Birth of a new dialogue
In the woods by mistake
or simply by accident
the two appeared again
Dharma* to give Yudhisthira*, another go
for a question whose response
did none, until then, know.
– No Baka*
birth is the only truth
death a momentous lie
that leads us to birth
– But death also does the same?
– No, death is immobile I plead
it doesn’t move and hence cannot lead
death is false, but it’s not its fault
it is birth that takes us to births
through a momentary halt;
until the Self frees from them
to have births no more again
– So then don’t you die?
– No O wise Dharma, you have birth again
that frees us for good,
in stillness we call heaven!
Birth it is O Dharma, it is birth again!
– (Dharma smiles) after ages
O Dharmaraja*, you appear to be light
you behold your world
right in the middle of the earth
– Birth of life, of virtues and evils
even that of deaths and devils
in it the Universe lies
– I know, I know
you seem to have wings
in your hands now
your feet appear to be light
blind and dead no more,
your words now have eyes!
Have as much water from this lake now
As you have quenched my thirst
Let all your dead brothers
come back to consciousness first
Then O King, take your brothers,
you saved them with grace
With them, all men and women
you saved the human race.
To change the earlier response
to Yaksha* did Yudhisthira urge
he does so, both smile and
in the leaves of stories,
does birth, as the only truth
Dharma – Dharma is the one who questions Yudhisthira; Dharma, Yaksha, Baka are one and the same
Yudhisthira– In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhishthira* was the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti and the king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura (Kuru). He was the leader of the successful Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War. At the end of the epic, he ascended to heaven.
Baka – Baka appears as the crane; Dharma, Yaksha, Baka are one and the same
Dharmaraja – Yudhishthira was also known as Dharmaraja
Yaksha – Dharma, Yaksha, Baka are one and the same.
At the end of their 12 years of exile in the forests, time had come for the pandavas to live in Agyat Vasa (living Incognito). As they were discussing their course of action the Pandava Princes came across a Brahmin who complained that a deer has taken on its antlers his Arani – a pair of wooden blocks to generate fire by friction – and therefore he was not able to light the fire for the performance of Vedic rituals. The valorous Pandava Princes set out to retrieve the Brahmin’s Arani and followed the hoof-marks of the deer.
In the quest of the mysterious deer, Yudhishthira, became exhausted and thirsty. His brother Nakula thus ventured out to fetch water and found a beautiful lake. The lake was devoid of any living creature except a crane (Baka)*. When he attempted to take water from the lake, the crane spoke, “O Nakula! The water of this lake will turn into poison if you take it without satisfactorily answering my questions.” Nakula, in arrogance, did not pay heed and hurriedly took water from the lake. Upon drinking the crystal clear water, Nakula instantly died of poisoning. Nakula’s twin Sahadeva, coming in search of his brother, also found the same lake, saw Nakula dead, and was warned by the crane. But Sahadeva too ignored the crane and died after drinking the water. In the same manner, both valiant Arjuna, and powerful Bhima met the same fate.
Since none of the brothers returned with water, Yudhishthira engaged in search of them. Upon following the same path, Yudhishthira came across the lake and found his brothers lying dead. Before searching for the killer of his brothers, Yudhishthira decided to drink some water from the lake. But when the crane warned him, Yudhishthira realised that the crane held the answer to the turn of events. The virtuous Yudhishthira proceeded to answer the questions put forth by the crane.
Before putting the questions to Yudhishthira, the crane revealed itself as a Yaksha. The Yaksha asked 18 questions with philosophical and metaphysical ramifications. This dialogue between the Yaksha and Yudhishthira is embodied in the Madhya Parva of the Mahabharata, and is also known as the Dharma-Baka* Upakhyan (Legend of the Virtuous Crane).