Note: Through this article I do not intend to endorse or promote any religion. This post is purely an effort to present some truly thought-provoking questions which should be read and reasoned upon, by all of us.
After reading this post, you might ask why did I name this post “Celestial Questions”. This is because these questions were asked to Yudhistra (Son of Pandu and the true heir to the kindgom of Hastinapur) by the Dharmaraj (God of Truth) in the great India epic Mahabharata. (Recommend reading a summary of the story before proceeding)
During the final year (the agyat-vaas) of their exile, the Pandavas (i.e. five brothers and their wife Draupadi) were moving away swiftly from Hastinapur to avoid being discovered by the spies of Duryodhana (the villain of the story). If they were to be discovered, they would have to spend another 13 years in exile.
One day, after a bout of tiresome walking through the forest, the Pandavas stop to take some rest. They spot a lake nearby and Nakul (one of the brothers) is asked to fetch some water for everybody.
When he reaches the lake and tries to drink the water, a demon (yaksha) warns him that if he drinks the water without answering some questions, he will face dire ramifications. Nakul ignores the warning and dies after drinking the water. His brothers Sahdev, Arjun and Bhim go to the lake one after the other and meet the same fate. However, when Yudhisthra arrives at the lake and sees his mighty brothers lying dead at the shore, he decides to remain calm and answer the demon’s questions. Here are the questions that the Demon asks:
1. What is heavier than Earth?
2. What is higher than the Sky?
3. What is faster than the winds?
Ans. The Mind
4. What is more in number than the twigs?
5. Who is the friend of a person close to death?
6. Where does Religion, Success, Heaven and Happiness reside?
Ans. Religion resides in awareness, success in charity, Heaven in Truth and Happiness in Chastity
7. What is a man’s Soul?
Ans. His Son
8. What has covered the Earth?
9. What is laziness?
Ans. Ignorance of religion is Laziness
10. Who is truly happy?
Ans. One who is free of debt
11. What is true cleansing?
Ans. The cleansing of the Mind
12. What is darker than the eye black?
13. What is the best Religion?
14. What can prevent sadness and mourning?
Ans. Control of Mind
15. What is shame?
Ans. Keeping away from unworthy things
16. What is pity?
Ans. Wishing happiness for all
17. What kills a nation?
18. What is the true test of Brahminhood? Dynasty, Character, Teaching or Knowledge?
Ans. Character is the true test of Brahaminhood
19. Is Religion in Logic? Is it in the words of the Sages?
Ans. Religion is neither in logic nor in the words of the sages. Truth of a Religion is in the heart of the believer.
20. What is the greatest wonder?
Ans. The greatest wonder is that each individual knows that death is the ultimate truth yet he/she believes that his/her life’s ultimate truth may not be death.
Satisfied by Yudhistra’s responses, the demon reveals his true identity as Dharmaraj (the God of Truth) and says that by his conduct and character, Yudhistra had not just established control over his mind and body but also conquered the virtues of tolerance and the imperfections i.e. hunger, thirst, mourning, temptation and death.
I will not elucidate my thoughts regarding the above-mentioned questions and leave the forum open for reader discussions.