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The Quintessence of Dharma: Insights from the First Four Yaksha Prashnas

The term "Yaksha" is deeply rooted in ancient Indian mythology, literature, and spirituality. Traditionally, Yakshas are understood as nature spirits, guardians of treasures, or semi-divine beings often depicted as benevolent, sometimes mischievous, and occasionally even malevolent. They are mentioned in various ancient texts like the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Jain scriptures.

  1. The Next State of Human Evolution: Interpreting Yakshas as a subsequent stage of human development offers a spiritual dimension. Such an evolution isn't biological but spiritual. A Sadhaka, or spiritual practitioner, through rigorous practices and deep introspection, might ascend to a higher state of soul, akin to that of a Yaksha as described here.

  2. Consequence of Withholding Knowledge: The concept that this state arises when a Sadhaka doesn't share their learnings is intriguing. Knowledge and wisdom, in many traditions, are meant to be shared. Hoarding it can lead to stagnation. This state of 'Yaksha' could represent a static spiritual state where growth is halted because the flow of knowledge is restricted.

  3. Time-Bound to a Goal till the End of a Kalpa: In Hindu cosmology, a Kalpa is a long period, equivalent to a day in the life of Brahma, the creator god. It's a vast expanse of time. Being bound to a singular goal for such a duration indicates intense dedication but also suggests an inability to evolve or move beyond a certain point.

  4. Static Existence in the Aksha (Ether): Existing in the ether or Aksha symbolizes a form of existence that is beyond the physical realm. It's subtle, pervasive, and not bound by earthly limitations. This existence, while exalted, is described as static – perhaps signifying a pause or a state of limbo.

Drawing from this interpretation, the "Yaksha" state appears to be a profound spiritual plateau where a being exists in a higher plane but might be bound or limited by certain conditions or decisions (like not sharing knowledge). This state, while elevated, has its challenges, including potential stagnation and an enduring, fixed existence.

The Yaksha Prashna is a segment from the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, specifically from the Vana Parva (Forest Book). During their exile, the Pandava prince Yudhishthira encounters a mysterious being, a Yaksha, who poses a series of profound questions. The questions test Yudhishthira's wisdom, moral judgment, and understanding of dharma (righteousness or moral duty).

The word "Yaksha" can be analyzed etymologically as "Yat Na Kshayate iti Yaksha", which means that which does not perish or degrade. This aligns well with the concept of Dharma, which is eternal, unchanging, and the righteous path.

When we delve into the episode of the "Yaksha Prashna" in the Mahabharata:

  1. Yudhishthira encounters a mysterious being, the Yaksha, after his brothers fall after drinking water from a lake guarded by the Yaksha. The Yaksha offers to revive them if Yudhishthira can answer his questions. These questions are deeply philosophical and touch upon the very essence of Dharma.

  2. Yama, the lord of death and righteousness (Dharma), later reveals himself as the Yaksha. The representation of Yama as Dharma is significant in Hindu mythology, as he is sometimes referred to as Yama-Dharma, embodying the principles of justice and righteousness.

It's quite accurate to suggest that the voice of the Yaksha, being mysterious and disembodied, can be a representation of the omnipresent nature of Dharma, rather than directly tying it to a physical entity like a bird, Baka. The invisible nature of the Yaksha can be symbolic of Maya (illusion), emphasizing the veiled reality of the world, where truth (or Dharma) is often obscured by illusion and needs discernment to be understood.

In essence, the Yaksha Prashna serves as a testament to the depth of Yudhishthira's understanding of Dharma, which is both a guiding principle in life and an eternal truth that transcends time and illusion (Maya).

However, interpretations of scriptures and philosophical discussions can be multifaceted and layered. This interpretation is just one perspective, and there are many ways to derive meaning from such profound texts.

