses, endued with intelligence but living a life of useless creature?

Yudhishtira answered, “That regarded by the world as rich and greedy, disliked by all beings, though breathing, does not offer anything as donation to these five deserving and honorable beings: divine angels, guests, servants, Pitris or forefathers, and ultimate protector commonly perceived in the form of fire to be transporter to God. The selfish man though endued with breath, is not yet alive or say equivalent to a dead creature.”

Question 08: The Yaksha asked, “What is heavier than the earth? What is higher than the heavens?” What is fleeter than the wind? And what is more numerous than grass?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The mother is heavier than the earth; the father is higher than the heaven; the mind is fleeter than the wind; and our thoughts are more numerous than grass.”

Question 09: The Yaksha asked, “Which one does not close its eyes while asleep; which one does not move after birth? What is that which is without heart? And what is that which grows on moving?”

Yudhishtira answered, “A fish does not close its eyes while asleep: an egg does not move after birth: a stone has no heart: and a river grows when it moves.”

Question 10: The Yaksha asked, “Who is the friend of the exile? Who is the friend of the householder? Who is the friend of him that ails? And what is the friend of one anytime?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The friend of the exile in a distant land is his acquired education, the friend of the householder is his own life partner or dependent; the friend of him that ails is the treating physician: and the friend of a person always is his good character generated by past deeds.”

Question 11: The Yaksha asked, “Who is the guest of all creatures? What is the eternal duty? O king, what, is Amrita? And what is the stuff entire Universe is covered?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Agni could be  the guest of all creatures: the milk of Indian rural cow is amrita: Sacrifice to God in any form is the eternal duty: and this Universe consists of air entirely over land.”

Question 12: The Yaksha asked, “What is that which sits alone? What is that which is re-born frequently? What is the remedy against cold? And what is the largest field?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The sun sits alone; the moon takes rebirth repeatedly; fire is the remedy against cold: and the Earth is the largest field.”

Question 13: The Yaksha asked, “What is the highest refuge of virtue? What of fame? What of heaven? And what, of happiness?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Liberty is the highest satisfactory status of virtues: gifts beget fame: truth leads to heaven: and good behavior leads to happiness.”

Question 14: The Yaksha asked, “What is equivalent to the soul of a man? Who is that friend bestowed on man by the gods? What is man's chief support? And what also is his chief refuge?”

Yudhishtira answered,

पुत्र आत्मा मनुष्यस्य भार्या दैवकृतः सखा ।
उपजीवनं च पर्जन्यो दानमस्य परायणम् ॥

The meaning:  “The child is equivalent to a person’s soul: the wife is the friend bestowed on man by the gods; the clouds are his chief support for rain, cultivation and food; and donation is his chief refuge.”

Question 15: The Yaksha asked, “What is the best of all laudable things? What is the most valuable of all his possessions? What is the best of all gains? And what is the best of all kinds of happiness?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The best of all laudable things is skill; the best of all possessions is knowledge: the best of all gains is health: and contentment is the best of all kinds of happiness.”

Question 16: The Yaksha asked, “What is the highest duty in this world? What is that virtue which always bears fruit? What is that which if controlled, leads not to regret? And who are they with whom an alliance cannot break?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The highest of duty is to devote for nonviolence: the rites ordained in the Vedas always bear fruit: the actions of a controlled mind, leads to no regret: and an alliance with good natured men never breaks.”

Question 17: The Yaksha asked, “What is that which, if renounced, makes one agreeable? What is that which, if renounced, leads to no regret? What is that which, if renounced, makes one wealthy? And what is that which if renounced, makes one happy?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Pride, if renounced, makes one pleasing; wrath, if renounced leads to no regret: desire, if renounced, makes one wealthy: and ignorance, if renounced, makes one happy.”

Question 18: The Yaksha asked, “For what does one worship the Dharma? How to get success in one’s life? What to do to get into heaven after death? And to gain happiness what should be preserved always?”

Yudhishtira answered, 

दाक्ष्यमेक पदं धर्म्यं दानमेक पदं यशः ।
सत्यमेक पदं स्वर्ग्यं शीलमेक पदं सुखं ॥​

Meaning: “Dharma is worshipped to be cautious in life, donation is the one word to get success in life, it is for getting into heaven, the word truth always to be remembered: and it is for obtaining happiness one should preserve good character”

Question 19: The Yaksha asked, “With what is the world enveloped? What is that owing to which a thing cannot discover itself? For what are friends forsaken? And for what does one fail to go to heaven?”

