Yudhishthira and the Most Wondrous Thing

“Besides knowledge, besides anything else, the one asset that we have that is the most valuable asset is time. One moment gone, and nothing can bring back that moment to us.”

Thom Knoles

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said on more than one occasion that free will was God’s greatest gift to mankind. And while that may well be, we have to ask ourselves whether we actually make the most of this gift. 

In this episode, Thom takes us to a pivotal moment in The Mahabharata, when Yudhishthira, the offspring of Dharma, and Arjuna’s older brother, puts his wisdom to the test to restore the lives of his brothers.

Like much of The Mahabharata, and most Vedic literature, it makes a sobering point about how we can take more responsibility for our own evolution, and bring and end to the cycle of life and death.

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Episode Highlights


Sequence in the Form of Storyline



Mahabharata: The Story of India’s Royal Family



Exile of the Pandava Brothers and Draupadi



Nakula and The Crane



A Genetic Advantage



Hurtling Towards Death



A Pivotal Point



The Most Valuable Asset



The Ultimate Vedic Teaching



This is What I Am



We Form an Opinion of Ourselves



I Am Also This



I Am a Human Being, Not Just a Human Doing.



Longevity is a Fatal Condition



Make Great Priorities in Life



Living in Heaven-on-Earth Status


Jai Guru Deva


Yudhishthira and the Most Wondrous Thing

[00:45] Sequence in the Form of Storyline

I’d like to recount a tale that comes from one of the ancient Vedic texts, and the story, first of all, requires some backstory. When you learn Vedic Meditation, in our tradition, there’s a short ceremony of gratitude that is performed by the teacher of Vedic Meditation prior to giving an individual meditator their mantra.

The names of all the teachers of the tradition are recounted in Sanskrit, by way of reminding today’s teacher that “I’m not the innovator of this knowledge, I’m a loud speaker through which this knowledge is now reaching your ears. And it came to me through these people. And the people are all named and enumerated.”

And at the end of that ceremony, one is then authorized to give a mantra from this tradition, the mantra, which will be used in Vedic Meditation.

One of the masters of the tradition, Vyasa by name. Vyasa is actually a position, and a title, as well as the adopted name of Krishna Dvaipayana, also sometimes known as Badarayana, but we simply call him Vyasa, which is both his title and his name.

In each major era, there’s a Vyasa of that era. Someone who takes the totality of knowledge and gives it a sequence. The sequence comes in the form of storyline.

And one of the great things for which Vyasa was known, besides the fact that he is the composer of approximately two-thirds of everything we know about Vedic knowledge, one of the legendary tales or storylines, which in itself is a play and display of the evolutionary progression of human consciousness.

[03:18] Mahabharata: The Story of India’s Royal Family

This story is known as the Maha-, Maha means great in Sanskrit, Bharata, B-H-A-R-A-T-A, Bharata.

Bharata is the name not only of India. In India today, you don’t say if you’re speaking one of the languages of India. You don’t refer to India as India. You refer to her, and she is a she, as Bharata. And in Sanskrit, very often, the final A is dropped, and it turns into Bharat.

And someone who is an Indian is referred to as a Bharatiya. Bharatiya means someone who is a child of the subcontinent of Bharata of India.

But Bharata is also the name of The Royal Family, which, if we go back approximately 5,000 years, The Royal Family of India was known as the Bharata family. The name of the country and the name of the family are interchangeable.

The family name was a larger, longer name, the intimate name of the family that it gave itself for, by which it was known, but it was also referred to as Bharata because they were the ruling family of the country.

So Mahabharata, The Great Bharata, is the story of the goings on of The Royal Family of India and the country of India some 5,000 years ago, written by one of the masters of our tradition, Vyasa.

[05:06] Exile of the Pandava Brothers and Draupadi

And Vyasa, Vyasa’s original text is about 12 volumes, with each volume being about 500 to 700 pages of length. It can be read very conveniently in two volumes that have been condensed by one of the greatest translators of Sanskrit to English in modern times, Mr. Ramesh Menon. Ramesh is spelled R-A-M-E-S-H, and the last name Menon, M-E-N-O-N, Menon.

Ramesh Menon’s translation and commentary on the Mahabharata, condensed into two volumes, those volumes, each being about six to 700 pages, will really get you into that story.

It’s a wonderful story to read, a real page-turner, as we say. Meaning that when it’s time to finish reading because you have to finish, you regret a little bit having to close the book because it’s such a lively story, that page after page, you just want to see what happens on the next page, one of those stories.

In the story of Mahabharata, there is an element of The Royal Family who have been exiled by their rather wicked cousins who are wanting to usurp the throne and usurp the kingdom, as seen by the ones who are exiled anyway. And while they’re in exile for 13 years, they have many adventures.

