Yagnavalkya in King Janaka's Symposium - Part 2


Manage episode 346845552 series 3395269
By Arghya Goswami. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Yagnavalkya in King Janaka's Symposium


This is the part 2 from the interesting events and debates which took place during the symposium arranged by King Janaka of Videha. We heard about Yagnavalkya’s decision to take home thousand cows with ten gold coins tied to their horns and how he was stopped and challenged by eminent scholars such as Ashwala and Aartabhaaga. They both got involved in a debate with Yagnavalkya and eventually accepted their defeat. While Yagnavalkya wanted to leave the symposium, he was again challenged by few other eminent scholars. Before I start the today’s story, one point I would like to mention is that in my view this Upanishad was written post Mahabharata era as this mentions Parikshit, who was the grandson of the great pandava, Arjuna. This part 2 of the story is about the various debates between Yagnavalkya and scholars such as Bhujyu, Usasta and Kahola. So sit back and listen to some of the greatest thoughts which are mentioned in the Brihaddaaranyaka Upanishad.Bhujyu the grandson of the scholar Lahya, stopped and challenged Yagnavalkya. Yagnavalkya smiled and greeted Bhujyu with folded palms.Bhujyu asked -“When I was a student and was travelling to the kingdom of Madra, we visited Patanchala’s residence. He was a descent of Kapi. We came to know that his daughter was possessed by a Gandharva. We wanted to help the girl so we started inquiring the Gandharva.”After a pause, Bhujyu continued -“We asked Gandharva who he was?”The Gandharva said his name was Sudhavan who was a descendant of Sage Angiras.“We wanted to test the Gandharva further!”We asked him about the limits of the world so questioned him where were the descendants of Parikshit?”After a pause, Bhujyu looked at Yagnavalkya, and with a serious expression asked him -“Yagnavalkya, now I ask you the same question, Where were the descendents of Parikshit?”Friends, few things to clarify here, firstly Gandharva, means a celestial non-human being who can change its form and shape and possess humans. Gandharvas have been mentioned numerous Indian mythologies and ancient scriptures. Secondly, I want to throw some light on the timeline of this Upanishad. It is very clear that Bhujyu asked the Gandharva and Yagnavalkya about the descendants of Parikshit. As per Mahabharata, Parikshit was the son of Abhhimanyu and grand son of the great Pandava Arjuna. So in all possibility this upanishad was written quite some time after Mahabharata. So it also demonstrates that Mahabharata might not be just an epic or mythology rather might have actually occurred, as we know the documented existence of Yagnavalkya, Gargi and many other characters as mentioned in this Brihaddaaranyaka Upanishad! Well, these are my thoughts based on the logic I just presented. Thirdly we must also understand about the Ashwamedha Yagna or the famous horse sacrifice as this will be one of the response of Yagnavalkya. The chosen horse is left to roam around throughout the kingdom and beyond its borders. Whichever areas or regions the horse wanders into is claimed by the yaajamaana king of the horse sacrifice. If the king or ruler of that land or area doesn’t challenge the king who has arranged Ashwamedha, the Yaajamaana king claims that portion of land as part of his kingdom. As per the scriptures, this sacrifice produces both collective and individual results. Whether combined with meditation or performed exclusively through it, it is the highest of all rites. As per Smritis - there is nothing more heinous than killing a noble Brahmin nor anything more meritorious than the horse sacrifice. So let’s get back to the story. Yagnavalkya thought for a while and then replied -“Parikshit had performed Ashwamedha Yagna during his reign. So the Gandharva had told you that the descendants of Parikshit went to where the performers of horse sacrificers go! Thirty two times the space covered by the sun’s chariot in a day makes this world. Around it, covering twice the area, is the earth, around the earth, covering twice the area, is the ocean. They pass through a very slim opening at the junction of two halves of cosmic shell. The opening is as slim as an edge of a razor or wing of a fly. Fire in form of a falcon, delivered the descendants of Parikshit to the air and the air took them to where previous performers of horse sacrifice were. Thus the Gandharva praised the air as symbolising the cosmic vital force. Therefore the air is the diversity of individuals and also is the aggregate. One who knows this as such conquers further death. So friends, thing to note here that Yagnavalkya actually explained the dimension of cosmic orb. He said that thirty two times the space covered by the sun’s chariot in a day makes this world which is surrounded by the mountain Lokaaloka. This is the world which constitutes the body of Viraaj, and in which people reap the fruits of their past actions. This is the limit of Loka and beyond that is Aloka. The air is vital force as it is the inner self of all beings whether moving or stationary. It is also outside them. The air is the diversity of individuals in forms relating to the body, the elements and the gods. The air is also an aggregate as one cosmic vital force. One who knows this attains identity with the air in its individual and collective form. After dying once he dies no more. After listening to Yagnavalkya’s response, Bhujyu felt satisfied, he decided to sit down and accepted his defeat. Yagnavalkya was again victorious. He was ready to leave the symposium as everyone looked at Yagnavalkya. All of them were quiet as they were quite impressed by his knowledge and wisdom. Yagnavalkya waited for another challenge from the wise men and women gathered in the symposium and his wait was fruitful. Usasta the son of Chakra was inquisitive and eager to question Yagnavalkya! He always wondered about the Self as a distinct entity and wanted to know more on that! He got up, greeted Yagnavalkya and asked him -“Yagnavalkya, explain to me the Brahman that is immediate and direct - the Self that is within all?”The meaning of Usasta’s question is deep. He wanted to know what is that “Self” which is within all! The word “Self” refers to the inner self or Aatman. He wanted to know clearly what is meant by “Self” which is within all.Yagnavalkya was quite surprised to hear such a high philosophical question from Usasta. He thought for a while, and replied -“This is your “Self” that is within all! That which breathes through Praana is your “Self” that is within all! That which moves downwards through Apaana is your “Self” that is within all! That which penetrates through the Vyaana is your “Self” that is within all! That which goes out through Udaana is your “Self” that is within all! This is your “Self” that is within all!”Now dear listeners, before I go on with Yagnavalkya’s explanation to Usasta’s question on the “Self” as a distinct entity, I would like to throw some light on the terms such as Praana, Apaana, Vyaana and Udaana. I hope you have listened to the Story of Praana which is featured as a part of this podcast series. If not please listen to it. Well in short, Praana is the vital life force. As per Nisva-sattva-samhita Nayasutra there are 5 types of vayus or winds and they are Praana, Apaana, Udaana, Vyaana and Samaana and explained as -Praana - Movement is inward and downward, it is the vital life force. Balanced prāṇa leads to a balanced and calm mind and emotions. Its location are - Head, lungs and heartApaana - Movement is outward and downward, it is related to processes of elimination, reproduction and skeletal health (absorption of nutrients). Balanced apāna leads to a healthy digestive and reproductive system. Its location is Lower AbdomenUdaana - Movement is upward, it is related to the respiratory functions, speech and functioning of the brain. Balanced udāna leads to a healthy respiratory system, clarity of speech, healthy mind, good memory, creativity, etc. Its location in the human body is in Diaphragm and throatSamaana - Movement is spiral, concentrated around the navel, like a churning motion, it is related to digestion on all levels. Balanced samāna leads to a healthy metabolism. Its location in human body is in the NavelVyaana - Movement is outward, like the circulatory process. It is related to circulatory system, nervous system and cardiac system. Balanced vyāna leads to a healthy heart, circulation and balanced nerves. Its location in human body is originating from heart and distributed throughout the human body. So here Usasta actually indicated and questioned about the life force within the organism and what is the “Self” within that. Now coming back to explanation of Yagnavalkya’s response to Usasta - The one which is immediate, direct and unobstructed is the Brahman. It is the vastest and self of all and within all. The body and sense organs are immersed in your self i.e it is the Self of the body and sense organs. There is a 3 levels of hierarchy which can be visualised as a body which is the outermost and within it there is another subtle body consisting of the organs and the third one is the Brahman whose existence is doubted. Yagnavalkya then explained the physiology of body using the examples of vayus. He saif “that he breathes through Praana” which means Praana is inhalation through mouth and nose which is unobstructed and direct and also makes Praana breathe. That is the individual self of the body and organs. Similarly Yagnavalkya takes examples of other vayus by which body and organ are made to breathe and do other functions as these vayus are associated with several functions of the body. The body is just like a wooden puppet, which cannot do anything unless it is guided and operated by someone. Similarly the human body and organs must be operated and guided by an intelligent principle without which they cannot perform any function such as breathing. The intelligent principle is the “Individual Self” which aids the body and organs to perform their own functions. Hence that principle distinct from the body and organ exists and makes them functional. On hearing the explanation of Yagnavalkya, Usasta was angry and impatient. He started accusing Yagnavalka to be a trickster as he was not giving him direct answers rather was answering him using different examples and metaphors. He said to the scholar - “Yagnavalkya, you have indicated it as one may propose one thing and then being in doubt will say something else. You too have used various metaphors and examples to explain Brahman just like someone for instance to describe about a cow or a horse may say using certain characteristics of that animal such as ‘a cow that walks’ or ‘a horse that runs’. You too have tried to explain Brahman using certain examples like breathing and praana in similar way. Please provide me a direct and immediate explanation of Brahman - the self that is within all instead of telling me in all these in metaphors? This question irritated Yagnavalkya a bit, as he didn’t expect Usasta to say all these in the symposium which will full of learned men and women. Yagnavalkya stood his ground and said -“I stick to the examples what I said earlier Usasta. You want me to present Self as one would present it in a jar! Unfortunately it is impossible because of the very nature of Self. The Self is the witness of vision. There are two types of vision - ordinary and eternal or real. The “Ordinary” vision is the function of the mind as it is connected with the eye, therefore it is an act which is performed. This has a beginning and an end. It is not eternal. The “Eternal” or “Real” vision is the one which doesn’t have a beginning or an end. This vision belongs to the ‘Self’ and is like the heat and light of fire. This is the very essence of witness. The ordinary vision is an act, affected by the objects seen and reveals only its colour and form but not the inner self that infuses it. Therefore you cannot see that inner self which is the witness of vision. Similarly you cannot hear that which is the hearer of hearing, you cannot think that which