by Swami Krishnananda
The present section is a narration of the conversation that appears to have taken place in ancient times between the Sage Yāj˝avalkya and his consort Maitreyī.
Maitreyī, iti hovᾱca yᾱj˝avalkyaḥ: The great Master Yāj˝avalkya speaks to Maitreyī: ud yᾱsyan vᾱ are 'ham asmᾱt sthᾱnᾱd asmi; hanta hanta, te 'nayᾱ kᾱtyᾱyanyᾱntaṁ karavᾱṇīti. "I am going to retire from the life of a householder and enter into the fourth order of life, and therefore am now intending to arrange the division of property between you and Kātayāni before taking to the final stage of life, the life of renunciation." This is the expression of Sage Yāj˝avalkya to his consort Maitreyī. "Between Maitreyī and Kātayāni, two consorts, I shall make the division of property."
When the idea of property arose, immediately it appeared to have stirred up a brainwave in the mind of the wise Maitreyī. She queries, "You speak of entering the fourth order of life, embracing a new perspective of living altogether, and therefore you propose to divide the property between the two of us here, so that we may be comfortable and happy. Is it possible for us to be happy, ultimately, through property? Is it possible to be perpetually happy by possession of material comfort and property?" This is Maitreyī's question.
The intention of Yāj˝avalkya to leave secular property to his consorts naturally means that he proposes to leave them in a state of satisfaction and immense comfort. But is this practicable? Can we be eternally happy, unbrokenly satisfied? Can there be a cessation of our happiness at any time? The question simply put is: Is it possible to give immortality through wealth?
Sa hovᾱca maitreyī, yan nu ma iyam, bhagoḥ, sarvᾱ pṛthivī vittena pῡrṇᾱ syᾱt, kathaṁ tenᾱmṛtᾱ syᾱm iti: "If I am the owner of the entire earth, the wealth of the whole world is mine, will I be perpetually happy, or will there be some other factor which will intrude upon my happiness in spite of my possession of the values of the entire world?" This is the question. Na, iti hovāca yaj˝avalkyaḥ: "No," replies Yāj˝avalkya. "You cannot be happy. You will be very comfortable, as is the case with people who own a lot of wealth, but you would be in the same state in other respects, as is the condition of well-placed people in society. Immortality is not possible through possessions. It is a different status altogether, which has no connection with any kind of relativistic association." Amṛitatvasya tu nāśāsti vitteneti: "There is no hope of immortality through wealth."
"Then, what is the good of all this? If one day, death is to swallow me up, and transiency is to overwhelm me, impermanence of the world is to threaten us, and if everything is to be insecure at the very start; if all that you regard as worthwhile is, after all, going to be a phantom; because it is not going to assure us as to how long it can be possessed, how it may not be taken away from us and at what time we shall be dispossessed of all the status that we have in life; if this is the uncertainty of all existence, what good can accrue to me from this that you are bestowing upon me, as if it is a great value?" Sa hovᾱca maitreyī, yenᾱhaṁ nᾱmṛtᾱ syᾱm, kim ahaṁ tena kuryᾱm: "What am I to do with that thing which is not going to make me perpetually happy, immortal, satisfied?" Yad eva bhagavᾱn veda tad eva me brῡhīti: "Whatever you know in this context, O Lord, tell me that. Let me be cured of this illness of doubting in my mind, so that I may know what it is that I have to engage myself in if I am to be eternally happy; so that there can be no fear from any source. Is it a possibility? If it is a possibility, what is the method that I have to adopt in the acquisition of this Supreme final satisfaction?" Very wonderful question! Yāj˝avalkya was highly pleased with this query. "I never expected that you will put this question to me when I am leaving you immense property, bestowing upon you a lot of wealth."
Sa hovᾱca yᾱj˝avalkyaḥ, priyᾱ bata are naḥ satī priyaṁ bhᾱṣase; ehi, ᾱssva: "So, now I shall speak to you the secret of all these things." Vyᾱkhyᾱsyᾱmi te; vyᾱcakṣᾱṇasya tu me nididhyᾱsasva iti: "Listen to me with rapt attention. I shall tell you the secret of this great problem that you have posed before me; the question that you have put; the difficulty in the ascent on the part of people to become permanently happy, which is not possible by possession of wealth."
