Janaka, the king of Bideha, arranged one big yajna (sacrifice). Wise and deep-cultured Brahmins from Kuru and Panchal participated on the occasion. Suddenly, one desire peeped into the mind of Janaka. He wanted to know which one of these Brahmins was the wisest of all. He first arranged one thousand cows with golden-plated horns. He declared there that he, who thought himself to be the wisest among all Brahmins, was at liberty to take away the costly cows. Janaka himself had deep knowledge in regard to Brahman and possessed unparallel spiritual skills. Non among the Brahmins ventured to proceed further. A shade of silence spread there. Amidst such tranquillised atmosphere, Yajnavalkya broke the silence with enormous courage and directed his pupil Samasrava to take away one thousand cows to his hermitage. The instance of Yajnavalkya taking away the cows stirred the wise Brahmins present there tremendously. With enraged mind the Brahmins said to Yajnavalkya, “How can you declare yourself to be the wisest among all Brahmins?”
Yajnavalkya was well conversed with Yajurveda. Samasrava, his pupil, also had wide knowledge in Samaveda. Rigveda when chanted in musical tune is called Sama mantras. Atharvaveda is a subsidiary one in connecting other three Vedas. So naturally Yajnavalkya was a learned one in all the four Vedas.
Asvala, the principal priest of Janaka, was also present there. Asvala asked, “Yajnavalkya are you indeed the wisest Brahmin among us?” Yajnavalkya replied that he bowed to the wisest Brahmin, but he just wished to have these cows. Thereafter, Asvala decided to question him, “Yajnavalkya, since everything here is pervaded by death, since every thing is overcome by death, by what means does the sacrificer free himself from the reach of death?” Yajnavalkya said, ‘”By the hatr priest, by fire, by speech, verily, speech is the hatr of sacrificer. That which is this speech is this fire. This fire is hatr. This is freedom, this complete freedom. By the knowledge of the identity of the sacrificer, the fire and the rituals speech, one gets beyond death.”
‘”Yajnavalkya”, said Asvala, “since everything here is pervaded by day and night, since everything is overcome by day and night, by what means does the sacrificer free himself from the reach of day and night ? “By the adhavya priest by the eye, by the sun, verily the eye is the adhavya of the sacrifice. That which is his eye is the gender sun. This is adhavya. This is freedom. This is complete freedom. Day and night are symbolic of time–they are the source of all change.
“Yajnavalkya”, said Asvala, “since everything here is overtaken by the bright and dark fortnight, by what means does the sacrificer free himself from the reach of the bright and dark fortnight?” “By the udgatr priest, by the air, the breath. Verily the breath is the udgatr priest of the sacrifice. That which is this breath is air. This is the udgatr priest. This is freedom. This is complete freedom,” replied Yajnavalkya.
Again Asvala said, “Yajnavalkya, since the sky is, as it were, without a support, by what means of ascent does a sacrificer reach the heavenly world?” By the Brahma priest, by the mind, by the moon. Verily, mind is the Brahma of the sacrifice. That which is this mind is the yonder moon. This is the Brahma; this is freedom. This is complete freedom.”
Again Asvala asked, “Yajnavalkya, how many kinds of Rig verses will the hatr priest use today in the sacrifice?” “Three, which are there. The introductory verse, the verse accompanying the sacrifice and the benedictory as the third.” “What does one win by these?” “Whatever that is here that has breath.”
‘Yajnavalkya’, said Asvala, how many kinds of ablations will the adhavya priest offer today in this sacrifice?” “Three, answered Yajnavalkya. “What are these three?” “Those that when offered blaze unword, those that when offered make a great noise, and those that when offered sink down word. “What does one win by these?” asked Asvala. “By these, which, when uttered, blaze upward, one wins the world of the God, for the world of God is dazzling bright, as it were. By these which, when offered, make a great noise, one wins the world of the fathers for the world of the father is excessively (noisy.) By those which, when offered, sink down words, one wins the world of men for the world of men is down below, as it were. These three kinds of oblations are said to be wood, clarified butter of fresh milk and soma juice. The first flares up, the second makes a hissing noise, the third sinks down into earth. Those who are in the world of the fathers cry to be delivered out of it.”
“Yajnavalkya’, said Asvala “with how many divinities does the Brahma priest on the right protect the sacrifice today? “With one.” “Which is that one?” “The mind alone. Verily, the mind is infinite, the vishwa devas are infinite. An infinite world he wins thereby. Through mind we meditate and it is said to be infinite an account of its modifications.”
