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Enlightening Conversation Between Yajnawalkya And Miatreyi, From -Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

writing this article as a spiritual seeker and follower of Hindu Religion and Hindu Religious belief and Vedic Philosophy

Husband & Wife Are Reflections Of Each Other & A Single Entity Residing In Two Different Bodies -This Is Simplistic Meaning of - Non Duality

Who Were Maitreyi & Yajnavalkya ?


Maitreyi and Yajnavalkya are expected to have lived around the 8th century BCE in Indian subcontinent nearby kingdom of Mithila, which is today's "Madhubani District" of state of Bihar of India. In the Rigveda about ten hymns are attributed to Maitreyi. She investigated the Hindu concept of Atman (soul or self) in a dialogue contained in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The dialogue, also called the Maitreyi-Yajnavalkya dialogue, states that love is driven by a one's soul, and it discusses the nature of Atman and Brahm (world) and their unity, all this is basic idea of of Advaita philosophy


In the Asvalayana Gṛhyasūtra ,Female Sage -Maitreyi of ancient India is described as an "Advaita (non-duality) philosopher", In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, she is is said to be a "Scholarly wife" of the sage Yajnavalkya. In the latter times Maitreyi explains Advaita philosophy (monism/non duality) to King Janaka and is described as a lifelong ascetic & astute female scholar. She is called as a "Brahmavadini (a female expounder of the Veda)" in ancient Sanskrit literature.


Yajnavalkya was the son of the sister of Mahamuni Vaishampayana, the Vedacharya . He was studying the Taittiriya Samhita from Vaishampayana who was also his Guru.2 Yajnavalkya is credited for eshtablishing the idea of the Advaita (non-dualism, monism), another important tradition within Hinduism.Texts attributed to him, include the "Yajnavalkya Smriti", "Yoga Yajnavalkya" and "KrishnaYajurvaveda".

Background Of Dialouge Of Yajnawalkya & Maitreyi As Husband & Wife

Yajnavalkya had two wives. One was Maitreyi (as mentioned above" and the other was "Katyayani". Yajnavalky before taking renunciation from married life (Gruhastha Ashram) divided his wealth property between the two wives.

Then Maitreyi asked him whether she could become immortal & most satisfied through wealth. Yajnavalkya replied that there was no hope of immortality through wealth and wealth will only help her to do well on mortal plane. On hearing this, Maitreyi requested Yajnavalkya to teach her what is best for her, if wealth is not solemnly helpful for her.

Then Yajnavalkya meticulously described to her about " sole greatness of the Absolute Self, the nature of Its existence, the way of attaining infinite knowledge and immortality, etc". This immortal conversation between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi is mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishadas a "Sacred Dialogue between Husban & wfie".

Theme of Dialogue -Explains Concepts Of Non-Duality For Existence Of Life

The central theme of the discourse is this: "All things are dear, not for their sake, but for the sake of the Self. This Self alone exists everywhere. It cannot be understood or known, as it is "self alone" which is Understander and the Knower of itself. Its nature cannot be said to be positive as such. It is realised through endless denials as ‘not this, not this’. The Self is self-luminous, indestructible, unthinkable".3

Yajnavalkya described and debated metaphysical questions about the very nature of existence, consciousness and impermanence, and followed the epistemic doctrine of Vedic fellowship by following idea of "neti neti ("not this, not this"/ "keep denying of everything till identification of truth") to discover the universal Self and Ātman. His ideas for renunciation of worldly attachments are adding important mile stone into Hindu sannyasa(monkhood) traditions to enlighten the "Path of Renunciation"

Maitreyi studied metaphysics and engaged in theological dialogues with her husband in addition to "making self-inquiries of introspection" which is also subject matter of this article and will be explained later

The dialogue mentioned between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi as husband and wife in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad explores the Hindu concept of Atman (soul or self) & its undisputed relationship with God Almighty to throw light on idea of "Non dual" nature of "living creature & their Creator". According to this dialogue, love is driven by a person's soul, and nature of Atman and Brahm (Creator) and their status quo as -single entity.