Here are the first four questions posed by the Yaksha and their answers by Yudhishthira, followed by an interpretation based on dharma. I have compiled some of my senstences based on the Meemaamsa guidelines of my Guru, Brahma Rushi K S Nityananda Swamiji of Veda Vijnana Mandira, Chikmagalur. Here is my interpretation:

Yaksha Prashna 1: What makes Aditya rise?

Answer: The Dharma (divine principle) makes Aditya rise. (Yadādityam unnayati).

The terminology of the "rise" and "set" of the Adityas, particularly in the context of the Yaksha Prashna, should be understood more as metaphysical or symbolic rather than literal.

In the Yaksha Prashna, the questions posed by the Yaksha (manifestation of Yama, the god of death and righteousness) and the answers given by Dharmaraya often carry deep philosophical meanings, highlighting moral principles, cosmic truths, and the nature of existence.

Given this framework, when the question pertains to what makes Aditya "rise", it's less about the physical act of rising and more about what brings forth or activates the divine principles and qualities that Aditya (or the Adityas) represent. Similarly, the concept of "setting" can be seen as a symbolic representation of cessation or diminution.

The emphasis is on the metaphysical principles of dharma, truth, and cosmic order.

The Adityas, as divine entities, function according to these principles, and their "rise" and "set" is a way of describing their active presence and influence in the world.

When referring to Aditya, the Mahabharata is not just referring to the physical sun but also to the collective group of deities, the sons of Aditi. Aditi, in Vedic texts, is the mother of the devatas, and her sons, the Adityas, represent various celestial and moral principles. This group of deities embodies various aspects of life, cosmic order, and righteousness.

Interpretation: The rise of Aditya signifies the manifestation and functioning of divine principles in the universe. The celestial and moral forces represented by the Adityas are activated and sustained by the highest divine principle or Dharma. Their rise (or function) embodies the cosmic order and righteousness, which can be understood as the dharma of the universe. They operate under a higher cosmic order, representing different facets of dharma, and ensuring the world functions according to this order.

Thus, the question and its answer underline the fundamental concept that the universe and its functioning, embodied by the Adityas, are grounded in the overarching principle of dharma.

Yaksha Prashna 2: Who keeps the Aditya company?

Answer: Dharma keeps the Aditya company.

In the context provided, the Aditya represents all living and non-living beings of nature, and the term "company" refers to the eternal relationship they share.

Interpretation: The cosmos, in its infinite expanse, comprises entities constantly moving through the cycles of birth, life, and death. This is the eternal dance of existence-entities emerge, exist, and eventually dissolve, only to emerge again in a new form or existence.

The force that ensures a balance in this cyclical process, maintaining order and ensuring that each entity follows its natural path, is Dharma. It's the unseen force that binds the universe together. For every living and non-living being, Dharma represents the natural laws and principles they must adhere to.

For humans, it might be moral duties and righteousness; for a star, it might be its life cycle from birth to eventual supernova or black hole; for a river, it's the journey from the mountain to the sea. Every entity has its Dharma or rightful path it must follow.

In this ceaseless cycle of existence, Dharma is the constant companion. While entities will move through their phases, Dharma remains unchanging, guiding and accompanying them throughout. It ensures that the universe functions harmoniously and that the inherent nature of entities is respected and followed.

Thus, Dharma as the companion to Aditya signifies that the fundamental nature and order of the universe remain steady and constant, even as the constituents of the universe (Aditya in this context) undergo their inevitable changes. The enduring relationship between Aditya and Dharma symbolizes the eternal dance of change and constancy, of movement and stillness, and of chaos and order.

Yaksha Prashna 3: Who makes the Aditya set?

Answer: Dharma (righteousness) makes the Aditya set.

When we consider Aditya as representing both living and non-living entities of nature (as mentioned earlier), the "setting" of Aditya carries significant philosophical weight. Setting, in the cosmic and existential sense, doesn't merely mean the end but rather a transition - a return to the source, a culmination, or a completion of a phase.

