- Brahmaratha’s Penance Bore Fruit
- From Home to Gurukula
- At The Gurukula
- Holy Water to Cure King’s Disease
- What a Wonder!
- ‘Leave the Ashram at Once’
- Education Continued
- At Uddalaka’s Ashram
- Mother Gayatri’s Vision and Grace
- Home again from Gurukula
- The Vow of Aditya
- Aditya’s Grace, the Great Gift
- The Great Works
- Chancellor Yajnavalkya
- Maitreyi’s Request Fulfilled
- Take the Cows to our Ashram
- The Crown of Sarvajna
- Departed from the World
- The Greatness of his Life, the Light of his Message
- Yajnavalkya Smriti
A Brahmarshi. The mastermind that produced ‘Shukla Yajurveda’. Even as a student in the Gurukula he firmly stuck to the path he considered as the right one. He was the master who guided thousands of persons, from king Janaka to the commonest students, on the path of Enlightenment. So brilliant a genius was he who vanquished all the scholars of his times in argument, won the title of Sarvajna and was elevated to the high seat of learning.
Maharshi Yajnavalkya, who disseminated the light of Vedic wisdom for the welfare of mankind, was a glorious personage. It was this revered Maharshi who, being blessed by Bhagavan Suryanarayana (the sun god), became a seer of Yajurvedic Mantras and gave them to the world in the form of Shukla Yajurveda.
Brahmaratha’s Penance Bore Fruit
Sage Brahmaratha was the father and Sunanda Devi was the mother of Yajnavalkya. Brahmaratha was a devout man who practiced what he preached. He was a great scholar and had great faith in religious rites and rituals like Yajna and Yaga. He used to worship Yajneshwara (Agni the god of fire). Brahmaratha was also called Yajnavalka or Devaratha.
This couple had no children. So they went on offering prayer to god through many religious vows and fasts that they might be blessed with a son. If one tries to attain peace and happiness through performing rituals like yajna and yaga that is called the path of Karma.
Brahmaratha had not so much knowledge or interest in the Jnana aspect of the Vedas as he had in their Karma (ritualistic) aspect. What is the mystery behind this world, this body, the life, the birth, and death? Is there an eternal Joy beyond these? These are the questions, which the Jnana aspect of the Vedas answer in detail. Brahma means the Supreme. Nothing is greater than that. It pervades the entire universe. It is eternal.
The knowledge, which turns our attention to this and teaches us how to realize it is alone the true knowledge, called Brahmavidya. Those who have mastered and assimilated this knowledge are Brahmarshis like Veda Vyasa. The Vedas deal with both the path of Karma or action and the path of Jnana or knowledge.
There was a need for a great scholar who could interpret these concepts in simple words to enable the common people to understand. It was at this time that Brahmaratha was engaged in penance to get a son by divine grace. The penance bore fruit. A sweet-looking baby son was born to him on the seventh day of the month of Kartika at an auspicious time.
This baby born of Brahmaratha who regularly worshipped the god of fire through yajnas and yagas had divine radiance like Yajneshwara. The baby was named Yajnavalkya.
From Home to Gurukula
Yajnavalkya grew up. He was taught the alphabet. Mother Sunanda Devi used to tell the boy many moral stories. Now and then she would give him bits of good advice. The little boy used to watch with devotion the rituals such as Homa performed by his father while worshipping the god of fire. He also would offer with devotion his salutations to Yajneshwara like his parents.
Sometimes he would ask his mother, “Amma, I wish to see the gods. Is it possible for me to see them?” The mother would say hugging him affectionately to her bosom,
“Yajnavalkya, dear, perhaps anything is possible for you. May it be so. I wish that and bless you.”
Sometimes the boy would put many questions to his father also enquiring about Homa and the gods. The parents were happy about the child’s development.
The boy was initiated into Brahmin hood at the appropriate age. Yajnavalkya received the great Gayatri Mantra (read about Sandhyavandanam here) from his father. He was to be sent to a Gurukula for further education.
Maharshi Vaishampayana was the disciple of the great sage, Bhagavan Vedavyasa. He was a renowned Vedic scholar and an authority on Yajurveda. He was Yajnavalkya’s maternal uncle also. The uncle and the nephew were very fond and proud of each other. Yajnavalkya was sent to Gurukula run by this uncle for his education.
