Formation of Yajurveda Shakas (यजुर्वेदशाख-अवतरणम्)

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Two Yajurveda shakas came into existence after Yajnavalkya maharshi dissociated from Rsi Vaisampayana's tutelage and learnt Yajurveda from Surya deva himself. We find at least two versions (mostly from two different kalpas) of how the two Yajurveda shakas came into being. It is widely known from many sources that Vaisampayana is the student of Maharshi Vedavyasa to whom the Yajus samhita has been entrusted for promulgation when he rearranged the Vedas into four parts.

Legend from Skanda Purana

Skanda Purana describes the anecdote from Brhat-kalpa, about Yajnavalkya's role in the formation of a shaka of Yajurveda after he refuses his Guru Shakalya's commands. Presented here are a few shlokas and the summary of the story from adhyaya 129 of the purana.[1]

आसीद्ब्राह्मणशार्दूलः शाकल्य इति विश्रुतः॥ भार्गवान्वयसंभूतो वेद वेदांगपारगः ॥ ५ ॥

āsīdbrāhmaṇaśārdūlaḥ śākalya iti viśrutaḥ॥ bhārgavānvayasaṁbhūto veda vedāṁgapāragaḥ ॥ 5 ॥

बृहत्कल्पे पुरा विप्रा वर्धमाने पुरोत्तमे ॥ बहुशिष्यसमायुक्तो वेदाध्ययनतत्परः ॥ ६ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.5-6)

br̥hatkalpe purā viprā vardhamāne purottame ॥ bahuśiṣyasamāyukto vedādhyayanatatparaḥ ॥ 6 ॥

Summary : Shakalya was great Brahmana, who mastered the Vedas and Vedangas. Formerly, in Brhat kalpa, in the city of Vardhamana ruled by Raja Supriya, there lived Shakalya always engrossed in veda adhyayan and vidya dana to a large number of students. An excellent preceptor, he was also well-known for conducting all the rites and yajnas efficiently. He served as the royal preceptor and purohita for the royal family. Having served Raja Supriya for a long time, Shakalya appointed a shishya for the purpose of conducting shanti rites (which protects the Raja and gives him prosperity) everyday in the royal palace. The disciple would conduct the procedures as instructed by Shakalya and offered the blessings (आशीर्वादं) to the Raja everyday. This continued for a long time.

शंभुना शप्तः ब्रह्मा ॥ Brahma Cursed by Shambhu

Brahma at the time of conducting the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, glances Parvati the bride with an evil intent in mind. Knowing this Shiva curses Brahma. Brahma was then born as Yajnvalkya. Shakalya engaged Yajnavalkya in the royal palace to perform the Shanti rites everyday.

तदा वैवाहिके काले शप्तो यः शंभुना स्वयम् ॥ सुनिंद्यां विकृतिं दृष्ट्वा तस्य वेद्यां गतस्य च ॥ १३ ॥

tadā vaivāhike kāle śapto yaḥ śaṁbhunā svayam ॥ suniṁdyāṁ vikr̥tiṁ dr̥ṣṭvā tasya vedyāṁ gatasya ca ॥ 13 ॥

सोऽपि तारुण्यगर्वेण वेश्याकरजविक्षतः ॥ सर्वांगेषु सुनिर्लज्जः प्रकटांगो जगाम वै ॥ १५ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.13 and 15)

so'pi tāruṇyagarveṇa veśyākarajavikṣataḥ ॥ sarvāṁgeṣu sunirlajjaḥ prakaṭāṁgo jagāma vai ॥ 15 ॥

On one occasion, Yajnavalkya on his way to perform the Shanti rites, comes across a courtesan and in all naturality (pride) of youth (तारुण्यगर्वेण) on engaging in amorous activities with her gets inflicted by nail marks. He, in such a state, performs the shanti rites, japa and proceeds to offer the blessings and water (शांतोदकम्) to the raja even while people were laughing as he was passing by. Seeing the Brahmana in the state of a Vita, the Raja refused to accept the blessings and water offered by him and instead asks Yajnavalkya to offer the water to the pillar as he was impure (उच्छिष्टः).

