HINDUISM AND SANATAN DHARMA

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An inspiring episode from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 

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A Dialog between Gargi and Yajnavalkya 
An inspiring episode from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 

Once Janaka, the emperor of Videha, performed a Yagya in which gifts were freely distributed among the priests. Brahmin scholars from the countries of Kuru and Panchala were assembled there. Emperor Janaka wished to know which of these brahmins was the most erudite Vedic scholar.  So he confined a thousand cows in a pen and fastened on the horns of each ten padas of gold.

He then said to them: “Venerable brahmins, let him among you who  is the best Vedic scholar drive these cows home.”

None of the brahmins dared. Then Yajnavalkya said to one of  his pupils: “Dear Samsrava, drive these cows home.” Taking the command from his guru, he drove the cows away. 

The Brahmins were furious and challenged Yajnavalkya for a debating relating the knowledge of Vedas. Many illustrious sages like Asvala, the priest of Janaka, Artabhaga, Bhujyu, Ushasta, Uddalaka challenges him and Yajnavalkya answers all their questions and defeats them in the debate. Among them was the women sage Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, who is wise and well versed in Vedas.

Gargi Questions Yajnavalkya

Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, questioned Yajnavalkya. 

Yajnavalkya,” said she, “if all this is pervaded by water, by  what, pray, is water pervaded?
By air, O Gargi.“, replied Yajnavalkya.

By what, pray, is air pervaded?
By the sky, O Gargi.” 

“By what is the sky pervaded?”
“By the world of the Gandharvas, O Gargi.” 

“By what is the world of the Gandharvas pervaded?”
“By the world of the sun, O Gargi. 

“By what is the world of the sun pervaded?”
“By the world of the moon, O Gargi.” 

“By what is the world of the moon pervaded?”
“By the world of the stars, O Gargi.” 

“By what is the world of the stars pervaded?”
“By the world of the gods, O Gargi.” 

“By what is the world of the gods pervaded?”
“By the world of Indra, O Gargi. 

“By what is the world of Indra pervaded?”
“By the World of Virij, O Gargi. 

“By what is the World of Virij pervaded?”
“By the World of Hiranyagarbha, O Gargi.” 

“By what, pray, is the World of Hiranyagarbha pervaded?”  
Do not, O Gargi,” said he, “question too much, lest your head should fall off. You are questioning too much about a deity about whom we should not ask too much. Do not ask too much,  O Gargi.”  Thereupon Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, held her peace.

After that, Uddalaka, the son of Aruna debates with Yajnavalkya. Yajnavalkya answers all the questions put forth by Uddalaka. Then Gargi says to the assembly: ‘Venerable brahmins, I  shall ask him two questions. If he answers me these, then none  of you can defeat him in discussing Brahman.”

The brahmins said: “Ask, O Gargi.”  


The two questions of Gargi

Gargi said: “O Yajnavalkya, I shall ask you two questions:  As a man of Kasi or the King of Videha, scion of a heroic line,  might string his unstrung bow, take in his hand two bamboo—  tipped arrows highly painful to enemies and approach his  enemies closely, even so, O Yajnavalkya, do I confront you  with two questions. Answer me these.”  “Ask, O Gargi.”
Gargi said: “O Yajnavalkya, what pervades that Sutra which is  above heaven and below the earth, which is heaven and earth as  well as what is between them and which—they say—was, is  and will be?”

Yajnavalkya said: “That, O Gargi, which is above heaven and below the earth, which is heaven and earth as well as what is between them and which—they say—was, is and will be, is pervaded by the unmanifested akasa.

Gargi said: “I bow to you, O Yajnavalkya. You have fully answered this question of mine. Now brace yourself for the  other.”

The Imperishable Brahman

Gargi said: “Yajnavalkya, what pervades that Sutra which is  above heaven and below the earth, which is heaven and earth as  well as what is between them and which—they say—was, is  and will be?”  He said: “That, O Gargi, which is above heaven and below the  earth, which is heaven and earth as well as what is between  them and which—they say—was, is and will be, is pervaded by  the unmanifested akasa.”  “What pervades the akasa?

Yajnavalkya said: “That, O Gargi, the knowers of Brahman call the  Imperishable. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor  long, neither red nor moist; It is neither shadow nor darkness,  neither air nor akasa; It is unattached; It is without taste or  smell, without eyes or ears, without tongue or mind; It is non—effulgent, without vital breath or mouth, without measure and  without exterior or interior. It does not eat anything, nor is It  eaten by anyone.  

“Verily, under the mighty rule of this Imperishable, O Gargi,  the sun and moon are held in their respective positions. Under the mighty rule of this Imperishable, O Gargi, heaven and earth are held in their respective positions. Under the mighty rule of this Imperishable, O Gargi, moments, muhurtas (about forty—eight minutes), days and nights, fortnights, months, seasons and years are held in their respective positions. Under the mighty rule of this Imperishable, O Gargi, some rivers flow eastward from the white mountains, others flowing westward continue in that direction and still, others keep to their respective courses.  Under the mighty rule of this Imperishable, O Gargi, men praise those who give, the gods depend upon the sacrificer and the Manes upon the Darvi offering.

“Whosoever in this world, O Gargi, without knowing this  Imperishable, offers oblations, performs sacrifices and practices austerities, even for many thousands of years, finds all such acts but perishable. Whosoever, O Gargi, departs from this world without knowing this Imperishable is miserable. But he,  O Gargi, who departs from this world after knowing the  Imperishable is a knower of Brahman.

Verily, that Imperishable, O Gargi, is never seen but is the  Seer; It is never heard, but is the Hearer; It is never thought of,  but is the Thinker; It is never known, but is the Knower. There is no other seer but This, there is no other hearer but This, there is no other thinker but This, there is no other knower but This.  By this Imperishable, O Gargi, is the unmanifested akasa  pervaded.

Then said Gargi: “Venerable brahmins, you may consider yourselves fortunate if you can get off from him by bowing to him. None of you, I believe, will defeat him in arguments about Brahman.  Thus Yajnavalkya comes out as a victor.

Brihadaranyaka.Upanishad.Shankara.Bhashya.by.Swami.Madhavananda (1)

Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad

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