YAJNAVALKYA, MAITREYI AND THE HONEY-DOCTRINE
SOCIAL INTERACTIONS and INTERDEPENDENCE
(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 2-4, 5)
Wealth not the criterion for the status of an aristocrat
Yajnavalkya told his wife, Maitreyi that he proposed to go away to his forest abode after dividing his assets between her and his other wife, Katyayani (2-4-1). Maitreyi was not enamoured of wealth. She asked him whether if the entire social world of commonalty (prthvi) filled with wealth accruing from economic occupations (vitta) were hers she would be able to secure the status of a member of the aristocracy (amrta) through that. Commoners could not get the status of aristocrats through mere acquisition of wealth.
Yajnavalkya pointed out to Maitreyi, his consort that her life could become comfortable like that of the rich who had many accessories.But there was no hope of her getting through acquisition of wealth the status of a cultural aristocrat who was acquainted with and practising the best and lasting ways of life (amrtam). (2-4-2)
Maitreyi thereon asked him what she was supposed to do with the wealth that would not grant her the abiding status of a cultural and intellectual aristocrat (amrtam) (2-4-3). Yajnavalkya was happy with her approach and loved (priya) her for her declining to accept the wealth and seeking his counsel. He asked her to reflect on his words (2-4-4).
Love (priya) not motivated by lust (kama)
Maitreyi differed from Katyayani who was brought up in the tradition that gave importance to wealth. Katyayana was an economist and counsellor of Dasaratha, ruler of Ayodhya while his brother-in-law, Yajnavalkya, was a philosopher and was associated with the famous philosopher-ruler, Janaka of Mithila.
Yajnavalkya then explained the nature of the ideal friendship that should be present between wife and her husband. It was not to be motivated by lust (kama) for the other sex.
One should love (priya) the other to develop ones own (atma) personality and identity. The relationship is not to be motivated by the object to have sons (putra) through fulfillment of sexual desire (kama). The sons are loved (priya) as one seeks to develop ones own (atma) personality through them.
Wealth, Knowledge and Power
Means to develop one's personality and identity (atma)
Yajnavalkya refuted the charge that men pursued wealth for the sake of wealth and that it could not be a means for other ends. One is enamoured of wealth not because he lusts for wealth but because one wishes to develop his status and identity (atma) through possession of wealth (vitta). This was to be the approach of one (a Vaisya) who sought wealth.
Yajnavalkya says that one is attached to the constitution represented by the concept, Brahma, not because he seeks the status of Brahmana, a jurist, but because he desires to develop his personality (atma) through his mastery over the principles behind that social constitution, Brahma or Veda.
Similarly one is attached to the status and role of a protector, Kshatra, not because he loves to exercise the power that goes with that status but because he desires to develop his personality (atma) by performance of the duty of a Kshatra.
Social contacts, aspiration, attachment and non-attachment
Means to develop ones personality
One mingles with the other members of his social world (loka) not because he loves to be with them, but because such association with them helps one to develop ones personality (as an extrovert). One desires the status of aristocrats (devas) not because he is enamoured of the life of a noble (deva) (which has special responsibilities) but because he wishes to rise to that level by developing his personality (atma).
Yajnavalkya says that one desires to be an unattached individual (bhuta) not because he is enamoured of that status (which helps him to lead the life of a free man, though in the social periphery) but because the life of an unattached individual helps him to develop his personality (atma).
One desires to be attached with all individuals and groups and vocations (sarva) not because he likes the status of a person who is acquainted with all activities but because he wants to develop his personality (atma) thereby. So, Maitreyi has to see, hear, reflect on and meditate on all things for the development of her personality (atma). [It may be noted that we refrain from identifying atma with soul whether human or divine.]
Yajnavalkya was not advocating pursuit of personal goals. Her intention was not to be acquisition of wealth or rejection of wealth and statuses. She was exhorted to see, hear, think of her atma, self, so that she might have the (further) knowledge (vijnana) of all (things and persons) (sarvam) in this (idam) larger society. (2-4-5)
Brahmans as Jurists and Kshatras as Administrators
Yajnavalkya belonged to the decades when the new four-varna classification, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras was still on the anvil and had not yet been approved.
Brahmans of his times were jurists. The order of jurists, Brahma, rejected one who identified oneself (atma) as one other than such a Brahma, a knower (veda) of the constitution. In other words one who did not know and function as an exponent of the socio-political constitution, Brahmaveda (Atharvaveda) was not to be called a Brahman.