At The Gurukula
Yajnavalkya was mentally sharp and learned the lessons rapidly. He won the love and admiration of everybody in the Ashram, within a few days.
He became the favorite of the Acharya at Gurukula. He was extraordinarily well versed in the study of Yajurveda. He was engaged in Vedic studies and was also observing strict celibacy. So his body and mind had acquired a unique divine radiance. Radiant as he was, the boy gained an added luster like purified gold.
Once Vaishampayana, the guru, fell seriously ill. Charaka, Adhwarya, and other pupils decided to observe a vow to cure their guru of his illness. Yajnavalkya came to know of this.
He went and stood before his guru. He said,
“Revered Sir, what is the use of this simple vow?
I think a more rigorous vow than this is necessary to cure you of this illness. If you would kindly permit, I shall do it and bring relief to you.” These words of Yajnavalkya displeased the master. He said curtly:
“Charaka and Adhwarya are my senior pupils. I wish you had not spoken disparagingly of the vow they want to undertake. There is no need for your vow to cure my illness.”
Yajnavalkya did not argue. He left the place to attend to his business.
Holy Water to Cure King’s Disease
There was a city called Vardhamanapura near Vaishampayana ashram. Supriya was its ruler.
Vaishampayana was the king’s master as well as a royal preceptor. Once the king fell seriously ill owing to his immoral life. Several physicians tried various treatments but to no avail. At last, the king approached Vaishampayana for help to get rid of his disease. The master began to perform a Homa, offering special prayer and worship at the ashram as prescribed in the scriptures.
Every day after these rituals Tirtha (holy water) was sent to the king. Thus a few days passed.
There was some improvement in the condition of the king. Yet the king did not seem to have faith in the efficacy of Tirtha sent by the Guru.
So he was taking it half-heartedly.
One day it was Yajnavalkya’s turn to go to the palace. He went to the palace and very eagerly and earnestly walked up to the king to give him Tirtha and Prasada. But then the king treated him with indifference. He showed no enthusiasm to take them. Yajnavalkya felt offended.
“O King,” said he, “if you have no faith in these holy things, why should we come all the way from our ashram to give them to you every day?”
“If you think that the Tirtha and Prasada have such potency, you may show it,” said the king arrogantly. Yajnavalkya, without saying a word, chanted immediately a mantra and sprinkled the holy water on a nearby wooden pole.
What a Wonder!
Yajnavalkya walked out of the palace without looking back and went straight to his Gurukula (read about Guru Poornima Speeches here).
Meanwhile, as an effect of the Tirtha, the wooden pole of the palace sprouted. In another moment flowers and fruit appeared on it. Seeing this, the king and all his people were stunned. The king’s arrogance and scorn were gone. He immediately sent his messengers to Vaishampayana ashram.
They conveyed the request of the king to the Maharshi that Yajnavalkya might kindly bring again the Tirtha and Prasada to his palace.
Yajnavalkya, by that time, had reported everything that had happened in the palace to his guru. On hearing this, the master was upset. He felt that Yajnavalkya had behaved hastily; he was worried about how to set it rights. It was just at that moment that the king’s messengers had come and conveyed the request of the king. It was a big relief to the master.
‘Leave the Ashram at Once’
Vaishampayana called forth Yajnavalkya,
“Your behavior might have annoyed the king. You are likely to be punished too. Go again to the palace and give Tirtha and Prasada to the king. You may be pardoned and I will also be happy.”
But this advice was not acceptable to Yajnavalkya.
“I am not prepared to go and give Tirtha and Prasada to the king who has such disregard towards sages,”
he said decisively. In addition to this, he also said, “I feel it is not good for anybody to cure the king who is wicked and immoral.”
Hearing these words, the master became angry. His anger grew to an enormous degree as he went on thinking about this impertinence because of his nephew and more than that his favorite pupil had insulted him by disobeying his orders. His voice became hoarse.
“So you mean to go against my word! By refusing to obey me you have insulted me. You are no longer fit to be my pupil. Go away from here this moment. But mark this, before leaving the ashram you should give back all the Vedic knowledge I have imparted to you so far,”
ordered the master harshly.