It’s a story of a woman, Panchali, also known as Draupadi, who had the great good fortune of being married to five brothers. Some of the most magnificent human specimens imaginable, the five brothers, were half-deva. That means half-divine. They had divine parentage on one half, and the other half,of their mixture was human.

[07:30] Nakula and The Crane

They were magnificent creatures, and she was a magnificent creature, and each of them were her husband. She was a woman who was married to five men. These five men are known as the Pandava, and Panchali is known as the wife of five, Panchali.

So, they’re in exile and traveling through a forest and have an encampment when there is a need for water identified, for some fresh water, and the youngest of the five brothers is delegated to go and find water. 

And this is the story of each of the brothers arriving to find the other brother expired because of drinking water in a particular pond that evidently was poisoned.

So the youngest brother first goes off into the woods, Nakula by name. And there he meets a crane, a crane being that bird that frequents ponds and things.

And the bird seems to communicate with him, not in regular words, but in words that can be perceived as thought. Nakula, unsure as to whether these thoughts were coming from the crane who was sitting on the water, or from his own mind, bent down to taste the water, and immediately upon letting the water touch his tongue, fell dead at the edge of the pond.

[09:24] A Genetic Advantage

After a little while, his next brother up was sent to find him. Sahadeva by name. And so Nakula’s brother Sahadeva arrives and sees Nakula dead by the edge of the pond, but finds himself possessed of a powerful thirst and also sees the crane, and also hears the thoughts that the crane is communing, but puts the water to his lips and drops dead.

A third brother, Bheema by name, followed by a fourth brother, Arjuna by name, each succumb to the same fate.

Finally, the elder brother takes leave of their wife, Yudhisthira, by name, and Yudhisthira goes to see what became of his brothers, each of whom, in succession, disappeared when looking for water.

And Yudhisthira is a great warrior but also considered to be a very wise man, partly because, not just from the knowledge that he gained while on earth, but he had a genetic advantage.

His own father was the embodiment, the divine embodiment of Dharma, D-H-A-R-M-A. Dharma means one’s personal role in the evolution of things, but not only that, Dharma meaning the evolutionary trend of The Universe itself.

So Yudhisthira goes, finds the lake, the pond, sees the crane, and sees his four brothers lying alongside the water. But instead of reaching down, even though possessed of a powerful thirst, he pays attention to the questions of the crane. And the crane asks approximately 125 questions. I say approximately because some of the questions had two parts to them.

[11:44] Hurtling Towards Death

One of the latter questions that was asked by the crane while he’s sitting by the side of the water was the question, “What is the most wondrous thing?” Wondrous as in strange. What is the most wondrous thing?

 This is after having answered more than a hundred questions. Questions like, for example, what is the one thing that can cover the earth? To which Yudhishthira answered darkness.

And the ultimate destiny of all living beings? To which Yudhishthira answered, happiness.

And asking the question,what is the behavior of someone from the holy caste? Someone who is a member of a family of Brahmins.

To which Yudhishthira answered, “A Brahmin can be told by his actions alone, not by his birth.” In other words, it’s not someone’s birth alone that dictates whether they are a member of the highest spiritual caste of India, but is their actions.

And evidently, the crane was happy with each of these answers, and finally comes to, what is the most wondrous thing, the strangest thing?

To which Yudhishthira answers, “Every day, all around us, by report, by implication, by direct knowledge, all living things are hurtling towards death, and yet all of us behave as if we’re immortal. It’s the strangest thing.”

[13:39] A Pivotal Point

Now what is this, and why did this bring such great satisfaction to the crane? And to finish this part of the story, and then I’ll come back and comment on the most wondrous thing.

Evidently, after about 125 answers to that many questions, the being, the Yaksha, Yaksha means a Nature spirit and, who was taking the form of a crane, but that Nature spirit itself, revealed itself and said, “I am your own father, Dharma. And I’m very pleased with your answers. Now your brothers can all come back to life,” and the other four brothers all came back to life, “and now you may drink from the water, and it won’t harm you.”

All of them took long drafts of the pure water of the pond, and all was well. And from that point, it was a pivotal point in the story of Mahabharata.

They moved on to the final year of their exile, as you’ll learn when you read the book, and I strongly recommend all my listeners to read the Mahabharata as translated by Ramesh Menon. The whole thing progressed and evolved very successfully.

[14:56] The Most Valuable Asset

So then, what is it that’s so wondrous about this tale? What is it that we learn from Yudhishthira’s answer to, What is the most wondrous thing?

What we’re learning really is something already we know. Besides knowledge, besides anything else, the one asset that we have that is the most valuable asset is time. One moment gone, and nothing can bring back that moment to us.

