In the Mahabharata epic the story of sage Ashtavakra is told by sage Lomasa to the Pandavas while the Pandavas were in exile.
1.1Parents of sage Ashtavakra.
Uddalaka was a renowned sage and scholar well versed in the Vedas and the Vedanta. He had several disciples. One among them was Kahoda. What Kahoda lacked in knowledge, he made up with his devotion and virtuous life. Impressed by these qualities Uddalaka married his daughter Sujata to kahoda.
Sujata in due course got pregnant and wanted her child to surpass all the sages of his time. So, she began to sit in the classes taught by Uddalaka and Kahoda, listening to their chanting with the unborn baby.
It was one day, in a class taught by Kahoda, the unborn baby spoke up from inside the womb, and “This is not the way to chant the verse, father.” Kahoda felt insulted in front of the class and cursed, “You will be born deformed.”
Sujata did not take the instance too seriously and was ambitious. She wanted more money to raise her child the best. So she asked her husband to go to king Janaka of Mithila (Sita’s foster father) who was then preparing for a Yajna hoping that the ceremony will bring money to the family.
1.2Sage Kahoda get defeated by Bandhi.
When Kahoda approached King Janaka, the king received him respectfully but said with regret “Kahoda, I am unable to perform the Yajna which I decided to perform several years back. Sage, Bandhi arrived from nowhere and asked me to start the Yajna only after he is defeated in an academic discussion with the sages participating in the Yajna.
His condition further includes that the sages who come forth for the debate, if defeated, will be drowned. So far he has killed many learned sages. Now it is up to you to take the challenge.”
Kahoda agreed to debate with Bandhi. He was defeated and drowned in the nearby river.
1.3Birth of Ashtavakra and education
The widowed Sujata heard the news and repented her actions. A few months later she gave birth to a boy who was deformed at eight joints and so named Ashtavakra.
He got his education from his grandfather Uddalaka. Ashtavakra was extremely intelligent and his grandfather loved him dearly and was very proud of him. When Ashtavakra was only twelve, he finished all that he needed to know from his grandfather. He also heard the fate of his father and the Yajna of king Janaka, which still remained unfinished as no one could defeat Bandhi.
1.4Sage Ashtavakra calls on Janaka
At the tender age of 12 he had mastered the Vedas and Vedanta.
Accompanied by his uncle Swetaketu, he set forth for Mithila where a debate on the scriptures among the learned was to take place. He would be pitted against Bandhi. This the moment he was waiting for all his life – an opportunity to avenge the insult and defeat his father Kahoda has suffered.
On their way to Mithila they met Mithila’s king and his entourage. Ashtavakra was asked to give way to the King. However, he replied, ” Does not your ruler know that the blind, the deformed, the fair sex, Brahmins and people bearing load have to be given the right to passage first”.
The king was surprised to hear such wisdom from the mouth of some one so young. He let Ashtravakra go first. At Mithila the gatekeeper would not let Ashtravakra enter the competition hall. The boy seemed too young to him. Ashtavakra got irritated. He said ” I may seem young to you but I have mastered the Vedas. Age or appearance can not bar me from taking part in the competition”. The gatekeeper did not believe him and asked him to go away. Ashtravakra said, ” old age is not an indicator of a man’s bounty of knowledge or maturity. Go and inform the king that I wish to challenge Bandhi, the court’s scholar to a round of debates on Shastras.”
Just then the king appeared and saw and recognized Ashtavakra. He cautioned him saying, ” Do you know Bandhi has defeated all the scholars who have challenged him. The defeated have drowned themselves in the sea in accordance with the rules of the debate. Don’t risk your life.”
1.5Sage Ashtavakra defeats Bandhi
Ashtavakra replied ” O king! Your scholar has been basking in past glory. He is not as learned as you assumed him to be. Let me compete with him and avenge my father’s insult.”
The king was astounded by such determination. He was compelled to consent to this competition. Then started arguments, counter arguments on various debatable topics from the scriptures between Bandhi and Ashtavakra. This boy of only twelve years of age proved to be far superior to Bandhi. The shamed Bandhi had to accede defeat and in accordance to the rule drowned himself in the sea. Then the spirit of Kahoda was free and gained peace in heaven.
1.6 Ashtavakra Geetha
The Ashtavakra Geetha, or the Ashtavakra Samhita as it is sometimes called, is a very ancient Sanskrit text.
