Sage Yajnavalkya (याज्ञवल्क्य) of
Mithilawas a legendary sage of Vedic India, credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana(including the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad), besides Yogayajnavalkya Samhitaand Yajnavalkya Smriti. He is also a major figure in the Upanishads.
According to Indian tradition, he was the son of sage Devaraata and was the pupil of sage
Vaishampayana. Once, Vaishampayana got angry with Yajnavalkya as the latter displayed too much sense of pride in being abler than other students. The angry teacher asked his pupil Yajnavalkya to give back all the knowledge of Yajurveda he taught him.
As per the demands of his
Guru, Yajnavalkya vomited all the knowledge that he acquired from his teacher in form of eaten food. Other disciples of Vaishampayana took the form of partridgebirds and consumed the vomited stuff because it was knowledge and they were very eager to receive the same.
The Sanskrit name for partridge is "Tittiri". As the Tittiri (partridge) birds ate this Veda, it is thenceforth called the Taittiriya Yajurveda. It is also known as Krishna Yajurveda or Black-Yajurveda on account of it being a vomited substance. The Taittiriya Samhita thus belongs to this Yajurveda.
Then Yajnavalkya determined not to have any human guru thereafter. Thus he began to propitiate the Sun God, Surya. Yajnavalkya worshipped and extolled the Sun, the master of the
Vedas, for the purpose of acquiring the fresh Vedic portions not known to his preceptor, Vaishampayana.
The Sun God, pleased with Yajnavalkya’s penance, assumed the form of a horse and graced the sage with such fresh portions of the Yajurveda as were not known to any other. This portion of the Yajurveda goes by the name of Shukla Yajurveda or White-Yajurveda on account of it being releaved by Sun. It is also known as Vajasaneya Yajurveda, because it was evolved in great rapidity by Sun who was in the form of a horse through his manes. In
Sanskrit, term "Vaji" means horse. Yajnavalkya divided this Vajasaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yajus Mantras. Sages like Kanva, Madhyandina and others learnt those and Shukla Yajurveda branched into popular recensions named after them.
Yajnavalkya married two wives. One was Maitreyi and the other Katyayani. Of the two, Maitreyi was a Brahmavadini ( one who is interested in the knowledge of
Brahman) . When Yajnavalkya wished to divide his property between the two wives, Maitreyi asked whether she could become immortal through wealth. Yajnavalkya replied that there was no hope of immortality through wealth and that she would only become one among the many who were well-to-do on earth. When she heard this, Maitreyi asked Yajnavalkya to teach her what he considered as the best. Then Yajnavalkya described to her the greatness of the Absolute Self, the nature of Its existence, the way of attaining infinite knowledge and immortality, etc. This immortal conversation between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi is recorded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The central theme of the discourse is this:
"All things are dear, not for their sake, but for the sake of the Self. This Self alone exists everywhere. It cannot be understood or known, for It alone is the Understander and the Knower. Its nature cannot be said to be positively as such. It is realised through endless denials as ‘not this, not this’. The Self is self-luminous, indestructible, unthinkable".
Wisdom of Yajnavalkya is shown more in
Brhadaranyaka Upanishadwhere he gives his teachings to his wife Maitreyi and King Janaka. He also participates in a competition arranged by King Janaka about the selecting great Brhama Jnani ( knower of Brahman) and wins after defeating several learned scholars and sages. This forms a beautiful chapter filled with lot of philosohical and mystical question-answers in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad.In the end, Yajnavalkya took Vidvat Sanyasa(renunciation after the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman) and retired to the forest.
Yajnavalkya was one of the greatest sages ever known. His precepts as contained in the Upanishads (The
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad) stand foremost as the crest-jewel of the highest teachings on knowledge of Brahman.
If the ascription of the "
Shatapatha Brahmana" and the " Brhadaranyaka Upanishad" is genuine, Yajnavalkya has made important contributions to both philosophy, including the apophaticteaching of ' neti neti' , and to astronomy, describing the 95-year cycle to synchronize the motions of the sunand the moon[ [http://www.crystalinks.com/indiastronomy.html Astronomy in ancient India] ] .
*Joseph, George G. (2000). "The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics", 2nd edition. Penguin Books, London. ISBN 0691006598.
*Kak, Subhash C. (2000). 'Birth and Early Development of Indian Astronomy'. In Selin, Helaine (2000). "Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy" (303-340). Boston: Kluwer. ISBN 0-7923-6363-9.
*Teresi, Dick (2002). "Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - from the Babylonians to the Maya". Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-83718-8.
History of astronomy
List of Indians
* [http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Sage_Yajnavalkya Sage Yajnavalkya] on Hindupedia, the online Hindu Encyclopedia
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