The order of administrators (kshatras) rejects one who identifies oneself as a member of a group other than kshatras. A social world (loka) rejects one who identifies oneself as a member of some other social world (community or cadre).
Non-acceptance and rejection of one attached to another social world
The class of aristocracy (devas) rejects one who identifies oneself (atma) as a member of a class other than aristocracy. The unattached individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery reject one who (on questioning) identifies oneself as one who is not an unattached individual (bhuta).
The larger society (sarva) comprising all individuals, classes, cadres and communities will reject one who identifies oneself as a member of a particular community and not as one not belonging to that larger society.
Need for personal identification with one's group and sharing its orientation
It is the individual (atma) with a recognized identity as a Brahma or jurist, a Kshatra or administrator, a member of a community or an unattached individual (bhuta) or one with wide (sarva) talents who is absorbed in the respective social order (2-4-6). Yajnavalkya underlines the need for personal identification with the social group that one seeks to be with, by sharing its orientations.
Accent on holistic approach to acquisition of knowledge
Yajnavalkya tells Maitreyi (who belonged to the cadre of Maitreyakas or bell-ringers) that when a drum (dundu) is beaten other sounds are not heard. They can be heard only if the drum is taken away or the drummer is taken away. Similar is the case when a conch is blown or a lute (veena) is played (2-4-7,8,9).
When the damp fuel is lit, smoke emanates from it. Similarly from the great past (mahat bhuta) have emanated all the four Vedas, Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva-Angirasa, report of contemporary events (itihasa), legends or chronicles of the past (puranas), the sciences (vidyas like Samkhya, Yoga, Lokayata, Varta (Economics), Dandaniti, (Political Science), Upanishads, verses (slokas), prose aphorisms (sutras), corollaries and explanations. All knowledge emanates from these (10).
Yajnavalkya adopts a holistic approach to acquisition and application of knowledge. [He does not mention dharmasastra and arthasastra, aranyakas and brahmanas separately. He must have covered them under the term, vidya.] He treats all that is spoken as Vedas.
He arrives at this conclusion by a wide range of comparisons involving the sense organs and the objects of senses. All waters go towards the sea; all acts of touching end in touching the skin; all acts of smelling reach the nostrils; all acts of tasting go to the tongue; all acts of seeing the forms reach the eye; all acts of hearing the sounds reach the ear.
All resolutions (samkalpa) are traced to the mind; all learning (vidya) is traced to the heart (hrdaya); all physical work (karma) is traced to the hands; all happiness is traced to the organ of generation; all release is traced to the organ of excretion; all movements are traced to the feet; all Vedas are traced to speech (vak). (2-4-11)
Yajnavalkya did not appreciate the search for the origin of the concepts that are to be found in any of these several literary works and assessing their importance by upholding some of the works and undervaluing or rejecting some others. A lump of salt thrown in water gets dissolved in the water and all the water tastes saline. So too a noble idea introduced in any literary work from wherever it has originated makes that work as a whole, noble.
Jnana and Vijnana
The person whom Yajnavalkya had referred to, as mahat bhuta (in 2-4-10) was the great individual with wide knowledge who had merged and vanished in the multitude of individuals (bhutas).
Maitreyi wanted to know whether the unidentified and anonymous individual who was knowledge (vijnana) incarnate had left behind any thing. Yajnavalkya would hold that after death nothing remains. Those were times when the knowledge that one had acquired too was lost on ones death. It could not be transmitted or legated to another.
In other words every individual has to acquire that further knowledge (vijnana) by his intellectual endeavour. What has been transmitted is jnana as incorporated in the systematized works, vidyas. (12)
Maitreyi is bewildered by the teacher's (bhagavan) interpretation and stand that one cannot on one's death leave behind the vijnana, the further knowledge that he has gained and that one ceases to gain more transmittable knowledge than what he has gained through personal experience and application of the already acquired knowledge (jnana).
Yajnavalkya explained to her that he was not saying anything that was bewildering (moha). He told her to be satisfied with this vijnana. (2-4-13)
How to know (vijanata) the knowing self (vijnatara)
Maitreyi wanted to know how one could resolve the problems faced by him when he was faced with two equally tenable propositions. When everything that one has experienced has become part of his personality (atma), by what means and what object should one smell or see or hear or speak or think of (manvita) or realize (vijanata)? In other words, by what should one understand or realize the true nature of an object (or system) by which all the things here are known?
