Yajnavalkya Maitreyi samvada (याज्ञवल्क्यमैत्रेय्योः संवादः)

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Yajnavalkya (Samskrit: याज्ञवल्क्यः) was the son of Devarata and was the student of Vaishampayana rshi. He had two wives Maitreyi and Katyayani. He adorned Raja Janaka's sabha, as a renowned scholar for his theosophical debates. He had mastered various tenets of vedanta.

He chose the Jnanamarga (ज्ञानमार्ग:) over the Karmamarga (कर्ममार्ग:) and his teachings of about the Supreme Reality, आत्मा || Atma, nature of existence and Ultimate realization through the neti neti (नेति नेति |) system of exclusion extols his knowledge of the Absolute Self. His path was also praised and imbibed by the Paramacharyas like Adi Sankara of the Advaita system.[1]

परिचय: || Introduction

Yajnavalkya, a great rishi of the vedic period, undertook a heterodox, rebellious experiment of separating the mantras of vaidika kriyas or ritual ordaining, injunctory part of the Veda, from their explicitly vedantic or philosophical parts, i.e. the Samhita (संहिता) and  Brahmana (ब्राह्मणा) parts. Subsequently, because of him two shakhas of Yajurveda were formed. His works Shatapatha Brahmana (Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad) and Yajnavalkya smrti (याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति:) are profound in nature and widely studied for their teachings.

याज्ञवल्क्यमैत्रेयीसंवादः || Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi's discussion

Yajnavalkya had two wives, one was Maitreyi (मैत्रेयी), a great ब्रह्मवादिनी || Brahmavadini (a great scholar) and the other was Katyayani (कत्यायनी) absorbed in worldly affairs. When Yajnavalkya developed a desire to quit household life he called Maitreyi and while informing her of his decision told her before leaving "I intend to divide the wealth between you and Katyayani and thereby end the relationship between you through me, your common husband."[2]. Hearing this Maitreyi asks

सा होवाच मैत्रेयी - यन्नु म इयं भगोः सर्वा पृथिवी वित्तेन पूर्णा स्यात्कथं तेनामृता स्यामिति |

नेति होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यो यथैवोपकरणवतां जीवितं तथैव ते जीवितं स्यात् अमृतत्वस्य तु नाऽऽशाऽस्ति वित्तेनेति || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.2)[3]

sā hōvāca maitrēyī - yannu ma iyaṁ bhagōḥ sarvā pr̥thivī vittēna pūrṇā syātkathaṁ tēnāmr̥tā syāmiti |

nēti hōvāca yājñavalkyō yathaivōpakaraṇavatāṁ jīvitaṁ tathaiva tē jīvitaṁ syāt amr̥tatvasya tu nā''śā'sti vittēnēti || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.2)

Meaning : Hey Bhagavan, even if the wealth of the entire planet becomes mine, will it fetch me Amrtva (अमृत्व । immortality). Yajnyavalkya answered, No, your life will be just like that of a person who is wealthy, but there is no hope of mukti through wealth.[1] Here Amrtattva is symbolism for mukti (मुक्तिः | liberation from the cycle of birth and death). It is implied here that for one whose goal is sensual pleasure, they would get only those earthly pleasures with wealth and not mukti. There is no connection between wealth and no hope of immortality through the acquisition and rites performed with wealth.[2]

सा होवाच मैत्रेयी - येनाहं नामृता स्यां किमहं तेन कुर्याम्  । यदेव भगवान्वेद तदेव मे ब्रूहीति || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.3)

sā hovāca maitreyī - yenāhaṃ nāmṛtā syāṃ kimahaṃ tena kuryām  । yadeva bhagavānveda tadeva me brūhīti || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.3)

Meaning : Maitreyi said, "Hey Bhagavan, If this is so, what shall I do with that (wealth) which will not make me immortal? Please instruct me on that which you know (to be the only means to attain mukti).

Yajnavalkya was greatly pleased hearing these words. He then initiates her into ब्रह्मविद्या || Brahmavidya, the knowledge of Absolute Self (variously called as Paramatma, Self, Pure Intelligence, Atma, Consciousness) and a mukti marga (मुक्तिमार्ग:). He now explains the great truth of why one living entity actually loves another human being. He revealed the concept of Self though this great sukta,

