After a brilliant academic career finishing with a professional Engineering course at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Sri K.R. Krishnaswami proceeded to Hamburg (in the then West Germany) having been selected by the Ministry of Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs as a Nehru Scholar through their All India search, for specialization in the field of Petroleum Refining. On returning to India he was invited to join the CSIR pool as an UPSC Grade I Officer and placed at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He was then picked up by the English company, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI India) from where he retired as a Senior Sales Manager.
Always interested in the religious and spiritual field, he applied himself seriously in the last 2-3 decades, absorbing religious literature/training himself in 4000 Divya Prabhandam and Yajurveda (finishing with Samhitas) / attending Kalakshepam on Upanishads and Divya Prabhandam. Simultaneously he participated in programmes of recitation of Divya Prabhandam and Vedas largely in temples. This training has enabled him to look at Srivaishnava subjects from both the angles - the purport emanating from Shruthis as also Sri Sukthis of Azhwars.
Setting up a publication facility in 2000, he has published almost two dozen books- besides his own titles in English, he has also brought out religious books written by famous authors in Kannada. Outside this, he spear-headed a venture to translate Divya Prabhandam into Kannada enlisting the help of a well-known author in the field, and brought out 6 books accounting for 1500 songs out of a total 4000.
He has in the last one and a half decades, undertaken the work of improving/ renovating/restoring the past glory of some temples in A.P /T.N /Karnataka.
I was indeed fortunate to have had a cursory glance at a book on Yaajnavalkya's life, and my resolve to dwell deeper into it was immediate. Here was a sage asking the Lord when he was in his mother's womb to promise him that He would not cast the worldly 'maaye' on him ; a sage who had learnt all the Vedas from Veda Vyaasa's direct disciples; and when one of his teachers asked him to go against his conscience, he had refused - he was reprimanded and made to spew what he had learnt from him; a sage who brought into this world the famous Shukla Yajur Veda which had been in safe custody with the Sun god.
Brihadaaranyaka upanishad is the biggest upanishad and is described as the confluence of the teachings of all the upanishads. Yaajnavalkya strides through this upanishad like a colossus and displays his erudition of the highest order while responding to the large number of questions from learned personages in king Janaka's court; not to forget, of course, the noblest and the most unique dialogue between a husband and wife on an unexpected subject viz. 'Immortality'!- that is, between Yaajnavalkya and his wife Maithreyee, the wife having married him just with the express purpose of getting his teaching on 'brahmajnaana' !
I have made efforts to cover Yaajnavalkya's life in fair detail making sure that all the important events of his life and achievements are narrated. On the parallel front the well-known 'Yaajnavalkya Kaanda' in Brihadaaranyaka covering his teachings and replies to questions from scholars has received due attention. The other chapters have been summarised and they appear in just the same order as in the original, so that a semblance of full treatment of this prose upanishad with continuity is provided. With this structure I have devoted most of my effort to highlight Yaajnavalkya's role in the Brihadaaranyaka in preference to other chapters.
The interpretations are 'largely' based on Ranga Ramaanuja Muni's commentary.
I do hope that the readers will find this effort useful for appreciation of the twin topics viz. Yaajnavalkya, and 'Brihadaaranyaka in 'not too big a size' .
Yaajnavalkya lived in Dwaapara Yuga and came to be recognised as the most erudite scholar of his time and that too at a young age. With a unique birth proclaiming the coming of a luminous star in the firmament of leading sages, he excelled himself in all the four Vedas. It appeared as though that it was all pre- ordained that he found himself in circumstances leading to the emergence of a new Veda, till then being held in secrecy by the Sun god and no demon could ever dare to go near them. His 'tapas' and 'endeavour' to get the new Veda are incredible to say the least, and leave us simply spellbound !
His achievements as a student in gurukula made dents in his teacher's competence and pride. The learned gurus had to acknowledge his superiority in the annual congregation of Kulapathis at Meru mountains to identify the most brilliant student for receiving the special honour. He was being sought as the most eligible bachelor-his second wife was so enamoured of his scholarly achievements, she sought to marry him only to get imparted the knowledge concerning Brahman (brahmajnaana) from the best scholar of her time.
Yaajnavalkya's association with Brihadaaranyaka upanishad is its greatest asset and he strides through it as a colossus. This is the biggest of all upanishads - it is not only big in size, but also propounds all the concepts contained in other upanishads and therefore it is termed as a confluence of all the loftiest teachings in 'Vedantha' .
As regards its position, it appears in Kaanva recension of Shukla Yajur Veda's Shathapatha Brahmana, 17th Kaanda, and has a total of 47 braahmanas, subdivided into several kandikas. Since the first two chapters out of the total eight are not contributing much to the knowledge of Brahman, it is customary for all commentators / writers to confine themselves to the six chapters (3rd to 8th) only.
The famous Maithreyee braahmana incorporating the dialogue between Yaajnavalkya and Maithreyee appears in the 4th chapter (4-4) and gets repeated in the 6th chapter (6-5).
The famous mahaavaakyas texts viz. 'Nethi, Nethi' (not this much, not this much), 'Aham Brahmaasmi' and 'Sathyasya Sathyam' appear in this upanishad. These are discussed as and when they appear briefly but there is a separate chapter entitled 'Mahavaakyas in Briha daaranyaka' (Ch. 6, Section II).
In short this upanishad, by common consent, exhibits an overwhelming unity of thought and Yaajnavalkya's contribution to this unity is immense in terms of knowledge concerning Brahman.
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