By what should one know (vijanata) the knower (vijnatara)? (How can one meditate on the inner soul and recognize its traits?) (2-4-14). The above question leads to Yajnavalkya expounding the famous doctrine of honey (madhu).
Doctrine of Mutual Benefit (Honey): Madhu-vidya
Identities and Functions of members of the new governing board of the larger society
Yajnavalkya presents the splendid personage (purusha) in charge of the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi) as interacting with the splendid personage (purusha) who is the essential individual (adhyatma) representing all the discrete individuals (sarva bhutas) on the social periphery.
The latter, who is in the body (sarira), is called atma (soul, in common parlance). [The term, sarira signifies the social or economic body of which one is a member.]
The interactions between the two representatives result in benefits to both the social sectors, which they represent. This benefit is termed madhu, honey.Both these splendid (tejomaya) personages are members of the cultural aristocracy (amrtam). This status is assured to both the personages (purushas) by the social constitution, Brahma. This constitution (Brahma) is all, that is, is applicable to all social sectors. (2-5-1)
The above refrain is repeated in the ensuing aphorisms where only the official interacting with the representative of the larger field of discrete individuals is shown to be the other personage but the subtle shifts in accent on the nature and purpose of interaction are to be noted for a proper appreciation of madhu-vidya. .
In the aphorism (2-5-2), apa, the representative of water (the river economy) that is used to irrigate the lands and in which the seed is cast features. The statuses and roles of the two purushas are otherwise as in the first aphorism. Here too the interactions between this official in charge of the river economy and the representative of all the discrete individuals are mutually beneficial (madhu, honey).
In the aphorism (2-5-3) the sage draws attention to the official designated as Agni (fire). This official headed the council of scholars in the Vedic polity. He stands for all utterances, that is, all literary works (vangmaya) like the Vedas. The interactions between these scholars and all the individuals (on the periphery) are mutually beneficial.
In the aphorism (2-5-4) Vayu who was in charge of the mobile population of the windy open moors features. His interactions with the discrete individuals, especially those who but breathe (prana) and are at the bare subsistence level, are beneficial both to the latter and to the people of the moors.
In the aphorism (2-5-5), Yajnavalkya introduces Aditya who represented the administrators, Kshatras. His interactions with the other sectors of the population especially with those individuals on the social periphery are through the cadre of chakshus, intelligent observers (later adopted as a wing of the institution of spies).
[As pointed out earlier in the Indra constitution, Indra, the head of the governing elite was assisted by a huge council of chakshus, observers. The sages of the Upanishads tended to place this institution in the charge of Aditya.] These interactions too are mutually beneficial to the administrators and the individuals.
The sage then draws attention to the interactions between the personage functioning as the official representing the interests of the peoples of the provinces in the different directions (disa) and the personage representing all the individuals on the social periphery. These interactions result in mutual benefit (madhu) to both these peoples in the provinces and the individuals in the periphery.
These peoples about whom the ruler may be only hearing through his scouts too are benefited and their relations with these individuals are kept smooth and regulated by the constitution, Brahma. The madhu doctrine is connected intimately with social relations. [It is unsound to shroud its implications in spiritualism.] (2-5-6).
The peoples of the forests and mountains surrounding the agro-pastoral core society were under the jurisdiction of the Vedic official, Soma or Chandra (moon). This splendid (tejomaya) person (purusha) who had a place in the lasting cultural aristocracy (amrtam) had similarly established mutually beneficial interactions with the essential individual (adhyatma) and thinker (manas) who was a splendid person (purusha) representing all the discrete individuals on the social periphery.
This feature describes the role of the intellectual aristocracy (amrtam) in enforcing the social constitution (Brahma) that covers all the social sectors (2-5-7).
The post of Vidyut, brilliant enlightenment, was similarly held by a splendid personage who had an honourable place in the lasting cultural aristocracy. He functioned from far off and he too had mutually beneficial (madhu) interactions with all the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) on the social periphery.
[It is not sound to interpret that the sages of the Vedic era worshipped thunder and lightning.]
It needs to be stated here that the Upanishadic sage had his abode in the social periphery that was inhabited by friendly individuals, bhutas. The latter were not members of any social body (sarira) like a clan or community or corporation and were essentially persons functioning on their own (adhyatma).
The tejas, brilliance of Vidyut, a very high stratum of the Vedic intelligentsia, ensures adherence by all the social sectors to the social constitution (2-5-8).