उच्छिष्टोऽहं द्विजश्रेष्ठ शय्यारूढो व्यवस्थितः । अत्र शालोद्भवे स्तंभे तस्मादेतज्जलं क्षिप ॥ १८ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.18)

ucchiṣṭo'haṁ dvijaśreṣṭha śayyārūḍho vyavasthitaḥ । atra śālodbhave staṁbhe tasmādetajjalaṁ kṣipa ॥ 18 ॥

Observing the Raja's contempt, Yajnavalkya became angry and offered the asirvachana jala to the nearby pillar after uttering the associated mantras and meditation upon Brahman. Instantly the pillar became splendid with new leaves and blooming flowers.

ततः स पतिते तोये स्तंभः पल्लवशोभितः ॥ तत्क्षणादेव संजज्ञे फल पुष्पैर्विराजितः ॥ २१ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.21)

tataḥ sa patite toye staṁbhaḥ pallavaśobhitaḥ ॥ tatkṣaṇādeva saṁjajñe phala puṣpairvirājitaḥ ॥ 21 ॥

Raja Supriya was wonderstruck and repented for his ill-mannered attitude towards Yajnavalkya and requested him to grant him the asirvachana and jala (blessing and water) as he was not impure. Yajnavalkya however refused to do so and informs his unworthiness for the abhisheka jala. He was not lured even though he was offered ample wealth, vahanas, and rich clothes, and leaves the place.

गुरुपरित्यागः ॥ Deserting Guru Shakalya

Upon Shakalya's arrival, in the palace next day, Supriya requests him to send the same Brahmana as he sent earlier for the purpose of Shanti rites. When Shakalya so informs Yajnavalkya he refuses to do the shanti rites for the raja as he was arrogant and unclean, and directed that the abhisheka jala be poured on the pillar. Shaklaya implores him earnestly to ignore the raja's disrespect and go back to the palace. He advises Yajnavalkya thus

समौ मानापमानौ च चित्तज्ञः कालवित्तथा ॥ सर्वंसहः क्षमी विज्ञः स भवेद्राजवल्लभः ॥ ३८ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.38)

samau mānāpamānau ca cittajñaḥ kālavittathā ॥ sarvaṁsahaḥ kṣamī vijñaḥ sa bhavedrājavallabhaḥ ॥ 38 ॥

One who takes respect and disrespect equanimously, one who knows the mind (of the bhupati), one who understands the opportune time, and who patiently endures everything wisely will become the favorite friend of a raja.[2] Further he asks Yajnavalkya not to transgress his commands which is the right conduct for a student. Yajnavalkya replies, "whenever the convention is violated (परिपाटीव्यतिक्रमात्), transgression of the command will surely follow. If you forcibly employ me there, I will leave you and go elsewhere, since it has been said by the great seers:

गुरोरप्यवलिप्तस्य कार्याकार्यमजानतः ॥ उत्पथे वर्तमानस्य परित्यागो विधीयते ॥ ४२ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.42)

gurorapyavaliptasya kāryākāryamajānataḥ ॥ utpathe vartamānasya parityāgo vidhīyate ॥ 42 ॥

Desertion is enjoined in the case of even a preceptor who is arrogant and does not discriminate between what should and ought not be done, and who is on an astrayed path. On hearing his words of rebellion, Shakalya became furious and rebuking him repeatedly, he asks him to return every syllable of mantras taught to him because even if one syllable is taught by a preceptor, there exists no wealth on this earth to fulfill the rna (debt) incurred by the student. Hence return every syllable received, renounce the learning imparted by him (Shakalya) and leave, else bear the wrath.