The work was appreciated, and quoted by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his disciple Swami Vivekananda, as well as by Ramana Maharshi, Dr S Radhakrishnan always referred to it with great respect. Apart from that the work speaks for itself. It presents the traditional teachings of Advaita Vedanta with a clarity and power very rarely matched.
(I had an occasion to listen to the Ashtravakra geetha in the Theosophical society in Trivandrum near Over bride junction with R.S. Iyer in 1996. Of course on those days I was not matured like today to have a patient listening).
1.7Ashtavakra Geetha extracts
King Janaka on the defeat of Bandhi surrendered to the Sage as his disciple and requested that the knowledge of the Self be bestowed upon him.
It is a series of answers for the questions of Rajarishi Janaka. A few extracts from the English translation by John Richards is given below: –
My son, you may recite or listen to countless scriptures, but you will not be established within until you can forget everything. 16.1
You may, as a learned man, indulge in wealth, activity, and meditation, but your mind will still long for that which is the cessation of desire, and beyond all goals. 16.2
If even Shiva, Vishnu, or the lotus-born Brahma were your instructor, until you have forgotten everything you cannot be established within. 16.11
The man is rare who is not attached to the things he has enjoyed, and does not hanker after the things he has not enjoyed. 17.4
Those who desire pleasure and those who desire liberation are both found in samsara, but the great-souled man who desires neither pleasure nor liberation is rare indeed. 17.5
There is no distinction between pleasure and pain, man and woman, success and failure for the wise man that looks on everything as equal. 17.15(My note- Like sage Suga)
The stupid man does not attain cessation whether he acts or abandons action, while the wise man finds peace within simply by knowing the truth. 18.34
1.8 Sage Ashtavakra expeditions
Section 13:19 of Mahabharata describe sage Ashtavakra’s expedition to Kailasa: –
The illustrious Ashtavakra set out on his journey. He proceeded towards the north and at last reached the Himavat mountains peopled by Siddhas and Charanas Arrived at the Himavat mountains, that foremost of Brahamanas then came upon the sacred river Vahuda whose waters produce great merit.
He rested for some more time by the side of that lake in the course of the Vahuda whose shores he had reached. Refreshed and then proceeded towards Kailasa. He saw also the Mandakini and the Nalini of the high-souled Kubera, the Lord of Treasures. Beholding the Rishi arrived there, all the Rakshasas having Manibhadra for their head, came out in a body for welcoming and honoring the illustrious traveler. On bathing his bends were disappeared and he became perfect. (This story of Ashtavakra was told by Srikrishna to Rugmini too-I read some where from the internet)
1.9 Sage Ashtavakra ask king Chitrabhanu the reason for observing Sivarathri fast
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivratri by King Chitrabhanu.
The story goes as follows. Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Mahashivratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on avisit to the court of the king.
The sage Ashtavakra asked, “O king! Why are you observing a fast today?”King Chitrabhanu explained the reason to the sage. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth.
“In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a vilwa tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starvingand awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the vilwa leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
“The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I wasabout to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food. “
At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct my soul tothe abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the firsttime of the great merit I had earned by the unconsciousworship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivratri.
They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears, which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family, fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus I did unconsciously worship the Lord. “I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu.” (Some member has raised a query to me on the importance of Sivarathri a fortnight back).
Story of sage Ashtavakra comes in Mahabharata. Ashta vakra Geetha was his teachings to Rajarshi kingJanaka.
KNOW ABOUT SAGES-21
1.1 Birth of sage Dadichi
Sage Chyavana was highly pleased with his wife Sukanya and one day he told her that he was pleased with her devotion and he would bless her with three sons. They would be named as Dadeechi, Pramathi and Apravan.
After a few years after their birth Sage Chyavana left the house for Teertha Yatra.There is also another version that sage Dadichi was the son of sage Atharva.
1.2 Vritrasura threaten Gods
According to the Rig Veda, Vritra kept the waters of the world captive until Indra killed him before liberating the imprisoned rivers.
Vritra, a Brahmin became the head of the Asuras. He renounced his dharma to do well unto others and turned to violence, battling with the Devas. Vritrasura appeared from the altar of sage Tvashta. As soon as the demon appeared, he captured the heaven. He appeared invincible for he also swallowed the weapons that Indra and other gods attacked him with. Thus, the unarmed and frightened gods went straight to Lord Brahma. Brahma then prayed to Lord Vishnu.
