Yudhiṣṭhira told the Yakṣa, “O revered one! I do not desire that which belongs to you; the noble ones do not appreciate such behaviour. I shouldn’t indulge in self-boasting; I shall endeavour to answer your questions to the best of my abilities. Ask, what are your questions?”
Yakṣa: Who makes the sun rise? Who are those in his presence? Who makes the sun set? Where does the sun reside?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Brahman makes the sun rise; those who move around him are the devatās. Dharma makes the sun set. He resides in Satya.
Yakṣa: How does one become a śtrotriya (learned person)? How does one attain greatness? How does one get a companion? O king, how does one become intelligent?
Yudhiṣṭhira: One becomes śtrotriya by listening and study; one attains greatness by tireless efforts. One gets a companion by being courageous; one becomes intelligent by serving elders.
Yakṣa: How does a brāhmaṇa attain divinity? What is his true dharma? What is the human trait of brahmanas? What is the wrong path for a brāhmaṇa?
Yudhiṣṭhira: A brāhmaṇa attains divinity by svādhyāya (self-study); tapas is the right action for him. Death is the humanly trait of a brāhmaṇa; the wrong path for him is to blame others.
Yakṣa: How does a kṣatriya attain divinity? What is his true dharma? What is the human trait of kṣatriyas? What is the wrong path for a kṣatriya?
Yudhiṣṭhira: A kṣatriya attains divinity by mastering his weapons; yajña is the right action for him. Fear is the humanly trait of a kṣatriya; the wrong path for him is deserting one who seeks refuge in him.
Yakṣa: What is heavier than the earth? What is taller than the skies? What is faster than wind? What is more numerous than grass?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Mother is heavier than the earth; Father is taller than the skies. Mind is faster than the wind; worries are more numerous than grass.
Yakṣa: Where does dharma primarily reside? What is the chief place for fame? Where does heaven primarily reside? What is the chief place for sukha?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Dharma primarily resides in diligence; the chief place for fame is dāna. Heaven primarily resides in satya; the chief place for sukha is good conduct.
Yakṣa: What is the best of all valuable things? What is the greatest wealth? What is the greatest profit? What is the best of all sukhas?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Skill is the best of all valuable things; the greatest wealth is wisdom. Good health is the greatest profit; the best of all sukhas is contentment.
Yakṣa: What when renounced makes one lovable? What when renounced makes one free from sorrow? What when renounced makes one wealthy? What when renounced brings sukha?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Arrogance renounced makes one lovable; anger renounced makes one free from sorrow. Desire renounced makes one wealthy; greed renounced brings sukha.
Yakṣa: Now choose, which one of your brothers do you wish to bring back to life?
Yudhiṣṭhira: O Yakṣa! Let Nakula come back to life.
Yakṣa: Bhīma is so dear to you; you depend so much on Arjuna. What is the reason, O king, to wish for your step-brother Nakula’s life?
Yudhiṣṭhira: Magnanimity is the greatest dharma, it has the greatest value. This is what I believe. I desire to be magnanimous. Let Nakula, O Yakṣa, come back to life. People consider me as a king who adheres to dharma; I do not desire to stray from my dharma; therefore, let Nakula come back to life. Just as Kuntī is to me, so is Mādri. Both are my mothers and I don’t want to treat them differently; therefore, let Nakula come back to life, O Yakṣa!
Yakṣa: Since you value magnanimity as greater than desire and wealth let all your brothers come back to life, O hero of the Bharata clan!
Soon after, the Pāṇḍavas who had fallen down dead, awoke. Their hunger and thirst disappeared in an instant and their senses were refreshed. Yudhiṣṭhira looked at him who was standing on one leg in the river and said, “Deva! I don’t think you’re a mere yakṣa. Are you one of the vasus, rudras, or the maruts? Or are you the wielder of the Vajra, the celestial lord Devendra? It’s no joke to have made my brothers fall dead and then bring life back to them in this manner!”
The Yakṣa replied, “O best of the Bharatas! I am your father, Dharma; I thought of visiting you. Fame, integrity, self-control, cleanliness, straight-forwardness, dignity, freedom from indulgence, charity, hard word, fidelity – these are my body; non-injury, balance, peace, austerity, purity, freedom from jealousy – these are the paths that appear before my eyes. Seeing your magnanimity and large-heartedness, I am delighted. What do you desire, ask me!”
Yudhiṣṭhira asked for the pair of fire-producing sticks that belonged to the poor brāhmaṇa. Dharma said that he had stolen those fire-sticks taking the guise of a deer and then returned them to Yudhiṣṭhira. The twelve-year forest exile was coming to an end and the year-long period of living incognito was going to start. Yudhiṣṭhira asked for another boon that their identities should not be revealed during the period of living incognito. Dharma granted him the boon and said, “Even though you will not be assuming different bodies and will be yourself, nobody will be able to recognize you. You can dress as you like, you can disguise yourself as you like. After this, ask for a third boon and I shall give it to you!”
Yudhiṣṭhira said, “O lord of lords! Let me conquer greed, attachments, and anger! Let my mind always reside in charity, austerity, and truth.”
Yama said, “Yudhiṣṭhira! Even by your fundamental nature, these traits are in you! You are dharma indeed! Let your desire be fulfilled!”
Saying so, he disappeared. After this, everyone returned to the hermitage. The brāhmaṇa got back his fire-producing sticks.
To be continued…
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his review and astute feedback.
Translators’ Note: The entire episode of the Yakṣapraśna has been translated as a four-part article in Prekshaa. Click here for the first part. The first three parts have the translation from the Critical Text of the Mahābhārata and the fourth part contains verses from the Citraśālā edition that don’t appear in the Critical Text.
 Only a few of the many questions have been selected for the following segment.