एकमप्यक्षरं यत्र गुरुः शिष्ये निवेदयेत् ॥ पृथिव्यां नास्ति तद्द्रव्यं यद्दत्त्वा ह्यनृणी भवेत् ॥ ४४ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.44)

ekamapyakṣaraṁ yatra guruḥ śiṣye nivedayet ॥ pr̥thivyāṁ nāsti taddravyaṁ yaddattvā hyanr̥ṇī bhavet ॥ 44 ॥

सोऽपिबत्तत्क्षणात्तोयं तत्पीत्वा व्याकुलेंद्रियः ॥ उद्गिरद्वांतिधर्मेण तत्त्वविद्याविमिश्रितम् ॥ ४७ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.47)

so'pibattatkṣaṇāttoyaṁ tatpītvā vyākuleṁdriyaḥ ॥ udgiradvāṁtidharmeṇa tattvavidyāvimiśritam ॥ 47 ॥

So saying the preceptor gave Yajnavalkya water, charged with mantras of atharva veda and nadabindu, after drinking which he experienced severe exhaustion and vomited out all the contents of the internal organs mixed with tatvavidya (knowledge). Saying that not a single syllable taught by Shakalya is left in his stomach, Yajnavalkya leaves the shelter of his Guru.

भास्करो गुरुः ॥ Bhaskara as Guru

From there he travels to various places and finally reaches a siddhi kshetra known as Hatakesvara kshetra. There Yajnavalkya engrosses himself in the propitiation of Bhanu (Suryadeva) with single-minded devotion and meditation (along with celibacy, gayatri nyasa etc) for an year. Pleased with his devotion, Bhanu appears in front of him with restrained effulgence, and grants him a boon.

॥ याज्ञवल्क्य उवाच ॥ ॥ yājñavalkya uvāca ॥

यदि तुष्टः सुरश्रेष्ठ वेदाध्ययनसंभवे ॥ गुरुर्भव ममाद्यैव ममैतद्वांछितं हृदि । ५८ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.58)

yadi tuṣṭaḥ suraśreṣṭha vedādhyayanasaṁbhave ॥ gururbhava mamādyaiva mamaitadvāṁchitaṁ hr̥di । 58 ॥

Without second thought Yajnavalkya expresses his desire that Bhanu should be his preceptor in regard to the study of Vedas.

तस्मादत्रैव कुंडे च मंत्रान्सारस्वताञ्छुभान् ॥ वेदोक्तान्क्षेपयिष्यामि स्वयमेव द्विजोत्तम ॥ ॥ ६.१२९.६० ॥

tasmādatraiva kuṁḍe ca maṁtrānsārasvatāñchubhān ॥ vedoktānkṣepayiṣyāmi svayameva dvijottama ॥ ॥ 6.129.60 ॥

तत्र स्नात्वा शुचिर्भूत्वा यत्किंचिद्वेदसंभवम् ॥ पठिष्यसि सकृत्तत्ते कंठस्थं संभविष्यति ॥ ६१ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.60-61)

tatra snātvā śucirbhūtvā yatkiṁcidvedasaṁbhavam ॥ paṭhiṣyasi sakr̥ttatte kaṁṭhasthaṁ saṁbhaviṣyati ॥ 61 ॥

Bhaskara, pleased and compassionate, agrees to deposit all the Sarasvata Mantras (Yajus mantras) mentioned by none other than himself, in the Vedas, in the Kunda. Bhaskara further grants that whatever veda mantra uttered once by Yajnavalkya, shall remain with him permanently. Not only the mantras but also the meanings and principles shall be manifested to him with his blessing. Bhaskara blesses the Hatakesvara kshetra and the kunda that anyone who takes a bath there and offers prayers chanting Savitra sukta to Surya will reap the same benefits henceforth.[2]

मनवातीतमुपाध्यायम् ॥ Non-human Preceptor

Yajnavalkya makes another request to Surya that he will never have a human being as his preceptor.

