Yajnavalkya was one of the most prominent scholar and rishi of his time. He is often known for the famous philosophical debate held in the court of king Janaka where he answered all the questions posed to him and emerged out as victorious. Yajnavalkya had two wives – Maitreyi and Katyayani. Once he decided to renounce the household life and taking sannyasa. He called out both of his wives and intended to arrange a division of property so that no rift ensues after that. When the idea of property arose, immediately it appeared to have stirred up a brainwave in the mind of Maitreyi. She asked her husband, ‘You propose to divide the property between the two of us here, so that we may be comfortable and happy. But is it really possible for us to be happy, ultimately, through property and possessions? Is it possible to be perpetually happy by possession of material comfort and property?”
Yajnavalkya replied, ‘No.’
‘With possessions man can only attain the pleasures that one may derive from them but there are things even beyond that which cannot be attained by the property alone. Man can never attain immortality through something which is mortal and material for that only knowledge becomes the most soughtful thing.’
Maitreyi further asked, ‘I know one thing that no man renounces his possession and what pleases him if he isn’t attaining something greater than that, you talk about renouncing the whole world, everything, so what have you gained or you are going to attain, that you are leaving us alone with just material possessions. If indeed this whole earth girdled by the ocean and full of wealth be mine, shall I be immortal through that?’
“No. You can never be immortal through things like that, as, is the life of people of means filled with materials of enjoyment, so will your life be; but there is no hope, even in thought, of immortality through wealth.”
‘If that is so, then what shall be it of use to me which will not make me immortal and going to deplete one day? Tell me which you know, something which can provide me ultimate joy. You ask of renouncing our company as well so don’t you seek our love? Are you going to renounce that too?’
When Maitreyi asked this question, Yajnavalkya looked at her with compassion. She was indeed most intellectual woman of her age and that is why she was reasonable enough to know the truth.
Don’t you seek our love? Are you going to renounce that too?
Yajnavalkya spoke thus with tenderness and what he said is mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad along with the full conversation.
न वा अरे पत्युः कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति ।
न वा अरे जायायै कामाय जाया प्रिया भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय जाया प्रिया भवति ।
न वा अरे पूत्राणां कामाय पुत्राः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय पुत्राः प्रिया भवन्ति ।
न वा अरे वित्तस्य कामाय वित्तं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय वित्तं प्रियं भवति ।
न वा अरे ब्रह्मणः कामाय ब्रह्म प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय ब्रह्म प्रियं भवति ।
न वा अरे क्षत्रस्य कामाय क्षत्रं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय क्षत्रं प्रियं भवति ।
न वा अरे लोकानां कामाय लोकाः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय लोकाः प्रिया भवन्ति ।
न वा अरे देवानां कामाय देवाः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय देवाः प्रिया भवन्ति ।
न वा अरे भूतानां कामाय भूतानि प्रियाणि भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय भूतानि प्रियाणि भवन्ति ।
न वा अरे सर्वस्य कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति ।
आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि,
आत्मनो वा अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम् ॥॥
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.5
He said: It is not for the sake of husband that he is loved by his wife but for one’s own sake he is loved. It is not for the sake of wife that she is loved by her husband but for one’s own sake she is loved. It is not for the sake of children that they are loved by their parents but for their own sake they are loved. It is not for the sake of the world it is loved but for one’s own sake it is loved. It is not for the sake of all, that all is loved but for one’s own sake that it is loved. I love all those things which give me joy because I love my self. And as I love my self this self itself is full of joy. The being is full of joy. Thy know this self. My dear, this self should be realized, – should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. By the realization of this Self, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known.
It is this Absolute Self, that, the scriptures proclaim to know about.
“अथातो ब्रह्म जिज्ञासा”
The first verse of Brahma Sutras begin with these words, ‘Thy know the self.’ What is that self like? It is different from this body and its various natures, it is free from all the contamination, it is pure, divine and full of bliss.
But is it possible to know the absolute self by just hearing, reflection and meditation alone? It is indeed very difficult to know it by any means but if we attain the grace of God and a bonafide spiritual master then it becomes easier to achieve that. Our scriptures constantly mentions it and Bhagwan Swaminarayan has himself talked about the glory and importance of a Satpurush for one’s liberation. Yogi ji Maharaj was once asked by devotees that, ‘Bapa Bharat ji was such a staunch devotee and highly knowledgeable but why did he lapse on his spiritual path and got fascinated by a fawn? And what about us then we are just mere simple servant devotees?’
Yogi Bapa said: He didn’t have guru. We have our guru Shastriji Maharaj with us so be free, there is nothing to worry about.
Truly, a bonafide spiritual master knows the way to self realization as he himself is a self-realized soul and can take others on that path. Along with that we must continuously do shravan (hearing), manan (reflection) and nidhidhyasana (meditation) on the internal self.
Listen to the audio version of the conversation between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi in Hindi:
Gaurav S Kaintura
14 May 2020
- The conversation of Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi on the Absolute Self: https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/brdup/brhad_II-04.html
- Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi: https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/the-brihadaranyaka-upanishad/d/doc117950.html
- The audio snippet is a part of Upanishad Ganga Series.