Now, the whole subject is a discourse on the relationship that obtains between eternity and temporality. What you call immortality, is the life eternal; and that which is temporal, is what we see with our eyes. Wealth is a general term which signifies any kind of value, any possession. It may be a physical possession; it may be a psychological condition; or it may be a social status – all these come under wealth, because anything that gives you comfort, physical and social, can be regarded as a property. This is what is known as temporal value. It is temporal because it is in the context of the time process. That which is temporal is that which is conditioned by time. The time process is involved in the possession of values that are called temporal. So, time has a say in the matter of our possessions. We cannot completely defy the law of time and take hold of possessions that we regard as ours. Time is an inscrutable force which is a peculiar arrangement of things in the world. That arrangement is known as temporality.
The arrangement of things is such, in the temporal realm, that things cannot be possessed by anyone. The idea of possession is a peculiar notion in the mind. You know very well how false the idea of possession is. You cannot possess anything except in thought. So, what we call ownership of property, is a condition of the mind. I can give you a very small gross example: There is a large expanse of land, a vast field which is agricultural in itself. Today you say, it is owned by 'A', and tomorrow it is owned by 'B', by transfer of property. Now, what do you mean by this transfer of property? It has never been transferred. It is there in its own place. It has been transferred in the ideas of people. One person called 'A' imagined that it was his, yesterday, and today, another called 'B' thinks in his mind that it is his. Now both ideas, whether it is the idea of 'A' or the idea of 'B', are peculiar, inscrutable conditions which cannot be easily associated with the physical existence of the property known as land. There is no vital connection between the thought of the person and the landed property. There is only an imaginary connection. But, the social arrangement of the idea of ownership is such that it appears to be well-placed. There is an agreement among people that certain ideas should be accepted as logically valid. That is called temporal law. Man-made law is temporal law, and it is valid as long as people who are concerned with it agree that it is valid. But if it is not agreed upon, then the validity of that principle ceases. So, when the acceptance on the part of minds of people, in respect of a principle called ownership, ceases, then the ownership also ceases. For example, there is no ownership in a jungle. The beasts do not possess any property; animals have no idea of ownership; they go anywhere at any time – today the animal is in one place, tomorrow it is in another place. And we, too, live in a similar manner. We are in one place today, and tomorrow in another place. The difference is, we think in a particular manner, whereas animals think not in that manner.
The whole question of ownership, or psychologically put – like or dislike, is a condition of the mind which is an arrangement of psychological values, agreed upon by a group of people who have decided that this should be the state of affairs. So, you can imagine how artificial is the idea of ownership. Nobody can own anything unless it is agreed upon by the concerned people that this idea be accepted. If the idea is not accepted, then the ownership goes, because you cannot swallow the land, or eat the property. It is there physically existent, as something not mechanically related to you, but psychologically a phantom of your mind. This being the case, how can that bring you permanent satisfaction? If a thing can be permanently possessed, you cannot be dispossessed of it. The very fact that one can be dispossessed of a property shows that permanent acquisition is not possible. It is conditionally connected with you in a psychological manner, and it cannot be connected unconditionally. And, what you call permanent happiness is unconditional existence independent of temporal relationship. That unconditional existence is not possible, if it is an effect of a conditional arrangement.