नाहं मनुष्यधर्माणमुपाध्यायं कथंचन ॥ करिष्यामि जगन्नाथ कृपां कुरु ममोपरि ॥ ६५ ॥ (Skan. Pura. 6.129.65)

nāhaṁ manuṣyadharmāṇamupādhyāyaṁ kathaṁcana ॥ kariṣyāmi jagannātha kr̥pāṁ kuru mamopari ॥ 65 ॥

Surya pleased with Yajnavalkya grants him the splendid Vidya named Laghima, using which he can enter into the ear of Surya's horses to directly learn and practice the veda mantra recitation from him. He assures Yajnavalkya that his rays will not affect him in any way. Thus being told by Surya, Yajnavalkya assumes a small size (through the application of the Vidya) becomes weightless and entered the ear of the horse to learn Vedas from Surya deva. Later he attained siddhi and revealed the Upanishad (Brhdaranyaka) along with its meanings.

He had a son named Katyayana who composed the Veda sutras (Shrauta Sutras). At the time of leaving his mortal form he joined his tejas back into Brahma .[2]

This story is peculiar only to the Skanda Purana. References to Yajnavalkya being the receiver of yajus mantras from Surya are available in Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana.

Legend from Bhagavata Purana

Bhagavata Purana, Skanda 12, describes the formation of Shukla Yajurveda shakha and the association of Yajnavalkya with it in the following way.

वैशम्पायनशिष्या वै चरकाध्वर्यवोऽभवन् यच्चेरुर्ब्रह्महत्यांहः क्षपणं स्वगुरोर्व्रतम् ६१

vaiśampāyanaśiṣyā vai carakādhvaryavo'bhavan yaccerurbrahmahatyāṁhaḥ kṣapaṇaṁ svagurorvratam 61

याज्ञवल्क्यश्च तच्छिष्य आहाहो भगवन्कियत् चरितेनाल्पसाराणां चरिष्येऽहं सुदुश्चरम् ६२

yājñavalkyaśca tacchiṣya āhāho bhagavankiyat caritenālpasārāṇāṁ cariṣye'haṁ suduścaram 62

इत्युक्तो गुरुरप्याह कुपितो याह्यलं त्वया विप्रावमन्त्रा शिष्येण मदधीतं त्यजाश्विति ६३

ityukto gururapyāha kupito yāhyalaṁ tvayā viprāvamantrā śiṣyeṇa madadhītaṁ tyajāśviti 63

देवरातसुतः सोऽपि छर्दित्वा यजुषां गणम् ततो गतोऽथ मुनयो ददृशुस्तान्यजुर्गणान् ६४

devarātasutaḥ so'pi charditvā yajuṣāṁ gaṇam tato gato'tha munayo dadr̥śustānyajurgaṇān 64

यजूंषि तित्तिरा भूत्वा तल्लोलुपतयाऽऽददुः तैत्तिरीया इति यजुः शाखा आसन्सुपेशलाः ६५

yajūṁṣi tittirā bhūtvā tallolupatayā''daduḥ taittirīyā iti yajuḥ śākhā āsansupeśalāḥ 65

याज्ञवल्क्यस्ततो ब्रह्मंश्छन्दांस्यधि गवेषयन् गुरोरविद्यमानानि सूपतस्थेऽर्कमीश्वरम् ६६

yājñavalkyastato brahmaṁśchandāṁsyadhi gaveṣayan guroravidyamānāni sūpatasthe'rkamīśvaram 66

एवं स्तुतः स भगवान्वाजिरूपधरो रविः यजूंष्ययातयामानि मुनयेऽदात्प्रसादितः ७३

evaṁ stutaḥ sa bhagavānvājirūpadharo raviḥ yajūṁṣyayātayāmāni munaye'dātprasāditaḥ 73

यजुर्भिरकरोच्छाखा दश पञ्च शतैर्विभुः जगृहुर्वाजसन्यस्ताः काण्वमाध्यन्दिनादयः ७४ (Bhag. Pura. 12.6.69-74)[3]

yajurbhirakarocchākhā daśa pañca śatairvibhuḥ jagr̥hurvājasanyastāḥ kāṇvamādhyandinādayaḥ 74

Summary : Vaisampayana had many disciples called Charakadhvaryus (चरकाध्वर्यवः)., who performed the vrata for the expiation of the Brahmahatya papam. At that time Yajnavalkya boastfully remarked to Vaisampayana saying that he can do more severe austerities than the other weak disciples. Hearing this from Yajnavalkya, Vaisampayana, the preceptor became angry and said, "Enough of speaking ill about vipras (brahmanas), give up at once whatever you have learnt from me."

