[Advaita-l] BrahmaGYAna and jIvanmukti - 2 (The Case of YAGYavalkya)
sjayana at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 4 18:47:34 CST 2006
In the previous posting, it was mentioned that according to the
jIvanmuktiviveka (JMV) of svAmI vidyAraNya (SV), it is possible for a
person to attain BrahmaGYAna, but still not have jIvanmukti (i.e. the
person is a "GYAnimAtra"). This posting will consider an example of
such a person mentioned in the scriptures - that of YAGYavalkya of
the BR^ihadaaraNyaka upanishhad (BU).
Background to the discussion on YAGYavalkya
YAGYavalkya's story is narrated in the BU, where in the royal
assembly of king Janaka, he debates with others on the knowledge of
Janaka, Emperor of Videha, performed a sacrifice in which
gifts were freely distributed. Vedic scholars from Kuru
and Panchala were assembled there. Emperor Janaka of Videha
had a desire to know, `Which is the most erudite of these
Vedic scholars ?' He had a thousand cows confined in a pen,
and on the horns of each cow were fixed ten Padas (of gold).
He said to them, `Revered Brahmanas, let him who is the
best Vedic scholar among you drive these cows (home).'
None of the Brahmanas dared. Then Yajnavalkya said to a
pupil of his, `Dear Samasravas, please drive these cows
(home).' He drove them. The Brahmanas were enraged. `How
does he dare to call himself the best Vedic scholar
among us ?' there was a Hotr of Emperor Janaka of Videha
named Asvala. He now asked Yajnavalkya, `Yajnavalkya,
are you indeed the best Vedic scholar among us ?'
Yajnavalkya replied, `I bow to the best Vedic scholar,
I just want the cows'.
YAGYavalkya is then interrogated by many, but he comes out the victor
in all the discussions/debates. Most of the questions asked by the
others present in the assembly concern Brahman, and YAGYavalkya
answers all of them.
Towards the end of the discussions, YAGYavalkya asks SAkalya a
question and says the latter's head should fall of if he doesn't
answer. Since SAkalya does not know the answer, his head falls off.
YAGYavalkya as a BrahmaGYAnI
That YAGYavalkya has saMyak- as well as aparoksha- BrahmaGYAna is
first established in the JMV :
asti hi yAGYavalkyasya tatprativAdinAM ushhasta-kaholAdInAM
cha bhUyAnvidyAmadaH, taiH sarvairapi vijigIshhukathAyAM
"Even YAGYavalkya and his opponents ushhasta, Kahola and
others, all had vast pride of learning inasmuch as all of
them entered into disputation desiring victory."
nanu teshhAM vidyAntaramevAsti na tu brahmavidyeti chet.h .
"(Objection:) They had other learnings only, but not
knowledge of Brahman."
na, kathAgatayoH prashnottarayoH brahmavishhayatvAt.h .
"(Reply:) It cannot be said so, since in that debate, all
questions and answers thereto are found to be concerning
nanu brahmavishhayatve.api teshhAMApAtato GYAnameva na tu
saMyagvedanaM iti chet.h .
"(Objection:) Although Brahman was the object of discussion,
they had only imperfect knowledge, not perfect knowledge."
na, tathA satyasmAkamapi tadIyavAkyaiH utpannAyA
brahmavidyayA asaMyaktvaprasangAt.h .
"(Reply:) It cannot be said so, because, in that case, our
knowledge of Brahman arising out of their statements shall
also become imperfect knowledge."
nanu saMyaktve.api paroxaGYAnameveti chet.h .
"(Objection:) Although it is perfect, yet it is mediate
na 'yatsAxAt aparoxAdbrahma' (BR^i . up . 3.4.1) iti
mukhya aparoxavishhayatayaiva visheshhitaH prashnopalambhAt.h .
"(Reply:) To this we say no, as the questions put were
especially concerned with the directness and immediateness
of the knowledge of Brahman: 'That Brahman which is direct
and immediate' (B.U. 3.4.1) thus."
There can be no ambiguity about SV's opinion of YAGYavalkya's
BrahmaGYAna. SV is not talking about YAGYavalkya as a mere "scholar
of the scriptures", but as a fully realized BrahmaGYAnI, who has
known Brahman perfectly and immediately.