Although time is the most valuable commodity, although days and nights are passing irresistibly, when we look around, we don’t really see people behaving as if they have a limited amount of it. Almost invariably, everyone behaves as if they have all the time in the world to waste frivolously on things that actually don’t make that much difference.

Yudhishthira’s answer to this particular question was designed by Vyasa, the writer of the tale, the writer of the story, the narrator of the story, was designed by Vyasa to cause us to contemplate this in ourselves.

As these bodies are rushing toward their cessation, we have a certain amount of lifetime on the earth, a certain amount of time in which our feet are on the ground.

 We can advance the experience of being in the highest possible consciousness state, and to bring that into our earthy existence, our earthly existence. It is earthy and earthly.

Our existence on earth, where we live within the boundaries, it can be enormously improved upon by attaining to the highest consciousness state known to humankind, that consciousness state where our individuality realizes itself to have its foundations in the cosmic field of consciousness.

[17:36] The Ultimate Vedic Teaching

That individuality is cosmic is the ultimate Vedic teaching. The one teaching that is above and beyond every other teaching from the Vedic level of experience, is that teaching that individuality is cosmic.

We are not merely individuals who, from time to time, may have access to heightened experiences of consciousness. We are, instead of this, we are the Universe having a human experience.

To what extent have we realized this latter truth that we are the Universe having a human experience? Or to what extent are we so identified with all the doings of our humanity that we’ve lost sight of what our largest and most cosmic truth is, that we are the Universe having a human experience?

Most of this is the problem of mistaken identity. When one thinks about what one is, there’s only a limited number of experiences that are registered in the ego structure.

I can remember back, one might be able to remember back to being in single-digit years. most people’s memory won’t take them any further back than about three years of age. Some people have the advantage of being able to go back to two, or even younger, in exceptional cases.

And then I came from somewhere, and I was formed and forged by the events that occurred around me. The me being my body, my body being the thing that creates my consciousness.

So my body creates my consciousness, where my body happened to be, by what kind of food the body was fed, by whom the food was provided, what was the shelter, if any, that was provided by those, who are the people who provided me.

[20:03] This is What I Am

They also provided me with examples of how to behave. They also provided me with the examples of where you put your priorities in life.

And then came school, the body and the mind that appended to the body, went to some kind of schooling, learned how to read, and then came the potential to ingest the experiences of many others and let those form and change and morph my sense of what I am.

And that sense of what I am being forged and formed even further by witnessing its habituations, the doings of an ever-growing body, a body that is changing from single-digit years to the years of preteen, through the teen years and into the twenties. This is what I am.

 What is it that this chunk of all of these varying inputs, this human body that has a consciousness in it, what is it that it wants to do? What kind of memories does it want to have and create? What is it that it considers to be the most fulfilling thing to do?

And, importantly, how is it going to provide for itself? What’s it going to do to convince somebody else to give it money so that I can feed the body and so that I can get on with doing the other things, besides simply feeding and sheltering the body, that I’d like to do, to have in my memory banks before, presumably, the body dies one day?

[21:57] We Form an Opinion of Ourselves

What kind of experience do I wish to have at the end of this body life? When looking back, do I wish to have lived a life that was significant and that made a difference to many people? Or do I wish to have lived a life that was not significant, and it mattered to no one except me that I existed?

Somewhere in between those two poles, we land, and we form an opinion ourselves. The Vedic worldview says you’re missing something, and you’re missing something very dramatic.

Because our consciousness has been restricted to, and has been imprisoned by this idea that I’m a body that has created its own mind, it hasn’t really had the opportunity to explore the truth about who and what actually you are.

And when you learn Vedic Meditation, you learn how to step beyond the boundaries of these individual concepts of what you are, and you have a new experience of what you are.

As the mind moves innocently beyond thought during twice-a-day Meditation practices, we recommend Vedic Meditation that it’s should be done, it should be practiced twice every day for about 20 minutes each time.

There, the mind has impressed on it, first of all, very delicately but very definitely, impressed on it that in addition to being a body that has a mind, that has thoughts, evidently, my consciousness is something that is larger than, greater than, more expansive than merely could be described by the body.

[23:57] I Am Also This

During that moment of transcendence when, during Vedic Meditation, we go beyond thought, and we experience an unbounded consciousness state. During those moments, our inner ego structure is confronted with a new reality. Evidently, I am also This, this one indivisible, whole consciousness field.

And then, after the meditation is over, one goes back to regular activity, somewhat refreshed by the deep restfulness of the practice of Vedic Meditation. Stress is being removed from the body so that one is liberated to behave with a greater degree of repertoire, more creativity, more intelligence, more stamina and staying power than one had before.

 One’s relative life starts to shine with greater and greater regularity as a result of practicing. And then time for evening meditation, late afternoon, early evening, you sit down and practice your meditation technique again.