Yudhishtira answered, “The world is enveloped with ignorance, and it does not permit to be shown itself. It is by natural hidden desires that friends are kept away. And it is connection with the world or accumulation of accounted sins, like speaking false for which one fail to enter in to heaven.”

Question 20: The Yaksha asked, “For what may one be considered as dead? For what may a kingdom be considered as vanished? For what may a Sraddha be considered as void? And for what a sacrifice ritual performed nil?”

Yudhishtira answered, “For want of wealth or poverty may a man feels as dead. A kingdom for want of an efficient ruler may be regarded as vanished. A Sraddha that is performed without an invited guest may be regarded as void. And a sacrifice in which there is no gift or donation is considered as useless or nil.”

Question 21: The Yaksha asked, “What constitutes the way? What, has been spoken of as water? What is food? And what is poison? Tell us also what is the proper time for a Sraddha!”

Yudhishtira answered, “They who are good at heart, or will power, constitute the way through the space, the water is the primary food, and a request prayer is felt as a poison by the donor if could not provide it. And a learned Brahmin’s arrival time is regarded as the proper time of a Sraddha. I know this much only, O Yaksha”

Question 22: The Yaksha asked, “What has been said to be the sign of asceticism? And what is true restraint? What constitutes forgiveness? And what is shame?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Staying in one’s own Dharma is asceticism: the true restraint is controlling the own mind: forgiveness consists in generosity to drive away enmity; and shame is the disability to avoid unworthy acts.”

Question 23: The Yaksha asked, “What, O king, is said to be knowledge? What, tranquility? What constitutes mercy? And what has been called simplicity?”

Yudhishtira answered, “True knowledge is that of Divinity. True tranquility is that of the heart. Mercy consists in wishing happiness to all. And simplicity is generosity in heart.”

Question 24: The Yaksha asked, “What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease for man? Who is called honest and who is dishonest?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Anger is an invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes an incurable disease. He is honest that desires the wellbeing of all creatures, and he is dishonest who is unmerciful.”

Question 25: The Yaksha asked, “What, O king, is ignorance? And what is pride? What also is to be understood by idleness? And what has been spoken of as grief?”

Yudhishtira answered, “True ignorance is the negligence of duties. Pride is a consciousness of over self-confidence. Idleness is passing time without duties, and loosing health or wealth is grief.”

Question 26: The Yaksha asked, “What has steadiness been said by the Rishis to be? And what is patience? What also is a real ablution? And what is charity?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Steadiness consists in one’s staying in one’s own Dharma, and true patience consists in the controlling of the senses. A true bath consists in washing the mind and body to get clean out of all impurities, and charity consists in protecting all creatures.”

Question 27: The Yaksha asked, “What man should be regarded as learned, and who should be called an atheist? Who also is to be called ignorant? What is called desire and what are the sources of desire? And what is envy?”

Yudhishtira answered, “He is to be called learned who knows his duties. An atheist is he who is ignorant about God. Desire is due to objects of possession, and envy is nothing else than grief of heart.”

Question 28: The Yaksha asked, “What is pride, and what is hypocrisy? What is the grace of the gods, and what is wickedness?”

Yudhishtira answered, “Pride is the show of over self-confidence. Speaking low of other’s faith is hypocrisy. The grace of the gods is the fruit of our gifts, and wickedness consists in speaking ill of others.”

Question 29: The Yaksha asked, “Virtue, profit, and desire are opposed to one another. How could things thus antagonistic to one another exist together?”

Yudhishtira answered, “When the life partner gain virtue by Dharma, then all the three you have mentioned may exist together.”

Question 30: The Yaksha asked, “O bull of the Bharata race, who is he that is condemned to everlasting hell? It beholds you to soon answer the question that I ask!”

Yudhishtira answered, “He that invites a poor Brahmana promising to provide him food and gifts but later cheats him telling he has nothing to give, goes to everlasting hell. He goes to everlasting hell, which imputes falsehood to the Vedas, the scriptures, the Brahmanas, the gods, and the ceremonies in honour of the Pitris. He goes to everlasting hell who though in possession of wealth, never gives away nor enjoys himself by donations, speaking falsehood as he has none.”

Question 31: The Yaksha asked, “By what, O king, birth, behavior, study, or learning does a person become a Brahmana? Tell us with certitude!”

Yudhishtira answered, “Listen, O Yaksha! He only who performs the Agnihotra and has his senses under control, is called a Brahmana without doubt, it is behavior that constitutes it. One’s behavior should always be well-guarded, to be a Brahmana. He who maintains his conduct unimpaired, is never impaired himself. 

