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The Personality of Yajnavalkya

The Personality of Yajnavalkya

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Yoga Yajnavalkya is an ancient text and the authorship is attributed to the celebrated saint Yajnavalkya of Upanishad fame. This paper analyses the personality of YTajnavalkya as gleaned from this text.
Yoga Yajnavalkya is an ancient text and the authorship is attributed to the celebrated saint Yajnavalkya of Upanishad fame. This paper analyses the personality of YTajnavalkya as gleaned from this text.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Balasubramanian Kanchipuram Sundararaman on Apr 10, 2013
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The Personality of Y˜jñavalkya as portrayed in Yogay˜jñavalkya

Dr.K.S.Balasubramanian, Dy. Director, The K.S.R.Institute, Chennai- 600 004 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Y˜jñavalkya, the well known legendary saint was well versed in all the Vedas, Ved˜ðgas, Yoga, ·yurveda, Law, Politics, code of conduct etc. The fact that many texts are ascribed to this great personality is a testimony to this. His name appears frequently in the Vedic texts like B®had˜raõyaka Upaniÿad and atapatha Br˜hmaõa, epics and Puraõas like R˜m˜yaõa, Mah˜bh˜rata,Viÿõu Pur˜õa, Bh˜gavata Pur˜õa,

Brahm˜õýa Pur˜õa, and Skandapur˜õa. He is also considered as an incarnation of
lord Viÿõu. He is well known as the preceptor of King Janaka on spiritual science. According to B®had˜raõyaka Upaniÿad, he had two wives MaitreyŸ and K˜ty˜yanŸ. He founded the ukla Yajur Veda school. The V˜jasaneyŸ Samhit˜ was revealed to him directly by the Sun god. Texts like Y˜jñavalkya Sm®ti, Y˜jñavalkya ikÿ˜,

B®hadyogi- Y˜jñavalkya Sm®ti, SarasvatŸ Stotra are ascribed to him. These are
probably by different authors by the same name. Y˜jñavalkya, the seer, is well-known for his sharp intellect, deep knowledge and spiritual attainment in Vedic literature. The author of Yogay˜jñavalkya (YY) bearing the same name also exhibits these qualities. YY depicts him as a multi-faceted personality. The first five verses describe his greatness in spiritual, intellectual and physical aspects:


The adjectives ‘jñ˜nanirmala (I.1)’, sad˜ dhy˜anapar˜yaõa (I.1), jitendriya (I.2), yogeÿu pariniÿ÷hita (I.2), tapasvin, (I.3), brahmaõya (I.3) etc. describe his spiritual prowess. The words jit˜h˜ra and jit˜maya indicate that he had his body perfectly under his control by Yogic practices. His description of the process of meditation and

sam˜dhi confirms this. After explaining to G˜rgŸ , the secret of Yogic
techniques, the felicity in which he enters into sam˜dhi, gives the idea that he was an adept in Yoga.


The terms sarvaþ˜stratattvajña (I.1), vedaved˜ðgatattvajña (I.2) and sarvaþ˜strajña (I.8) express his knowledge in many branches of science. (i) Y˜jñavalkya reveals his knowledge in Yoga throughout YY. He also refers to a technique by the great saint Agastya (VII.32) while describing praty˜h˜ra and refers to some predecessors without mentioning their names (VII.22) :
1. YY. XII. 42

(ii) He was also aware of the practice by Tantriks, as is known from the passage (VIII.4) :

(iii) The adepts in Yogic practice should possess knowledge in ·yurveda also. In ancient days, both these sciences borrowed some concepts from each other. Y˜jñavalkya reveals his knowledge on physiology and anatomy to which he devotes special attention. He also refers to the views of A þ v i n s , the celestial physicians while describing the vital points ( marmasth˜na) in the human body. (YY. VII.7) :

Y˜jñavalkya also discusses (VIII.32-9) remedy for diseases due to v˜ta, pitta and kapha. He says that these are the views of physicians (bhiÿagvar˜× – VIII.32) and also Aþvins (VIII.38). (iv) Y˜jñavalkya’s knowledge in ·gama and mantraþ˜stra is also made known through his statements. (a) He classifies japa into two broad divisions and further sub-divisions 2.