is the thinker of the thought, you cannot know that which is the knower of knowledge. This is the Self that is within all and everything else such as the body or the subtle body consisting of organs is perishable. Only Brahman is imperishable and changeless. This is the very nature of the thing and hence it cannot it described as we can describe a cow or a horse.” After listening to this explanation of Brahman, Usasta was speechless and silently accepted his defeat and sat down in his place. The goshti was again buzzing with whispers and wonders. All learned scholars, sages and priests were talking to each other, trying to understand what they heard during all these debates. King Janaka too was in a deep thought on the explanation of Brahman provided by Yagnavalkya. Silently most of the scholars started admiring Yagnavalkya’s knowledge, power of debate and philosophy on Brahman and Self. Then after a while, Yagnavalkya was again called for another debate by the scholar Kahola who was the son of Kaushitkeya. He asked him the same question but from a different angle -“Yagnavalkya, can you please explain to me Brahman that is immediate and direct, the Self that is within all? This is your self that is within all. Which is within all?”Basically it can be debated as both Kahola and Usasta had asked Yagnavalkya the same question. Did they ask about the same Self or different Selves? Although some thinkers and scholars have contemplated it as two different selves, but as per Adi Shankaracharya both of them had asked about one same Self. Both Kahola and Usasta had used the word “your” before Self. The same body and senses cannot have two different selves. If one of the two be Brahman in primary sense, the other must be secondary, similarly with Selfhood and being within all, then these terms become contradictory. If one of the two Brahmans be the Self, Primary and Withinall, then the other must be secondary, Non-self and not within all. Therefore both the scholars inquired about the same Self.Yagnavalkya, thought for a while and replied to Kahola -“Kahola, it is that which transcends hunger and thirst, grief, delusion, decay and death! Knowing this very Self, the learned men and Brahmins renounce the desire for sons, for wealth and for the worlds and lead a saintly life. That which is the desire for sons is the desire for wealth and that which is the desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds, for both these are but desires. Therefore the knower of Brahman having known all about scholarship should try to live upon that strength which comes from knowledge, having known all about this strength and scholarship, he becomes meditative, and having known all about the meditation and its opposite, he becomes a knower of Brahman! The knower of Brahman can behave in whatsoever manner, but he is just like that and rest everything is perishable. “What Yagnavalkya meant was, that Self is that which beats hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are humanly vital functions. Grief is a desire, as it is the discomfort one feels when ones enticing things remain unfulfilled or not done. This feeling kindles desire. Delusion is a mistake, raising from incorrect notions and a source of all troubles. Both grief and delusion affect human minds. Decay is a state in which a thing or body modifies and times out. It gradually loses its beauty. Beautiful human body gets covered in wrinkles with time and decay. The death is the fall of a body and is the final stage of modification and beyond that, the organism ceases exist anymore. The vital functions such as hunger and thirst, depreciation of minds such as grief and delusion and gradually fall of human body such as decay and death are in unbroken succession. Knowing this very Self, is knowing own’s reality. The supreme Brahman is eternally devoid of any relative attributes and is ever satisfied. The learned men and Brahmins who knows this Self, will renounce the desires of having sons, that means lead a life of demons and devils. One who performs meditation along with correct rituals may win the world of Gods or mediation on Hiranyagarbha, which is the divine wealth! It is only through the knowledge of Brahman, the renunciation takes place. They renounce the objects of desire which lead them to the world that is not Self. The knower of Brahman renounce their rites and accessories such as the sacred thread and lead a life of monk of highest order or Paramahamsa. The Self is to be realised, to be heard of, to be reflected on. For Self knowledge is to be attained and the Self is devoid of attributes such as hunger, thirst, grief, delusion, decay and death, is to be known as different from the means and results of actions. Knowledge and ignorance cannot co-exist together as they are contradictory as light and darkness! Therefore the knower of Brahman must not have any relation with the worldly matters and renounce everything and must lead a life of a Paramahamsa. This strength comes from the knowledge. The knower of Brahman has the knowledge of Self. The knower of Brahman must be in a true state of Self and eliminate all worldly pleasures and detach himself and remain eternally free. Kahola, after listening to this explanation didn’t had any further guts to ask anything else! He greeted Yagnavalkya with folded palms and sat down in his place. Yagnavalkya was again victorious and was undefeated in the debates. Will Yagnavalkya prevail above other scholars? Will he remain victorious? Will he be able to take home the cows along with the gold coins? Let’s find it out in the part 3 of this great debate. So, until then -


This podcast was created on Hubhopper studio. If you wish to start your own podcast for free, visit www.hubhopperstudio.com. Hubhopper is India's leading podcast creation platform. Start your podcast with Hubhopper studio & get your voice heard across platforms like Spotify, Gaana, Google podcasts, Wynk Music and more. Click on the link in the episode description or visit www.hubhopperstudio.com.”


The Concept, Script, Narration and Audio Design: Arghya Goswami

19 episodes