Interpretation: Everything in existence, be it living or non-living, is bound by a natural order and rhythm. Trees shed leaves, rivers eventually merge with the sea, and stars burn out. Similarly, life for all beings, from the tiniest microorganisms to the most complex mammals, has an inevitable end, or a "setting".

But what dictates this order? What determines the lifecycle of entities? The answer, as suggested by Yudhishthira, is Dharma.

Dharma, in this context, goes beyond mere moral righteousness to encompass the universal laws and principles governing existence. It's the cosmic rulebook that every entity, knowingly or unknowingly, adheres to. Every entity has its own unique dharma, its own path, and its own nature which it must follow. And when the time comes, this dharma guides the entity towards its setting, its return to the source, or its next phase of existence.

For instance, the dharma of a river is to flow and eventually merge with the ocean. The dharma of a tree is to grow, bear fruit, shed leaves, and eventually return to the Earth. The dharma of a star might be to burn brightly and then, billions of years later, to burn out, perhaps becoming a black hole or collapsing into a white dwarf.

Similarly, for living beings, the "setting" is the eventual end of life, leading to what many traditions believe as a transition to another form or another realm of existence. This cyclical nature of birth, life, and transition (or death) is one of the most profound representations of dharma. It ensures balance, continuity, and the seamless functioning of the universe.

In essence, the setting of Aditya under the guidance of Dharma is a testament to the universal truth that everything is transient, yet everything follows an order. It's a gentle reminder of the impermanence of existence, the inevitability of change, and the unchanging principles that govern these changes.

Yaksha Prashna 4: In whom is the Aditya established?

Answer: The Aditya is established in the Satya, a type of Dharma.

Interpretation: The phrasing of the question itself is profound. It doesn’t ask from where the Aditya originates or where it ends, but rather in whom or in what it is "established". The implication is that there is a foundational force, principle, or essence in which the Aditya - and, by extension, all of existence - is anchored.

When the answer suggests that Aditya is established in Satya, it reveals a cosmic truth: the underlying nature of all entities, living or non-living, is rooted in a universal order or principle, which is Dharma.

Now, connecting this to the foundational principle of "Satya" or truth:

Satya, or truth, is not just about factual correctness. In the grand tapestry of cosmic principles, Satya represents the unchanging, eternal, and foundational reality upon which everything else is built. It's the essence, the most fundamental aspect of existence. While everything else might change, the truth remains immutable.

When we say that the foundational principle for everything is Satya, and that acting in truth is the Dharma of all beings, we're highlighting the interconnectedness of truth and righteousness. Just as Dharma maintains order in the universe, Satya serves as the bedrock of that order. Without this adherence to truth, the very fabric of Dharma would unravel.

For Aditya, as representative of all entities in existence, being established in Dharma means that its very existence, function, and eventual dissolution are governed by this cosmic truth. Its lifecycle, its purpose, its very nature are all manifestations of this eternal truth.

To understand this with a more tangible analogy: consider a tree. Its Dharma is to grow, bear fruit, provide shade, and eventually return to the earth. While it might seem like the tree is simply following a biological process, at a deeper level, it's adhering to the truth of its existence, the Satya of its being. It grows because that's its truth; it bears fruit because that's its truth. And when it dies, it does so adhering to the truth of its lifecycle.

In essence, the intricate dance between Dharma and Satya is what ensures the harmony of the universe. Every entity, including Aditya, plays its part in this dance, adhering to its own truth, and thereby upholding the greater truth and order of the cosmos.


When we connect all the answers and relate them to the concept of "Dharma," we see that the universe operates on certain principles and truths. Whether it is the rise and set of the Aditya or the company it keeps, all of it is governed by dharma – the eternal and intrinsic nature of things, the righteous path, and the underlying truth. It's a reminder that adhering to one's dharma, understanding the larger cosmic dharma, and acting in truth are fundamental to a righteous and balanced existence.

- Hemanth Kumar G

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