Instantly Yajnavalkya vomited all the mantras of Yajurveda he had learned from the master. As a result of this, he lost the radiance of his body.
Yajnavalkya bowed to his master and left the Gurukula with a mind heavy with worries about his future course of action. “Truly I have not done anything wrong. All right, it is all for the good,” said he to himself as his conscience was clear and the lamp of hope continued to shine brightly.
Yajnavalkya came home. He told his parents in detail about the incident at the Gurukula. They became worried.
Yajnavalkya had been administered the Gayatri mantra at the time of wearing the sacred thread.
He had been repeating it every day with faith.
He had firmly believed that if he sought refuge in Mother Gayatri, the originator of all the Vedas, the path would be clear to him to take the next step. By that faith, he began to spend most of the time during the day chanting the Gayatri mantra.
His parents began to worry and think about the plans for their son’s education. At last, they sent their son to the ashram of Bashkala, the disciple of sage Paila, to join there as a student. Yajnavalkya learned Rigveda from his master there. Then he learned Samaveda at the feet of Acharya Hiranyanabha in the kingdom of Kosala.
He learned Atharvaveda from Acharya Aruni. After this, he went to the ashram of sage Uddalaka to learn and get trained in the performance of various religious rites and rituals.
At Uddalaka’s Ashram
Sage Uddalaka recognized that Yajnavalkya was a great person who had come to this world with the great mission of holding aloft the divine light of Jnana. He took Yajnavalkya into his guru Kula with a heart filled with love and joy.
You know that Yajnavalkya had lost the knowledge of Yajurveda which he had gained earlier.
The pain of it had remained fresh in his heart. He had become almost proficient in Vedic studies, no doubt. But how could the education be complete without a thorough study of Yajurveda?
Therefore he tried to regain the knowledge of Yajurveda which he had lost. During his stay in the ashram, he engaged himself in more intense meditation doing more and more Japa of Gayatri mantra, for Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas. He observed severe austerities and rigorous vows.
Mother Gayatri’s Vision and Grace
The special vow that Yajnavalkya had been observing to earn the Grace of Gayatri was fruitful. Goddess Gayatri appeared before him.
Yajnavalkya prayed, “O Mother, kindly grant me the knowledge of Yajurveda to complete my Vedic studies.” Goddess Gayatri smiled and said,
“My child Yajnavalkya you have to pray to Sun god to get this wish of yours fulfilled. He will teach you Yajurveda.” She then blessed him and disappeared.
As a result of the grace and blessings of goddess Gayatri, Yajnavalkya’s body and mind began to throb with new vitality. He became aware of the presence of various divine powers immanent in a subtle form in different parts of the body.
He had yet many great things to do. Yajnavalkya gained a special ecstatic joy and soul force by the divine vision of gods and goddesses.
Home again from Gurukula
As days passed by Yajnavalkya was more and more engaged in religious vows and fasts. The master observed this. The parents were informed of this. Their wish and expectation were that Yajnavalkya should become a householder to maintain the tradition of the family in all the religious customs and observances, performing yajnas and Yagas and other rituals.
He should not renounce the family life and take to ascetic life with his mind fixed on Brahman, the Supreme Reality. They decided to celebrate his marriage with a suitable bride. Sage Uddalaka wanted to keep Yajnavalkya in the Gurukula for some more time. But wise and far-sighted as he was, he realized that it was good for Yajnavalkya to leave the Gurukula immediately and become a householder.
The day when Yajnavalkya was to leave the ashram came. Sage Uddalaka, his wife, and other pupils with great love and good wishes bade farewell to Yajnavalkya. The Acharya advised him affectionately,
“Speak only the truth. Lead a righteous life. May the mother be treated as God? May the father be treated as God? May the teacher be treated as God? May the guest be treated as God? Whatever good qualities are found in us, May they be developed and not others.”
These words continued to ring in the mind of Yajnavalkya for a long time.
Yajnavalkya agreed to marry, not because he liked to lead a life of mundane interests such as wife, children, and property. In his view marriage is a spiritual process that helps the fulfillment of an ideal and the attainment of everlasting happiness. He had already been blessed with the vision of Goddess Gayatri, the mother of the Vedas. And now he was to have the vision of Aditya Narayana. He had resolved to undertake shortly the vow of Aditya Narayana.
