SECTION IV - MAITREYI-BRAHMANA
The conversation between Sage Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi on the absolute Self;
Instruction on the Supreme by Yajnavalkya to Maitreyi - All Love rooted in the Self;
The Universe is Non-different from the Self before its Manifestation, during its
Existence and after its Disappearance.
If the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the crown of all the Upanishads, the conversation
between the learned, wise and great philosopher Sage Yajnavalkya and his vastly
spiritual and intelligent consort Maitreyi contained in this section and elsewhere
of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is its crest jewel, chudamani.
It explains with many analogies and metaphors the concept of Self, atman,
as the ultimate reality, emphasizing the value of renunciation without which none
can go from truth to The Truth of the truth. It tells us that unless we get detached
from the world of truth, the world of desires, we cannot understand the world of
the Truth of truth. These conversations are very famous philosophical expositions
containing the essence of atmajnana gifted to the world by this Upanishad.
These teachings bear not only the testimony of conviction but also rationality.
If the mind is detached from its pre-occupation with the world of truth, it can
understand the reality better and better – this is the supreme emphasis made in
this section. The control and discipline of the outgoing sensory impulses of the
human being is necessary to take his life to a higher level, to make him realize
the atman. In the first chapter of this Upanishad this idea was merely a
proposition (1.4.7) – atma iti eva upasita – meditate upon the atman
as your own self.Then the Upanishad gave the reason
as to why the self alone should be meditated upon. It said that everything is united
in It and one knows everything through It. Finally it said that Self is dearer than
everything we hold dear in this world (1.4.8) and then it gave a brief idea about
the Self by the principle of neti neti. In this section this subject
is further elaborated.
As is well known, in the Hindu spiritual literature the message is given more importance
than the messenger. Accordingly not much is known about the life of sage Yajnavalkya.
Just inkling is known that Yajnavalkya had a wife known as Maitreyi and that he
had another wife called Katyayani.
Let us begin the study of this section which begins with a story the purpose of
which is to show the importance of renunciation of the world as a discipline for
the knowledge of the Self.
1) "Maitreyi, my dear," said Yajnavalkya, "I am going to renounce
this life (of a householder – grihasta ashrama). Let me make a final settlement
between you and Katyayani (his other wife)."
The great Master Yajnavalkya speaks to Maitreyi - "I am
going to retire from the life of a householder and enter into the next order of
life (vanaprastha ashrama), and therefore am now intending to settle the
family affairs between you and Katyayani, my other wife. These family affairs arose
because of the relationship that existed between Maitreyi and Katyayani through
their common husband, Yajnavalkya. The sage wanted to put an end to this relationship
so that the two ladies can lead independent lives.
Sage Yajnavalkya told Maitreyi. "Between Maitreyi and Katayani, two consorts,
I shall make the division of property (like land, cows, horses etc.) and then take
up the life of a renunciate".
2) Thereupon Maitreyi said: "Venerable Sir, if indeed the whole earth, full
of wealth, belonged to me, would I be immortal through that?" "No,"
replied Yajnavalkya, "your life would be just like that of people who have
plenty. Of Immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth."
When the idea of property arose, immediately it appeared to have stirred up a brain
wave in the mind of the wise Maitreyi. She queries; you speak of entering the next
order of life, embracing a new perspective of living, altogether, and therefore
you propose to divide the property between the two of us here, so that we may be
comfortable and happy. Is it possible for us to be happy, - ultimately, through
property? Is it possible to be perpetually happy by possession of material comfort
"If I am the owner of the entire earth, the wealth of the whole world
is mine, 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 wealth of the entire
world?" This is Maitreyi's question.
The intention of Yajnavalkya to leave secular property to his wives naturally means
that he proposed to leave them in a state of satisfaction and immense comfort. But
can this be practicable? Can we be eternally happy, unbrokenly satisfied? Would
there be a cessation of our happiness at any time? The question simply put is: Is
it possible to lead a life of immortality through wealth and possessions?
This is a million dollar question. Let us proceed further to know what had happened.
No; replies Yajnavalkya. “You cannot be happy. You will be very comfortable, as
is the case with people who own a lot of wealth, but you would be in the same state
in other respects, as is the condition of well-placed people in society. Immortality
is not possible through possessions. It is a different status, altogether, which
has no connection with any kind of relativistic association. There
is no hope of immortality through wealth."
Impossibility of immortality through wealth is the focal point of this story.