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MAITREYI (Vedic Period )


Maitreyi was a hymn-writer. The Rig Veda contains about 1,000 hymns, of which about 10 are attributed to her. Yajnavalkya, the famous sage and philosopher, had two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayani. In chapter IV of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad a conversation between Maitreyi and Yajnavalkya has been recorded. Maitreyi was a brahmavadini, while Katyayani possessed the knowledge of ordinary women. When the sage decided to renounce the world and embrace the monastic ideal, he wished to make a settlement of his worldly goods between his two wives. On hearing this Maitreyi asks her husband, ‘My lord if this entire earth, full of wealth, belonged to me, tell me, should it make me immortal?’

Yajnavalkya replied, ‘No: like the life of rich people will be thy life; but there is no hope for immortality by wealth.’ At this Maitreyi said, ‘What should I do with that by which I do not become immortal? What my Lord knows [of immortality] may he tell that to me.’

Yajnavalkya, pleased with this, explained to Maitreyi his doctrine of atma and imparted to her the knowledge of Advaita Brahman, as a means to immortality, which forms the highest teachings of the Upanishad. ‘For if there be, as it were, two beings, then the one sees the other, that one hears, perceives and knows the other. But if one divine self be the whole of all this, whom or through whom should he see, hear, perceive or know? …. This thou hast seen taught, this is immortality.’ At the International Religious Conference held at Chicago in 1899 Maitreyi’s contribution was acknowledged and her verse praying to be led from darkness to light, from death to life and from falsehood to truth was recited,

Asathoma Sadh Gamaya Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya Mrityarma Amrutam Gamaya Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Hi
 
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