1.2Lord Vishnu directed Indra to approach sage Dadichi.
Hearing his prayers, Lord Vishnu appeared before Brahma and said: Vritra could not be destroyed by ordinary means. Only a weapon made from the bones of a sage could slay him. When the deities revealed their doubts about the likelihood of any ascetic donating his body, Vishnu directed them to approach the sage Dadichi and told them: –
“Because of his severe penance, the bones of sage Dadichi have become extremely hard and potent. If a Vajra (a blunt weapon having combined features of a sword, spear and mace) is made of Dadichi’s bones, only then Indra could kill Vitrasur with that weapon. But sage Dadichi is a dedicated devotee of mine; hence nobody can kill him forcibly. You can go to him and beg for his bones”.
1.3 Sage Dadichi gives back bone
At that time Sage Dadichi was living in his hermitage at the confluence of Sabarmati and Chandrabhaga rivers. All the gods reached his hermitage and intimating the purpose of their coming, they prayed to the sage for his bones. Sage Dadichi then told the gods of his desire to perform a pilgrimage. Indra then invoked all the pilgrimage places at Namisharanya.
Taking holy dips in all those holy places, sage Dadichi took a meditating position on his seat. Thus, the sage did not feel any hitch to give up his life for Indra who had once wished to behead him for a petty reason.
The sage had no attachment for his ephemeral body. He felt that one day it has to be left. Hence nothing would be more fruitful if that body is given up for a pious cause, benefiting someone. Thus, the sage concentrated his mind in God. Slowly, he began to concentrate on his breath and finally he annihilated into the supreme power. Immediately wild animals devoured his flesh and skin.
1.4 Indra makes vajrayudha
Indra collected his bones and handed them to Vishwakarma. Vishwakarma made a Vajra from these bones. Using that Vajra then Indra killed the demon Vitrasur. When they engaged Vritra again, the battle lasted for 360 days before the Brahmin breathed his last. Thus, by the supreme sacrifice of a hermit, Devaloka (the abode of the Devas) could be saved from the onslaught of the demon Vritrasur.
Brāhmanahatya chased Indra and forced him into hiding for his sin, and Nahusha was invited to take his place. In another version of the story, three Asuras – Varuna, Soma and Agni – were also coaxed by Indra into aiding him in the fight against Vritra.
1.5 Dadichi story in Eakadasi Mahamyam
In the Narada purana detailing the divinity of Ekadasi fasting King Rugmangada tell the story of sage Dadichi who gave his own bones in charity when asked by the Gods to Mohini the charm created by Brahma (Who became another Menaka- Viswamithra).
The story of Yamadharma visiting Lord Brahma and explaining the condition of Yamaloka having no occupants and every body going to Vishnu loka by performing Ekadasi vrata at the instance of King Rugmangada and Brahma creating a Mohini and her efforts for preventing King Rugmangada from Ekadashi fast is a very exciting story. Since it will take pages we will see it later.
1.6 Aswini Kumars learn Brahmavidya from sage Dadichi
Indra had enmity with Aswini kumars. He had sworn that he would behead anybody who dared to preach Brahmavidya to Ashwinikumaras. Ashwinikumaras were the physicians hence; Indra used to see them with humiliation and regarded them as inferior.
Ahwinikumaras however had prayed to sage Dadichi to preach them Brahmavidya. It was actually offence not to teach someone curious and willing to learn. So, sage Dadichi agreed to preach them.
1.7Aswinikumars fix horse head on sage Dadichi
Ashwini kumaras who were great physicians had an idea in mind to learn Brahma vidya, but saving sage Dadichi. So they cut his head and kept it aside and fixed a horse’s head on his torso. Thus with a horse’s head sage Dadichi preached them Brahmavidya to them.
1.8 Indra cut sage Dadichi’s horse head
When Indra came to know about it, he beheaded Dadichi with his sword. Ashwinikumaras then refixed Dadichi’s original head on his torso. Having preached Ashwinikumaras with a horse’s head, the sage is also known as Ashvashira (One having a horse’s head).