If lightning (vidyut) is to be treated as the representative of the high intelligentsia, the thundering dark cloud (stanayi) from behind which it shines forth for a brief moment cannot be ignored.
The interactions between the splendid personage of the aristocracy who represents the imponderable sections of the high and awesome intelligentsia whose threatening words alone are heard and the personage representing all the discrete individuals are mutually beneficial to the two. These utterances draw the attention of all on behalf of the governing elite (amrtam) to the provisions of the social constitution, Brahma (2-5-9).
The space (akasa) in the heart (hrdaya), that is, the space between the two strata of the core society, nobles and commoners (devas and manushyas) was occupied by cadres who were not organized communities.
These intermediate cadres had their respected representative (tejomaya purusha) on the governing elite (aristocracy, amrtam). His interactions with the essential individual (adhyatma) who similarly was the representative and leader (purusha) of all the individuals on the periphery were mutually beneficial (amrtam) (2-5-10).
It is not sound to treat the two concepts, akasa and antariksham, as identical.
The social theorem of the Vedic times treated the gandharva cadres as ranking between devas and manushyas, nobles and commoners and as the ranks from which most of the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas rose.
These Gandharvas belonged originally to the core society and were noticed to mingle with both nobles and commoners, devas and manushyas, of the agro-pastoral core society and the settled as well as non-settled communities of the frontier society of the forests and mountains. This mingling often resulted in social strains.
The board of governors of the larger society as visualized by Yajnavalkya had on it a splendid (tejomaya) personage (purusha) who was in charge of the task of interpreting and implementing dharma, the principles of the dharmasastra, socio-cultural code.
[It is not sound to translate the term, dharma, as righteousness or as law or as justice or as religion.]
This personage who was a member of the cultural aristocracy (amrtam) interacted with the personage (purusha) who led and represented all the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) on the social periphery.
This interaction was mutually beneficial (madhu) to both the groups, the liberal but austere sections of the governing elite and the discrete individuals, who had their separate identities (adhyatma).
The latter came under the framework of dharma. Dharma was prescribed by the socio-political constitution, Atharvaveda or Brahma, as desired by the patriciate (amrtam) (2-5-11).
The sages of the Upanishad urge that the principles on which the code of dharma have been arrived at by Bhrgu and the other sages who drafted the Manava Dharmasastra are not different from the principles of truth or satya to which the later Vedic social schemata was hinged.
The splendid personage (purusha) who adorned the board of governors as a representative of this orthodox and puritanical school of satya, truth, indulges in mutually beneficial (madhu) interactions with the personage who represented all the individuals on the social periphery and who were each keen on retaining his essential identity (adhyatma).
The latter too accepted to abide the principles of truth, satya.
This was the intent of the Vedas (Brahma), which provided the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. [Dharmasastra was the socio-cultural constitution of the post-Vedic times.] (12)
The Vedic constitution gave special attention to the relations between the nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas). The latter were organized as clans and communities.
[This is not to be interpreted as relations between gods and men.]
The splendid personage (purusha) of the board of governors who represented these organized groups of commoners (manushyas) had mutually beneficial (madhu) relations with the representative of the discrete individuals (bhutas) who were not organized as clans or communities or economic corporations and who were essentially individuals with separate identities (adhyatma).
These interactions led to these individuals getting organized like the commoners (manushyas). This was the intent of the Vedas (Brahma) the jurists had to note (2-5-13).
[It is imprecise to treat the term, manusha as implying homo sapiens or mankind.]
Then Yajnavalkya introduces the splendid personage (purusha) who is a member of the board of governors constituted by the cultural aristocracy (amrtam) and is not the representative of any social sector whether organized or not.
This personage functions (on his own initiative without being subordinate to the house of nobles) as an atma but interacts with the representative of all the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) on the social periphery and this interaction led to mutually beneficent results (madhu) (14).
The identity of this purusha is brought out in the next aphorism.
[It is not sound to interpret that the former personage represented the cosmic self and the latter the individual self. It is also not sound to interpret that the term atma referred to the body of the Viraj, which embraces all the bodies and organs of all species, human, subhuman and divine.]
The individual (atma) who was raised to the status of a purusha was in fact the ruler (adhipati), king (raja) of all the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) on the social periphery.