Sage Kadira was a close and intimate friend of Brahmaratha and his family. He had a daughter by name Katyayani. All the elders concluded that she would be a suitable bride to Yajnavalkya. Katyayani was only a ten-year-old girl then.
Maharshi Vaishampayana too along with his wife attended the wedding of Yajnavalkya and Katyayani. The newly wedded couple made obeisance to them and sought their blessings.
They had completely forgotten their anger. They gladly blessed the couple saying, “May you have all the best in life. May you be protected always by the grace of all gods and goddesses”
The Vow of Aditya
Though Katyayani was far younger than Yajnavalkya, yet in speech, in behavior, and all respects she proved herself a worthy wife to him.
Yajnavalkya began to observe all the rites connected with the vow of Suryanarayana very scrupulously. He used to get up long before sunrise at the auspicious time of Brahmin. After finishing the ablutions and obligatory duties, fasting throughout he would sit in his abode engaged in meditation and Japa of Surya-mantra tilL afternoon.
Then he would worship the Sun god and make an offering of paayasaanna. That Prasada of Paayasaanna was all that Yajnavalkya and Katyayani would take as their food for the whole day.
Aditya’s Grace, the Great Gift
Days passed by one after another. Yajnavalkya progressed steadily stage by stage on the path of his penance. As he sat in meditation unique effulgence would surround him.
One morning as usual Yajnavalkya was absorbed in meditation and Japa of Surya-mantra. He experienced a greater ecstasy than ever in his meditation. Radiance emanated from his body and filled the whole cottage. He saw an unusual mass of bright light coming from the Sun and flowing towards him. There was that divine effulgence flooding overall both inside and outside. He continued his meditation.
A great mass of powerfully resplendent light burst forth from the Sun and came towards him.
Yajnavalkya opened his eyes. That mass of dazzling brightness took the form of a horse of the most attractive red color. That horse came neighing and stood before Yajnavalkya. Overwhelmed with joy, Yajnavalkya did not know what to say.
He only repeated the mantra of Suryadeva. The divine horse said, “Yajnavalkya, I am pleased with your penance. Tell me what you want.” Yajnavalkya realized that the divine horse standing before him was no other than Sun-god himself.
He offered his salutations and prayed, “Please grant me such knowledge of Yajurveda as known to none so far.” Then that divine horse vanished into the mass of bright light. In a winking time, there appeared Sun god whom Yajnavalkya could see in human form with the full splendor of his bright radiance wearing a crown and other ornaments of divinity.
Yajnavalkya again made obeisance to him repeating the Aditya-mantra. Then Surya deva said, “Yajnavalkya, your body has not yet got the purity and strength enough to receive from me and Comprehend Vedic knowledge. Therefore first I shall make the goddess Saraswati enter your body in the form of energy. Open your mouth.” Thus Saraswati entered the body and mind of Yajnavalkya as energy through his mouth.
Consequently, great heat was produced in his entire body. Even as he was suffering from this extreme heat Suryadeva said comfortingly,
“Bear this suffering for a short while. Your body and mind thereby will get purified. Then you will have sufficient stamina to grasp and retain Vedic knowledge. In a few minutes, Yajnavalkya’s physical suffering subsided. A strange joy ran through his body. The Sun god blessed him and again merged into the mass of light.
Yajnavalkya stood gazing at that light. Veda Mantras (Incantations) shining attractively in that mass of light was visible to him. He closed his eyes and saw them shining in the same way in the innermost center of his heart. There was a flood of light everywhere!
Amid that light here and there was the glow of those fine Mantras. Alongside was heard the soft and sweet, blissful, and divine sound of those Mantras coupled with Omkara! This mystical experience of bliss-filled and overflowed the body, mind, and soul, may the entire being of Yajnavalkya.
After this, the vision changed. Again the same luminous horse of red hue stood neighing in front of Yajnavalkya. As it neighed a divine radiance was emanating from its mouth! In that radiance, the Mantras appeared in shimmering letters for a moment and merged into that mass of light.
Even as Yajnavalkya stood looking intently at that divine horse, in no time it got merged in that mass of light.