YAGYavalkya was not a jIvanmukta
SV has already pointed out that YAGYavalkya had the vAsanA of "pride
of learning". He then categorically denies the jIvanmukti of
YAGYavalkya giving other reasons :
iyam evaasmadabhimataa jIvanmuktiH. yAGYavalkyaH tu
vijigIshhudshaayaaM¸ na hIdR^ishaH, cittavishraantaye
vidvatsaMnyaasasya tena karishhyamANatvaat.h . na kevalam
asya vijigIshhA kiMtu dhanatR^ishhNApi mahatI jAtA, yato
bahUnAM brahmavidAM purataH sthApitaM sAlaMkAraM gosahasram
apahR^itya svayam evedam Aha: 'namo vayam brahmishhThAya
kurmo gokAmA eva vayaM smaH' iti. (BR^iH. upa. 3.1.2) .
"This is the jIvanmukti we approve of. But YAGYavalkya was
not in this state while he was still desirous of vistory in
disputation, since he was yet to take the vidvatsannyAsa in
order to set the mind at rest. Not only was he desirous of
vistory, but he had a great thirst for wealth as well,
since he, while carrying away a thousand cows decorated
in gold, and put before the assembly of many knowers of
Brahman, himself said thus, 'I bow to the best of the
BrAhmaNas, but I just want the cows.' (BU 3.1.2)"
itarAn.h brahmavido.avaGYAtumiyaM kAchidvachobha~NgIti cet .
Objection: "It may well be that he said that so as to snub
the other knowers of Brahman."
ayam api tarhyaparo doshhaH . itare cha brahmavidaH
svakIyaM dhanamanenApahR^itaMitimatvA chukrudhuH .
ayaM cha krodhaparavashaH SAkalyaM SApena mArayAmAsa .
"That is then another count of offense. The other knowers
of Brahman were enraged thinking he has taken away their
wealth. And in a fit of anger, he cursed SAkalya to death."
To recapitulate SV's arguments against the jIvanmukti of YAGYavalkya:
1) He had a desire for victory.
2) Either he had a thirst for wealth, or he wished to snub others.
3) He got angry at SAkalya and cursed him to death.
For all the above reasons, SV declares YAGYavalkya to be bound by
tasmAtkiM bahunA brahmavidAM yAGYavalkyaadInaamastyeva
"YAGYavalkya and other knowers of Brahman were not free
from the continuance of impure tendencies (vAsanAs),
therefore there is no point discussing it further..."
The final conclusion on YAGYavalkya is:
He was a BrahmaGYAnI, but not a jIvanmukta.
I.e., he was not free of vAsanAs.
(In my personal opinion, SV is not so keen on *proving* that
YAGYavalkya was a GYAnimAtra, as in clarifying that SV is not merely
talking about SAstra-GYAna, but about aparoksha BrahmaGYAna itself
being insufficient for jIvanmukti.)
YAGYavalkya as a non-sannyAsI
It is obvious that YAGYavalkya was not a sannyAsI during his debate
with the BrAhmaNas. He is said to have been married at that time to
Maitreyi. Also, YAGYavalkya accepts cows and gold from king Janaka.
Is it conceivable for a sannyAsI to be married or possess cows and
This point is very relevant, because Sankara and sureshvara in their
commentaries implicitly assume sannyAsa to precede AtmaGYAna. There
are quite literally dozens of references in their commentaries, as
for example, sureshvara says in his saMbandha vArttika, verse 221:
satyAnR^ite sukhaduHkhe iti tathA sarvasaMnyAsapUrvakam.h .
AtmAno.anveshhaNaM sAkshAt ApastaMbaH abravIn muniH .. 221 ..
"'Truth and untruth, pleasure and pain' etc. ought to be
completely renounced prior to the quest for the Self, as
the sage Apastamba himself has so declared."
The verse that sureshvara refers to is from the Apastamba dharma
9. atha parivraajaH .
"Henceforth follow the rules for the wandering sannyAsI."
13. satyAnR^ite sukhaduHkhe vedaaniM lokamamuM cha
"Abandoning truth and untruth, pleasure and pain, the Vedas,
this world and the next, he (the saMnyAsin) shall seek the Self."
Note that Apastamba also takes sannyAsa to precede Atma-vichAra.
Therefore, the "normal" route taken to AtmaGYAna is vividiShA
sannyAsa, the renunciation of the seeker:
sannyAsa --> AtmaGYAna
Besides, Sankara speaks of the sthitapraGYa as being a sannyAsI in
his commentary on the Bhagavad GItA 2.55:
tyaktaputravittalokaishhaNaH saMnyAsI AtmArAmaH AtmakrIDaH
sthitapraGYaH ityarthaH .
