By Pranav Khullar
The intense ‘samvad’ between Sage Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi, on the notion of love and desire, on this inexplicable feeling of connectedness with another, and how this is replaced with a desire to possess the other only, is at the heart of the concept of the Self expounded in the ‘Brihadaranyaka Upanishad’.
Yajnavalkya is preparing to embark on the Vanaprastha, mendicant-renunciate stage of life, and wants to settle all family affairs between his two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayani.
Even as Yajnavalkya begins to explain his intent of dividing all of his property equally between the two women, Maitreyi asks whether the wealth will give to her a permanent state of happiness and joy.
Yajnavalkya replies that though this wealth will give her material comforts, the satisfaction she will derive from material possessions will be a temporary phase only, and the state of happiness which Maitreyi is alluding to is not possible through such possessions. Maitreyi then requests Yajnavalkya to tell her of the way in which an unbroken state of happiness can be acquired.
Yajnavalkya expands the concept of wealth now, and explains how a comfortable state of mind operates. The mind derives its comfort through the physical acquisition of wealth or feels satisfied through attaining a particular social status. This conditioning of our mind gives rise to our sense of possessiveness with that external object, and draws a veil on the temporality of that external object as well as our own temporariness. But since this acquisition of something external does give us happiness, we still want to own, enjoy and feel this happiness, however temporary or imagined it may be. We feel this happiness when we possess and acquire things and goals we desire.
We still want to desire and possess, however confused our notions of desire and possession may be. Why does this happen? Yajnavalkya points to an inscrutable design working behind the desires which grip our mind from time to time and give us satisfaction and happiness when those desires get fulfilled.
Yajnavalkya then puts across his exposition of the inscrutable design, behind each desire, each longing, each possession, behind the need to love and be loved. Behind the mind’s desire for a particular thing or person is the desire to be one, to be united with that external object, however impossible it practically is.
Yajnavalkya goes deeper behind this peculiar condition of the mind to be united with externalities, and points to an inner longing to be one with our inner Self, without which we feel restless, unsatiated and incomplete. The mind twists this inner longing to make it seem as if happiness could be achieved through external means.
Similarly, the love expressed between a husband and wife, between a man and woman, between parents and children, between two humans, is part of a search for that love which alone will make us complete and impart to us a permanent state of happiness. The search for love, Yajnavalkya says, leads us to search for the Self, which alone can satiate us completely.
No relationship is dearer than the one we forge with our inner Self. Having initiated Maitreyi into this inscrutable principle of life, Yajnavalkya gets up and walks away into the ‘Brihad Aryanka’, the great forest, literally as well.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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