Once again, the mind has confirmed directly, and this is now happening twice every day during the practice, during the sittings of meditation, that I’m one indivisible, whole consciousness field.

And no doubt I come out of meditation, and I have a body, and I have a life, and I have a storyline, and I have ideas about my individuality. But on a daily basis, this new element twice every day is being reaffirmed as my deepest reality, my longest-lasting truth.

[25:51] I Am a Human Being, Not Just a Human Doing.

The truth that doesn’t go through change. Unlike the truths of my intellect, where I thought I was a this or I thought I was a that, whatever, and when time went by in my life, I had certain ideas when I was a teenager, certain ideas when I was in my early twenties, certain ideas when I was in my mid-twenties, certain ideas in my late twenties, and my ideas about who I am, what I think and how I feel about things, goes through constant flux.

Unlike that flux, there is an Absolute, Absolute layer of me that is the witness of all things. It’s the source of all these thoughts. It is indeed the expanded Unified Field of consciousness. And evidently, I’m also This.

There comes a certain turning point in one’s practice of Vedic Meditation, where it becomes very clear I’m not just a human, a body that has a mind, and I get to just decide what I want to do with it.

Evidently, as a result of my practice every day, I’m The Universe. I’m a human being, not just a human doing. I am The Universe having a human experience. And my universality is my guiding sense of identity. My universality is my sense of Self, my sense of Being.

[27:30] Longevity is a Fatal Condition

Now, as one continues to practice, one is entering into from regular waking consciousness of everyday, ordinary, average life one is entering into Cosmic Consciousness.

Cosmic Consciousness is that state of consciousness of knowing, on no uncertain terms, I am The Universe, and I’m living in a human existence. I am The Universe with an individual human body, intellect, mind, and all the rest. I am The Universe, first and foremost, and my individuality is an agent of progressive change. I am the means whereby change will occur.

Now, this is really making maximum use of the time that we have in a body. And getting back to Yudhishthira’s answer to the question, when we look around, it is wondrous, and very strange, that although everyone on earth is confronted with the same reality. That reality is, evidently, the death toll on earth is 100%, so far.

 I’m fond of saying longevity is a fatal condition. You might live to be 130, which would be Guinness Book of Records territory, but then you die.

You might live to be 500 years as it is rumored that Rabbi Moses, Rabbi Moses from the Judeo-Christian Bible, is rumored to have lived around that much time, but then you die.

Or perhaps you’re like Methuselah from the same group of texts and who evidently acquired to attain to some 800 years, and then you die.

And so the point I’m making about longevity is that however long we live, Yudhishthira points out, we are nonetheless hurtling towards death. And yet we behave as though it’s never going to happen.

[29:57] Make Great Priorities in Life

And so the kinds of things on which we spend our time, this calls into and asks us to highlight on what, what are our priorities?

What’s our first priority? Maximum time of life we should spend on that. What’s our second priority? Less time than that, we spend on that. Third priority, and so on.

Rather than making great priorities out of life, most of us simply watch while all around us, people, and that must also include us, are hurtling toward the end of body life.

At which point, whatever is the truth about your existence here on the earth will have to be confronted by you.

And so then, the Vedic worldview is a compelling view. It compels us to really make hay while the sun shines. While we have the potential for the gaining of enlightenment, we need to be engaged in that process in a really thoroughgoing fashion.

If we haven’t yet practiced Vedic Meditation, then find a teacher in good standing. Look at my website, and you’ll see a list of teachers, in different places all over the world, from whom you can learn this practice that comes down from that ancient tradition, which also spawned the Mahabharata story of Yudhishthira at the lake.

 Learn Vedic Meditation. If you’ve learned it already, be sure you’re practicing it twice every day, non-negotiably.

[31:48] Living in Heaven-on-Earth Status

Also, be sure that from time to time, at the soonest, once each year of regular twice-a-day practice, you’re eligible to learn an advanced technique that will allow your mind essentially to hasten the experience of your individuality having a cosmic basis. It’ll hasten the growth to Cosmic Consciousness.

Take all the courses you can possibly take that are available online in Vedic Meditation. More knowledge courses, knowledge programs. Mentor Circle, which is part of my offering, you can see on my website.

Become a knowledgeable, highly experienced person. Don’t just let days and nights pass irresistibly while the body is hurtling towards death. We want to live as many years as possible while the body is still alive in that heaven-on-earth status, with our consciousness in that heavenly expanded-awareness status, though our bodies are naturally connected to the earth and living on earth.

Living the unboundedness in the boundaries, this is the greatest joy, the greatest experience that can be had by a human.

 The fact that almost everyone in the world ignores this was the great wondrous thing to which Yudhishthira referred in his answer to the Nature spirit. Jai Guru Deva.

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