One of the Great Sages of Vedic India

Yajnavalkya (Sanskrit: याज्ञवल्क्य, Yājñavalkya) was a Hindu Vedic sage. He is mentioned in the Upanishads, and likely lived in the Videha kingdom of northern Bihar approximately between the 8th century BCE, and the 7th century BCE.


  • Now as a man is like this or like that, according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be; a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;
    And here they say that a person consists of desires, and as is his desire, so is his will; and as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
    • discussions of Yajnavalkya in  Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
  • One should indeed see, hear, understand and meditate over the Self, O Maitreyi; indeed, he who has seen, heard, reflected and understood the Self – by him alone the whole world comes to be known.
    • — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.5b
  • From a scholarly viewpoint, though, I would observe that this disproportionate attention for the Buddha only draws attention to the equally disproportionate non-attention to other great minds in India, such as Dirghatamas, Yajñavalkya and Abhinavagupta. They are passed over in silence. What, the readers have never heard these names? Well, that is precisely what I mean. Not just this book, but most introductory works on Indian religion disregard the most important Hindu thinkers. Dirghatamas was one the earliest and greatest Vedic seers, author of many well-known sayings and similes including “the wise call the true one by many names”; Yajnavalkya was the greatest Upanishadic thinker and originator of the notion of the Self (fundamental also to Buddhism, though adversatively);
  • Later, the doctrine of the Self was explicitated by seers like Yajnavalkya, who is up there with Plato as an ideas man next to whom a whole philosophical tradition is but a series of footnotes.
  • Similarly, among the stages of life (Ashramas) there were originally only three: as pupil devoted to knowledge, as householder and pillar of society, and as an elderly man withdrawing into the forest, literally or figuratively. The best-known example of the latter stage is when the Seer Yajnavalkya ends his married life and launches the all-important doctrine of the Self in a farewell speech to his wife Maitreyi.
  • Together with Yajnavalkya, first formulator of the all-important doctrine of the Self (Atmavada), Dirghatamas was one of the key thinkers of mankind.
  • The best-known forest-dweller was the sage Yajñavalkya, whose epoch-making explanation of the Self, the absolute cornerstone of all Indian thought, was in fact a farewell address to his co-wife Maitreyi.

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