Famous sage Yajnavalkya and notable lady Vedic scholar Gargi are also known for the way they handled a question answer session in the context of Brahmavetta discourse held at Mithila King Janak’s palace, which is also renowned as a sacred ancient venue for great discussion on Vedic philosophy.
One question by Artabhag is quite interesting: “all beings are subject to death meaning they serve as feed for the death. Who devours death?” Yajnavalkya’s reply is direct: fire is death and it is the feed for water because it is water which extinguishes fire.
Another query is forwarded by Artabhag. What is it that does not quit companionship at the time of one’s death? “Name of the deceased” is the quiz answer given by Yajnavalkya. Explaining, the sage observes; persons’ names remain ever joined and never divorced. Name of a person is eternal. In the same way Bishwadev -the world God- is also timeless and ceaseless.
As soon as Gargi gets opportunity to ask Yajnavalkya questions she does so with innumerable queries. The sage warns her not to ask too many questions. If she continues to storm questions he notes she might be lost in the midst of enquiries.
Later another scholar Uddalak Aruni takes the turn of asking questions. Do you know the person who serves as connecting thread (similar to that of a garland) for all in this planet, other stars and all living and nonliving beings? Do you understand the way the most powerful holds all, mans all and monitors all for infinite period of time and through space that knows no beginning or end? If you are Brahmavetta you should know this, he says.
To this Yajnavalkya responds “it is the air that serves as the universal presence in space for linking all in one and one in all or connecting individuals with collective strand and bonding the collective body with individual entities. The Antaryami is none but Paramatma Vishnu who resides in the heart of all living beings. He manifests as people’s conscience encouraging all to come to Him through loving devotional service.
Some scholars refer to that conscience the cosmic consciousness which people could feel through deep, dedicated, and consistent meditation. Its existence is in the five elements – panchamahabhutas in Vedic terminology – earth, water, fire, wind and space but the elements themselves do not know how they are being manned, powered and monitored infinitely.
Then Gargi asks permission for two questions: who is above Deulok and under the earth and who is in between the earth and Deulok? Who is it that ties past, present and future?
Yajnavalkya’s answer is clear: Paramatma who is the absolute Atman residing in the hearts of all beings and in every atom of matter. He is the overseer and permitter of their actions. Paramatma, he further describes, is the Absolute Atman or supreme self or Primordial Self or the Self Beyond who is spiritually identical with the absolute and ultimate reality. Selflessness is the attribute that Paramatma possesses and in it all personality individuality vanishes.
All questioners are satisfied with what they heard from Yajnavalkya. Then lady scholar Gargi declared amidst the presence of all scholars that Yajnavalkya is the great Brahmavetta. The way she did so indicates, among other things, the high status and respectable dignity that ladies enjoyed at the time of Janak in Mithila.
Blog by Shirish Ballav Pradhan