Qualified non-dualism

King Janaka performed a sacrifice. He assembled thousand

cows, with gold tied to their horns. He said that the best

Vedic scholar could take all the cows. Yajnavalkya asked

his disciple to drive away the cows, said M.K. Srinivasan in

a discourse. Asvala, a hotr priest in Janaka’s kingdom,

asked Yajnavalkya if he were indeed the best Vedic scholar.

Yajnavalkya taunted him, saying: “We salute you, the most

learned of the Vedic scholars. I took the cows because I

need them.” An angry Asvala then began to question

Yajnavalkya. He asked how a sacrificer would be freed

from death. What Asvala’s question meant was this:

“Everything in the universe is pervaded by death. How

then can a person who performs sacrifices with a view to

attaining Brahma Vidya be liberated?” Yajnavalkya replied:

“The hotr priest should be seen as Agni; speech as fire

itself. When Karma is performed with this view, then when

the sacrificer dies, he attains liberation.” Asvala then

asked, “Everything is overtaken by day and night. So how

can the sacrificer get beyond this?”

Yajnavalkya replied: “The adhvaryu priest should be

seen as the eye, and as presided over by Aditya.” Asvala

had many more questions for Yajnavalkya, all of which the

sage answered convincingly. Svetaketu then asked

Yajnavalkya two questions: “By what are the three worlds

strung together and who is the internal ruler, if any, of the

Universe?” Yajnavalkya replied: “Vaayu brings together the

three worlds.” Yajnavalkya listed as many as 21 items —

sun, moon, the five elements, indriyas, mind and soul in

each of which Brahman resides, and controls each of them

without their knowledge. This passage is known as

Antaryami Brahmana. It is the basis for Visishtadvaita,

which propagates qualified non-dualism.