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YÄjÃ±avalkya (Devanagari: à¤¯à¤¾à¤à¥à¤à¤µà¤²à¥à¤à¥à¤¯) of Videha (fl. c. 7th century BCE) was a sage and philosopher of Vedic India. He was one of the first philosophers in recorded history, alongside Uddalaka Aruni. In the court of King Janaka of Mithila, he was renowned for his expertise in Vedic ritual and his unrivaled talent in theological debate. He expounded a doctrine of neti neti to describe the universal Self or Ätman. He later became a wandering ascetic. His teachings are recorded in the Shatapatha Brahmana and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
He is traditionally credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana (including the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad]l), besides the Yoga Yajnavalkya and the YÄjÃ±avalkya Smá¹ti. He is also a major figure in the Upanishads.
According to traditional accounts, YÄjÃ±avalkya was the son of DevarÄta and was the pupil of sage Vaisampayana . Once, Vaisampayana got angry with YÄjÃ±avalkya as the latter argued too much to separate some latter additions to Yajurveda in being abler than other students. The angry teacher asked his pupil YÄjÃ±avalkya to give back all the knowledge of Yajurveda that he had taught him.
As per the demands of his Guru, YÄjÃ±avalkya vomited all the knowledge that he acquired from his teacher in form of digested food. Other disciples of Vaisampayana took the form of partridge birds and consumed the digested knowledge (a metaphor for knowledge in its simplified form without the complexities of the whole but the simplicity of parts) because it was knowledge and they were very eager to receive the same.
The Saá¹ská¹t name for partridge is "Tittiri". As the Tittiri (partridge) birds ate this Veda, it is thenceforth called the TaittirÄ«ya Yajurveda. It is also known as Ká¹á¹£á¹a Yajurveda or Black-Yajurveda on account of it being a vomited substance. The TaittirÄ«ya Saá¹hitÄ thus belongs to this Yajurveda.
Then YÄjÃ±avalkya determined not to have any human guru thereafter. Thus he began to propitiate the Sun God, Surya. YÄjÃ±avalkya worshipped and extolled the Sun, the master of the Vedas, for the purpose of acquiring the fresh Vedic portions not known to his preceptor, VaiÅampÄyana.
The Sun God, pleased with YÄjÃ±avalkya penance, assumed the form of a horse and graced the sage with such fresh portions of the Yajurveda as were not known to any other. This portion of the Yajurveda goes by the name of Åukla Yajurveda or White-Yajurveda on account of it being revealed by Sun. It is also known as Vajasaneya Yajurveda, because it was evolved in great rapidity by Sun who was in the form of a horse through his manes.The rhythm of recital of these vedas is therefore to the rhythm of the horse canter and distinguishes itself from the other forms of veda recitals. In Sanskrit, term "Vaji" means horse. YÄjÃ±avalkya divided this Vajasaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yajus Mantras. Sages like Kanva, Madhyandina and others learnt those and Åukla Yajurveda branched into popular recensions named after them.
It is important to note that within the hierarchy of BrÄhmaá¹as, certain sects believe in the Ká¹á¹£á¹a Yajurveda while others practice from the Åukla Yajurveda.
YÄjÃ±avalkya married two wives. One was Maitreyi and the other Katyaayanee. Of the two, Maitreyi was a Brahmavadini (one who is interested in the knowledge of Brahman).The descendant sects of Brahmans are the progeny of the first wife Katyaayanee. When YÄjÃ±avalkya wished to divide his property between the two wives, Maitreyi asked whether she could become immortal through wealth. YÄjÃ±avalkya replied that there was no hope of immortality through wealth and that she would only become one among the many who were well-to-do on. When she heard this, Maitreyi asked YÄjÃ±avalkya to teach her what he considered as the best. Then YÄjÃ±avalkya described to her the greatness of the Absolute Self, the nature of its existence, the way of attaining infinite knowledge and immortality, etc. This immortal conversation between YÄjÃ±avalkya and Maitreyi is recorded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Wisdom of YÄjÃ±avalkya is shown in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad where he gives his teachings to his wife Maitreyi and King Janaka. He also participates in a competition arranged by King Janaka about the selecting great Brhama Jnani (knower of Brahman). His intellectual dialogues with Gargi (a learned scholar of the times) form a beautiful chapter filled with lot of philosophical and mystical question-answers in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. He was then praised as the greatest Brahmajnyani by all the sages at the function organised by king Janaka.[page needed] In the end, YÄjÃ±avalkya took Vidvat Sanyasa (renunciation after the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman) and retired to the forest.
- Nair 2008, pp. 84-227.
- Joshi 1994, pp. 91-93.
- H.C. Raychaudhuri (1972), Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.41–52
- Ben-Ami Scharfstein (1998), A comparative history of world philosophy: from the Upanishads to Kant, Albany: State University of New York Press, pp.62-65. Note: Scharfstein estimates Yajnavalkya's date as approximately the 8th century BCE, possibly earlier or later.
- Scharfstein (1998)
- Hindu Dharma Parichaya, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Calcutta, publication, 2000 edition,
- The Yajur Veda,Part 2, Haraf publication, Calcutta, 2004 edition,
- The Yajur Veda, Part 1, Haraf publication, Calcutta, 2004 edition
- The Brihad Aranyak Upanishad, Part 2, Chapter 4, Mahesh Library publication, Calcutta, 2008 edition
- The Upanishads, Mahesh Library publication, 2009 edition, Calcutta
- Joseph, George G. (2000). The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics, 2nd edition. Penguin Books, London. ISBN 0-691-00659-8.
- Kak, Subhash C. (2000). 'Birth and Early Development of Indian Astronomy'. In Selin, Helaine (2000). Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy (303-340). Boston: Kluwer. ISBN 0-7923-6363-9.
- Teresi, Dick (2002). Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - from the Babylonians to the Maya. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-83718-8.
- Sage YÄjÃ±avalkya on Hindupedia, the online Hindu Encyclopedia
- Works by Yajnavalkya at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Yajnavalkya at Internet Archive
- Sukla Yajur Veda from http://www.shuklayajurveda.org
- Yogeeswara Yagnavalkya from http://www.shuklayajurveda.org
- Selected Chants of Sukla Yajur Veda from https://vedavichara.com
- The Texts of the White Yajurveda translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith
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