Yajnavalka and Maitrayee

A Story from Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, 2.4

Brief Introduction :

 The word ‘Brihad’ means vast, and gigantic. The word ‘Aranya’ means forest since the writings and discussions are the most lengthy discussions in Indian philosophy and happen to be in woods, the scripture is named as Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. This is the part of Shukla Yajurveda Samhita, one of the four Vedas, and  Yajnvalkya is credited to be the seer of Shukla Yajurveda Samhita . Yajnavalkya had two wives : Maitreyi and Katyayani, Katyayani was a perfect householder and served his family by taking care of household responsibilities. On the other hand, Maitreyi was a scholarly wife , who studied metaphysics and engaged in theological dialogues with her husband in addition to “making self-inquiries of introspection”. 

Maitreyi-Yajnavalkya dialogue :

One day, Yajnavalkya decided to retire from household life and go to forest to enter Sannyasa, fourth order of his life, so he informed Maitreyi on his intent to renounce  and offered to arrange for the division of property between Katyayani and Maitreyi. Hearing these words, Maitreyi said to him, “Lord, if all my possessions were to fill the entire earth, will I be perpetually happy, or will there be some other factor which will intrude upon my happiness in spite of my possession of the values of the entire world?”. Is it possible to give eternal happiness through wealth? “No,” replies Yājñavalkya. That can never be. There is no hope of eternal happiness through wealth. 

What then I am to do with that thing which is not going to make me perpetually happy, immortal, satisfied? “Whatever you know in this context, O Lord, tell me that”; Maitreyi exclaimed. In this way, Maitreyi  suggested Yajnavalkya to give all his possession to Katyayani and requested him to impart Bramhavidya.  We will cover Yajnavalkya teachings to Maitreyi in a separate post. 

Link for the entire conversation : https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/brdup/brhad_II-04.html

Lessons from the above reading :

  1.  Breaking the stereotype bias : Yajnavalka, a great sage, lived a comfortable life as a householder. Living a life of householder and earning wealth does not make one non-spiritual. What differentiates a spiritual seeker from others is the clear sense of direction towards the goal. The attitude of living a life of moderation prepares you towards the ultimate journey.
  2. Plan to let go of everything eventually: If we are serious about our spiritual evolution, we have to decide to make our spiritual quest a priority and plan for our retirement from worldly pursuits and pleasures at some point of time. One has to make this worldly conquest secondary, if not altogether renounce them.
  3.  Learn to live a life with no expectation: Although Maitreyi always showed interests in metaphysical talks , Yājñavalkya did not expect her to accompany him in woods. He knew the spiritual journey is a journey that you have to embark alone
  4. Learn to respond in an emphatic manner: When Yajnavalkya announced that he is planning to renounce the world, she did not panic or complain. She was dependent upon him, yet in her heart she had an empathy to understand to see a situation from Yajnavalkya’s point of view. An attitude of empathy when you are in pain is a great virtue to have, a clear sign of spiritual progress.
  5. Self – discovery begins where comfort zone ends: Maitreyi was not content with the material comforts that Yajnavalkya was offering him, she introspected if the wealth and relations alone can give you the eternal happiness, and if not, how one can attain the eternal happiness?