“Yajnavalkya’, asked Asvala, “how many hymns of praise, will the udgatri priest chant in the sacrifice?” “Three.” “Which are these three?” “The introductory hymn, the hymn accompanying the sacrifice and the benedictory as the third.” “Which are these three with reference to the self?” asked Asvala. “The introductory hymn is the in-breath, the hymn accompanying the sacrifice is the out-breath, the benedictory hymn is the diffused breath,” replied Yajnavalkya. “What does one win by them?” “By the introductory hymn, one wins the world of the earth, by accompanying hymn the world of atmosphere, by benedictory hymn one wins the world of heaven, answered Yajnavalkya. Thereafter, the hatr priest Asvala kept silence.
In this chapter there is a vivid discussion on death, which arises on absence of real knowledge. In short, this chapter identifies death with the organs of body and its desires. The desires of organs keep the soul with its iron gripes. The soul, thereby, is put under whirl of birth and death and enjoys sorrows and happiness. In such relative existence of soul, the desires of organs are enjoyed voraciously and at last become a prey to it. This is called death. But through continuous meditation and acquirable knowledge, the desires, so created, experience gradual retardation, and in course, being free from bondage of desires, it gets ultimate salvation. The experience of duality is as good as death. The perceiver, so far unable to elevate himself above duality, exists in a stage where he fails to discriminate between yajna (somnific) and the matters to be used in yajna, and meditation and its goal. In the stage of non-duality everything stands in equal footing. This chapter reveals about one’s organ and its relative inclination towards matter.
When Asvala remained silent Artabhaga, on the lines of Jaratkaru, asked, “Yajnavalkya how many are the grahas (organs) and how many are atigrahas (the object of organs)?’ “There are eight grahas and eight atigrahas,” answered Yajnavalkya. “ Which are these eight grahas and eight atigrahs?”
Yajnavlkya replied: “The grahas are the organs of perception, graspers, or apprehends and atigrahas are the objects of perception. Prana here means the nose, from the contact. It, the nose, is connected with air. Apana here means dour, it is so called because it always accompanies odour, for everybody smells with nose odour presented by air that is breathed in (apana). This is expressed by the sentence. Speech, verily, is the organ of perception. It is seized by name as an over-perceiver, for by speech one utters name. The long vowel in atigraha is a Vedic licence. For the organ of speech is meant to express something it is used by that, and there is no deliverance for it until it has done this function. Therefore, the organ of speech is said to be controlled by the atigraha name, for it is a feet that people, impelled by their attachment to something to be expressed, get into all sort of troubles. The tongue, verily, is the organ of perception. It is seized by the taste as an over-perceiver, for by tongue one knows taste. The eye, verily, is the organ of perception. It is seized by form of an over-perceiver. For, through the eyes one sees forms. The ear, verily, is the organ of perception. It is seized by sound as an over-perceiver, for through the ear one hear sound. The mind, verily, is the organ of perception. It is seized by desire as an over-perceiver, for through the mind one desires. The hands, verily, are the organs of perception. They are seized by action, as an over-perceiver, for by hands one performs action. The skin indeed is graha. It is controlled by atigraha, touch, for, one feels touch through the skin. There are eight grahas and eight atigrahas.”
“Yajnavalkya”, he said, “since all this is the food of death, who is that God whose food is death?” “Fire is the death, it is the food of water. One, who knows thus, conquers further death. For, liberation can take place only when this form of death is destroyed, and this would be possible if there be the death of death even.” Thereafter, considering the question unanswerable, he asks, when this (liberated) man dies, do his organs go up from him or do they not? “No”, replied Yajnavalkya and added: “They merge in him only, the body swells, is inflated, and in that state lies dead.”
“Yajnavalkya’, said he, “when such a person dies, what is that thing that does not leave him? “The name. The name is infinite and infinite are The vishwa devas. Thereby he who knows this wins an infinite world. What remains is name. It is the name that doesn’t perish at death. The Buddhist doctrine says that the element is namarupa, nama and shape. Every shape that is seen has its archtype in the placeless world and if the shape perished, it does not matter, since its original is everlasting.”
“Yajnavalkya”, said he, “when the vocal organ of a man who dies is merged in fire, the nose in the air, the eye in the sun, the mind in the moon, the ear in the quarters, the body in the earth, the ether of the heart in the external ether, the hair in the body in herbs, that on the head in trees, and blood and seeds are deposited in water, where is then the man?”
‘”Give me your hand, dear, Artabhaga, we will decide this between ourselves. We cannot do in a crowded place.” Then they went out and talked about it. What they mentioned there was only work and what they praised there was also work alone. Therefore, one indeed becomes good through good works and evil through evil works. Thereupon Artabhaga, on the line of Jaratkaru, kept silent.
(To be continued)
By Kamala Kanta Acharya