Discussions between Nahusha and Yudhishthira

Posted by Venu Payyanur     Category: Pearls of Wisdom from Mahabharata


Q1 – O Yudhishthira, Who is a Brahmana and what should be known?

Yudhishthira said, he in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana. And, that which should be known is the supreme Brahma, in which there is neither happiness nor misery.

Q2 – ‘O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Vedas which work for the benefit of the four orders of society, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra.

“Yudhishthira said, those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone-nor a Brahmana is a Brahmana by birth alone. He, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he is a Brahmana by birth.

Q3 – O king, if you recognize him as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, the distinction of caste becomes futile as long as conduct does not come into play.’

“Yudhishthira said, ‘In human society, it is difficult to ascertain one’s caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders. Therefore, the wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite. He is considered as a Sudra as long as he is not initiated in the Vedas. Therefore whosoever conforms to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, he alone is designated as a Brahmana.’

Q4 – Yudhishthira asked to Nahusha – ‘In this world, you are so learned in the Vedas, tell me what one should do to attain salvation?’

Nahusha replied, my belief is that the man who bestows alms on proper objects, speaks kind words and tells the truth and abstains from doing injury to any creature goes to heaven.’

Q5 – Yudhishthira enquired, ‘Which is the higher of the two, truth or alms-giving? Tell me also the greater or less importance of kind behavior and of doing injury to no creature.’

Nahusha replied, ‘the relative merits of these virtues, truth and alms-giving, kind speech and abstention from injury to any creature, are measured by their objective utility. Truth is (sometimes) more praiseworthy than some acts of charity; however at times the latter again are more commendable than true speech. Similarly, abstention from doing injury to any creature is seen to be important than good speech and vice-versa.

Q6 – Yudhishthira asked how the human being’s translation to heaven or hell can be comprehended.

Nahusha replied, ‘By his own acts, man is seen to attain to one of the three conditions of human existence, of heavenly life, or of birth in the lower animal kingdom. Among these, the man who is not lazy and inactive, who injures no one and who is endowed with charity and other virtues goes to heaven. By doing the very contrary, people are again born as men or as lower animals. Man who is swayed by anger and lust and who is given to avarice and malice falls away from his human state and is born again as a lower animal.

Q7 – Yudhishthira asked, tell me truly and without confusion how that dissociated spirit becomes cognizant of sound, touch, form, flavor, and taste.

Nahusha replied, know that the senses, the mind, and the intellect, assisting the soul in its perception of objects, are called Karanas. The eternal spirit, going out of its sphere, and aided by the mind, acting through the senses, the receptacles of all perceptions, successively perceives these things (sound, form, flavor, etc.). The mind of living creatures is the cause of all perception, and, therefore, it cannot be cognizant of more than one thing at a time.

Q8 – “Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me the distinguishing characteristics of the mind and the intellect.

Nahusha replied, ‘Through illusion, the soul becomes subservient to the intellect. The intellect, though known to be subservient to the soul, becomes (then) the director of the latter. The intellect is brought into play by acts of perception; the mind is self-existent. The Intellect does not cause the sensation (as of pain, pleasure, etc.), but the mind does. This is the difference between the mind and the intellect.

Q9 – “Yudhishthira said, ‘O most intelligent one, you have fine intelligence and you know all that is fit to be known.  Then how could illusion overpower you?

Nahusha replied, ‘Prosperity intoxicates even the wise and valiant men. Those who live in luxury, (soon) lose their reason. Overpowered by the infatuation of prosperity, many fall from their high state. Truth, charity, self-restraint, penance, abstention from doing injury to any creature, and constancy in virtue, and not his race or family connections, are the only means, by which a man can secure salvation.

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