YY. II.14-7






(uttering throgh lips)


He says (YY II. 18) that one should know the ®ÿi, chandas, its adhidevat˜ (presiding deity) and practise mantrajapa, which alone would yield the desired result:

He also refers to mantra on iva and Viÿõu, during pr˜õay˜ma (VI.16cd, 64ab) :

(b) His knowledge in aiv˜gama is also made known by his description of the body, which he divides into five parts corresponding to five elements and corresponding to bŸjamantras (VIII.14-22). Here he uses the technical aiv˜gama terms like Ÿþvara, sad˜þiva, bindu and nad˜nte parameþvara. (c) He does not lean towards iva or Viÿõu, or any other deity. The last two verses (XII.45-6) glorify lord Viÿõu :

(d) He also recommends worship of lord Vin˜yaka (II.13 ab) :

(v) Y˜jñavalkya also had a good knowledge of the S˜ðkhya philosophy, which holds the view of satk˜ryav˜da i.e. the cause and effect existing together and Ny˜ya system of philosophy which advocate asatk˜ryav˜da, i.e. cause is different from effect. While rejecting the view of some who hold the view that the region between middle of the navel and throat is the region of fire 3 , he says (VIII.11-13) :

Here, he seems to favour Ny˜ya view (i.e. asatk˜ryav˜da).

Y˜jñavalkya, unfortunately does not refer to any source here.

(vi) He was also familiar with Advaita Ved˜nta philosophy as can be seen in many passages and terms like ‘so’ham’ (IX. 29, 34) and ‘ahameva param brahma’ (IX.39). He also favours jŸvanmukti as advocated by Advaitins. He says (IX.40cd41ab) :

(vii) He is well versed in Dharmaþ˜stra too. He insists on varõ˜þramadharma and vidhyukta or vaidhikam karma in all the chapters which makes one infer that he was a strict disciplinarian. a) He advises that Br˜hmaõa should marry only a girl from the same caste and beget children through her (YY.I.31 cd).

b) According to him a Br˜hmaõa should perform japa only on Vedic mantras and never on laukika mantras (VI.15ab) :

c) He prohibits women, Vaiþyas and udras from uttering praõava (VI.16 cd, 17ab) :


(d) Y˜jñavalkya makes his position clear that while all are eligible to practise Yogic techniques, certain restrictions are imposed on people of certain castes and also women in some circumstances, as mentioned above. (viii) He is addressed Jit˜mitra, sarvabh¨tasama (I.3,5) sarvabh¨tahita (XI.17) which show that he was established in ahims˜, for Patañjali says : ‘ahims˜pratiÿ÷h˜y˜m tatsannidhau vairaty˜ga×’ 4 “In the presence of the one who is established in ahims˜, (the other beings) lose enmity”.

(ix) He was not averse to women being initiated into Yogic techniques leading to final salvation. In YY itself, we find that after instructing G˜rgŸ, the various Yogic techniques, Y˜jñavalkya initiates her in to Yoga (XII.42ab) :

(x) He was respectful towards G˜rgŸ (consdered as his wife in the text). He addresses his wife lovingly and also extols her qualities and knowledge. He uses the words sarvajñe, sarvaþ˜straviþ˜rade (I.14); viprendre (III.1,7);
4. YS. II.35

viprendre (IV.38), topodhane (IV.46); viprendre (IV.61); var˜rohe (VIII.39);

var˜nane (IX.1); brahmavid˜m vare (X.6); var˜nane (XI.11); viprendre (XII.5) var˜nane (XII.36)
He is depicted as the husband of G˜rgŸ 5 in YY, which is contrary to the personality appearing in the B®.Up and the atapatha Br˜hmaõa, where his two wives are known as MaitreyŸ and K˜ty˜yanŸ. From the above discussion it can be seen that Y˜jñavalkya was a strict disciplinarian endowed with deep knowledge in different branches of study like Yoga, S˜ðkhya, Advaita Ved˜nta, ·yurveda, Tantra, ·gama, Sm®ti and also Vedas. It is not impossible for such a great saint to have gained mastery over many branches of science. Many later writers on Yoga rightly refer to him in respectful terms like ‘YogŸþvara Y˜jñavalkya’ and ‘Bhagav˜n’.


YY. I.43ab : YY. IV.5ab :

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