So, eternity that is aspired after, which is what we know as immortality, is something transempirical, and not conditioned by the process of time, and it has nothing to do with the ownership of property. You may possess or you may not possess; it is absolutely immaterial as far as the question of immortality is concerned, because immortality is not dependent upon connection of values external. It is a state of being as such. In order to inculcate the meaning of this great passage, Yāj˝avalkya tells us:
Sa hovᾱca: na vᾱ are patyuḥ kᾱmᾱya patiḥ priyo bhavati, ᾱtmanas tu kᾱmᾱya patiḥ priyo bhavati, etc.: This is a very long passage, all of which brings out the point that the connection which a mind has with any particular object is inscrutable, if it is taken literally. It has an esoteric, deep, profound significance. A mind cannot be really connected with an object if the object is externally placed outside the mind, because the mind and the object are dissimilar in their character. The object is physical; the mind is psychological. The mind is internal; the object is external. The mind is psychological and the object is physical. A connection between these two is unthinkable, and so all affections of the mind, positive or negative, are certain internal operations that occur within the mind and bear no real, vital relation to objects outside. But, why does it appear that they have some connection if the connection is not really there? Why do we appear to be happy in our mind when certain objects are possessed; desirable things are owned by us – as we think – in our minds? What is the meaning of owning, possessing, enjoying, loving, etc.? What is the actual significance of this idea in the mind? Why is it that suddenly there is a surge of happiness in the mind when one feels there is a possession of desirable value? "This happiness arises on account of a confusion in the mind." This is what the Sage Yāj˝avalkya will tell us.
This is a happiness which is, tentatively, the outcome of a transformation that takes place in the mind, on account of an imagined connection of the mind with the object that is desired for and possessed. The happiness is not the condition of the object that is possessed. It is a condition of the mind. But, that condition which is the prerequisite of the condition of happiness is made possible by a new notion that arises in the mind in respect of the object, which is a very intricate psychological point. Why does such an idea arise in the mind? Why is it that you regard certain objects as lovable and others as otherwise? What is it that makes a particular object desirable, and acceptable, and valuable, and capable of becoming instrumental in creating this satisfaction in the mind? That is a very great secret. How is it possible that a particular, imaginary connection of the mind with an externally placed object can become the source of happiness within? This happens on account of the presence of something else which the mind cannot cognise, and as long as the presence of this particular something is not recognised, there would be sorrow as an outcome, eventually or immediately, as a result of this external relationship. There is a notion in the minds of people that happiness arises on account of the contact of the mind with desirable objects. That this is not true, is a great point that is made out here. Happiness does not merely arise on account of the contact of the mind with an object which is desirable. For this purpose another question may have to be answered. We shall leave aside, for the time being, the question as to how a desirable object becomes instrumental in creating satisfaction in the mind. Why does an object appear desirable at all, is the primary question. Then only comes the question as to how it becomes instrumental in creating happiness.
The desirability of the object is, again, a condition of the mind. It is a perception of the mind in the contour of the object, of certain characters which are necessitated by the mind. The mind is a pattern of consciousness. You may call it a focused form of consciousness, a shape taken by consciousness, something like the shape the waters of the ocean may take in the surge of the waves. A particular arrangement of consciousness in space and time may be said to be a mind, whether it is a human mind or otherwise. This particular arrangement of consciousness is naturally finite. Every particularised shape or form is finite, merely because of the fact that it is so particularised. The particularisation of the mind is the isolation of that character of the mind from other characters which are equally existent elsewhere in other objects. When I say there is such a thing called 'red', it means there can be other things which are not 'red'. So, a particular state of mind becomes finite in its nature on account of other such conditions or different conditions being made possible. So, the finitude of the mind becomes a source of restlessness to the mind. Every restlessness is psychological and is due to a finitude felt in the mind. But this finitude brings about a limitation that is imposed upon itself by the factor that is finitude itself. You want to overstep the limit of the boundaries that are set upon you. So, the mind tries to jump over its own skin, as it were, in trying to grab objects which it imagines to have the characteristics which are the counterparts of what it feels it has lost. The finitude of the mind, it is felt, can be made good by the characters that the mind imagines to be existing in the objects that are desirable. It imagines, for certain reasons, that a particular object, or a particular group of objects, or a certain set of circumstances are made in such a way that they have characters which are exactly the complement, or supplement, or the counterpart, or the correlative of its own finitude. Or, you may say, it is something like a square rod beholding a square hole in its presence, of a similar shape. If the square rod sees a round hole, there cannot be attraction. If the round rod sees a round hole, there can be attraction. There should be a counterpart of values for attraction to arise. One finitude should be believed capable of being made good by another finitude, and then there is attraction.