This magnificent vision-enabled Yajnavalkya to attain the fulfillment of his vow. He became a Seer blessed with the vision of Mantras, a Maharshi, and also Brahmas possessing divine knowledge.
The Great Works
Yajnavalkya resolved to write down his divine experiences and visions of Vedic truths, in the form of books. Thus the great book ‘Shukla Yajurveda’ took shape in his blessed hands. The subject matter of Karma and Jnana has been elaborately explained in that book.
The two Upanishads Ishavasya and Brihadaranyaka which contain significant thoughts on the Soul and Divine life, similarly seventeen other Upanishads and ‘Shuklas’ were all included in the making of the volumes of that Magnum Opus ‘Yajurveda’.
Yajnavalkya’s fame spread over many countries.
Sage Uddalaka, one of the teachers of Yajnavalkya, became very old. He was no longer able to manage the affairs of the ashram as its chancellor. The office of the chancellor is one of the huge responsibility. A chancellor should be an eminent scholar and a good teacher. He should look after his pupils as his children.
Uddalaka considered Yajnavalkya as the best-qualified person to become the chancellor. Accordingly, Yajnavalkya was made the chancellor of the Gurukula run by Uddalaka. As the prestige and reputation of this Ashram grew remarkably with the arrival of Yajnavalkya as its Chancellor, a large number of students came to join this Gurukula.
The enlightening lectures and discourses on Vedic studies delivered by Yajnavalkya, out of his profound and divine scholarship, proved an illumination of great fortune to the students.
The fame of Yajnavalkya spread in all directions. Janaka, the emperor of Videha, was eager to meet him and receive initiation from him.
Janaka was a very religious man as well as a great scholar. All the inmates of the ashram resolved at a meeting to conduct a conference of scholars at the time of Janaka’s visit to the ashram and arrange for the recitation of and discourse on ‘Shukla Yajurveda’ written by Yajnavalkya.
Accordingly, all the necessary preparations were made.
Sages and scholars from different places came in large numbers. Maharaja Janaka arrived at the right time. The conference began. The Shukla Yajurveda was recited and discussed. Yajnavalkya explained the Vedic mantras wherever it was necessary. There were discussions and exchange of ideas on those Vedic mantras. Thus the conference went on for a few days and was over.
Only philosophers of tremendous scholarship participated in the discussion during sessions.
One among them was Gargi, daughter of a sage.
She led a life of celibacy. Similarly, there was one other maiden of a hermitage who participated in the deliberations of the meeting. She was Maitreyi. After the recitation of the Vedas, the entire galaxy of scholars assembled there glorified Yajnavalkya.
The august body of scholars accepted Shukla Yajurveda, the sacred Vedic text, with great pride and pleasure. Maharshi Yajnavalkya was honored as Brahmarshi.
Maitreyi’s Request Fulfilled
For quite a long time Maitreyi had cherished a desire in her heart to live with Yajnavalkya as his disciple and a spiritual companion to do sadhana and realize Brahman. But she knew that if she were to live in companionship with Maharshi, people might talk scandalizing them. She did not want to marry. She was not after the pleasures of having children, property, or money.
Yajnavalkya was already married. That he would not take another wife was also known to her.
She decided after a good deal of thinking. She went straight to Katyayani Devi.
“Dear sister, I have a problem which can be solved only by you,” she said.
“What is it Maitreyi, please tell me,” Maitreyi told Katyayani about her wish to live with Yajnavalkya as his companion to get his help in her intellectual and spiritual pursuits.
“I shall be your younger sister and stay in your home observing celibacy. Please do favor me by your consent.”
Katyayani gladly gave her consent. Then Maitreyi met Yajnavalkya, expressed her desire, and requested him to take her. He only said, “Katyayani’s decision alone is final.” Just at that time, Katyayani walked in. She looked at the face of Maitreyi with a smile of consent, which answered the question of Yajnavalkya.
“O, my dear, dear sister! You are indeed a goddess,” exclaimed Maitreyi doing obeisance to her. Katyayani and Maitreyi together bowed down to the feet of Maharshi Yajnavalkya and expressed their reverence by addressing him ‘Bhagavan’. Maitreyi became his spiritual companion.