  • न वा अरे पत्युः कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय पतिः प्रियो भवति । na vā are patyuḥ kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati ।
  • न वा अरे जायायै कामाय जाया प्रिया भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय जाया प्रिया भवति । na vā are jāyāyai kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati ।
  • न वा अरे पुत्राणां कामाय पुत्राः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय पुत्राः प्रिया भवन्ति । na vā are putrāṇāṃ kāmāya putrāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya putrāḥ priyā bhavanti ।
  • न वा अरे वित्तस्य कामाय वित्तं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय वित्तं प्रियं भवति। na vā are vittasya kāmāya vittaṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya vittaṃ priyaṃ bhavati।
  • न वा अरे ब्रह्मणाः कामाय ब्रह्म प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय ब्रह्म प्रियं भवति । na vā are brahmaṇāḥ kāmāya brahma priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya brahma priyaṃ bhavati ।
  • न वा अरे क्षत्रस्य कामाय क्षत्रं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय क्षत्रं प्रियं भवति । na vā are kṣatrasya kāmāya kṣatraṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya kṣatraṃ priyaṃ bhavati ।
  • न वा अरे लोकानां कामाय लोकाः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय लोकाः प्रिया भवन्ति । na vā are lokānāṃ kāmāya lokāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya lokāḥ priyā bhavanti ।
  • न वा अरे देवानां कामाय देवाः प्रिया भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय देवाः प्रिया भवन्ति । na vā are devānāṃ kāmāya devāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya devāḥ priyā bhavanti ।
  • न वा अरे भूतानां कामाय भूतानि प्रियाणि भवन्ति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय भूतानि प्रियाणि भवन्ति । na vā are bhūtānāṃ kāmāya bhūtāni priyāṇi bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya bhūtāni priyāṇi bhavanti ।
  • न वा अरे सर्वस्य कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति, आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति । na vā are sarvasya kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati ।
  • आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि, आत्मनो वा अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम् || ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyi, ātmano vā are darśanena śravaṇena matyā vijñānenedaṃ sarvaṃ viditam || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.5)

Meaning : "Hey Maitreyi, it is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one's own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one's own sake that she is loved. Similarly all including sons, wealth, Brahmana, Kshatriya, the worlds, devatas or the beings are loved not for each of their sake, but for one's own sake they are loved. The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized - heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. By the realisation of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known"[1]

Here Yajnavalkya explains that a husband is loved not for his sake but because she (the wife) experiences the Self in the form of Paramatama (परमात्मा) dwelling in him. Similarly the wife does not become dear because of her beauty or other qualities, but because he has the darshan (दर्शन) of Paramatama within in her. Similar is the profound experience wherein all the children, wealth, brahamana, Kshatriya, all the planets, devatas, and all living entities becomes dear to us, because of experiencing Paramatama within them, and no other reason.[2] Therefore our love for other objects is secondary, since they contribute to the pleasure of the self; and our love for the Self alone is primary.[1]

Atman or Absolute Self is the powerful integrating force and opposite of this is the force which gives rise to hatred is the Asuri Shakti (आसुरीशक्ति:). A jnani (ज्ञानी), will be able to "see/perceive" Paramatama in every being, all around, hear him and meditate on him in the inner-self. By this action he will be All Knower. One who sees every life force bound in relationship with Paramatama, is considered as Sujnani (सुज्ञानी) and one who does not perceive this is considered as an Ajnani (अज्ञानी). In this way this cosmos, abounds with brahma chetana (ब्रह्म चेतना), and relishing and worshiping It is the real path of Brahmavidya for Realization of Brahman. This is the path of happiness here and in other worlds.[2]

Answering Maitreyi's question as to how one thing leads to the knowledge of another, Yajnavalkya says (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.6 to 9) - when the drum is played, it sounds without the distinction of particular notes, but they are included in the general note of the drum or the general sound produced by different kinds of strokes. Similarly when a conch is blown, one cannot distinguish its various particular notes, but it sounds with integration. Same is the case when the vina (वीणा) is played, all notes are included in the sound produced by different kinds of playing.[1]

The beauty of cosmos, can be perceived, even in the different shades of color when the flame of the fire is dancing. Similarly from the Mahapurusha’s (Infinite Reality, the Supreme Self) Nihshvasa (नि:श्वास: | exhalation or breath) rik (ऋक्), sama (साम), yajus (यजुस्), atharva (अथर्व:), itihasa (इतिहास:), puranas, arts, upanishads, shlokas, sutras, explanations of mantras, commentaries (arthavadas), yajna, oblations, anna (अन्नम् | grains) drink, this loka and other loka (planets) and all other animals have manifested.[2]

Yajnavalkya explains in Brhd. Upan. 2.4.11, that just like the ocean is the source (shelter) for all the waters, by upadana (उपदानम्) and ekakarana (एककारण | one cause), skin is the ekayanavo (एकायनवो | path or instrument) for all kinds of touch, for fragrance nostril is the instrument, for taste, tongue, for form the eyes, for sound, ears, for determination, mind, for vidya, heart, for karma (कर्म | action) hand, for sensual pleasure the procreating sense, for excretion the organ for excretion, for traveling the legs, and for all talk, for all the veda, organ of speech. It is the only adhara (आधार: | shelter) for all that exists. In this state, the living being rises above the five elements and experiences continuous oneness of consciousness, without duality.[2]

