Sage Yajnavalkya: The Philosopher Of Ancient India

With immense wit and wisdom in his words, Yajnavalkaya was a rishi known for his intelligence and at par sense of humour. Yajvalkaya had a profound knowledge of Vedic texts. Yajnavalkya was renowned for his unsurpassed wisdom and power. He has written a lot of books and scripture, among which Shukla Yajurveda Samhita is the most famous one.

Birth Of Sage Yajnavalkya

Yajnavalkya was born in the month of Kartik on the seventh day. His parents were Brahmarath and Sunanda who lived in the small town of Chamatkarpur. In today’s world, it is known as Vadnagar situated in the north of Gujarat. In other countries of those times, it was also mentioned that Devarata was his father. Yajnavalkya was the son of the sister of Vaishampayana, the Vedacharya of the Taittiriya section.

Childhood And Family

There were three gurus, under whom sage Yajnavalkya studied since his childhood. Rishi Uddalaka, Rishi Vasihampayana and Rishi Hiranyanabha Kaushala. Out of all his gurus, Hiranyagarbha, the king of the Raghu Dynasty and yoga teacher taught the science of self to Yajnavalkya.

He composed the Yoga Samhita at the hermitage of the great sage Upmanyu and is also famed for having defeated Uddalaka, his teacher at the court of Janka, which we’ll discuss in the latter part of the article. Yajnavalkya also codified the rituals pertaining to charity, sacrifices, post-funeral rites, duties of the household and acetic. All of this was included in the Garuda Purana. Yajnavalkya was said to have been the presiding priest at the Rajasuya sacrifice, which was performed when Yudhisthira was crowned the emperor.

Yajnavalkya had two wives. One was Maitreyi and the other was Katyaayanee, the daughter of Bhardwaj. Out of the two wives, Yajnavalkay had, Maitreyi was the one who was interested in the knowledge of Brahman. The descendants are the progeny of the first wife Katyaayanee. The three children of Yajnavalkya were Chandrakanta, Mahamegha and Vijaya.

Works of Rishi Yajnavalkya

  • Yajnavalkya Shakha
  • Pratijna Sutra
  • Satapatha Brahmana
  • Yoga-Yajnavalkya
  • Satapatha Brahmana
  • Yoga Yajnavalkya
  • Yajnavalkya Smṛti

Shakalya, Vaisampayana and Yajnavalkya

Yajnavalkya was a brilliant child and a student of Rishi Shakaya. Every day, Yajnavalkya was sent to the king’s place to perform a yagna. One day, while performing his yagna, Some of the rice grains from the Sacrificial fire fell on the wooden long nearby. After this incident, the king was astonished to see how sprouts had developed from those rice grains. Thus, Understanding the greatness, The king recalled him, but Yajnavalkya refused to go. Shakalya was angry when he got to know this and asked Yajnavalkya to give back all the knowledge he had received from him. Yajnavalkya vomited all the knowledge to which the other disciples turned themselves into birds and picked up the knowledge. The branch of this Veda came to be known as Taittiirya, as the birds that the disciples turned himself into were teetar.

Another version of the same story states that Taitteririya Samhita from Vaishampayan was being studied by Yajnavlakya. There were many other disciples here and they were all studies of taittiriya Shakha. It was a time when all the rishi decided to meet at the Meru mountain. For this meeting, a condition was put forth, where those who did not attend the meet would incur the sin of Brahma-hatya and would have to take the penance for the next seven days to make it alright.

On the assigned day, Vaisampayana could not make it to the meet as he had to perform the last rites for his father. To atone for his sin, he asked his disciple to take up penance. Here, Yajnavalkya stepped forward and took up the courage to take the penance all by himself. To this instance, Vaisampayana thought of Yajnavalkya as an arrogant child and thus, asked him to give up his knowledge. As per his guru’s demand, he vomited all his knowledge. Here, the other disciples took the form of teetar birds and pecked their way to the knowledge disposed of by Yajnavalkya. This part of knowledge from yajnavalkya came to be known as Krishna Yajurveda. Also, Because the disciple transformed himself into Teetar birds, it also became well known as Taittiriya Yajurveda.

Having this kind of attitude from two of his gurus, he further decided not to have any further human gurus. He meditated on Lord Surya and sought his blessing. The sun god, pleased with his prayer and dedication assumed the form of a horse and blessed the sage with portions of Yajurveda, which was not known to the world yet. This part of the knowledge received by Yajnavalkya came to be known as Shukla Yajurveda. It evolved in great rapidity through the manes of the Sun god in the form of a horse.

Yajnavalkya At Janaka’s Court

King Janaka was a contemporary of Yajnavalkya who took no disciples of his own. However, when people came to him, they were enlightened in different

Once King Janaka was holding a sacrifice on a large scale where he gave away a lot of gifts. Many scholars and men of letters came to this ceremony for the gifts. The gift consisted of a thousand kine and each of the cow’s horns was a measure of purest gold. The most learned men were asked to come and take it away, but the scholars sat in silence. While all of this was going on, Yajnavalkya got up and asked his disciple to take the herd to his ashram.

This created a huge uproar in the ashram, which led Asvala, King Janak’s priest to ask him if he really was the best match. When asked such a simple question, Yajnavalkay managed to give him a reply as simple as he ought to own the codes. But when Asvalas started to have an argument with yajnavalkya, he provided him with apt answers and managed to gain the cows. These dialogues are mentioned in the Upanishads, He also had an argument with various other human beings, amongst which Gargi is one as well. Let us discuss the same in detail.

Debate With Gargi

Yoga Yajnavalkya is actually the text of a conversation between Garg and Yajnavalkya, She was one of the scholars at the court of King Janaka. Gargi questions the Rishis about Atman. She starts off with basic elementary knowledge about the physical world and this prevails questions about air, sky and the different lokas.

Yoga yajnavalkya is said to be composed between the second century BCE and fourth century CE. The text consists of around 12 chapters and 504 verses. Here yoga is defined as the union between Jivatma and Paramatma. The knowledge of yoga is comprehensive to both men and women. It explains the principle and practice of yoga. It enhances the path of freedom and describes the eight limbs of yoga. There is a comprehensive discussion of pranayama and various techniques and applications of Yoga mentioned here,

A Conversation With Maitreyi

Yajnavalkya tells us that the effect of a deed can not be known as useless; the cause of the same is known, making the effect of the manifestation in proportion. In a conversation with Maitreyi, Yajnavalkya tells him that where there is total isolation of consciousness, in the form of these permutations and combinations of the elements, the body is formed. There is no particular consciousness here. An individual will not be able to feel any senses like hearing, feeling, touching, smelling, etc.

Maitreyi is the universal being, who is eternally infinite and had all the knowledge. The whole universe is created from him and again goes down into him. From the knowledge of Yajnavalkya, we get to know that we have all come just like sparks from him and once you know him, you go back to being one with him again. We are all universal beings. And the self is the utter subject of universality. One should also keep in mind that the self is everywhere.


The central theme of Yajnavalkya’s discourse is this: The source of knowledge and the source of power are all just the Self. The self alone exists everywhere. It can not be understood or known for it alone is the understanding. The self is indestructible and unthinkable.

Continue With...

Chrome Chrome