Detailed Explanation Of Dialogue Of Yajnawalkya & Maitreyi

This dialogue appears in several Hindu texts; the earliest is in chapter 2.4 – and modified in chapter 4.5 – of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the principal and oldest Upanishads, dating from approximately 700 BCE.4

As per the idea behind this Dialouge, Yajnavalkya after achieving success in the first three stages of his life – Brahmacharya (as a student), Grihastha (with his family-man) and Vanaprastha (in retirement) – he wished to become a Sannyasi (a renunciant/monk) in his old age.4 So, he asked Maitreyi for her permission, telling her that he wanted to divide his assets between her and Katyayani. Maitreyi said that she was not interested in wealth, since it would not make her "immortal", but wanted to learn about immortality.5 Then, In the dialogue which follows, Yajnavalkya explains his views on immortality in Atman (soul), Brahman (ultimate reality) and their equivalence. Maitreyi objects to parts of Yajnavalkya's explanation, and requested clarification. This entire conversation is part of - "Dialogue mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upnishad", which is explained in details as follows:



Explanation For Verse 2.4.1

(Verse :maitreyī, iti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ, ud yāsyan vā are 'ham asmāt sthānād asmi; hanta hanta, te 'nayā kātyāyanyāntaṁ karavāṇīti )

In this 1st verse, sage Yājñavalkya addressing his wife, Maitreyī, and saying, -"Dear Maitreyī, I am going to renounce this householder’s life & to take up the life of renunciation (as Monk/Sannyasi) . This is the next possible higher life. Hence, I ask your permission.Further I wish to finish between you and my second wife, Kātyāyanī, i.e. to please let me serve the ties of the relationship that existed between you through me, your common husband, and let me divide my property,wealth between you and another wife (Katyayani)’

So this first verse is basically explaining the "reasons" for initiation of dialogue between Yajanavalkya and Maitreyi



Explanation For Verse 2.4.2

(sa hovāca maitreyī, yan nu ma iyam, bhagoḥ, sarvā pṛthivī vittena pūrṇā syāt, kathaṁ tenāmṛtā syām iti. na, iti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ; yathaivopakaraṇavatāṁ jīvitam, tathaiva te jīvitaṁ syād amṛtatvasya tu nāśāsti vitteneti )

Listening to intentions of husband, thence further, Maitreyī replied, ‘Sir/Dear, if indeed this whole earth churned for the wealth, and that wealth would be mine, then Can I be immortal? ( or Can I enjoy Immortal Bliss?) 6

Yājñavalkya replied on that -"No, you can never be immortal; the life of people of means filled with materials of enjoyment, so will your life be; but there is no hope of immortal bliss through wealth."

In this verse, Maitreyi being expert in Vedic knowledge, knowing that - wealth is not going to help her to achieve best for her life (which is immortality of existence/immortal bliss) so she is trying to interrogate to her husband that whether his wealth is going to satisfy her life or not?

Then Yajanavalkya knowing the -intelligent nature and curiosity mind set of his wife, in one line stating his wife that -wealth has certain importance in life for sure, but it is not going to satisfy your quench of limitlessness or immortal existence

(Nota Belle: The meaning of Sanskrit word -"amṛtatvasya"- is needed to be taken as "immortal bliss" as per intentions and idea of non-Duality proposed through this verse, even though in maximum - internet article and books - Sanskrit word -"amṛtatvasya"- is translated as "immortality ". But matter of fact is - Idea of immortality - is far different than "Immortal Bliss" and it dont seem appropriate to see that "Intelligent" Maitreyi like scholar, can start foolishly asking for "immortality" in exchange of "wealth" of husband)



Explanation For Verse 2.4.3

(Verse: sa hovāca maitreyī, yenāhaṁ nāmṛtā syām, kim ahaṁ tena kuryām, yad eva bhagavān veda tad eva me brūhīti)

Thus addressed, Maitreyī said in reply, ‘If this is so, what shall then I do with such wealth which will not make me immortal? so please Tell me, Dear "about which only you know/ Expert knower of Vedas", which is to be the only means of immortality.’

Here is this verse, Maitreyi is clearing idea that Yajnavalkya is expert in Vedic knowledge and knowing the -gimmick of immortality of existence, and hence Maitreyi is requesting his husband to explain, the secret which she is yet not knowing

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Explaination For Verse 2.4.4

(Verse: sa hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ, priyā bata are naḥ satī priyaṁ bhāṣase; ehi, āssva, vyākhyāsyāmi te; vyāchakṣhāṇasya tu me nididhyāsasva iti)

So hearing such interrogation by own dear wife, Yajnavalya , said to his wife -" Maitreyī, you have been my beloved even before, and now you say what is just after my heart. Therefore, come close and take your seat, & let me explain to you what you desire. But as I explain it be attentive and focused.



Explanation For Verse 2.4.5

( Verse :sa hovāca: na vā are patyuḥ kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya patiḥ priyo bhavati | na vā are jāyāyai kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya jāyā priyā bhavati | na vā are pūtrāṇāṃ kāmāya putrāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya putrāḥ priyā bhavanti | na vā are vittasya kāmāya vittaṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya vittaṃ priyaṃ bhavati | na vā are brahmaṇaḥ kāmāya brahma priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya brahma priyaṃ bhavati | na vā are kṣatrasya kāmāya kṣatraṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya kṣatraṃ priyaṃ bhavati | na vā are lokānāṃ kāmāya lokāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya lokāḥ priyā bhavanti | na vā are devānāṃ kāmāya devāḥ priyā bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya devāḥ priyā bhavanti | na vā are bhūtānāṃ kāmāya bhūtāni priyāṇi bhavanti, ātmanastu kāmāya bhūtāni priyāṇi bhavanti | na vā are sarvasya kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati | ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyi, ātmano vā are darśanena śravaṇena matyā vijñānenedaṃ sarvaṃ viditam )

Moving on, Sage Yajnavalkya is telling Maitreyi that - ‘It is not for the sake of necessity of the husband that he is loved by the wife, but it is for one’s own sake that he is loved by her.’ A wife is beloved for not being wife, but wife is beloved for one's own sake. Son is beloved for not being son but son is beloved for one's own sake. Wealth is beloved not for being wealth, but wealth is beloved for one's sake.Brahmin is not reason, to let Brahm to be beloved, but Brahm is beloved for one's own sake. Kshatriya are not reason to let his reign/territory to be beloved, but territory be beloved for one's sake. People are not beloved for the sake of being people, but people are beloved for one's sake.God is not beloved for being God but God is beloved for one's own sake. Animals are not beloved for being animals, but animals are beloved for one's sake. All is not beloved for all sake, but all is beloved for one's own sake. Hence, my dear Maitreyī, it is "The Self" which should be realized—should be heard of, -reflected on and -meditated upon. & All this is known by -seeing, hearing, revolving and meditating upon by "Realization of Self" only

So, here Sage Yajanavalkya is explaining that all rituals, rites, objectification, identification is done to satisfy one's Self, as everything is happening and exiting in universe is for the entertainment and experience of Self only. & This self can be identified by it realization, which can be done by -hearing, identifying,feeling , and meditating upon "One's Self". In more simple word -Self can be witnessed by - itself only.



Explanation Of Verse 2.4.6

(Verse :brahma taṃ parādādyo'nyatrātmano brahma veda, kṣatraṃ taṃ parādādyo'nyatrātmanaḥ kṣatraṃ veda, lokāstaṃ parāduryo'nyatrātmano lokānveda, devāstaṃ parāduryo'nyatrātmano devānveda, bhūtāni taṃ parāduryo'nyatrātmano bhūtāni veda, sarvaṃ taṃ parādādyo'nyatrātmanaḥ sarvaṃ veda; idaṃ brahma, idaṃ kṣatram, ime lokāḥ, ime devāḥ, imāmi bhūtāni, idaṃ sarvaṃ yadayamātmā )

After explaining why all is beloved, further Sage Yajanavalkya is explaining to her wife that -"The Brāhm" ousts one who knows him as different from the Self. "The Surrounding habitat" ousts one who knows him as different from the Self. "The worlds" outs one who knows them as different from Self. "The gods" oust one who knows them as different from the Self. "The beings" just one who knows them as different from the Self.
All ousts one who knows it as different from the Self. This Brāhm, this habitat these worlds, these gods, these beings, and this all are the Self

Here Sage Yajanavalkya is trying to explain reason, why duality between "Self & Others" is existing as such, Reason is "Self is identifying "itself "different from other entities and hence, "Self" is witnessing "Duality" from rest of world and rest of Life forms, otherwise. there is no difference between "Self" of one's with any other thing or being or Universe itself.

(Nota Belle: Sanskrit words such as - "Brahman & Kshtriya" -are different than Sankrit words - "Brahm & Kshtra" and carries completely different meaning and in lot of books and internet article these words wrongly translated in English Language)







Explanation For Verse 2.4.7 & 2.4.8 & 2.4.9

(Verse : 7-sa yathā dundubherhanyamānasya na bāhyāñchabdāñchaknuyādgrahaṇāya, dundubhestu grahaṇena—dundubhyāghātasya vā—śabdō gṛhītaḥ

8-sa yathā śaṅkhasya dhmāyamānasya na bāhyāñchabdāñchaknuyādgrahaṇāya, śaṅkhasya tu grahaṇena—śaṅkhadhmasya vā—śabdō gṛhītaḥ

9-sa yathā vīṇāyai vādyamānāyai na bāhyāñchabdāñchaknuyādgrahaṇāya, vīṇāyai tu grahaṇena—vīṇāvādaṣya vā—śabdō gṛhītaḥ)

Here there is need to take consideration of all 2.4.7-9 verse al together to understand, what exactly Sage Yajanvalkya want to convey message about - non-Duality

In those 3 verse Sage Yajanavalkya is trying to explain to his wife that -

Anyone can know that "all this perceived by 5 sense " is "the Self" only. Because of the inherent Pure Intelligence in everything, we conclude that everything is "That" (i.e means it takes form, shape, identification as per own intelligence and idea of existence). Otherwise, if a thing cannot be perceived apart from something else, the latter is the essence of that thing (or in simple words, something else becomes the part of "That thing")

For example, 1: when a drum or the like is beaten with a stick etc., one cannot distinguish its various particular notes from the general note of the drum, but they are included in, taken as modifications of, the general note: One used to see all those tones of that drum as one & bearing no separate existence apart from the general note of the drum. These individual notes cannot. be perceived as distinct notes, having no separate existence.

Similarly, nothing particular is perceived in the waking and dream states apart from Pure Intelligence. Therefore, those things should be considered non-existent apart from Pure Intelligence.

Example 2: samely when a conch is blown, one cannot distinguish its various particular notes

Example 3: Similarly, as when a Vīnā is played on, one can't distinguish separate notes of Vina and start perceiving all separate notes of Vina as music or serene music.

Sage Yajnavalkya want to teach Maitreyi that, in the beginning of universe, it walls mere a Pure Intelligence, existing as in "Brahm", and due to discreet identification of that primordial pure intelligence, everything in universe got its existence. And therefor when one stops identifying anything separate from oneself, everything stops cease to exist

( This same idea is well explained and dramatically represented in Ending part of Hollywood movie - Lucy)

"I Am Every Where "-Dramatic Depiction Of Idea Of Non Duality Is Well Pictured in Movie Lucy



Explanation for Verse 2.4.10

(Verse :sa yathārdraedhāgnerabhyāhitātpṛthagdhūmā viniścaranti, evaṃ vā are'sya mahato bhūtasya niḥsvasitametadyadṛgvedo yajurvedaḥ sāmavedo'tharvāṅgirasa itihāsaḥ purāṇam vidyā upaniṣadaḥ ślokāḥ sūtrānyanuvyākhyānāni vyākhyānāni; asyaivaitāni niḥśvasitāni )

Here Sage Yajnavalya is explaining to his wife in conversation that - all of these 4 Veads, dozens of Puranas , all knowledge seeking practices -Aphorism, Elucidations, Explanations-are all mere smoke coming out of burring "Wet faggots" , but i reality everything is mere expression of Single Breath of Supreme Soul , and part and parcel of same Pure Intelligence, which is reason behind existence of entire Universe or Brahm.



Explanation For Verse 2.4.11

(Verse :Sa Yatha Sarvasampam Samudra Ekayanam, Evam Sarveshan Sparshanam Tvagekayanam, Evam Sarveshan Gandhanam Nasike Ekayanam, Evam Sarveshan Rasanam Jihvaikayanam, Evam Sarveshan Rupanam Chakshurekayanam, Evam Sarveshan Shabdanam Shrotramekayanam, Evam Sarveshanam Manayanam, Anandanamupastha Ekayanam, Evam Sarvesham Visarganam Payurekayanam, Evam Sarveshanadhvanam Padvekayanam, Evam Sarveshan Vedanam Vagekayanam.)

In this verse Sage Yajnavalkya want to explain to his wife that - it is not senses which is perceiving the outer or inner world, but it pure intelligence which has taken form of outer world and wanted to be perceived by senses and without all of such perception of outer world there will remain only one thing that is "Self " which is nothing but part and parcel of "Supreme Self" and which is needed to be identified and focus upon,

Hence Sage Yajnavalkya is explaining this idea as, it is not a water but Ocean is reason for existence of water, it is not a skin but it is touch which is reason behind existence of skin, it is not a nostril but it is odor which is reason for existence of nostrils, it is not tongue but it is touch which is reason behind existence of tongue, it is not eyes, but presence of colors is reason behind existence of eyes. it is not mind but imaginations/motives which is responsible for existence of mind, it is not intellect but it is knowledge which is reason for existence of intellect, it is not a hand but it is work which is reason for existence of hand , it is not us, but a enjoyment is a reason for our existence, as like excretion is reason for presence of anus and walking is reason for presence of feet & samely "speech" is reason for existence of all Vedas,



Explanation Of Verse 2.4.12

(Verse:sa yathā saindhavakhilya udake prāsta udakamevānuvilīyeta, na hāsyodgrahaṇāyeva syāt, yato yatastvādadīta lavaṇameva, evaṃ vā ara idaṃ mahadbhūtamanantamapāraṃ vijñānaghana eva | etebhyo bhūtebhyaḥ samutthāya tānyevānu vinaśyati, na pretya saṃjñāstītyare bravīmīti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ )

In verse 2.4.14, Yajanavalkya is further trying to explain his idea of Nonduality to Maitreyi by explaining example that - if a lump of salt dropped into water dissolves in water, and then no one is able to pick it up, but when soever one takes a water from sea and drink it, then one can tastes salt.

Then Yajnavalkya is narrating his wife and saying that " Dear, this great, endless, infinite Reality is but Pure Intelligence (supreme Intelligence/ Brahm itself). The self comes to existence (as a separate entity) from these elements of outer world, and (this separateness) is destroyed with them when it dissolves into outer world (knowing that there is no significant difference between "Self" & "Supreme Self" beside external identification under discreet mind of oneself). After attaining (this oneness) Self remains with no more consciousness."





Explanation Of Verse 2.4.13 & 2.4.14

(Verse: 13 sa hovāca maitreyī, atraiva mā bhagavānamūmuhat, na pretya saṃjṇāstīti; sa hovāca na va are'ham mohaṃ bravīmi, alaṃ vā are idaṃ vijñānāya- 14: yatra hi dvaitamiva bhavati taditara itaraṃ jighrati, taditara itaraṃ paśyati, taditara itaram śrṇoti, taditara itaramabhivadati, taditara itaram manute, taditara itaraṃ vijānāti; yatra vā asya sarvamātmāivābhūttatkena kaṃ jighret, tatkena kaṃ paśyet, tatkena kaṃ śṛṇuyat, tatkena kamabhivadet, tatkena kaṃ manvīta, tatkena kaṃ vijānīyāt? yenedam sarvaṃ vijānāti, taṃ kena vijānīyāt? vijñātāram are kena vijānīyāditi)

Now with such explanation from her husband, Scholar Maitreyi gets confused and started asking question to Sage Yajnavalkya that - "Just here you have thrown me into confusion, by saying that after attaining (oneness) the self has no more consciousness."

Yajnavalkya immediately answer for it that -"O Dear Maitreyi,‘Certainly I am not saying anything confusing, my dear; this is quite sufficient for knowledge"

And then Yajanavalkya further explain it that -"When there is duality, as it were (due to differentiation & distinction between oneself and Supreme self), then one smells something, one sees something, one hears something, one speaks something, one thinks something, one knows something.
(But) when one dissolve oneself into "Brahm" (supreme self/pure intelligence) everything has become the Self, then what should one smell and through what, what should one see and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one know and through what? Through what should one know That owing to which all this is known—through what. Hence O Maitreyī, how should one know the Know-er?( or why there is need to know the Know-er"?)

In simple words Yajanavalkya is telling Maitreyi that - consciousness is existing due to existence of Duality ( or separateness ) and when one's Self know that one is same as "Supreme Self" then there remain no value for any reason to perceive anything (as external world is reason to faculty of perception as explained in verse 2.4.11) and hence after attaining stage of "Non Duality " there remains no reason for existence of Consciousness as , "Existence of Self" is self-sufficient to exist and sustain for every knowledge and perception

Essence Of Yajnawalkya & Maitreyi Dialogue

Dialogue of Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreya is basically explaining the basic idea behind - Vedic theme of - Aham Brahm Asmi - (I am everything - as shown in Hollywood movie for Lucy who is able to use her 100% brain capability to identify and perceive entire Universe as oneself to witness her cessation of physical existence and exist as Pure Intelligence or Supreme Intelligence. )

Taking a deep dig into this Dialogue one can find that - this Dialogue about - non-Duality - is so beautifully explained in Brihadaranyaka Upnishad to focus on "Idea of love" for seeking /experiencing "non-Duality". Remember this Dialogue is basically running between -husband and wife and not some - Monk Teacher and his Monk Student. Husband and wife are bonded through invisible chains of love and not from any compulsions and know how to get over oneself to start feeling another one as extension of oneself only. Same is needed to be practiced to start experiencing -Non duality, to experience Supreme Self, through oneself.

This is the hidden message behind proposing -Highly Spiritual Dialogue of Non-Duality - between "Scholar Husband & his beloved Scholar Wife" rather than some - old age saint and naive small boy.

Life Journey From Dulaity To Non Duality By Spiritually Awaken -Husband & Wife



6:-The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad (vols.2 Set) :Author: By B.D. Basu; S. C. Vasu:Page no :198-210

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Dr Nilesh Jaybhaye

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