Thereupon, the son of Devarata (Yajnavalkya), vomited out the Yajus mantras and left the place, while the other seers saw the collection of the Yajurveda texts. Assuming the form of Tittira birds they collected the so discharged Yajus mantras, thus giving rise to the Taittriya shaka of Yajurveda (तैत्तिरीया इति यजुः शाखा). Yajnavalkya in further search of the vedas took to Surya as his guru and praised him in many words. The glorious Suryadeva pleased by his stuti, assuming the form of a horse imparted to Yajnavalkya those Yajus mantras hiterto not revealed to anyone. The Yajus mantras were then classified into fifteen shakas known as Vajasanis and they were learnt by Kanva, Madhyandina and other rshis.[4]

References in Mahabharata

Mahabharata, Shanti Parva (Adhyaya 318) also mentions that Yajnavalkya obtained the knowledge of yajus mantras from Aditya (Surya).

मयाऽऽदित्यादवाप्तानि यजूंषि मिथिलाधिप॥ mayā''dityādavāptāni yajūṁṣi mithilādhipa॥ (Maha. Shan. Parv. 12.318.2)

Yajnavalkya is also proficient in the Yoga shastra.

तथैव योगशास्त्रं च याज्ञवल्क्य विशेषतः॥ tathaiva yogaśāstraṁ ca yājñavalkya viśeṣataḥ॥ (Maha. Shan. Parv. 12.318.66)

Shakas of Yajurveda

Vajasaneya Shaka of Yajurveda (Shukla)

The portion of the Yajurveda given by Yajnavalkya goes by the name of Shukla Yajurveda on account of it being revealed by Surya. It is also known as the Vajasaneya Yajurveda, because it was delivered by the Surya who was in the form of a horse. The term "Vaji" means horse. Yajnavalkya divided this Vajasaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yajus Mantras. Kanva, Madhyandina and others learnt these mantras and Shukla Yajurveda branched into popular recensions named after them.

Many scholars believe that the disciples of Vaisampayana refuse to acknowledge Yajnavalkya as he had defied his Guru. Both Krishna and Shukla Yajurveda shaka samhitas are very similar in content, though Shukla Yajurveda is said to me much more organized in the mantra and brahmana parts. It may be noted that Taittriya shaka is thus much older than the Shukla shaka of Yajurveda.

Taittiriya Shaka of Yajurveda (Krishna)

The Yajus mantras, given out by Yajnavalkya, which were ingested and preserved by the students of Vaisampayana who took the form of a bird called Tittiri came to be known as Taittriya shaka. It is also called Krishna Yajurveda shaka.

सम्वादः ॥ Discussion

Vaisampayana's order to "return all he had received from him (Vaisampayana)" can be compared with modern day practice of denying copyrights. The learnings could not be passed on by Yajnavalkya in letter or spirit further. In response to this order, Yajnavalkya "vomited" - that is he emptied his "stomach" of all its Vedic content, earlier received from his Guru.

The legends of Yajnavalkya lead us to reflect upon an important aspect about how students questioned the Guru's commands and gave valid references in their arguments, contrary to the existing misinformation that all Bharatiya Gurus always commanded their students and dissent or disagreeing with a Guru was unheard of.

Engaging students in chores and activities related to Vedic rituals was mostly to reinforce confidence and improve their skills is another important point that is reflected here.

References

  1. Skanda Purana (Khanda 6 (Nagara Khanda) Adhyaya 129)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Tagare, G. V. (1958) The Skanda Purana, Part 17. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Pvt. Ltd. (Pages 530-548)
  3. Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 12 Adhyaya 6)
  4. Shastri, J.L. and Tagare. G. V., (1955) The Bhagavata Purana. Part 5. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Pvt. Ltd. (Pages 2161-2164)