Today's Beautiful Gem: The second part of a passage from the Mahabharata
entitled `The enchanted pool or Yaksha's questions' retold
by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

"`What makes one a real brahmana? Is it by birth, good conduct or
learning? Answer decisively.' `Birth and learning do not make
one a brahmana. Good conduct alone does. However learned a
person may be he will not be a brahmana if he is a slave to bad
habits. Even though he may be learned in the four Vedas, a man
of bad conduct falls to a lower class.'
`What is the greatest wonder in the world?'
`Every day, men see creatures depart to Yama's abode and yet,
those who remain, seek to live forever. This verily is the
greatest wonder.' Thus the yaksha posed many questions and
Yudhistira answered them all.

"In the end the yaksha asked: `O king, one of your dead brothers
can now be revived. Whom do you want revived? He shall come
back to life.' Yudhistira thought for a moment and then replied:
`May the cloud-complexioned, lotus-eyed, broad-chested and
long-armed Nakula, lying like a fallen ebony tree, arise.'
The yaksha was pleased at this and asked Yudhistira: `Why did
you choose Nakula in preference to Bhima who has the strength
of sixteen thousand elephants? I have heard that Bhima is most
dear to you. And why not Arjuna, whose prowess in arms is your
protection? Tell me why you choose Nakula rather than either of
these two.' Yudhistira replied: `O yaksha, dharma is the only
shield of man and not Bhima or Arjuna. If dharma is set at naught,
man will be ruined. Kunti and Madri were the two wives of my
father. I am surviving, a son of Kunti, and so, she is not
completely bereaved. In order that the scales of justice may
be even, I ask that Madri's son Nakula may revive.'

"The yaksha was pleased with Yudhistira's impartiality and granted
that all his brothers would come back to life. It was Yama, the
Lord of Death, who had taken the form of the deer and the yaksha
so that he might see his son Yudhistira and test him. He embraced
Yudhistira and blessed him. Yama said: `Only a few days remain
to complete the stipulated period of your exile in the forest.
The thirteenth year will also pass by. None of your enemies will
be able to discover you. You will successfully fulfil your
undertaking,' and saying this he disappeared."

Om Santih! Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao