One day, Dharma himself came in disguise and asked his son, “What is the highest Dharma in the world?

What can be the answer? We might have expected to hear “Truth” or “Forgiveness” or “Kindness” as these are the most well-known virtues. But the son of Dharma does not give a conventional answer. He utters a word we have never thought, “Aanrishamsya.”

Why Aanrishamsya? What is this Aanrishamsya? We must pay a special attention to this word since the question was on Dharma, asked by Dharma himself and answered by Dharmaraj Yudhishthir. We know nrisamsya means cruelty.

In Sanskrit ‘Aa‘ means ‘no‘, so Aanrishamsya is ‘non-cruelty‘, so in brief, not being cruel to anybody is Aanrishamsya. But it is only the literal meaning. Yudhishthir had used the word Aanrishamsya in a broader sense. For a humanist like Yudhishthir, nrisamsya is not only harming someone physically or economically.

Yudhishthir also cares for the human heart. Giving mental pain to someone or causing someone’s tears will also be counted as nrisamsya in his book. Hence his Aanrishamsya is refraining from causing sorrow in any creature’s life. Undoubtedly, this Aanrishamsya, if practiced properly, will make us care for others. It will easily make us prefer others’ need over ours’ own; it will make us seek others’ happiness. Thus Aanrishamsya will lead us to universal welfare. We are really grateful to Yudhishthir for teaching us such a sacred lesson of humanity.

Aanrishamsya is the Dharma of humanity, and hence it is the highest Dharma of all. Dharmaraj Yudhishthir himself was initiated to this Dharma. To him, Aanrishamsya is the fundamental Dharma which gives birth to all other virtues. Anything opposing to this fundamental Dharma would never be considered Dharma in his philosophy. He believed true Dharma protects creatures, does not harm them (Daharmo rakshati rakshitah). True Dharma gives life, does not destroy it. He had shown the greatest example of this by uttering that well-known half-lie during Kurukshetra war. Despite of being a worshipper of truth, he did not hesitate to leave his Satya Dharma, for the sake of protecting several lives. He had taught us that there is nothing greater than doing good to others, not even truth. That day only Lord Krishna had supported his viewpoint, since He too had taken His eighth incarnation to teach the same Dharma of humanity.

Dharmaraj was always in favor of Aanrishamsya, no matter what Dharma sankat he had to face. He had the rarest ability to think for everyone’s happiness in every situation. And his way of thinking was never like others as he never thought for his own good. His every word and action was only for welfare of others. In his own words, “Mercy is wishing for happiness of all,” “Charity is protecting all creatures.”

We have seen example of this charity when he kept protecting the Kauravas from his brothers’ wrath, guarding them with his forgiveness. We have seen his mercy when he remembered Dusshala and Gandhari before punishing Jayadrath. Despite of his heinous crime, Yudhishthir did not let Jayadrath die only to save his cousin sister from immense grief. This is the true mercy, which did not let him forget enemy’s wife even in a situation when his own wife was almost abducted by that enemy.

After Yudhishthir answered to all of Yaksha’s questions correctly, the Yaksha asked him to choose any one of his four brothers whose life would be saved. When he chose Nakul, even Yaksha could not hide his surprise.

Why Nakul was preferred over Bheem or Arjun?

Yudhishthir replied, “Because I prefer Aanrishamsya.”

He could not be cruel to Madri by letting both her sons die. Bheem was his favourite brother and Arjun was helpful like his right hand, still he could not pray for their lives as he felt it would be a great injustice to his dead mother. Reaching this phase of the Epic where everybody has forgotten Madri, Yudhishthir proved that he did not forget his younger mother. Rather he cared for her so much that he was ready to sacrifice Bheem and Arjun only to make her soul happy. Undoubtedly here Dharmaraj shows us the height of his Aanrishamsya. He proved that his answer “Aanrishamsya is the highest Dharma” was not useless words, it was the philosophy of his life. He had the power of supporting the Dharma of humanity ignoring his personal profit.

Interestingly, whenever Dharma tested Yudhishthir, he had to pass the test by uplifting Aanrishamsya only. We know at the end of the Epic, when his brothers and Draupadi were already dead, a dog was following Yudhishthir to the doorstep of Heaven. Dogs used to be treated most impious creature in that era. The Gods would not accept the offerings even if they were seen by a dog. So it was quite natural for Indra, the King of Gods, not to allow Yudhishthir to enter Heaven with a dog. Any ordinary person, under this situation, would just forget the dog and enter Heaven. But Yudhishthir was not ordinary. He was Dharmaraj, and his Dharma was Aanrishamsya which would not allow him to be merciless even to the most hated animal of his time.

Calmly but firmly he declared in front of Indra that he would not abandon the dog till his last breath. He knew that even the enjoyment of Heaven would fail to make him happy if the helpless dog was in pain. Dharma, who was testing his son in disguise of the dog, proudly noticed that in Yudhishthir’s Dharma there was no discrimination between human and animal, his love and compassion were for every creature of universe.

Even in Dharma’s third as well as the final test, Dharmaraj sacrificed the everlasting pleasure of Heaven he had earned by his good Karma and accepted an intolerable suffering of hell, only to make his loved ones happy.

After this, the proud father admitted, “I’m pleased with your devotion to me (Dharma), truthfulness, forgiveness and self-restraint. You are incapable of being swerved from Dharma.” 

While answering Yaksha’s questions, Yudhishthir said that Aanrishamsya was Paramaartha for him. Paramaartha, which means ‘higher than highest things or ideals’. This single word speaks volume, clearly pointing to the esteemed position he had held for humanity.

In Mahabharat’s era, Aaryavarta was under a misconception that Dharma is found only in scriptures and rituals but not in universal welfare. The people of Aaryavarta used to prefer their personal Dharma over the universal one, forgetting that compassion is the root of true Dharma. No one was there to care for the Dharma of humanity. In this situation, Lord Krishna appeared on earth to teach the true meaning of Dharma. His aim was Dharma Sansthaapan, in other word which is to re-establish the humanity that was lost from that society. And for that purpose a righteous King was required….a King who would prefer Aanrishamsya over his personal pleasure, profit and even personal Dharma. The Lord identified that King in Yudhishthir, and hence He was ready to do anything to make him sit on Aaryavarta’s throne.

Nowadays Dharmaraj’s Dharma is misinterpreted and overlooked. Today we are more interested to find out his mistakes from each and every line of the Epic rather than learning the sacred lesson of humanity from him. But in this way we are making a big mistake. In this present Kaliyug Dharma is dying due to lack of Aanrishamsya.

People of this era have forgotten the Dharma of humanity. In the selfishness of present society only Yudhishthir’s selfless Dharma can show us the righteous path. Only following his ideals can help us to make this world beautiful. If we fail to do this, reading of Mahabharat will never be able to do any good to us.

Post Author: Semanti Chakraborty

An ardent lover of India's adored epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

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