1.9 Dadichi kund
Naimisaranya (Tirunaimisaranyam) is one of the 108 Temples & Celestial Abodes of Vishnu revered by the Tamil hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium CELocation: Naimisaranya (Uttar Pradesh)
Naimisaranyam is located at the junction of the roads from Sitapur and Khairabad, about 15 KMs from Sitapur and 18 KMs from the Sandila railway station. The place is also about 70 KMs north of Lucknow.
Naimisaranya is mentioned frequently in both the Mahabharat and the Ramayana. The Mahabharat was recited here. The chakratheertha here is considered very holy, and a dip here on Somavati Amavasya isconsidered to be sacred. The chief temple here is that ofLalita Devi. Large crowds collect here on new moon days.
The parikrama fair, begins at Nimkhar and ends at Misraka; Misrikh houses the Dadichi Kund. Legend has it that sage Dadichi gave up his material body, so that his bones could be used in the preparation of a missile to destroy demons here. The Hatyaharana Thirtham here at Misraka is of great importance; where Rama is believed to have bathed to purify himself of the sin of having killed Ravana.
1.10 Sarovar tank in Kurukshethra
Another version is that sageDadichi used to pray to Shiva on the banks of theholy tank Sarovarand offered the bones of his horse’s head to Lord Indra for making a vajra to kill Vritasura .
1.11 Statues of Horse headed human in Kambodia
It has been discovered a broken handed idol of a Human with Horse head from Kambodia on excavation. Similar seals also have been discovered from Harappa escavations.
1.12Saraswathamuni-son of sage Dadichi
The Saraswat Brahmins are mentioned in the Vedas, the Ramayana, theMahabharata, the Bhagavata and inthe Bhavisyottara Purana.
They accepted the Sage Saraswat (son of Rishi Dadichi), livingon the banks of Saraswati as their Guru. There were about 60,000 (Shatsahasara) Brahmins who were his disciples. When a severe famine, which lasted for about 12 years, hit the region and the crops were not enough to feed everyone, the survival of the Saraswats was at stake. At the advice of theirGuru who was pragmatic, they started to feed on fish from the Saraswati river for survival. Thus they became the only fish-eating Brahmins ever known (I could get no details about the wife of sage Dadichi).
Story of sage Dadichi is told in many puranams. He was the son of sage Chyavana with Sukanya. Sage Saraswatha, Guru of Saraswatha Brahmins washis son. With out hesitation sage Dadichi gave to Indra his backbone to make Vajrayudha, for killing Vritasura.
KNOW ABOUT SAGES-22
1.1 Introduction Sage Yanjavalkya was a Brahmarshi. It was this revered maharshi who, being blessed by Bhagavan Suryanarayana became a seer of Yajurvedic mantras and gave them to the world in the form of Shukla Yajurveda.
Even as a student in the Gurukula Yanjavalkya 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. He vanquished all the scholars of his times in argument, won the title of Sarvajna and was elevated to the high seat of learning.
1.2 Parents of sage Yanjavalkya
Sage Brahmaratha and Sunanda Devi were the parents of Yajnavalkya. Sunandadevi was the sister of sage Vaisampayana .We refer to sage Vaisampayana in the Vishnu sashasranam- “Vaisampayana Uvacha-Sruta dharmana seshena papanicha sarvasa…”
Brahmaratha was a devout man who practised 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 for a long time. So they went on offering prayer to God through many religious vows and fasts that they might be blessed with a son.
The penance bore fruit. A sweet-looking baby son was born to them on the seventh day of the month of Kartik 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.
1.3 Yanjavalkya send to Gurukula
Yajnavalkya grew up. Parents taught alphabets to him. Mother Sunanda Devi used to tell the boy many moral stories. Occasionally she used to give him bits of good advices also. 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 “Yajnavalkya, dear, perhaps anything is possible for you. May it be so. I wish that and bless you.”
Sometimes the boy used toput questions to his father also enquiring about Homa and the Gods. The parents were happy about the child’s development and divine thinking.
The boy was initiated into Brahmin hood at the appropriate age . Yajnavalkya received the great Gayatri Mantra from his father. He was to be sent to a Gurukularun by his uncle for further education.
Maharshi Vaishampayana was the disciple of the great sage Vedavyasa. He was a renowned Vedic scholar and an authority on Yajurveda. The uncle and the nephew were very fond and proud of each other. Yajnavalkya was sent to the Gurukula run by this mamafor his education after Brahmopadesam.