In a chariot-wheel all the spokes are attached to the hub and also to the felly. Similarly all the individuals (sarva bhuta) (especially of the social periphery which continued to function without social groups), who are members of the larger society, all nobles (devas), all social worlds (lokas), all persons at the bare subsistence level (pranas) [whose life is almost like that of animals] and all individuals (atma) who are not functioning as members of social bodies are connected to the above atma (2-5-15).
During the Vedic times, Dadhyan, a teacher of Atharvaveda had taught the above doctrine of honey, madhu, to the two Asvins who represented the working class and were also experts in medicine. [The Asvins were also known as Nasatyas, persons who had eschewed perjury.]
Dadhyan was not prepared to teach the Shudras who were known as Nasatyas, this doctrine as Indra (the chief of the house of nobles) had threatened that teacher that he would cut off his head if he taught the honey doctrine to any one else (except Indra and the nobles). According to the legends, the Asvins who were later given a place in the ruling aristocracy on par with the traditional nobles, took off Dadhyans head and replaced it with the head of a horse, which Indra cut off.
0ne of the Asvins restored him his head and thus conned Indra. Referring to this incident, the sage (rshi) pointed out that out of desire (for this secret knowledge) the Asvins (who represented the workers who were not entitled to the immunities available to the observers of the pledge to abide by truth, satyavrata) had managed to get him speak out the madhu doctrine through the head of an asva (horse, in common parlance).
The Asvins had approached him as free men, naras. It was a status equal to that of the commoners, manushyas, and was lower than that of the gandharvas. Asvas were a section of gandharvas from whose ranks Brahmans and Kshatriyas rose. Dadhyan had introduced the free men (naras) to this doctrine of mutual benefit through interactions among the social leaders. (2-5-16).
Naras were not members of organized communities or clans of the commonalty (manushyas). Junior officials of the local administration and lower ranks of the army were recruited from among the naras as they were not bound by family ties. Dadhyan pointed out to the Asvins who had set a horses head on his body that in order to fulfill his promise he had declared to them the honey of Tvashta, which they had to keep with them as a secret.
The nasatyas who had not taken the vow of adherence to truth were advised not to reveal the secret about the status, role and functions of the Tvashtas and their relations with the other sections of the larger society. Tvashtas were manufacturers of arms and industrial tools. They treated the nobles (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras), the two rival sections of the ruling elite, on par and were hence detested by the nobles.
The Tvashtas claimed a status equal to the Brahmans, that is, experts in Atharvaveda. Dadhyan was a Tvashta. [He must have been related to Dadhici who gave his hardened spine as the rod (vajra) to Indra to help him to defeat the Vrtra Asura.] (2-5-17).
The poet who narrated the incident pertaining to Dadhyan and the Asvins said that Dadhyan had made (figures of) bipeds and quadrupeds and had even given them life by entering into them. It was like a person (purusha) flying like a bird from one body to another.
The hidden message is that the same personage (purusha) is present in all (sarva) places or bodies (pura, body). There is nothing that is not covered (avrta) by him and nothing that is not pervaded (samvrta) by him (2-5-18). [A resident of a town, pura, was called a purusha.]
Dadhyan, the sage who expounded the Atharvaveda, pointed out to the Asvins that the purusha changed his form (rupa) as he went from one body to another and that the present form was meant to identify him as he played a particular role. There were Indras of different statuses and they played different roles. Some had tens or hundreds of horses and some had tens of thousands of horses (horsemen in their troops).
Yajnavalkya asserts that this doctrine of honey has not been presented before Brahma or Atharvaveda was outlined (Brahma apurvam) or has been outlined only after Brahma was outlined (anaparam). It was not interpolated (anantaram) in Brahma. It was not a doctrine alien (abahyam) to the constitution known as Brahma. In other words, it was developed by Angirasa and Atharvacharya and incorporated in that work.
[The translation, This Brahma is without an earlier and without a later, without an inside, without an outside is not convincing.]
The unattached individual (atma) who has all the experiences (in different positions, as described above) is fit to be a jurist, Brahma. In other words he must have functioned in the capacities of the different officials, designated as Prthvi, Apa, Agni, Vayu, Aditya, Disa, Soma, Vidyut, Stanayi, Akasa, Dharma, Satya, Manusha, Atma, Asvins and Tvashta before he became eligible to head this governing body with the designation, Brahma and treat all sectors and all individuals of the larger society in an equitable manner.
This is the discipline, which one (especially a ruler) has to follow (anusasanam), Yajnavalkya declares while teaching Maitreyi the doctrine of honey. (2-5-19)