He is learned who performs his religious duties!”

Question 32: The Yaksha asked, “What does one gains who speaks agreeable words? What does he gain who always acts with judgment? What does he gain who has many friends? And what he gains, who is devoted to virtue?”

Yudhishtira answered, “He who speaks agreeable words gets pleased by all. He who acts with judgment obtains whatever he seeks. He who has many true friends gains happiness. Person devoted to virtue obtains a permanent famous name.”

Question 33: The Yaksha asked, “Who is truly happy? What is most wonderful? What is the path? And what is the news?”

Yudhishtira answered, “A man who gets in his food in own house, is truly happy. If anybody thinks to be immortal, then it could be the most wonderful. Arguments lead to various conclusions, the Shruti verses are different from one another; there is not even one Rishi whose opinion can be accepted by all; therefore, that alone is the path  that leads to Dharma, and is the real path along which the Saptharshis have trod to the central God.  Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures; this is the news.”

Question 34: The Yaksha said, “You have, truly answered all my questions! Tell us now who is truly a man, and who possesses every kind of wealth. Answer my question and let one of your dead brothers get rebirth.”

Yudhishtira answered, “The report of one’s good action called as virtue reaches the heaven and spreads as fame over this earth. As long as that report prevails, the person enjoys a permanent name and he is said to possess every kind of wealth.”

The Yaksha said, “You have, O king, truly answered who is a man, and what man possesses every kind of wealth. Therefore, let one only amongst your brothers, whom you may wish, gets up with life!”

Yudhishtira answered, “Let this one, Nakula, O Yaksha, and get up with life!”

The Yaksha rejoined, “This Bhima is dear to you, and this Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, do you wish Nakula to revive?”

Yudhishtira said, “Good virtue could not be sacrificed, Let Nakula, O Yaksha, revive! Let men know that this 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 one child each. 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 one child of Madri, Nakula live.”

Then Yaksha said, “Since abstention from injury is regarded by you as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all your brothers’ live!”

Then Yaksha replied, “O child, I am even your father, Yama, the Lord of justice, possessed of greatness! Know that I came here desirous of beholding you! Fame, truth, self-restraint, purity, tranquility, modesty, steadiness, charity, austerities and Brahmacharya, these are my body! If you ask of me boons, I shall surely confer them! Those that revere me, never face distress!”

Yudhishtira said, “A deer was carrying away the Brahmana’s ritual logs’ bag. Therefore, the first boon that I shall ask, is, May that Brahmana’s adorations to Agni be not interrupted!”

The Yaksha said, “O Kunti’s son, the harina was I who for testing you was carrying away, in the guise of a deer, that Brahmana’s bag with wooden logs!”

Thereupon that worshipful one said, “I give you this boon! You can ask a fresh boon! Yudhishtira said, “We have spent these twelve years in the forest; and the thirteenth year is Ajnathavasa. May no one recognize us, as we spend this year somewhere?”

Yama replied, “I grant this boon to you! You perpetuators through my grace, will spend this thirteenth year, secretly and unrecognized, in Virata‘s kingdom! Every one of you will be able at will to assume any form you like!” Then reassuring Kunti’s son having truth for prowess, he also said, “Even if, O Bharata, you wander this entire earth in your proper forms none in the three worlds shall recognize you. Yudhishtira, you ask for another boon that you may like! I will confer it on you. I have not yet been satisfied by granting boons to you! Do you my son; accept a third boon that is great and incomparable! You and Vidura were born by my blessings!”

Then Yudhishtira said, “It is enough that I have seen you with my senses, eternal God of gods as you are! O father, whatever boon you will confer on me I shall surely accept gladly! May I always worship truth?” Then Pandavas returned.

What is Aarani and how was the old Brahmin at Dvaitavana satisfied? 

Aarani means the earthen vessel for fire worship, so this upaparva is also named as Aaraneya Parva. The old Brahmin was satisfied when he recovered his aarani back with his hand bag containing the wooden logs to be used for his routine fire rites. 

The Yaksha was the angel of death called as Yama and Yudhishtira was born by the blessing by him as his son. Hence through the above answers, the Yaksha was happy.

In due course of time, some of the questions were recited in different orders.

Pandavas had successfully completed their twelve years exile and third Maha parva called Vana parva ended along with these divine discussions, Yakshaprashna.

On reading this story, children would gain more memory power.

Next post, Mahabharat: Ajnatavasa Pravesha would be more interesting.

Mahabharat: Kichakavadha would be presented separately in another article.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Krishna upon us. 

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