Take the Cows to our Ashram
King Janaka made arrangements for a Jnana Yaga (a philosophical treat) setting a rich award.
Great sages and scholars from various places were invited to participate in it. There would be discussion and exchange of thoughts on matters about spiritual life supported by their knowledge and experience of Vedic truths. He who would prove himself the greatest among them would receive the highest honor and a celebrated award.
These were the main purpose and procedure of that type planned by Maharaja Janaka. Only those who could participate in the discussion on spiritual subjects like the soul and the God, birth, and death, etc. and interpret the meaning of great Vedic texts with the help of their own spiritual experience could be deemed as Brahmanishtas (those established in the Brahman State).
Who among the assembled scholars was the greatest Brahmanishta? This was to be decided at the conference. It was announced that such a person would be honored at the end of that Maha Jnana Yaga by ceremonially placing the crown of Sarvajna (the omniscient) on his head. Invitations were sent to sages arid eminent scholars of far-off countries. Yajnavalkya also got invitations of honor from Janaka.
Sages and scholars and spiritual women, the seekers of Brahman from countries far and near came to the capital of Janaka’s kingdom to attend the Jnana Yaga. Maharshi Yajnavalkya arrived with his disciples. Most conspicuous was the divine radiance of this Maharshi in the assembly.
Maharaja Janaka accorded a reverential welcome to all those assembled. He then proclaimed in the assembly,
“Subjects of metaphysical nature like Brahman, the divine life and path to God-realization will be discussed in the course of this conference, to decide who the greatest Brahmanishta is. We will elect him to the chair of Sarvajna and offer him the crown of Sarvajna. One thousand cows decorated with golden medallions are kept ready in the nearby cowshed. The greatest spiritual master in the assembly may take them home.”
There was a solemn silence for a while.
Yajnavalkya stood up. Casting his eyes on his disciple seated close by, he ordered in a bold and dignified voice, “Samashrava, go and take those decorated cows to our ashram.” All those assembled there were taken aback.
They looked intently at Yajnavalkya.
Then Aswala, the royal preceptor, said, “So you are the Brahmanishta among us. Aren’t you sir?” Yajnavalkya said, “I bow down to the one who is established in the Brahman State.”
“Then why do you order your pupil to take the cows home?” asked Aswala.
“Because we need them.”
“But the cows are meant for one who is established in the Brahman State. By commanding your pupil to take them to your ashram, you have suggested that you are one such.
That means an open invitation to anyone to question you. You will have to satisfy them with your answers,” said the court preceptor. To this Yajnavalkya nodded his assent, saying, “Welcome. Questions on Brahman may be put.”
The Crown of Sarvajna
There were many eminent persons of astounding scholarship present at the great seminar.
There was a heavy downpour of questions on Yajnavalkya. Pat came to his answer, with confidence and competence in every question. What is it that enables one to become free from death?
What is the soul? What pervades this perceptible world and the sky? Such and a wide variety of questions were put by the scholars one after another. The lady philosopher Gargi also put several questions.
“Mind alone is the means of obtaining salvation. The mind is Brahman. He who is present in all beings and is within every being, whom all creatures cannot comprehend and to whom the body is all beings; He who dwelling within regulates all beings, is the indweller, the immortal Soul.
This entire perceptible world, the sky, and everything is filled with the immutable, that is to say, the indestructible Supreme Soul. Until one realizes this one cannot escape from the misery and suffering of birth and death. When one is aware of the imperishable, the Soul Supreme, one is called Brahmajnani or Brahmanishta (one established in the Brahman) and he is liberated from the painful chains of birth and death,” said Yajnavalkya speaking from his realization of Vedic truths.
His replies flowed into the hearts and minds of all the listeners like sacred Jnana-Ganga (the holy stream of supreme wisdom). The persons who had put the questions would sit down satisfied with the answers saying, “We bow down to the Brahmarshi.”
All the participants of the Jnanayaga praised Yajnavalkya as Sarvajna, the Brahmanishta, and honored him. Loud cheers were heard in the assembly. Then king Janaka stood up and sought the permission of the august body to declare Yajnavalkya elected to the chair of Sarvajna. The assembly readily acclaimed it. Maharaja Janaka ceremoniously offered the crown of Sarvajna to Brahmarshi Yajnavalkya and bowed to his feet.