विज्ञानघन: || Vijnanaghana or Pure Intelligence

स यथा सैन्धवखिल्य उदके प्रास्त उदकेवानुविलीयेत, न हास्योद्ग्रहणायेव स्यात्, यतो यतस्त्वाददीत लवणमेव, एवं वा अर इदं महद्भूतमनन्तमपारं विज्ञानघन एव |

एतेभ्यो भूतेभ्यः समुत्थाय तान्येवानुविनश्यति, न प्रेत्य संज्ञास्तोत्यरे ब्रवीमिति होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.12)[3]

sa yathā saindhavakhilya udake prāsta udakevānuvilīyeta, na hāsyodgrahaṇāyeva syāt, yato yatastvādadīta lavaṇameva, evaṃ vā ara idaṃ mahadbhūtamanantamapāraṃ vijñānaghana eva |

etebhyo bhūtebhyaḥ samutthāya tānyevānuvinaśyati, na pretya saṃjñāstotyare bravīmiti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ || (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.12)

Meaning : Just like the lump of salt dropped in water dissolves in water and is unable to be picked up by hand, it tastes as salt, similarly, this great, endless Infinite Reality is but विज्ञानघन || vijñānaghana (Pure Condensed Intelligence). It (The Self) comes out as a separate entity and upon destruction enters its cause. After attaining the Self, it has no more संज्ञा or Name or Consciousness. This is what I say, my dear. So said Yajnavalkya.[1] Maitreyi asked once again (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.13), "Hey Bhagavan, you have placed me in confusion, just here. Having stated that Self is but Pure Intelligence, and after attaining Self, it has no more Consciousness is a contradiction not comprehended by me."[1]

यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं जिघ्रति तदितर इतरं पश्यति तदितर इतर शृणोति तदितर इतरमभिवदति तदितर इतरं मनुते तदितर इतरं विजानाति । यत्र वा अस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत् तत्केन कं जिघ्रेत् तत्केन कं पश्येत् तत्केन क शृणुयात् तत्केन कमभिवदेत् तत्केन कं मन्वीत तत्केन कं विजानीयात् । येनेद सर्वं विजानाति तं केन विजानीयाद् विज्ञातारमरे केन विजानीयादिति ॥ १४ ॥ (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.14)

yatra hi dvaitamiva bhavati taditara itaraṁ jighrati taditara itaraṁ paśyati taditara itara śr̥ṇōti taditara itaramabhivadati taditara itaraṁ manutē taditara itaraṁ vijānāti । yatra vā asya sarvamātmaivābhūt tatkēna kaṁ jighrēt tatkēna kaṁ paśyēt tatkēna ka śr̥ṇuyāt tatkēna kamabhivadēt tatkēna kaṁ manvīta tatkēna kaṁ vijānīyāt । yēnēda sarvaṁ vijānāti taṁ kēna vijānīyād vijñātāramarē kēna vijānīyāditi ॥ 14 ॥ (Brhd. Upan. 2.4.14)

Yajnavalkya spoke again, Oh, Maitreyi, I am not instructing you to confuse you. Existence of Pure Intelligence and again the absence of consciousness are not to be attributed to the same entity. Know that Self or Pure Intelligence is indestructible and indivisible. Wherever there is duality, one will experience impaired senses and judgments about the living beings. But one who experience Self, "sees" or perceives the all pervading unifying Universal consciousness in all forms of life thus wiping out any dualities. Thus, through what instrument should one know the Knower owing to which this Universe is known, and who else should know it? [1]

Pure Intelligence cannot be agrahya (अग्राह्य: | fathomed). It is limitless akshaya (अक्षय:), is untouched by sangaha or worldly matters, asangaha, cannot be bound, is free from misery, non violent. This Self, which can be known, in this manner is itself the instrument to know It as goal. This is the sadhana (साधना) for amrtattva (अमृतत्त्व).[2]

This famous discussion between Yajnavalkya and his wife, Maitreyi, is discussed as part of the fourth brahmana of Brhadaranyaka upanishad.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Swami Madhavananda, (1950). The Brhdaranyaka Upanishad with the commentry of Sankaracharya. Mayavati: Avaita Ashrama
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Narayanacharya, K. S. (2011). Veda Sanskritiya Parichaya, Part I. Hubli:​Sahitya Prakashana​.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 2)