1.4 In the Gurukula
Yajnavalkya wasvery sharp and learnt the lessons rapidly. He won the love and admiration of everybody in the Ashram, within a few days. He became the favourite of his mama at the Gurukula by his learning.
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 lustre like purified gold.
1.5 Displeasurestarts with Guru Vaisampayana
Once Brahma arranged the meeting of all sages. It was ordered all sages should attend the meeting positively .It was similar to the present day NCC commander order to cadets. Unfortunately sage Vaisampayana could not attend it due to some urgency. On this thought thesage Vaishampayana fell seriously ill.
Charaka, Adhwarya and other pupils decided to observe a vow in order 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 Vaisampayana . He said curtly: “Charaka and Adhwarya are my senior pupils than you. I wish you had spoken disparagingly of their vow. There is no need of your vow to cure my illness.’ Yajnavalkya did not argue. He left the place to attend to his business.
1.6 Holy Water to Cure King’s Disease
There was a city called Vardhamanapura near Vaishampayana’s ashram. King Supriya was its ruler. Vaishampayana was the king’s 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 receive the Theertham.
Yajnavalkya felt very much 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? It can better dispensed”
“If you think that the tirtha and prasada have such potency, you may show it to me ,” said the king arrogantly. Yajnavalkya, without saying a word, chanted immediately a mantra and sprinkled the holy water on a nearby wooden pole.
1.7 Wooden pole flower and give fruits
Yajnavalkya walked out of the palace without looking back, and went straight to his gurukula. Meanwhile, due to theeffect of the sprinkledtirtha, the wooden pole of the palace sprouted. In another few minutesflowers 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’s ashram. They conveyed the request of the king to the Maharshi that Yajnavalkya might bring again the tirtha and prasada to his palace .They did nottell the story of flowering and giving fruitsfrom wooden pole by spraying of thirtha by Yanjavalkya.
Yajnavalkya as the honest student had reported to Vaisampayana that theking responded with half faith to spraying of thirtha. Getting the news Yanjavalkyashould be sent again with thirtha sage Vaisamapayana got upset thinking some thing rotten in the dealings of Yanjavalkya. He felt that Yajnavalkya had would have behaved hastily and sometimes brushed with king too. He got worried how he could set right things.
1.8 ‘Leave the Ashram at Once’
Vaishampayana called forth Yajnavalkya, “Your behaviour 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 sometimespardoned.”
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 told decisively. In addition to this, he also said, “I feel it is not good for anybody to cure the king who ishaving half faith withus”
Hearing these words, the master became angry. His anger grew to an enormous degree as his own nephew insulted him by disobeying his orders. His voice became hoarse.
” 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.
1.9 Yanjavalkya vomits the mantras
In obedience to his mama guruYajnavalkya vomited all the mantras of Yajurveda he had learnt 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. Yanjavalkya felt he did not done anything wrong. He felt every thing happened for the good and recollected the words of Bhagavat Geetha.
1.10 Education Continued
Yajnavalkya came home. He told his parents in detail about the incident at with mama Vyasmapayana. They became worried.
Yajnavalkya had much faith in the efficacy of gayathri manthra. He used to recite Gayathri manthraevery day with faith while performing Sandhya . 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.
In accordance with that faith, he began to spend most of the time during day chanting the Gayatri mantra.
His parents began to worry and think about the future plans of their son’s education. They decided to sent their son to the ashram of Bashkala, the disciple of sage Paila, to join there as a student. Yajnavalkya learnt Rig Veda from his master there.
Then he learnt Sam Veda at the feet of Acharya Hiranyanabha in the kingdom of Kosala. He learnt Atharva Veda 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.
In short Yanjavalkya completedthe studyof other threeVedas in due course except the broken Yajurveda study with sage Vaisampayana.
1.11 At Uddalaka’s Ashram
Sage Uddalaka clearly recognised 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 gurukula with a heart filled with love and joy.
We have already seenthat 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 m ore 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.
1.13 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 a new vitality. He became aware of the presence of various divine powers immanent in subtle form in different parts of the body.
1.13 Yanjavalkya leaves Gurukula
As days passed by Yajnavalkya was more and more engaged in religious vows and fasts. Sage Uddalakaobserved this change . He informed hisparents of the developments of Yanjavalkya.