King Janaka used to meet Yajnavalkya now and then to listen to his divine sermons. After some time one day, he requested Yajnavalkya,
“Revered Sir, would you please take me as your disciple and accept the offering of all that is mine, my kingdom, and my wealth?”
Yajnavalkya, the embodiment of renunciation, said smilingly,
“I want none of them.” All the same, he gave initiation to Janaka and made him his disciple.
Yajnavalkya led a divine life. He was loved and respected by everybody from all quarters. He imparted Vedic knowledge to many students. He preached them some maxims helpful in every-day life so that their mode of living conformed to the norms of Dharma. Over time, a collection of these practical hints for religious life became famous as “Yajnavalkya Smriti” (The Code of Yajnavalkya).
Departed from the World
Gradually Yajnavalkya began to feel, “Enough of this material life of the world.” He decided to lead the life of a recluse in the woods spending all his time in the contemplation on Brahman. He confided this wish to his two wives. All his worldly possessions were equally divided between them.
Katyayani Devi took her share as her husband’s gracious gift and remained in the ashram as its holy mother. Maitreyi Devi said, “I don’t want any of these things. I want only self-realization and have no use for these material possessions.”
Yajnavalkya got ready to leave for the woods.
Katyayani made obeisance to him and kneeling with bowed head she prayed to him to bless her. “May your contemplation on Brahman be fruitful? May you have salvation soon,” said Yajnavalkya blessing her. He put on her forehead the auspicious kumkum dot as a mark of his blessings. Then he proceeded to the Himalayas for doing penance. Maitreyi also accompanied him as an ascetic after doing obeisance to Katyayani Devi and taking leave of her.
Both of them were doing penance at the foot of the Himalayas. Maitreyi one day passed away.
A few days later, Yajnavalkya also passed away from this world and merged into the state of Brahman through his deep meditation.
The Greatness of his Life, the Light of his Message
Yajnavalkya became a great man of divine glory by giving Shukla Yajurveda to the world.
Since it was the treasure of knowledge obtained during daylight from God, it was called Shukla Yajurveda. Since the Sun god appeared in the form of a horse and granted this Vedic knowledge, it is also called Yajasaneya Samhita (the sacred collection of divine wisdom coming from the God in Horse form).
We see in the life of Yajnavalkya outstanding qualities like truthfulness, self-confidence, venturing and enterprising spirit, and the power of penance and its fruits. His life is a glowing illustration of the great height to which an individual can rise by dint of devotion to God and self-effort, and how by such an elevation great things can be achieved.
We are not made of just flesh and blood and bones. We are the immortal soul. If it is revealed by proper efforts, our life becomes pleasant, holy, and good. The life of Yajnavalkya illustrates this.
The entire world is pervaded by God. Having been born in this world, we must do all that we do with a sense of dedication to God. That is a sacrifice. We should like to live in this world for a hundred years doing our duties in this spirit. This divine message of the Vedas has been conveyed by Yajnavalkya through his Ishavasya, Upanishad.
Maharshi Yajnavalkya spread the light of the Vedas in the world for human welfare, as a seer and as a glorious man of great stature. He is really a holy man worthy of being remembered first in the morning.
This is one of the most revered works of Sage Yajnavalkya and some say that this appears to have written after a millennium after Yajnavalkya’s life. It is out of respect to the sage that the person who has written has attributed to the sage.
Yajnavalkya Smriti is written in Classical Sanskrit Language that was prevalent in the time period it was written. In around 300 CE this classical text Yajnavalkya Smriti was written in Mithila Region of historic India, i.e. around modern Bihar where the great Nalanda university stands.
It is written in poetic style and has three Kandas.
- Achara Kanda with 368 verses (proper conduct)
- Vyavajara Kanda with 307 verses (criminal law)
- Prayaschitta Kanda with 335 verses (expiation)
forming a total of 1010 shlokas.
When the Mithila sages want a simpler explanation of dharma, it is said that they visit sage Yajnavalkya and ask him to explain to them this. Explaining them, Sage Yajnavalkya begins by mentioning the ancient scholars that were involved in writing Dharma Shastra like: