YAJNAVALKYA AND JANAKA OF VIDEHA
(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4-1 to 4)
THE ROLE OF THE SCHOLARLY RULER AS A JURIST, BRAHMA
Janaka not eligible for re-election
Yajnavalkya at the end of his debate with the scholars from the lands of the Kurus and Panchalas ruled out the concept of rebirth.
A totally decadent and insentient commonalty could be revived only by an outstanding personality (purusha) and not by incorporation of any provision in the socio-political constitution.
The constitution bench headed by the chief justice, Brahma, could not be expected to undertake this onerous task. Yajnavalkya was also hinting that one who had been elevated to the status of Janaka could not be re-elected to that post.
The electoral body of the sons of the soil that had elevated that person to the post of 'Janaka' got dissolved after doing so and another one would come into existence after his term of office expired.
Siradvaja Janaka of Videha was aware of this provision of the constitution that had enabled him to function as the head of the state as well as the head of the judiciary without being required to be answerable to that electoral body of people's representatives.
In the Atharvan polity, the Viraj who headed the federal social polity comprising five autonomous states and eight social sectors was elected by the heads of households, purushas and their consorts, stris. When it was noticed that these consorts could not act independently, their place was taken by free women, (naris) who were either spinsters or aged women). These electors did not constitute a permanent body.
The Viraj had tenure of ten to twelve years. If he was re-elected for another term, he was said to have the status of a purusha. The purusha was a charismatic leader and was not answerable to any state institution.
Janaka headed a state which had a single body of representatives of the natives (jana) of that region, janapada. It had no urban council, paura. Janaka was elected by a committee nominated for that purpose by the members of the janapada in consultation with scholars.
He was not required to be a warrior or a rich landlord or to belong to the aristocracy. As this committee stood dissolved on completion of its task and as the janapada could not take action against the Janaka even if the latter failed in his duties or misused his powers as the head of the state, he could continue to be the head of the state but he was not empowered to sit as a member of the judiciary. Yajnavalkya was aware of this weakness in the Janaka constitution.
Siradvaja Janaka of Mithila was a samrat, Highest judicial authority of a federal state
The Janaka of Videha asked Yajnavalkya whether he had come for receiving the cows, which the former had offered as gifts or for asking subtle questions. Yajnavalkya replied that he had come for both purposes but took care to address him as samrat, as a ruler who functioned as an arbitrator in disputes among his subordinate rulers and subjects. As samrat, the Janaka of Mithila functioned as the highest judicial authority of the federal state. (4-1-1)
Jitvan: Earlier verdict (vak) pronounced is precedent according to jurisprudence, Brahma
Yajnavalkya wanted to know first what others had told him. Janaka said that Jitvan, son of Silina, had told him that vak is Brahma. Janaka said that it was like the counsel which a mother or father or teacher would give. For, one who cannot speak cannot have any thing (right or power or wealth or influence).
Jitvan (victor) had implied that what has already been pronounced as verdict is a precedent that a jurist, Brahma, has to honour and follow.
Yajnavalkya asked Janaka whether Jitvan had told him where to locate that verdict (vak) and what was the basis on which it was pronounced and instituted (pratishtha). Precedents that were instituted as valid law precluded pronouncement of new verdicts. Janaka conceded that Jitvan had not told him this. Yajnavalkya pointed out that this jurist (Brahman) was one-footed (eka-pada).
Precedents binding on those outside socio-economic bodies
He implied that this interpretation had not taken into account the other bases of law. This verdict pronounced orally was established in akasa, that is, for those sections of the population who were not connected with significant economic or social activities. It should be respected as it expects the people concerned to be aware (prajna) of it. [It is not advisable to translate the term, prajna used here as meaning intelligence or akasa as vacuum.]
Educated are expected to be aware of valid precedents
Janaka wanted to know what indicated that one was aware (of his duties). The sage told him that ones speech (vak) indicated whether one was aware (of his duties and the implications of his conduct).
An educated person must have heard what was spoken in Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharva-Angirasa, history (itihasa), ancient legends (purana), the (four) disciplines of study (vidyas), Upanishads, verses (slokas), prose formulae (sutras), corollaries and explanations. Holism requires that the Brahman (jurist) should have knowledge of the offerings made in sacrifices and oblations, food and drink.
He should also know the ways of life of this social world (loka of commonalty) and those of the other social world (loka of nobles) and also of all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) in the social periphery. Janaka as arbiter (samrat) has to be acquainted with this higher concept of Brahma or knowledge. [It is imprecise to translate samrat as emperor.]
The aristocrat-cum-jurist adopts holistic approach
The pronouncement made on the basis of this holistic approach alone deserves to be called 'vak', speech. The right to pronounce verdicts (vak) does not desert one who knowing this holistic approach honours it.
All discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) approach such a ruler or jurist for his verdict on the disputes among them. Having thereby obtained the traits of a noble (deva), this superior Brahman or intellectual (who has an impartial and holistic outlook) attains the status of a cultural aristocrat (deva).
Janaka was delighted with this explanation and offered Yajnavalkya a thousand cows with a huge stud. But Yajnavalkya politely declined the offer as his father (teacher) had told him that one should not accept gifts without having instructed the student (fully). (4-1-2)
Udanka: Uprightness as soul (Prana) of jurisprudence (Brahma)
Janaka informed Yajnavalkya that Udanka, son of Sulba, had told him that the vital breath (prana) was Brahma. But Udanka (one who was like a vessel in which oil was kept, that is, had strong personal attachments) had not told Janaka where this breath (prana) was located and what supported it.
Yajnavalkya commented that this scholar too was not giving a total picture of Brahma. His description was lame like a one-legged (eka-pada) person. Yajnavalkya told the ruler that Brahma, which was located in the breath (prana), was supported by akasa.
The non-influential individuals of the open space (akasa) who do not have organized social groups or traditions to fall back on hold that the constitution (Brahma) should guarantee protection of life (prana) of every one. One should worship it as something dear (priya) to him. What type of affection did the sage mean by the term, priya?
The sage explained that every one loved (kama) his life (prana). This made him part with his possessions to one who did not deserve to have them. Similarly one accepted gifts from one from whom he should not accept them. One goes along the wrong direction because he loves his life.
Yajnavalkya however meant by prana, a life of integrity and uprightness that is dear to every one and not mere protection of ones life through compromise with desires and allurements.
Janaka has to note that such persons are found fault with by the jurist (Brahma) and become liable to be punished for moral turpitude. The sage pointed out to him (whom he addressed as samrat) that soul, prana, is the highest Brahma. It does not desert one who knows it as such. Prana is soul that is aware of its high status as intelligence and does not waver from the right path.
Individuals unattached to wealth approach the jurist-cum-cultural aristocrat, Brahmadeva
All the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) who have no possessions of their own and do not aspire for possessions approach this pure intellectual (Brahma) who loves his upright breath or soul (prana). This endows that intellectual the traits of a noble, raises him to the status of a cultural aristocrat (deva).
Yajnavalkya felt that Janaka needed more instruction on Brahma.
Barku: empiricist approach, personal observation (chakshu) to know the truth (satya) and jurisprudence (Brahma)
He induced Janaka to tell him what he had learnt from his other teachers about the nature of Brahma. Janaka then said that Barku, son of Vrshna, told him that one learnt about Brahma, the correct prescribed way of life, through observation (chakshu) of the socio-physical environment.
In other words, he was for empiricism. But Barku did not tell the ruler about where this ability to see was located and what supported it. According to Yajnavalkya, Barku too had adopted a simplistic approach by trying to stress on a single causative factor (eka-pada).
Limits of dependence on personal observation and on institution of observers, chakshus to arrive at truth (satya)
The sage said that the eye could help one to comprehend the truth (satya) provided it was supported by akasa, that is, if one was able to see through the minute particles (that is, what are treated as insignificant sections of the population) in the socio-physical environment.
Yajnavalkya was drawing attention to the limits within which the empirical approach was valid. He was telling Janaka that the institution of chakshus (spies, in common parlance) was to be depended on to observe the persons, activities and events concerned. This was a requirement according to the constitution (Brahma).
Collection of information through such a body would be objective and more in tune with the procedure prescribed for arriving at the truth,satya,than a simplistic empirical approach involving personal observation. This institution does not let down a scholar (vidvan) who respects it.
All (sarva) discrete individuals (bhutas) (of the social periphery) eagerly approach this scholar (who is a jurist) and the latter gains the traits of a liberal noble (deva) and attains the status of a cultural aristocrat (deva). The sage felt that the king should know more about the importance of the provisions of this Brahmacode. (4-1-4).
[The remark that what is seen with the eye is more authoritative than what is perceived by other senses is not to the mark.]
Dependence on reports from scouts (charanas) as prescription by the constitution, Brahma
If Barku (like a lamb) followed the rules blindly, Bharadvaja who belonged to the school of Bharadvaja (and whose voice was like the braying of an ass) insisted on paying attention to what was heard. He treated the0 ear as Brahman. Janaka said that thi0s scholar too could not tell him on what this report was based.
Yajnavalkya pointed out that the scholar, Bharadvaja, too was adopting a partial approach (eka-pada) rather than a holistic one. There is no end to what is heard even as the directions from where the sound comes are endless. Sound tapers off but is not totally silenced.
Bharadvaja and assessment of public opinion expressed as feature of jurisprudence, Brahma
The jurist was advised not to depend on what was heard by him. Janaka was told to get the necessary reports from those who were placed in the different regions or directions as governors and from the scouts who had gone to those areas. This was what the constitution (Brahma) had prescribed.
These reporters tend to convey honest reports to those rulers who give them due respect. All discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) respect the jurist (Brahma) who follows this procedure and this raises the status of the jurist to that of an aristocrat (deva).
Yajnavalkya was not satisfied even with this prescription by Bharadvaja for ensuring objectivity in just decision as a feature of the constitution, Brahma. (4-1-5)
Satyakama on the jurist to be guided by his mind (manas)
Janaka then said that he had learnt from Satyakama, son of Jabala that the mind (manas) was Brahma. But he too did not tell Janaka on what this assertion was based.
Satyakama who favoured the rule that every one should adhere to truth, satya, was an antagonist of Jabali (a counsellor of Dasaratha and atheist) who did not set any store by this rule.
While others treated uprightness, personal observation and verification of the facts and giving weight to public opinion as factors that should guide a jurist who was an intellectual as well as a cultural aristocrat, Satyakama wanted the latter to be guided by what his mind recommended.
The jurist had to be a thinker and should not be guided only by precedent verdicts or by the reports of the state institutions of observers (chakshus) on facts of the case and of scouts (charanas) on expectations and views of the people or the value he set on personal uprightness.
Yajnavalkya pointed out that Satyakama too took a narrow stand. The sage told Janaka that one's happiness (ananda) depends on what one entertains in his mind (manas). The objective of obtaining happiness leads one to be attached to a woman (his wife).This objective and loyalty lead to their begetting a son who resembles the mother and gives joy to his parents.(Yajnavalkya did not approve the postulate that a son is a father re-born.)
The mind (manas) never fails one who honours purity and sincerity of thought. A man who is pure and has a child, is trusted by all (sarva bhuta). This intellectual who entertains noble thoughts and leads a happy and satisfied life as a father and husband is eligible to join the aristocracy (deva).
Yajnavalkya implied that one who had been a successful chief of the people (Prajapati) could be elevated to the post of chief justice (Brahma). The sage did not favour appointing a scholar who had failed in his domestic life, as a jurist, Brahma. Such a scholar might be treated as a Vipra who had to assist the Brahman, the head of the judiciary. [He did not favour Vratyas as judges and jurists.]
Yajnavalkya felt that this too was inadequate to explain the traits required in a jurist (Brahma). (4-1-6)
Vidagdha on the importance of conscience and humanism
Janaka then told Yajnavalkya that Vidagdha, son of Sakala, had taught him that the heart (hrdaya) was Brahma, that is, one should stand by what one felt in his heart to be correct.
Vidagdha had earlier tried to browbeat Yajnavalkya in debate but had failed. He however did not adopt a holistic approach when he got ready to follow the line presented by Yajnavalkya.
Yajnavalkya noticed that Vidagdha could not however describe what this inner voice was based on.
He said that the heart tended to be stable and was hence dependable. He implied that the other senses were not as dependable as the recommendations made by the inner conscience. As a result all individuals tend to have faith in the intellectual who is conscientious.One who depends upon his conscience is never let down by it. This conscientious intellectual deserves a place in the cultural aristocracy (daivam).
Yajnavalkya felt that Janaka had to still learn more in order to arrive at a thorough appreciation of his views and hence declined to accept the gifts the latter had offered. (4-1-7)
The next session found Janaka descending from his high seat to salute Yajnavalkya and request him to instruct him. Yajnavalkya said that even as the ruler would like to acquire a chariot or a boat to transport him across the land or the sea, Janaka had a mind equipped with the teachings of the Upanishads (that would carry him across to his destination). But Janaka did not know where his soul would go after it was released from his body (that is, on his death). Yajnavalkya offered to tell him that destination (4-2-1).
Indha, Indra and Viraj
He pointed out that the personage in one's right eye is called by the name, Indha, (one who kindles the lamp). The commoners called him Indra. The nobles disliked being addressed directly (pratyaksha) and preferred to be addressed indirectly (paroksha), he said. That is, the elite delighted in resorting to metaphors and allegories with indirect references to persons and their roles. [Yajnavalkya was justifying his consistent avoidance of the term, Indra.] (4-2-2)
The personage (purusha) in the right eye is visualized as a male and as one occupying the post of Indra and as one to be addressed by his designation rather than by his name (Indha). The personage (purusha) in the left eye is visualized as his consort (patni) and is to be respected as one occupying the post of Virat.
The two may be visualized as getting united in the space (akasa) inside the heart. They feed on the blood clot in the heart and stay there covered by a net, as it were. The union between the two in private and under cover is suggested.
The personages who had been raised to the positions of Indra and Virat were indeed human beings. Yajnavalkya implies that these two officials of the federal state (of his times) belonged to the commonalty though they had been absorbed in the aristocracy by virtue of their roles in the polity.
[Virat, the highest social authority of the Atharvan social polity was visualized as a female and as a cow. The Prajapati (chief of the people) ranked next to Virat or Viraj and Aditi, the benevolent mother figure ranked next to the Prajapati. Indra was visualized as the favourite of Aditi.and as the head of the eight-member executive, Adityas, who functioned under her direction. Indra was the head of the assembly of nobles.]
Janaka's role after retirement
Yajnavalkya merges the two posts of Virat and Indra. This was with respect to the open social sector termed as akasa. Its members did not have separate identities though they were insignificant persons moving about in the deep of the society.
Yajnavalkya was telling Janaka what role he was expected to play after he stepped down from his high position (as the elected head of the native population, jana).
The new assignment that places him in the deep of the society playing the roles of both Indra and Virat requires him to move upward from the heart. They move through the numerous thin veins and arteries (nadi). These channels called (hita) are located within the heart.
In a polity where the highest position is occupied by the chief of the people (Prajapati) elected by the council of elders, he is assisted by Mahendra, the head of the committee of heads of the five houses of nobles (devas) of the five states who are members of that federal polity, Viraj.
He performs the role of the head of the federal polity also. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the federal polity presides over the highest court of appeal and is the highest executive. But he has a position next to that of the chief of the people, Prajapati. This position would however be given to Janaka only after his retirement.
Purusha activating social conscience (atma) of the insignificant sections of the sparsely populated open space
In other words, Janaka was expected to move in the deep of the body politic keeping awake and active the beneficial contributions of social conscience, the highest of the concepts that direct all individuals, cadres and classes.
The unified purusha playing the roles of Indra and Virat gets support from the minute or insignificant sections of the society who were brought under the concept, akasa (stratosphere, as interpreted by some).
He does not perform such a role among the large structured sections (lokas) where the individual is enabled to retain his separate identity (atma).
[The remark that the subtle body is nourished by finer food than the gross fails to explain the allegory pertaining to the social polity. The commentators of the medieval times were not convincing when they interpreted Indra and Virat as Vaisvanara and matter respectively.] (4-2-3)
Purusha of the open space vis--vis pranas of regions
Yajnavalkya distinguished this personage who played the roles of Indra and Virat from the individuals (pranas) and who inhabited the different regions, east, west, south and north and occupied positions, higher and lower.
He stressed that the atma or the individual with an identity of his own can be described only by the process of exclusion or the method of null hypothesis, as in the terms, neti, neti (not this, not this).
It is incomprehensible (by this or any other method) for it cannot be comprehended (by senses). It is indestructible. He stays unattached and cannot be fettered. He does not suffer for he is not injured.
Janaka an unattached individual, atma
Janaka had become fearless (abhayam), as he had become an atma, an individual not belonging to any social body or group (and with no personal needs or ambitions or desires). Janaka then offered Yajnavalkya protection (abhayam).
Yajnavalkya might consider the people of Videha as his friends and protectors. [It is not necessary to fall back on metaphysics and the concepts popularized by it to interpret these aphorisms.]
Janaka was then imbuing the insignificant masses whose members had no property or individual identity with his spirit of benevolence and enlightenment. He was not a mere administrator or political functionary. (4-2-4)
Thus Yajnavalkya who was given asylum moved to the court of Janaka of Videha. He did not intend to give any discourse. During the third session the two discussed an issue at an Agnihotra programme, which involved settling a socio-economic dispute on the basis of civil law, Yajnavalkya gave him (Janaka) a boon (varam). The ruler was free to ask any question and he would answer it (4-3-1).
The status of Agni in the Upanishadic polity
Janaka asked him what brilliant light (jyoti) the person who was there (that is, who was playing the role of Agni, a civil judge) was endowed with.
Yajnavalkya answered that that personage had the halo of Aditya (sun, in common parlance), the chief of the house of nobles. His taking his seat, moving about, executing his duty and returning to his seat, resembled those of Aditya in majesty and authority. Janaka welcomed this reply (4-3-2).
Agni an intellectual conducted himself like an aristocrat while performing his duty as a judge. The sage and the ruler were engaged in settling the status and role of Agni. In the Janaka agrarian polity, Agni, the head of the civil judiciary had a status equal to Aditya, the head of the executive.
Agni to seek support of Chandra in areas not under Aditya
Whose brilliant halo would that personage (purusha) who occupied the position of Agni (the chief of the intellectuals as civil judge) have if there were no Aditya to fall back on for support?
Yajnavalkya replied that this personage would be required to secure the guidance and support of Chandra (Soma), the head of the intelligentsia of the forest society if he could not get the support of the patriciate and its chief, Aditya. He would have to conduct himself like that sober intellectual.This reply was what Janaka had expected (4-3-3).
Agni governs all areas except areas governed by Chandra and Aditya
Whose brilliant guidance should this personage (purusha) playing the role of an arbiter seek to have if both the politico-cultural aristocracy of the core society and the intellectual aristocracy of the other society represented by Aditya and Chandra respectively were not available to support him?
Yajnavalkya answered that he would be required to conduct himself like Agni who represented the commonalty if he could not fall back on the patriciate (to which Aditya belonged) or on the intellectuals of the frontier society (to which Soma belonged) for guidance and support (4-3-4).
Janaka was seeking guidance from Yajnavalkya on how an elected ruler could know what the opinion of the people was if the views of the different sections of the larger society could not be ascertained.
Janaka then asked him to visualize the situation where the social leader (purusha) (who was elected to the position of a ruler) was unable to get the support of the political aristocracy (Aditya) and the intellectual aristocracy of the forest (Chandra) and the commonalty of the core society (Agni) too did not speak out.
The ruler under Purusha constitution, to be guided by earlier verdicts (vak) on issues beyond the jurisdiction of the three lokas
The sage replied that the personage (purusha) who was required to give his verdict would have to fall back on precedents, that is, the verdicts (vak) pronounced by the competent officers in the past (and incorporated in the Vedas etc.). His conduct should be like that of one who searched for those utterances and stuck to these.
He would not be able to claim it as being backed by the power elite or by the intelligentsia or by the commonalty. There is no hand of the king in such settlement of dispute. The king cannot issue fresh edicts. Janaka was satisfied with this reply (4-3-5).
On issues beyond the jurisdiction of Agni, Aditya and Soma and earlier verdicts (vak) depend on conscience (atma)
The aristocracy, the sober intelligentsia of the forest, and the intelligentsia of the core society (represented by Aditya, Chandra and Agni respectively) and the earlier scholars whose findings as recorded in the Vedas etc. have set the precedents might all be unable to guide the personage (purusha) who was sitting on the throne as the highest arbitrator. Then he has to be guided by his self or conscience (atma). He has to conduct himself as a conscientious and impartial individual. (4-3-6)
[The remark by Radhakrishnan that this self is present in all the states of waking, dream and sleep is irrelevant here.]
The conscience of the ruler-cum-judge: Vijnana-purusha guided by inner light, antarjyoti
Janaka then wanted to know which aspect of his self (atma) such a ruler who was also a judge should follow.
He was told that this personage (purusha) must have acquired further knowledge (vijnana) through extrapolation of the knowledge (jnana) already acquired during the course of formal education. He must seek the guidance of the brilliant light within (antarjyoti) his heart (hrdaya).
He should remain balanced (samana) while moving about the two social worlds (loka), aristocracy (divam) and commonalty (prthvi). He should appear to be concentrating while yet moving about among them.
As he goes to sleep (and reflects on his experiences) after wandering amongst them, he rises above the level of this (imam) social world (loka) of commoners (mrtyu).
The concept of dream is not to be introduced as the discussion was on an intricate socio-political issue veering round the dilemma that an intellectual who had become a social leader, purusha, when he is elevated to the position of a ruler faces.
This personage, purusha earlier belonged to the commonalty. His leadership talents raised him to the threshold of the aristocracy and he secured the right to mingle with the nobles and know their views but was not granted membership of the aristocracy.
He was an atma, an unattached individual though he was a member of a social group (sarira) that belonged to the insentient commonalty (mrtyu).
Janaka was such an individual though he was aware of the outlooks and orientations of the aristocracy. When he was asleep he looked like an insentient(dead, in common parlance) being. But even in that state he was aware of his talents that placed him above the commonalty. (4-3-7).
[Medieval commentators had overlooked totally the socio-political implications of the disputation between Janaka and Yajnavalkya. They have sallied into the field of higher metaphysics, which were relevant to their stands on atma, jivatma and paramatma and purusha and brahma. This field is not entered into in the present study.]
The dilemma of the unattached individual (atma) who becomes a social leader (purusha)
Yajnavalkya points out that when that personage (purusha) is born, that is, when the unattached individual (atma) becomes a purusha, he enters a higher social body (sariram) and gets traits, which make him a sinner.
[It may be noted here that in the Gita Arjuna confronted his mentor, Krshna, with the question why a Purusha went astray. Krshna said that the Purusha concerned had fallen prey to lust and hence he had strayed from his duties.]
But when he leaves that (social) body and rises to a higher status, the evils that he has committed as a commoner (as one who has to die) are left behind(4-3-8).
The two statuses of the social leader, noble and commoner
This personage (purusha) with leadership traits has not only two statuses, that of a commoner (idam lokam) and that of the patriciate (para lokam). There is a third status in between; that is when he is asleep but not insentient and when he has not brought his leadership traits into activity.
As he awakes he sees both the statuses (idam and para), that of a commoner as well as that of a noble. That is, he is able to meet the expectations of both the social worlds of the core society.
The social leader (purusha), having ascended to the status of the aristocracy and adopted its way of life, sees its vices (papa) as well as its happiness (ananda). [It is unsound to interpret that he sees the evils of this world and the happiness of the other world.]
The life of an aristocrat is marked by both aspects, vices and noble and innocent pleasures. When the personage (purusha) who has been permitted to enter the aristocracy (for a limited period) goes to sleep (that is, is not functioning as a noble but is only reflecting on its weaknesses and strength), he takes along with him all the minute impressions he had gained of it.
He personally dissects them (during the period of reflection and non-activity) and then builds them up by himself. In other words, he does not try to make the cadre of social leaders (purushas) a replica of the aristocracy. During that period of reflection he endows it with its own brightness and light. In that status of purusha, which is in between that of a commoner and that of a noble, he becomes self-illuminated. (4-3-9)
The middle status and period of reflection
Yajnavalkya describes the status of the social leader who has come out of the social groups belonging to the commonalty and has experienced both the good and the bad aspects of the life of the ruling aristocracy and reflected on them. The social leader (purusha) finds that he is but in a wilderness as he returns to the middle status after a brief stay among the rich aristocrats known for the hedonist nature of their life of conspicuous consumption.
The social leaders, purushas, who had returned to the commonalty, had now no chariots and no steeds yoked to them or paths where they could drive those chariots.They had to obtain these by their own efforts.(4-3-10)
[Modern commentators have allowed the mysticism of the medieval times to obscure the purpose Yajnavalkya had in instructing Janaka.]
Association with nobility helps the Purusha in social service; stops decadence of the nobles; awakens the commoners
To drive home his stand Yajnavalkya draws attention to some popular verses. Having struck down in sleep what belongs to the body the sleepless (person) looks down on the sleeping (body).
Yajnavalkya implied that the purusha who had not become aware of his talents had given up his association with the social bodies and then became aware of those talents. This made him look down on those social bodies with which he was associated when he was a member of the insentient commonalty.
The golden personage (purusha) who is alone as the only swan flying in the sky is, gains brightness. For, he is not affected by contacts with others. Then he returns to his position (4-3-11).
The talents of the purusha are not noticed when he is part of a social group whether it belongs to the commonalty or to the nobility.
The bird flying high in the sky watches its nest below and would protect it with even its life (breath).
The social leader (purusha) though in a higher position than the commonalty has its welfare close to his heart and would protect its interests and welfare, the sage implies. But this is not expected of a noble who has gone away from his nest, the aristocracy.
The nobles do not function as families or as clans or as a class. The noble (amrta) goes wherever he desires. He too is like the golden personage (purusha), like the lone bird that has not built its nest. (12)
But there is a vital distinction between the unattached noble and the talented leader who has the welfare of his social group in his heart even as he soars high as an individual. In sleep one goes up or down. The noble (deva) who is not aware of his duties (who is asleep) creates (for himself) many forms (rupa), that is, is under self-caused hallucination. Sometimes he enjoys the company of women. Sometimes he sees fearful sights (4-3-13).
Yajnavalkya was keenly aware of the sense of fear that haunted the nobles who were given to sexual enjoyment and drinking sprees and who did not honour the values that were associated with the conduct of an aristocrat. He was drawing the attention of Janaka to this weakness of the nobility. [The term deva is not to be translated as god.]
Yajnavalkya agreed that every one saw the sports (arranged by the nobles) but was sad that none looked inwards. He, however, did not approve imposition of an austere way of life on the people who were given to joys.
One who is sleeping (under intoxication or drugs that create pleasant hallucinations) should not be awakened suddenly for it is difficult to cure him if he does not get back to sobriety.
Some defended these sprees saying that they characterized an awakened state (jagarita-desa) for whatever one saw while he was awake he saw when he was asleep. Yajnavalkya and Janaka were discussing the role of the purushas in correcting the nobles as well as the commoners.
The nobles (devas) needed to be freed from the grip of hedonism while the commoners had to be freed from insentience.
The social leader (purusha) was even when he seemed to be asleep reflecting on how to free them and he had personally (svayam) become a brilliant light(jyoti).
Janaka was pleased that the sage had enlightened him and freed him (vimoksha) from his dilemma on how to stop the decadence of the nobility and rouse the commonalty to conscious noble activities. He requested Yajnavalkya to instruct him further on this. (4-3-14)
The intellectuals are far above the level of the insentient commonalty but are to be on guard while moving amongst the rich and hedonist aristocracy.
The social leader (purusha) of Yajnavalkyas vision was such an intellectual.
After having stayed (samprasada) amongst the nobles and tasted their pleasurable ways of life and roaming about amidst them and seen the vices (papa) they are addicted to and the good things (punya) they have done, this purusha should return to his original position and stay as if asleep and reflect on what he had experienced and seen.
Training of the social leader, purusha as independent, stoic, realistic ideal ruler
While he is thus reflecting on his experiences amidst the (hedonist) aristocracy, these experiences do not affect him, for this social leader (purusha) is not a member of any class and is not attached to either the commonalty or to the aristocracy.
Janaka was pleased with this instruction that Yajnavalkya had given him on the role of the independent and stoic ruler as a social leader (purusha). Such a purusha is free (vimoksha) from personal needs and prejudices (4-3-15).
[The interpretation of the term, samprasada as deep sleep, the state of highest serenity, is not followed here.]
Yajnavalkya did not demand that the independent intellectual who had the talent to be a social leader (purusha) should avoid the company of aristocrats. But such association was a period when that purusha would be asleep and not active as a social leader.
The purusha should after observing the merits and demerits of the life of the aristocrats, return to the place from where he set forth, that is, to the company of the commoners before he became aware of his talents.
Whatever he noticed in that period does not influence his character and way of life for the (ideal) social leader (purusha) is not attached to anything.
Janaka was glad to receive this instruction that a stoical leader was expected to be with the (insentient) commonalty and not be away from it though he is aware of his own superiority and has had experiences in the company of the ruling elite. The purusha had a duty to the ranks from which he rose (16).
The purusha should deliberately take part in the sports of the elite and move about amongst them and observe their noble deeds (punya) as well as sins (papa). Then he should return to his original group, that of the commonalty which is insentient. He has to move about freely from one state to the other, from insentience to awareness even as a fish swims from one bank to the other (4-3-17, 18).
Yajnavalkya then likens the movement of the purusha to that of a bird of prey and also to that of a gentle bird, which tired after flying about in the sky folds its wings and comes down to its nest. He reaches that state where he entertains no personal desires and being fatigued sees no dream. [This comparison might have been a later interpolation.] (4-3-19)
How to function as an unattached stoical ruler with the aid of the existing socio-political institutions
In the veins and arteries (nadi), which are called by the term, hita, (stabilizers) who are very minute and are filled with fluids of different colours he gets extraordinary experiences (under the influence of drugs that he has taken to entertain hallucinations).
He feels as if he were being killed or overpowered or chased by an elephant or falling into a well. Through ignorance he imagines whatever fears he had actually experienced or seen were when he was awake.
But when he thinks that he is indeed a noble (deva) or king (raja) and that he is all that is here (that is, identifies himself with all individuals in this social world of administrators), then he becomes (part of) that high (parama) social world or cadre (loka) (4-3-20).
The sage calls for a realistic approach. Yajnavalkya expected Janaka to be realistic even while having the status of an aristocrat and occupying the position of a king.
[The interpretation that the place where the two selves unite is the heart and that they have a path in common is irrational and unacceptable.]
The social leader (purusha) who has to play the role of a king and behave like a noble presents himself in a particular form (rupa) that evokes the picture of a dignified king. He (as an austere stoic) is free from cravings, from sins and from fear. [But Yajnavalkya does not deny this personage the right to copulate with his wife.]
During such union one is ignorant of what is happening outside and is also not aware of his internal talents and thoughts. In that form and role of a man united with his wife, his intimate and personal desires are fulfilled. Of course such union could be had (as a duty) without desire and without sorrow (4-3-21).
[The comment that the mystic union of the finite and the divine is compared in this passage to the self-oblivion of earthly lovers where each is the other appears to be attractive. But it is not tenable.]
For, the sage is commenting on the role of an unattached social leader who is neither ambitious nor has personal interests or attachments nor is enamoured of the status and role of an aristocratic ruler he has to play.
When the purusha becomes a stoical ruler with no personal desires and sorrows,he does not treat his father as a father or his mother as a mother or the social worlds or communities (loka) as ones with distinct orientations (to be honoured and respected or indulged in by him).
Similarly he does not treat the nobles (devas) as a governing elite with special rights and privileges or the Vedas as authoritative works. He does not despise the thieves for being so or a terminator of the foetus for having done that horrid act. He has no likes and dislikes.
He does not despise a social outcast (chandala or a paulkasa) for being so. He does not despise the Sramana as a heretic monk or honour a tapasa (meditator) for being so. He does not have preferences. Yajnavalkya says that neither meritorious deeds (punya) nor sins (papa) affect the stoic who has travelled far beyond all the sorrows of the heart. (4-3-22)
In that position, the trained stoical ruler does not personally observe the events taking place around him. Yajnavalkya explains that though the ruler may notice an event it should not be treated as his observing that event in his official capacity. He has to secure information on persons and events through the official institution of observers (drshti) whose role of observing never comes to a stop.
However impartial and objective a ruler may be in his inspection of works carried on by his officials and others, this institutionalized procedure of observing through observers can not be brought to a halt. It is not known to be broken. It is imperishable.
There is no alternative (dvitiyam) to it. No other individual or institution can be recognized as observer and work assigned to him or to it partially (vibhakta).
Yajnavalkya was engaged in a significant disputation on the function and role of the trained stoical ruler. He was not discarding any established institution though he was not prepared to accept that the Vedas contained all the required knowledge. (4-3-23)
[It is not necessary to describe the state of deep sleep to interpret this passage that like other passages in this section deals with social polity and training of the stoical ruler.]
Not only with the institution of observers (spies, in common parlance) but also where other institutions provided data (even as the organs of smell, taste, speech, hearing do in the case of the human being) to the chief of the state, the established procedure is to be followed.
No alternative to the established institution is to be sought and no portion of its function and authority may be distributed to other bodies. The stoical ruler presided over an established bureaucracy without undermining its roles and duties. (24 to 27)
[Commentators of the medieval times and their adherents of the modern times have not been able to describe the purport of the allegory behind the functions of the organs of the body and those of the organs of the state.]
Similarly the ideal ruler does not try to disturb the functions of the official body of thinkers and planners (manas). It is not dissolved and its roles and power are not distributed among other bodies and individuals though the stoical ruler is himself an outstanding thinker (4-3-28). Even the institution that comes in physical contact (touch) with others is not disturbed (4-3-29).
The stoical ruler might be a great scholar and could gather more knowledge through extrapolation (vijanati) by himself. But it was the duty of the official institution of knowledge that had to process all the available knowledge and provide him the knowledge that he had not already obtained.
The function of this official institution of knowledge should not be disturbed. It should not be assigned to another body and should not be distributed amongst different bodies,Yajnavalkya cautions Janaka (30).
[The translation, When in the state of deep sleep he does not know, he is yet knowing for there is no cessation of the knowing of a knower, because of the imperishability of the knower; there is not however a second, nothing else separate from him which he could know does not convey the intent of this formula.]
Yajnavalkya pointed out that the attempt to obtain the information or knowledge necessary for proper administration through a second body, that is, through a body other than what was provided in the constitution of the janapada over which Janaka of Videha presided would result in gaining knowledge or information of a different type. This is not advisable for such knowledge or information could not be considered as the correct one, Yajnavalkya implies. (4-3-31)
Constitution bench (Brahma) and unanimous verdict
Yajnavalkya was clarifying that he did not claim that the institutions provided for in that constitution were the ideal ones and that the ones of other states were defective.
Scholars had gathered at the court of the Janaka of Videha to settle the issue of what were the traits and talents that were to be expected of the jurists.
The scholars from the lands of the Kurus and Panchalas had to accept that they could not match Yajnavalkya in knowledge of the socio-political constitution, Brahma. Janaka who too was a scholar consented to be taught by Yajnavalkya.
The sage addressing Janaka as samrat, the highest arbiter on disputes among his subordinate rulers, officials and subjects, told him that the bench of judges had to arrive at clear and unanimous decisions.
Yajnavalkya does not rule out the presence of several and diverse views on any issue. The sea is one deep and wide area of water (salilam) though there are many waves. But the observer (drashta) of the sea has to concentrate on the unity (advaita) of the sea. The water of one wave is not different from that of another.
So too the members of the judiciary should think alike and arrive at one common conclusion. There should be no split verdict.
Yajnavalkya tells Janaka that the purusha, the social leader who was also an intellectual and who had risen above the level of the insentient commonalty and had experienced the ways of life of the aristocrats reaches the highest level when he becomes such an impartial and solicitous judge ( Brahma). He values this status as his highest treasure.
Brahma-loka was the highest cadre he could join. Yajnavalkya implied that it was superior to the aristocracy (devas) and the power elite (rajas). Membership of this cadre gave the intellectual his greatest happiness (ananda).
It had to be ensured that the judge was happy to pronounce verdicts that helped all discrete individuals (bhutas) to share a small portion of that happiness and depend on that pleasant (and just) verdict while leading their (otherwise dreary) lives.
The aphorism is pregnant with instructions to the judges and to Janaka. [The transliteration, He becomes (transparent) like water, one, the seer without duality. This is the world of Brahma, Your Majesty. Thus did Yajnavalkya instruct (Janaka): This is his highest goal; this is his highest treasure; this is his highest world (loka); this is his greatest bliss. On a particle (matra) of this very bliss other (anya) creatures (bhuta) live fails to bring out the import of the instruction given by Yajnavalkya.]
There can be no good judgment that is not really pleasing to all discrete individuals who have none to depend on and who are not members of organized families or clans or communities. The judiciary has to adopt a humane approach and seek joy in giving joy to all though it may be very little. Janaka was advised indirectly to lace his judgments with the objective of welfare and happiness of all such individuals. (32)
Yajnavalkya then drew the attention of Janaka and others to what made the commoners (manushyas, who were organized as social groups engaged in strenuous economic activities) happy. They desire to be physically healthy, prosperous and dominate others. They desire to be provided with all enjoyments that even the lower ranks of the commoners (manushyaka) could obtain.
[They did not long for or expect to get the comforts that the bourgeoisie or the higher ranks of the commonalty did enjoy.] If they secure these they get the highest joy.
Immunities, privileges and happiness (Ananda) and Socio-political stratification
Yajnavalkya implies that these joys are not born of seeing others happy and are of a low type even among the commonalty (manushyas).
The elders, who have retired after winning all comforts and wealth to live in their sanctuaries (pitr-loka) without exerting themselves any more and after providing for their children are a hundred times happier than the commoners (who are still labouring to lead a happy life). The joy of those who lead the life of Gandharvas is a hundred times more than that of these retired elders, Yajnavalkya points out.
The Gandharva orientations precluded being permanently attached to even wives and offspring. They were adventurers and were both educated and valiant. But they were never engaged in economic activities and yet were not guilty of any economic crime. They did not exploit others and were not subordinate to any social body or political authority.
Theirs was the joy of independence unburdened by thoughts about the welfare of the family and thoughts for the morrow.
[Unless we have a correct comprehension of the features of the Vedic social polity and bear them in mind we cannot interpret these aphorisms.]
Yajnavalkya and Janaka were dealing with a social structure that was not yet brought under the system of four classes or varnas (Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras).
All those who were engaged in economic activities, whether they owned property or not were brought under the category, manushyas. The two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras, were formed out of them. Above them ranked the elders (pitrs, pitaras) who had retired to their forest abodes. The Gandharvas were superior to these elders.
Brahmans and Kshatriyas who were not engaged in economic activities were constituted from among the Gandharvas as separate classes (varnas).
The nobles ranked above the Gandharvas. These nobles (devas) too were stratified. Those nobles who were members of the executive (engaged in karma, action) were hundred times more comfortable and happy than the Gandharvas for whom no work was assigned.
These members of the executive had been elevated from the commonalty (manushyas) or from the ranks of Gandharvas as a reward for their meritorious work as administrators. They enjoyed several immunities that were special privileges of the nobles. They continued to perform their duties.
Not all nobles belonged to the leisure class and not all those who belonged to the leisure class had the status of nobles.
There was a class of born aristocrats (ajana-devas), which was superior to the above elite of executives (karma-devas). They belonged to the local population, especially the janapada and shared the orientations of its commoners. They were happier and more comfortable than the latter.
Similarly, the members of the intellectual aristocracy, who were versed in Vedas (Srutis) and were free from sins and sexual desires (kama), were superior to the members of the executive and happier than the latter.
[Radhakrishnan's translation of this passage fails to notice that Yajnavalkya was describing the features of the socio-economic hierarchy of the later Vedic times. The commentators of the medieval ages treated the Srotriyas to be superior to those Brahmans who were born to Brahman parents, to those who had the right to perform the sacramental rites as Dvijas and to those scholars, Vipras, who had studied and taught any one of the three Vedas.]
The Srotriyas who were members of the Samiti had to fulfill all these three eligibility rules. As Janaka prodded on, Yajnavalkya said that those who were in the cadre (loka) functioning under the Prajapati (chief of the people) were hundred times happier than the born aristocrats and the intellectual aristocracy.
The members of this Prajapati cadre were legislators and social organizers and social controllers.The members of the house of nobles (Sabha) were born aristocrats. The members of the council of scholars (Samiti) belonged to the intellectual aristocracy. The Prajapati was the convener of these two bodies.The Prajapati and members of his executive had more immunities and privileges than these nobles and scholars.
Yajnavalkya envisaged the two legislative bodies as equal in status but subordinate to the Prajapati and his secretariat in the legislature. He was counselling Janaka on the features of the ideal socio-political structure. The judiciary (Brahma-loka) that interpreted and upheld the socio-political constitution (Brahma) was many times superior to the Prajapati and his secretariat.
Janaka found that Yajnavalkya deserved to receive a thousand cows for having correctly outlined the status of the judiciary (Brahma-loka) but had not freed the former from all doubts. Yajnavalkya felt that Janaka who was a ruler (raja) and an expert (medha) in socio-political management would drive him to the limits of his ability to withstand questioning. (4-3-33)
[Modern scholars and even the commentators of the medieval times have failed to notice the features of the structure of the Vedic social polity that gave the highest status to the judiciary.]
It may be noted here that Yajnavalkya did not attempt to determine the statuses of Indra, Agni and Brhaspati in this pyramid.The social leader (purusha) who had reached the highest level as a member of this judiciary (Brahma-loka) enjoyed the privileges of that status (even if he was not required to be always alert and active that is, even if he was asleep).
In other words the scholars who had been admitted to the cadre should be ready to undertake the task of giving counsel and pronouncing judicial verdicts whenever called upon to do so. He moved about amongst all ranks especially of the nobility and after having noticed its strong points as well as follies and foibles returns to the original level he was in before he became an awakened individual (4-3-34).
The role and status of the retired jurist
The allegory implies that the jurist who was a member of the constitution bench (Brahma-loka) would have to retire after a short tenure and return to the level of a commoner.
[The translation of this passage as: After having had enjoyment in this state of dream (or sleep, svapna), after having roams about (charitva) and seen good (punya) and evil (papa), he returns again as he came to the place from which he started to the state of waking (buddha) is not to the mark.]
He would be an awakened citizen (prajnena-atma) and would be guiding the individuals (atma) who were members of social bodies (sarira). They would be bearing the responsibility for supporting him during his old age (4-3-35).
The state was not expected to, to use modern terminology, meet the expenses of the retired jurist or his pension. He would thereby be able to function independently and without a sense of obligation to the state or fear of being coerced by it.
[The transliteration of this passage as: Just as a heavily loaded cart moves creaking, even so the self in the body mounted by the self of intelligence moves creaking, when one is breathing with difficulty is unacceptable. The interpretation that the subtle body, which moves between the waking and the dream states, through birth and death consisting respectively with and disassociation from the body and its organs is meant by the expression, the self in the body, is irrelevant in this context.]
The jurist, an experienced and aged scholar and social leader (purusha), as he becomes old, lean and weak, frees himself from his bonds to the post (anga, organ of the state) he is in. He returns to his original position even as a ripe fruit gets detached and falls to the ground from the tree (4-3-36).
Yajnavalkya expects that the commonalty would welcome this retired judge (Brahma) with respect. He is welcomed even as the policemen (ugras), magistrates dealing with crimes (and having the power to impose death sentence) (pratyenasas), reporters (sutas) and revenue officials of villages (gramani) welcome a king (raja) who comes to their village, with offer of food, drink and lodging. All discrete individuals, especially of the social periphery, (sarva bhuta) welcome him.
The judge after retirement returns to live (in the periphery like them) as an individual without attachment to any social body including his kith and kin. This stipulation enabled him to function independently and impartially.
He does not merge in the commonalty or in the aristocracy or in any other social cadre. He is free from social bonds and from obligations to the state (4-3-37).
The last days of the honoured jurist
The retired jurist does not die neglected and unhonoured. When the king leaves the village the policemen, magistrates, reporters and revenue officials of the village gather round to see him off.
Similarly all the living persons (sarva prana) whether individuals or members of organized groups, whether rich or poor, gather as the jurist lies on his deathbed to see him off (4-3-38).
[The distinction between the expressions, sarva bhutas mentioned in the previous formula and sarva pranas mentioned in this formula is significant. The former is not to be translated as all beings and the latter as all breaths]
The sage implies that all those who are admitted (prana) to the community as well as those who are expelled (apana) from it, all who maintain social balance (samana), those who spread culture (vyana) and those at the helm (udana) gather to pay their tributes to that jurist who was on his deathbed.
They gather round him even as when the individual (atma) becomes weak and his mind is distracted, his breaths (pranas) gather around the atma. He is no longer a dynamic personage (purusha). He is but an individual (atma) confined to his waning body. He embraces the brilliant sparks of light and these descend into his heart; they become dear to him.
When the personage (purusha) in his eye turns away (after paying his tribute to him on behalf of the polity) he ceases to be aware of that persons presence (4-4-1).
They say that he is becoming one who is not able to see or smell or taste or speak or hear or think or has sense of touch. The apex of his heart gets lighted up resulting in the soul (atma) leaving the body through the head or the other apertures of the body. [In this allegory the sage speaks of the head of the state or of the judiciary similarly leaving the body-politic (sarira-desebhya).]
The contributions of the jurist (Brahma) to Discipline of study (vidya) recorded and remembered
When his life departs from his body, all the living persons (pranas) who have gathered round him too leave the scene.
He then becomes one identified with vijnana, the knowledge which he has discovered and contributed (to the treasury of knowledge). What leaves is the individual who has this knowledge (and not the knowledge itself).
The mastery he had acquired over the various disciplines of study (vidyas) and the duties (karmas) he was performing at the time of his death are recorded and so too his earlier status of awareness (prajna) (from which he rose up to become the scholar-jurist) (4-4-2).
Yajnavalkya wants the contributions of the learned jurist to be remembered. Was Yajnavalkya drawing attention to what the soul takes along with it when it leaves one body and enters another? The sage suggests the picture of a leech, which has come to the end of a blade of grass and moves to another. Like that leech the soul leaves this body and also ignorance (avidya) and moves to another drawing to itself all the knowledge and experiences it has gained (4-4-3). [This unconvincing comparison must have been a later interpolation.]
c Yajnavalkya introduces the picture of the goldsmith using the same gold in the gold ornament to make other types of gold ornaments.
The knowledge gained can be used in other positions of social welfare (kalyana) and in other structured (rupa) minor social worlds, or those of the retired elders (pitrs or pitaras) who were no longer connected with their children or of Gandharvas (independent intellectuals or warriors) who were not bound by family bonds or by state codes.
The retired jurist could make his knowledge available to the weaker sections of the society for their welfare. He could join the aristocracy (devas, nobles) or the secretariat of the Prajapati or rejoin the judiciary (Brahmam). Or he might merge in the unorganized mass of individuals (bhutas). (4-4-4)
The translation of the term, kalyana as beauty is unsound.
Yajnavalkya was briefing Janaka on the salient features of the new social polity envisaged by him and the place of the judiciary in it. The knowledge and talents of the judges could be used for noble purposes after their retirement.
[The translation, This self, after having thrown away this body and dispelled its ignorance, makes unto himself another, newer and more beautiful shape like that of the fathers or of the gandharvas or of the gods or of Prajapati or of Brahma or of other beings fails to convey the import of this passage as the modern scholars have not grasped the sense in which the terms, pitrs, gandharvas, devas, Prajapati and Brahma were used by the sages of the Vedic and Upanishadic times.]
Wide and varied experiences of the jurist
That individual (atma) was a jurist (Brahma), endowed with self-acquired new knowledge (vijnana). He was associated with thinkers (manas), living persons (classified as entrants, outcast, stabilizers, orients, aspirants, prana, apana, samana, vyana and udana) (prana), observers (chakshu), great scholars (srotra) and agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi).
He was associated also with those who lived beside lakes and rivers (apa), and in the open moors (vayu), with those in the almost vacant places as insignificant beings (akasa) and those who occupied positions as guides or beacon-lights (tejas) and also with those who were totally ignorant (atejas). He was connected with those who were hedonists (kamamaya) and also with the austere stoics who were against (sexual) desires. Similarly he was connected with those who bore animosity (krodha) towards some and those who had no animosity (akrodha) against any one.
He had mingled with those who adhered to ethics and morality (dharma) and also with those whose conduct was unethical and immoral (adharma). As he was associated with all sorts of persons, good and bad, he had acquired all types of experiences.
Yajnavalkya explains that the expressions, idomaya and adomaya signify this association with and experience in that social field.
One's personality is formed from his acts and practices. One who does pious deeds becomes known as a sadhu, a gentle and pious person. One who does sinful acts is known as a sinner. One becomes a virtuous person by his pious acts. One becomes a sinner by committing sins. Some say that (every) person is full of desires (kamamaya).
One's desires determine the type of deeds, which he performs. Ones deeds determine his personality. He attains the status appropriate to the deed or duty he performs. Yajnavalkya leaves it to the individual concerned what role he should play after retiring from his position as a member of the judiciary (Brahma) (4-4-5).
[The translation of the last portion of this passage as: As is his desire so is his will; as is his will, so is the deed he does; whatever deed he does, that he attains does not bring out the import of this aphorism adequately.]
Rejoining the judiciary
Yajnavalkya cites a popular verse in this connection. If ones mind is attached to a particular work, it gets united with that alone. After exhausting the results of whatever work he has done in a social world (loka) he comes again from that world to this world for work.
This verse was dealing with the migrant who had gone abroad to work and earn wealth. After squandering in his native place all what he had earned abroad he returned to that country to work and earn wealth.
A jurist who had retired and gone back to the level from which he had risen to that high position might return to his post in the judiciary. It was not to be faulted, Yajnavalkya implied. Only some desired to return to the judiciary. But there were some who did not desire to be back in it.
There were some who had no desires (akama) and some who worked without personal interests (nishkama). Some had got their favourite desires (apta-kama) fulfilled. Some were enamoured of their personal status (atma-kama). The lives (pranas) of such persons are not elevated.
One who is a scholar and has no personal ambitions or desires and has no attachments is eligible for the post of a judge (Brahma). He alone can get entry to the judiciary (Brahma). Yajnavalkya implies that while one might not be debarred from rejoining the judiciary after retirement, one who aspires to return is not to be taken back (4-4-6).
Both commoners and nobles eligible to join the judiciary
Yajnavalkya then cited another verse. When all the desires in the heart are cast away, then the commoner (mrtyu) becomes a noble (amrtam) and then attains the level of a learned scholar (Brahma).
Similarly one social position or membership of a social cadre or body is given up and another taken on. However one has to be free from social bodies and their material interests and pursuits and be a noble (amrta) with high cultural pursuits. The life (prana) of such a noble may be described as fit to be honoured with elevation to the status of a judge (Brahma).
Yajnavalkya was not excluding all the aristocrats from the judiciary. Those commoners who had become nobles but were still free from material interests could be accommodated in the independent, selfless and impartial judiciary. This stand pleased Janaka who offered him a thousand cows. But he expected more instruction from Yajnavalkya. Some more enigmas pertaining to the socio-political constitution (Brahma) were yet to be explained. (4-4-7)
Retired jurists might join either commonalty or nobility
Yajnavalkya then drew attention to yet another verse. "I have touched and experienced closely the ancient (purana) divergent (vitata) path, that follows (the new one that I am treading). By that path the discerning scholars in Brahma (Vedas) rose to the social world of the nobles with personal wealth (svargam) after getting freed (vimukta) from this (social world, loka, of commoners)."
The author of that verse was explaining to his audience that he was not advocating a method for social ascent that was different from the traditional one by which he had risen to the level of the aristocracy.
Yajnavalkya against closure of channels of social ascent
In that social path there were no colour distinctions (such as white, blue, yellow, green and red). A Brahman (an expert in Atharvaveda) who did meritorious and shining works (punyakrt and tejas) discovered that path (to a classless undifferentiated cultural aristocracy).
Yajnavalkya was not in favour of extending the application of the varna (colour) distinctions to the aristocracy. Any one who did good deeds was eligible to rise in the social ladder to the highest level. Yajnavalkya did not want the new varna scheme of four classes to close this channel of social ascent. (4-4-9)
Yajnavalkya was however against blind adherence to the paths prescribed in the Vedas and other earlier works.Those persons who merely respect and follow the disciplines of study (vidyas) [that are faulty and inaccurate] enter an area of blind darkness or ignorance (tamas).
Those who delight in knowledge provided by disciplines of study (vidyas) [that are perfect] enter into greater darkness (to discover what is not yet known). What did Yajnavalkya, the teacher, tell his student, Janaka of Videha, who was eager to establish a perfect system of governance? The above profound aphorism is explained in the ensuing passages. [It is not sound to treat the term, vidya, as implying the ritual parts of the Vedas.] (4-4-10).
Those social worlds or cadres (lokas), which are clothed in blind darkness (tamas), that is, who are uneducated and are ignorant, are termed as unhappy and unprivileged sections of the population (an-ananda).
Those native subjects (jana,sons of the soil) who are not educated (avidya) and are not awakened (abudha), that is, those persons who do not have formal education in the recognized schools of the core society and who are not amongst the intelligentsia (budhas) of the unorganized social periphery are after their death, pretya, declared to have been ignorant. (In other words, they are not to be condemned during their lifetime as belonging to the ignorant, unhappy masses.)
The sage does not approve looking down upon those who have not received formal education.(4-4-11)
[The translation of this formula as, Those worlds covered with blind darkness are called joyless. To them after death go those people who have not knowledge, who are not awakened fails to bring out the above note.]
Yajnavalkya's approach to the study of social leadership
Yajnavalkya points out to Janaka that a social leader (purusha) who is aware of his personal talents (atma) feels distressed at the pitiable condition of his social group (sarira). He is not distressed for non-fulfilment of his personal desires (kama).
Yajnavalkya implies that the social leader should be stoical, selfless and free from personal interests while working for the welfare of the uneducated and ignorant social classes from which he has risen.
The sage was recommending a new approach to the study of the issue of social leadership. The leader (purusha) sympathizes with the masses and his social group and has interest in their welfare but is aware of his own identity. (4-4-12)
[The translation of this aphorism as: If a person knows the self as I am this, then wishing what, and for desire of what should he suffer in the body? misses the purport of the discussion between Janaka and the sage.]
A person who has found and followed this path to the higher social ranks and has awakened (buddha) his self (atma) to the unfathomable (gahana) social body (in which he is present, samdeha) can become an organizer of the entire larger society (visvakrt). For, this leader is capable of performing all duties (sarva karta). This social world (loka) of social organizers belongs to him. (That is, he is entitled to be treated as a member of that cadre. Its traits are to be inferred from his conduct and talents.) He symbolizes that social cadre (loka) (and executive). (4-4-13)
Yajnavalkya told Janaka that while they were there (discussing the issue of social reorganization) they should recognize this aspect. If they were not aware of the import of the above potential of an awakened social leader (purusha) it would be a great disaster (to the society).
Those leaders who were aware of their potentials for reorganizing the entire larger society and present their personal conduct to be the ideal to be followed by the entire cadre of social leaders would become fit to enter the cultural aristocracy (amrtam). For those who were not aware of their potentials only sorrow was in store. (4-4-14)
[The interpretation, The Eternal may be realized even while we live in the ephemeral body. To fail to recognize him is to live in ignorance, to be subject to birth and death. The knowers of Brahman are immortal; others continue in the region of sorrow is an unwarranted and untenable theological position.]
A person who clearly observes and follows one's (atmanam) own natural and developed traits becomes a member of the cultural aristocracy (amrtam). He becomes a master (isa) of his past (as a discrete individual, bhuta) and his future (course of action, bhava).
That personage who has obtained mastery over his life and career does not shrink from the duties of a creative social leader who is fit to enter the nobility, the sage said. (4-4-15)
Yajnavalkya points out that the nobles (devas) treat as a permanent light of lights the personage whom the commonalty follows for one year (samvatsara) as he moves around. [We have to read behind the metaphor of the earth rotating round the sun.] (4-4-16).
He treated as a non-aligned individual (atma) only that person in whom the five peoples (each of whom had five groups) had unshakable faith. This aphorism needs unravelling. Purus, Druhyus, Anus, Turvasus and Yadus were the five peoples (pancha-janas). They differed from one another in their orientations. The leaders of each of these five groups were classified as white, blue, yellow, green and red.
It was a late Vedic system of social grouping, which was later substituted by the system of four social classes, varnas. Yajnavalkya was not referring to the four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras and the untouchables.
He was also not referring to the five cadres, Gandharvas, Pitrs, Devas, Asuras and Rakshasas. The western Indologists and their blind Indian followers have described these cadres as singers, fathers, gods, demons and Titans.
The five sections of each of the five peoples, pancha-janas, were nobles, intellectuals, free men, commoners with property and agrarian proletariat (later identified as devas, vipras, gandharvas, vis and kshudrakas).
One who recognized and followed that independent jurist-cum-aristocrat (brahma-amrta) whom all the pancha panchajanas (all the twenty-five groups) acknowledged was treated as a noble (amrtam). (17)
Yajnavalkya stressed the need for the emergence of an integrated social order headed and guided by a scholar who was acceptable to all. He also hinted that aristocrats were egotists and failed to recognize this principle of admission to a new intellectual aristocracy with restricted tenure of one year for each member.
Yajnavalkya wanted that administrators should know who among the commoners (pranas) represented the commonalty best and similarly who among the observers represented his cadre best. So too they should know who among the trained scholars (srotras) represented this cadre best and who among the thinkers (manas) represented his cadre best.
Such administrators know what the head (agra) of the ancient (purana) judiciary (Brahma) knew (4-4-18).
In other words, such administrators and rulers learn that according to Atharvan codes the chief judge should be able to identify the reliable persons among the commoners, witnesses and observers, reporters and scholars and thinkers.
[The interpretation that the different organs do not function if they are not inspired by the energy of Brahma is irrelevant here. The concept of Brahma as the ancient primordial does not fit in here.]
Brahma and Diversities vis--vis common traits
The observer (drashta) who is also a thinker (manas) notes the common factors and not the diversities (nanasti). One who sees (pasya) diversity treats every commoner (mrtyu) who is insentient as different from other commoners.
[The translation of this aphorism as: Only by the mind is it to be perceived. In it there is no diversity. He goes from death to death, who sees in it, as it were, diversity, fails to bring out its purport.]
The system of representation of common will cannot succeed under these circumstances where diversities are dwelt on and not common traits and common aspirations.
Yajnavalkya was dealing with the issue of formation of an impartial, responsible and representative judiciary. (4-4-19) Janaka could follow his line of thinking. But the commentators of the medieval times could not.
Selection of the Chief Justice, Brahma
Did Yajnavalkya draw attention to the ancient practice of a five-member judiciary representing the ruling nobility (devas), the free intellectuals (vipras), the higher ranks of free men (gandharvas) who were not residents of any state, the organized commonalty (vis) and the agrarian proletariat (kshudrakas)?
Was there in existence (during the times of Yayati) a federal society of the five native peoples, Purus, Druhyus, Anus, Turvasus and Yadus, with each having a five-member board of arbitration and the federation, a constitution bench and a chief justice, Brahma,at its helm?
Yajnavalkya expects all to observe and follow the conduct of this incomparable (aprameya) centrally located (dhruva) individual (atma) as the only authority (eka) (functioning as the chief ruler-cum-judge).
He is untainted (viraja) and belongs to other outer areas (para akasa), is not locally born (aja) but is great (mahan) and is centrally located (dhruva). He is not a native of any organized state and like the minute dust in the stratosphere (akasa) moves about everywhere.
That is, the head of the federal polity known as Viraj was expected to maintain neutrality and follow the principle of union without uniformity.
Yajnavalkya would like him to be a stoic without personal attachments (viraja). He would be the centre (dhruva) from where guidance and directions were given to all the members and sections of the larger society. (Yajnavalkya seems to be drawing attention to certain features of the Mahadeva constitution described in Atharvaveda Bk.15.)
Yajnavalkya makes a subtle suggestion that the judiciary mentioned above might have its members drawn from any of the twenty-five groups but its head should be an outstanding scholar drawn from the larger pool of unassuming intellectuals and located at the state capital. (4-4-20).
Formation and Constitution of the Judiciary
A discerning scholar (dheera) should practise how to become wise and aware of all fields (prajna) by knowing (vjnaya) the traits and ability of that chief judge (Brahmana). He should not follow others (na anudhya). He should not be carried away by rich rhetoric (bahu sabda) for that is mere exhausting of words (4-4-21).
[The translation of this aphorism as: Let a wise Brahmana after knowing him alone, practise (the means to) wisdom. Let him not reflect on many words, for that is mere weariness of speech fails to bring out the advice to Janaka.]
The chief judge appointed should follow the terse Brahma-sutra and not the elaborate commentaries but at the same time should be acquainted well with all fields of knowledge.
[The remark that the term, vijnaya means knowing by means of the study of the scriptures and logical reflection is significant though there is no need to bring scriptures into focus here.]
Yajnavalkya was required to further elucidate and establish his proposition. He said that that great individual (mahatma) was not born (aja) in the local society or state [over which Janaka presided as the elected representative of its natives.
He knew the traits, orientations and aspirations of all the living persons as further knowledge (vijnana) [from the knowledge (jnana) already acquired (through formal education)].
The master (adhipati) of all (sarva) persons, the charismatic chief (isa) of all, the controller (vasi) of all, lived in the internal (hrdaya) vacant space (akasa) of that social polity. He did not become popular by pious (sadhu) deeds or duties or belittled by impious acts.
He was the charismatic and benevolent chieftain of all (sarvesvara) (especially in the outskirts of the core society), the master (adhipati) and guardian (pala) of the individuals (bhutas) in the social periphery. He had kept the social worlds (lokas) apart (asambhedaya) even while being a bridge (setu) amongst them.
In other words the highly admired head of the judiciary of the federal polity had not permitted the separate identities of the members of its different sectors to be pulled down while he encouraged interactions amongst them.
Yajnavalkya explained to Janaka how to identify the candidate suitable for the position of the chief judge of the federal state. The scholars (Brahmanas) try to define the traits necessary in that great judge by pinpointing (vividishanti) his features.
For this they use their knowledge of the Vedas or resort to sacrificial rites (yajna) or offer gifts (dana) or perform tapas (meditation and serious efforts at knowing the unknown), or perform penance and other rites like fasting which are their prescribed duties.
On knowing his features, the scholar becomes a silent monk (muni). Desiring to join his cadre (loka) they set forth as recluses (pravraja). Because they knew this, the earlier scholars did not desire offspring. One who had offspring and personal property could not become a member of the judiciary.
The individuals who had been admitted to the cadre (loka) of jurists (Brahma) had no use for sons. They had risen above the desire for sons (praja) or subjects, for wealth (vitta) and company of peoples and communities (loka).
[Yajnavalkya was referring also to the traits of the scholar who had become a ruler-cum-judge.] They had to lead the life of mendicants who lived on alms (bhiksha) and had to be constantly on the move (chara). The sage had in mind the picture of the status and role of the Vipras who assisted the chief judge, Brahmana.
One desires to have (to conquer) worlds (lokas),as he wants wealth. He desires to have wealth, as he wants sons (putra).The judge has to be free from desires.
Yajnavalkya rules out a ruler becoming a judge also, as association with and control over communities (lokas) and possession of wealth (vitta) indicate desires.
The unattached individual (atma) can be described only in terms of exclusion (neti, neti). He is incomprehensible, indestructible, unattached, unfettered, unharmed for he cannot be comprehended or destroyed or be attached or fettered or harmed.One who knows this cannot be overcome by sins, that is, punished for having committed sins.
He is not rewarded either for his welfare activities. He does his duty stoically. His soul is not affected by what he has done or by the duties that he has failed to perform. (4-4-22)
[The remark that the monastic orders which developed in Buddhism and Jainism are forecast here is unwarranted.]
Yajnavalkya told Janaka that the above stand was reflected in the popular verse:
The eternal (nitya) greatness of the scholar (Brahmana) who has mastered the Vedas (Brahma) is not increased or diminished by the nature of work or duty he is required to perform. One should know that step; having known that he will not be tainted by sinful deeds.
The step, which the scholar as an interpreter and upholder of the socio-political constitution (Atharvaveda or Brahma) was required to take gave him immunity against being hauled up for committing a sin. [We would avoid translating the term, pada, as nature.]
Yajnavalkya pointed out that a person (who could be a judge) having known the implication of that step (provision incorporated in the constitution) should become calm, self-controlled, withdrawn, patient and collected or unperturbed (samahita).
Then he would notice the presence of his atma (the conscience) in him (atma). He would see all (sarva) in himself. [The sage does not deal with the issue of paramatma (great soul) being present in jivatma.] This identification with all characterizes a Brahmana, a scholar who has mastered the Vedas.
He does not become a victim to sins; he overcomes them. Sins do not sear him; he burns all sins. Free from sins and stains and also from doubts, he becomes a Brahmana, a member of the judiciary. Such a judge should have been already exonerated from all charges before taking up his position as a judge. Thus, Yajnavalkya explained the provisions pertaining to the formation and constitution of the judiciary, Brahma-loka.
He declared that Janaka who had been given the status of Samrat had attained that level and was eligible to pronounce verdicts (that would be binding all individuals, cadres, clans, communities and ranks of the larger society). This pronouncement satisfied the Janaka of Videha who offered the sage the services of the Videhas and himself. [It is not sound to interpret that he handed over the empire of Videha to Yajnavalkya and became the servant of the latter.]
The natives (jana) of Videha who had elected their Janaka were not members of any organized social body (deha). They were individuals who accepted the constitution that was recommended by Yajnavalkya. They could elect him exercising their rights of free men without being bound by any social group.
It made the judiciary as outlined by him the highest constitutional authority headed by the Janaka from whichever social rank that Janaka might have risen. Janaka was subordinate to the constitution. (23)
This great (mahan) individual (atma) was not born in that state. He was a commoner engaged in agriculture (dependent on food, anna) and had gifted away his property (vasu). A scholar, who knew that, obtained wealth (only to give it away).
He was not born in that state; he was not a derelict (ajara); he did not belong to the insentient commonalty; he belonged to the intellectual aristocracy; he was a fearless judge (Brahma).
Brahma (designation of a member of the judiciary) is characterized by fearlessness. He who knew this and became a master of the constitution could become a judge (Brahma). The sages of the great forest said that this lesson was to be drawn from the discussion between Yajnavalkya and Janaka.
Yajnavalkya who had gifted away his wealth was offered wealth, the state of Videha. But he did not accept it or the services of its people and its ruler.He justified his nomination of Janaka, a former agriculturist and commoner and elected ruler of the natives of Videha as its chief judge. (4-4-24,25)