October 2, 2022, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Famous dialogue of Upanishad

Chatting with wife in scholarly tone

The Nepal Weekly
June 7, 2022

Yajnavalkya, who is a great sage and teacher figuring prominently in the Brihadaranayaka Upanishad, is also known for his chat with wife in scholarly tone. He had two wives – Katyayani and Maitreyi; the former dedicated to the mission of housewife and the latter eager to be scholar and obtain spiritual knowledge. The sage, at age between 65—70, decided to renunciate the household life after distributing all his wealth among his two consorts. For this he seeks permission from his wife Maitreyi. After listening to her husband, Maitreyi asks could I become immortal by getting all your wealth? Could I use the property for all time?

“No”, said Yajnavalkya, adding “never expect immortality or sustainable happiness through wealth and worldly materials and properties. You could consume the riches as long as you live but you could never attain immortality through wealth.” Maitreyi further says “what could I do with these temporary pleasure giving materials. Give me something that lasts long and remains sustainable, offer me Brahma Gyan.”

Yajnavalkya expresses happiness over his wife’s quest for sustainable knowledge Brahma Gyan. He tells her “you remain beloved for me all life, this quest of yours for lasting knowledge Brahma Gyan has added to my love for you. So I go on passing Brahma Gyan to you and you go on listening to me.” The sage explains the need for people “to separate their physical body with the Atma. As long as people think in terms of their physical body, its pleasure and pain, they cannot feel the presence of the Atma. They remain subject to birth death cycle. The moment they separate it and consider themselves as part of cosmic consciousness they feel the presence of Atma.”

In further clarification, the sage notes: wives consider their husbands beloved not for the sake of husbands but for their own use and benefits. The same is true with all husbands who take their wives as the most beloved. Sons are also loved not for themselves but for the self-interest and use. The need therefore is to know oneself, understand the inner part of self and have insight into oneself. Understand the Atma for it deserves attention, look, hearing and meditation.

The gist of Yajnavalkya’s teaching in relation to his wife’s quest for Atma is: the true self or Atma is distinct from the individual ego and therefore not subject to karma and rebirth; the Atma is eternal, unchanging and identified with the monistic principle underlying the universe, the Brahma. Freedom from rebirth and the attainment of bliss comes from knowledge of this identity between the true self and the Brahma and is accessed by the one who does not desire, who is without desire, whose desire is satisfied and whose desire is immersed with Atma.

Blog by Shirish B. Pradhan