A Story from the Past – 11

In our 9th Story from the Past , we wrote about शंकर-आचार्य or Shankar-Achaarya and touched upon the doctrine of अद्वैत = Advaita or Non-Duality. We may have inadvertently left the impression that Shankar-Achaarya created the doctrine of  Advaita. This story is partly to correct this impression and to bring to readers the original developer of this doctrine, the great Vedic Sage याज्ञवल्क्य or Yadnya-Valkya.

Yadnya-Valkya was a Sage in the ancient city of Mithila, the capital of King Janak. He is credited to have authored the बृहद्र-अरण्यक उपनिसद = Bruhad-Aranyaka Upanisad. He is also the author of याज्ञवल्क्य-संहिता or Yadnyavalkya Samhita and याज्ञवल्क्य-स्मृति or Yadnyavalkya Smruti. The latter is one of the best expositions of the Dharma-Shastra tradition. Most the laws on Eternal Dharma or Indian Religion are based on the teachings of Yadnyavalkya Smruti.

Through all the writings of the Vedic Sages, one sees a search for the one reality underneath the multiplicity. This search culminated in Yadnyavalkya’s doctrine of Advaita. He expounded this doctrine after a comprehensive analysis of consciousness in Bruhad-Aranyak IV.2.ff.  This Upanisad states in I.4.10 that he who worships any god thinking that he is different from Him is ignorant. In III.9.1.9, Yadnyavalkya concluded that प्राण = Prana or Self is the same as Brahman.

This doctrine of Advaita was taken to the next level by the great intellect of Shankar-Acharya. It was Shankar-Acharya who affected a grand synthesis by merging the dualistic trends of other Upanisad into a three tier reality doctrine which was broad enough to accommodate any concept implicating duality or multiplicity.

Is it any surprise that a doctrine propounded by two of the greatest minds of all time, Yadnyavalkya and Shankar, became one of the most enduring and immortal doctrines of Eternal Dharma?

Yadnyavalkya’s wife was the great Sage मैत्रेयी = Maitreyi and one his debators was the Scholar गार्गी = Gargi. His work Yadnyavalkya Samhita is a dialogue between Yadnyavalkya and Gargi.

His work Yadnyavalkya Smruti is composed as answers to questions about Dharma asked by the sages of Mithila to Yadnyavalkya. In this work, Yadnyavalkya describes the categories of Dharma as आचार = Achaar or Conduct, व्यवहार = Vyavahar or legal and business procedures and प्रायश्चित्त = Praayash-Chitta or penance or punishment. As we wrote above, most the laws of Indian Society or religion are based on Yadnyavalkya Smruti.

We end this story with the great invocation of Eternal Dharma from the Bruhad-Aranyak Upanisad. When you invoke it, hear it invoked by others or read it, remember the great Sage याज्ञवल्क्य or Yadnya-Valkya.

            ॐ असतो  मा सद  गमय
            Om, Asato Maa Sad Gamaya
            Om, From Falsehood Lead me to truth

            तमसो मा ज्योतीर गमय
            Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
            From Darkness, Lead me to Light

            मृत्योर् अमृतम गमय
            Mruutuor Maa Amrutam Gamaya
            From Death Lead me to Immortality

                  –  बृहद अरण्यक उपनिसद = Bruhad-Aranyak Upanisad, I.3.28
 

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