Parents of Yanjavalkyadesired thatYajnavalkya 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. They decided to celebrate his marriage with a suitable bride.
Uddalaka liked Yanjavalkya and desired with him for some time as his disciple Stillhe wasfar-sighted. He realized that it was good for Yajnavalkya to become a householder at the earliest.
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 “Speak only the truth. Lead a righteous life. Recollect Matha pitha guru deivam. May the guest be treated as God.”
1.14 Yanjavalkya marry Katayani
Yajnavalkya consentedto marry. It wasnot because he liked to lead a life of mundane interests such as wife, children and property. In his view marriage is a spiritual process, which helps the fulfilment of an ideal and the attainment of everlasting happiness.
Sage Kadira was a close and intimate friend of Brahmaratha and his family. He had a daughter by name Katyayani. All the elders came to the conclusion that she would be a suitable bride to Yajnavalkya. Katyayani was only a ten-year-old girl then. (Pl note -no horoscope matching was done on those days).
1.15 Mama Vaisampayana wish happy married life to Yanjavalkya
Uncle (Mama) Vaishampayana arrived well in time with his wife for the marriage of his nephew (maruman) Yanjavalkya with 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.”
… Yanjavalkya to be continued in know sages 23 below…
KNOW ABOUT SAGES-23
1. YAJNAVALKYA (continuation from above part 22)
1.15 Mama Vaisampayana wish happy married life to Yanjavalkya
Mama Vaishampayana arrived well in time with mami for the marriage of his maruman Yanjavalkya with 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.” Read further…
1.16 Soorya narayana prayer
Though Katyayani was far younger than Yajnavalkya, yet in speech, in behaviour and in 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 during Brahmi. After finishing the ablutions 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.
1.16 Aditya gift Yajur Veda
Days passed. One morning as usual Yajnavalkya was absorbed in meditation and in japa of Surya-mantra. He experienced a greater ecstasy than ever in his meditation. He saw an unusual mass of bright light coming from the Sun and flowing towards him. Yajnavalkya opened his eyes. That mass of dazzling brightness took the form of a horse of red colour. That horse came neighing and stood before Yajnavalkya. 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 Yajur Veda as known to none so far.” The 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 splendour. 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 a great heat was produced in his entire body. Whenhe was suffering from this extreme heat Surya Deva said comfortingly, “Bear this suffering for a short while. Your body and mind thereby will get purified. Then only 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.
1.17 Yajurveda mantras appear to Yangavalkya
Yajnavalkya stood gazing at that light. Veda Mantras (Incantations) shining attractively in that mass of light were 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! In the midst of that light here and there was the glow of those fine Mantras. This mystical experience of bliss filled and overflowed the body, mind and soul, nay 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 brahmarshi possessing divine knowledge.
1.18 The Great Works of Yanjavalkya
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 like any thing.
1.19 Yajnavalkya take charge of Gurukula
Sage Uddalaka, one of the teachers of Yajnavalkya, we have read in the last posting became very old. He was no longer able to manage the affairs of the ashram. Uddalaka considered Yajnavalkya as the best qualified person to be his successor for the Gurukula and invited him for heading the Gurukula.
Accordingly Yajnavalkya took the responsibility of heading the Gurukula run by Uddalaka. The prestige and reputation of this Ashram grew remarkably with the arrival of Yajnavalkya as its head. 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. Janaka, the emperor of Videha, was eager to meet him and receive initiation from him.
1.20 Rajarshi Janaka met Yanjavalkya
King Janaka was a very religious man as well as a great scholar. He was a Rajarshi. Yanjavalkya’s 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.
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 was discussion and exchange of ideas on those Vedic mantras. The conference went on for a few days.
Only philosophers of tremendous scholarship participated in the discussion during sessions. Two woman scholars participated in it were Gargi and 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. Yajnavalkya was honored as Brahmarshi. Most of the Yajur vedies follow Sukla Yajur Veda.
1.21 Maitreyi takes companionship with Yanjavalkya
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 really did not want to marry. She was not after the pleasures of having children, property or money. Yajnavalkya was already married. Some times he may not take another wife.
She arrived at a decision after a good deal of thinking. She went straight to Katyayani Devi wife of sage Yajnavalkya.
