the Cows to our Ashram
King Janaka made arrangements for a Jnana Yaga (a philosophical treat) setting a rich
award. Great sages and scholars from various places were invited to participate in it.
There would be discussion and exchange of thoughts on matters pertaining to spiritual life
supported by their knowledge and experience of Vedic truths. He who would prove himself
the greatest among them would receive the highest honor and a celebrated award. These were
the main purpose and procedure of that type planned by Maharaja Janaka. Only those who
could participate in the discussion on spiritual subjects like the soul and the God, birth
and death, etc. and interpret the meaning of great Vedic texts with the help of their own
spiritual experience, could be deemed as Brahmanishtas (those established in the Brahman
State). Who among the assembled scholars was the greatest Brahmanishta? This was to be
decided in the conference. It was announced that such a person would
be honored at the end of that Maha Jnana Yaga by ceremonially placing the crown of
Sarvajna (the omniscient) on his head. Invitations were sent to sages arid
eminent scholars of far-off countries. Yajnavalkya also got an invitaton of honor from
Sages and scholars and spiritual women-the
seekers of Brahman from countries far and near came to the capital of Janaka's kingdom to
attend the Jnana Yaga. Maharshi Yajnavalkya arrived with his disciples. Most conspicuous
was the divine radiance of this Maharshi in the assembly.
Maharaja Janaka accorded a reverential welcome to all those assembled. He then made a
proclamation in the assembly, "Subjects of metaphysical nature like Brahman, the
divine life and path to God realization will be discussed in the course of this
conference, to decide who the greatest Brahmanishta is. We will elect him to the chair of
Sarvajna and offer him the crown of Sarvajna. One thousand cows decorated with golden
medallions are kept ready in the nearby cowshed. The greatest spiritual master in the
assembly may take them home."
There was a solemn silence for a while.
Yajnavalkya stood up. Casting his eyes on his disciple seated close by, he ordered in a
bold and dignified voice, "Samashrava, go and take those decorated cows to our
All those assembled there were taken aback. They looked intently at Yajnavalkya.
Then Aswala, the royal preceptor, said, "So you are the Brahmanishta among us. Aren't
Yajnavalkya said, "I bow down to the one who is established in the Brahman
"Then why do you order your pupil to take the cows home?" asked Aswala.
"Because we need them."
"But the cows are meant for one who is established in the Brahman State. By
commanding your pupil to take them to your ashram, you have clearly suggested that you are
one such. That means an open invitation to anyone to p1dr questions to you. You will have
to satisfy them with your answers," said the court preceptor. To this Yajnavalkya
nodded his assent, saying, "Welcome. Questions on Brahman may be put."