"The sannyAsI who has renounced the desire for progeny,
wealth and reputation, who rejoices and revels in the Self,
is the sthitapraGYa."
Note that the GItA verse 2.55 itself does not speak of sannyAsa, but
Sankara implicitly assumes the sthitapraGYa to be a sannyAsI.
In his commentary on GItA 2.56, Sankara makes this point yet again:
... sthitapraGYaH muniH saMnyAsI tadA uchyate .
"...[He] is said to be the sthitapraGYa, the muni, the sannyAsI."
The question should now be asked: How is it that YAGYavalkya was not
a sannyAsI, but Sankara and sureshvara speak of the sthitapraGYa as a
SV's reply is that YAGYavalkya was a GYAnimAtra, not a sthitapraGYa,
and that he took a different route:
AtmaGYAna --> sannyAsa
(i.e. the reverse of the "standard route"). This is called vidvat
YAGYavalkya taking up vidvat sannyAsa
Since it has been established that YAGYavalkya already had AtmaGYAna
but was not yet free from vAsanAs, he takes up vidvat sannyAsa. SV
discusses this point in the section dealing with vidvat sannyAsa :
samyaganushhThitaiH shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsanaiH paraM
tattvaM viditavadbhiH saMpAdyamAno vidvatsaMnyAsaH .
taM cha yAGYavalkyaH saMpAdayAmAsa .
"Taking to sannyAsa by those who correctly follow
shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana and have attained knowledge
of the Truth, is called vidvat-sannyAsa. YAGYavalkya did this."
SV then provides the scriptural reference for his assertion :
tad ubhayaM maitreyIbrAhmaNasyAdyantayorAmnAyate:
'atha ha yAGYavalkyo.anyadvR^ittamupAkarishhyanmaitreyIti
hovAcha yAGYavalkyaH pravrajishhyanvA are.ahamasmAt.h
sthAnAdasmi' iti, [BU 4.5.12]
etAvadare khalvamR^itatvam iti hoktvA yAGYavalkyo
pravavrAja iti cha. [BU 4.5.15]
"Both of these have been described at the beginning and
end of the Maitreyi Brahmana. Thus YAGYavalkya, who was
about to accept the life of a sannyAsI said: 'O Maitreyi,
I am going to give up this life of a householder and take
to pravrajyA. For this indeed leads to immortality.'
Saying so, YAGYavalkya left." (BU 4.5.2 and 4.5.15)"
YAGYavalkya is an example of a person who attained BrahmaGYAna while
still in the householder stage, where it is difficult (if not
impossible) to be free of vAsanAs. Therefore, he takes up vidvat
sannyAsa, the renunciation of the knower, to practise vAsanAkshaya.
YAGYavalkya's depiction in the Puranas
The vishhNu purANa (VP) contains a story about YAGYavalkya , which
depicts him as being very proud and contemptuous of his fellow
The story goes that vaishampAyana wanted his students to engage in
penance on his behalf. One of his students, YAGYavalkya, responds,
"How shall I engage in penance with these miserable and inefficient
Brahmanas?", which starts off a quarrel with his teacher. YAGYavalkya
then leaves vaishampAyana to perform tapas to sUrya BhagavAn.
Finally, sUrya gives the shukla yajurveda to YAGYavalkya.
The VP story shows how YAGYavalkya was a very vain and haughty
person, and did not respect his contemporaries, which is pretty much
the same as SV's assessment. Also, the VP speaks highly of the tapas
of YAGYavalkya, which SV agrees with.
It is interesting that the BU is part of the shulka yajurveda, which
YAGYavalkya is credited with having brought down to this world.
The next posting will provide some explanations by SV as to why such
cases as YAGYavalkya should occur at all.
 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.1.1-2. Translated by Swami
Madhavananda, Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkata. Online at
 JMV-SM, pages 151-152.
JMV-RG, 2.9.3-8, page 160.
 JMV-SM, pages 155-156.
JMV-RG, 2.9.22-25, page 162.
 JMV-SM, page 157.
JMV-RG, 2.9.28, page 163.
 JMV-SM, page 8.
JMV-RG, 1.2.1-4. Page 74.
 Vishnu Purana, Book 3, Chapter 5, translated by HH Wilson, online
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