“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 favour 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. 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. (My note- In later references she too is told as sage Yanjavalkya’s wife).
1.22 Take the Cows to our Ashram
King Janaka once 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 pertaining to spiritual life supported by their knowledge and experience of Vedic truths. He who would prove himself the greatest among them would receive the highest honour and a celebrated award. It was announced that such a person would be honoured at the end of that Maha Jnana Yaga by ceremonially placing the crown of Sarvajna on his head. Invitations were sent to eminent sages. Yajnavalkya also got an invitation of from Janaka.
Many Sages arrived.Maharshi Yajnavalkya arrived with his disciples. Maharaja Janaka accorded a reverential welcome to all those assembled. “We will elect the greatest Brahmanishta 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.”
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, “Why do you order your pupil to take the cows home?” asked Aswala. “Because we need them. ” Yanjavalkya answered.
“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 clearly suggested that you are one such. That means an open invitation to anyone to place questions to you. You will have to satisfy them with your answers,” said the court preceptor. To this Yajnavalkya replied with a smile”Welcome. Questions on Brahman may be put.”
1.23 The Crown of Sarvajna
There was a heavy downpour of questions to Yajnavalkya. Some of the questions put to him were like.
– What is it that enables one to become free from death?
– What is a soul?
– What pervades this perceptible world and the sky?
Yanjavalkya answered with confidence and competence to every question. His replies flowed into the hearts and minds of all the listeners like sacred Jnana-Ganga. The scholars who had put the questions got satisfied with the answers of the sage and said, “We bow down to the Brahmarshi.”
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.
1.24 Yajnavalkya become King Janaka’s Guru
King Janaka afterwards made a practice 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. (Members may now recollect King Janaka’s this attitude told by Cho in his serial Engae brahmanan in Jeya TV).
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 everyday life so that their mode of living conformed to the norms of Dharma. In course of time a collection of these practical hints for religious life became famous as “Yajnavalkya Smriti” (The Code of Yajnavalkya).
1.25 Yanjavalkya Departs 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 down 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.
Then he proceeded to the Himalayas for doing penance. Maitreyi accompanied him as an ascetic after doing obeisance to Katyayani Devi. 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.
1.26 The Light of YanjavalkyasMessage
Yajnavalkya became a great man of divine glory by giving Shukla Yajur Veda to the world. Since it was the treasure of knowledge obtained during daylight from God, it was called Shukla Yajur Veda.
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).
This divine message of the Vedas has been conveyed by Yajnavalkya through his Ishavasya, Upanishat.
1.27 References in Mahabharatha and Sathapatha Brahmana and his contributions
Yanjavalkya wascelebrated sage, to who is attributed the White Yajur-Veda, the Satapatha Brahmana, the Brihad Aranyaka, and the code of law called Yajnavalkya-smriti. He lived before the grammarian Katyayana, and probably later than Manu. He was a disciple of Vaisampayana.
Max Muller quotes a dialogue between Yanjavalkya and Maitreyi from the Satapatha Brahmana (Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 22), in which the sage sets forth his views.
Yajnavalkya also is represented as inculcating the duty and necessity of religious retirement and meditation, He is considered as having been the originator of the Yoga doctrine.
The Maha-bharata makes him present at the Rajasuya sacrifice performed by Yudhishthira. According to the Satapatha Brahmana he flourished at the court of Janaka, king of Videha and father of Sita.
Janaka had long contentions with the Brahmans, in which he was supported, and probably prompted, by Yajnavalkya. Hewas a dissenter from the religious teaching and practices of his time.
Anarticle by Edurkala K.Shankaranarayana Bhat, which I read, is the bases for preparing this write up. I could not get any information regarding birth ofchildren to sage Yangavalkya.
Yanjavalkya was a disciple of Vaisampayana. He was son of Vaisampayana’s sister. Maitreyi was his companion in spiritual works. He is remembered for getting Sukla Yajur Veda from Sun God.
Born on Makara Uthiradam star, native of Mukkur and brought up in Ladavaram village near Arcot and now well settled in Mumbai for over five decades. Presently, at 70, trying to run this website without any commercial expectations or profit motive, just for the sake of our future generations to understand about Sanatana Dharma & Srivaishnavam sampradayam.Within my limited knowledge that I put it here, what I learnt from the world.